June 07, 2008

Now that Hillary Clinton has mercifully pulled the plug on her presidential campaign, the talking heads are consumed with the idea of her accepting the vice-presidential slot. According to some polls, a majority of Democratic voters concur, pining for Hillary to join a “dream ticket.”

For once, the chattering class and rank-and-file Democrats are right. Hillary Clinton should run for vice president”€”as John McCain’s running mate.

At first glance, a McCain-Clinton ticket seems far-fetched (though no more so than Kerry-McCain). But when you take a look at the issues, they really have quite a lot in common.

Iraq: Both Clinton and McCain voted to authorize the war in Iraq. McCain has been one of the most steadfast supporters of the war in the Senate. Clinton has bobbed and weaved quite a bit more than the surgin’ senator from Arizona, eventually promising to end the war if elected president, but has never apologized for her initial vote. They both have tried to finesse their positions by emphasizing their tactical disagreements with President Bush.

In late 2003, at the peak of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations, “I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote…” In his June 3 speech in New Orleans, McCain said he “disagreed strongly with the Bush administration’s mismanagement of the war in Iraq” and the “conduct of the war in Iraq.” These feints were enough to win McCain the votes of antiwar Republicans and independents in the primaries and put Clinton within a whisker of winning the nomination of an allegedly antiwar political party.

Iran: McCain would bomb, bomb, bomb Iran and Clinton would “totally obliterate them”. Neither position should be terribly surprising given their overall foreign-policy proclivities. McCain was for “rogue state rollback” back when George W. Bush was still for a “humble foreign policy.” Clinton is a liberal hawk.

Clinton also voted for the Kyl-Lieberman resolution that did not just designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, but also contained dangerously vague language expressing a “critical national interest” in preventing the Iranian government from turning Shia miltias into a “Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq.” McCain has said he favors this resolution as well, though neither he nor Barack Obama showed up to vote for it.

Immigration: Both McCain and Clinton favored every recent variant of the McCain-Kennedy amnesty for illegal aliens. While the conditions imposed by the different versions varied, these Senate immigration bills would have legalized at least 85 percent of the 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Both senators would essentially continue our post-1965 policy of uninterrupted mass legal immigration. Americans for Better Immigration gives McCain a D for him immigration voting record. Clinton receives a D-.

Tax cuts: Both McCain and Clinton voted against the Bush tax cuts. McCain now says he is in favor of making the same tax cuts permanent while Clinton would repeal them for upper-income earners. No matter. The Democrats are certain to increase their congressional majorities in both houses. The only question is by how much. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire in 2011 unless Congress specifically acts to extend them. The Democratic Congress is likely to let most of them lapse, at a cost of $113 billion in 2011 and $133 billion in 2012, no matter what McCain has to say about it. The Democrats will argue that it wasn’t their tax increase as they were merely following the law a previous Republican Congress passed and President Bush signed. Consider it Bush’s last middle finger to conservatives.

Campaign finance reform: Both McCain and Clinton voted for the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act. Its limits on the influence of money on politics have been almost laughably ineffectual, but the restrictions on free political speech are so unconstitutionally onerous that even the federal courts have taken notice [pdf]. The desire to protect his campaign-finance reform legacy may make McCain unreliable on one of the few issues where he should be markedly better than Clinton: judges.

Climate change: Both McCain and Clinton favor cap-and-trade schemes to reduce carbon emissions. Robert Samuelson rightly argues that this approach should simply be called cap and tax.

A common enemy: Let’s face it, the most compelling reason for a McCain-Clinton alliance isn’t policy”€”it’s strictly personal. The two of them share a mutual contempt for Barack Obama. When McCain described Obama as “an impressive man who makes a great first impression,” he laughed when the crowd recognized his implication. Clinton reacted to Obama clinching the nomination by reciting all the big states she won and repeating her claim to be a better qualified commander-in-chief. Clinton now has the opportunity to join the experience ticket and really stick it to Obama.

And who better to attract white working-class voters to McCain than the woman who was winning them in contests with Obama when all was lost? Even when it was mathematically impossible for Clinton to win the nomination, they delivered South Dakota to her. White working-class voters helped her win West Virginia by 41 points and Kentucky by 30 points longer after Obama had accumulated a nearly insurmountable delegate lead. Hillary is clearly stuff white working class people like!

The more you think about it, the more sense a McCain-Clinton ticket makes. It would be a triumph of bipartisanship in our time and truth in advertising for the two-winged bird of prey.

UPDATE: Speculation about the “Dream Ticket” abounds across the blogosphere.


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