Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) most prominent Senate supporters made a prescient statement today that Senator and President Clinton should think about long and hard.
Senator Feinstein said:
“I, as you know, have great fondness and great respect for Sen. Clinton and I’m very loyal to her. Having said that, I’d like to talk with her and [get] her view on the rest of the race and what the strategy is. I think the race is reaching the point now where there are negative dividends from it, in terms of strife within the party. I think we need to prevent that as much as we can.”
In addition to Senator Feinstein there’s a lot of other tough love out there for Mrs. Clinton. Several other Senate Democrats said Wednesday that they are detecting a shift in the race between their colleagues. Senator Jack Reed (RI), who remains uncommitted, said Tuesday night’s primary results “shifted momentum” in the contests. Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ), who also has not endorsed a candidate, stated that “the hill has gotten steeper” for the former first lady.
Obama supporters echoed the sentiment while being careful not to push Clinton out of the race. “It was an extraordinary win and a magnificent campaign,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (MA). “I pay tribute to Sen. Clinton. She’s been making her case and doing it effectively, but the outcome is very clear for the Democratic nomination. It’s effectively Barack Obama’s nomination.”
Sen. Byron Dorgan (ND) said Clinton would have to “make her own decision.”
“Both are colleagues — they have run aggressive campaigns … but ultimately, there is going to be a winner,” Dorgan stated. “I think last night perhaps moved Sen. Obama closer to that position.”
Veteran Democratic Party figure George McGovern dropped his support for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday and endorsed Barack Obama, saying the Illinois senator seemed certain to win the party’s nomination for the November presidential election. McGovern, 85, said he told Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, of his surprise decision in a telephone call, and that Clinton made no attempt to change his mind. “He just wanted me to know that he thinks that Hillary has made a great race and it’s up to her to decide when she leaves. And I don’t argue with that,” McGovern said.
What’s most striking about the McGovern statement is not that McGovern switched allegiances- while a figure in the Democratic party, he hasn’t been very influential since he lost his own bid for the White House to Richard Nixon in a landslide 38 years ago- but rather the comments he reported from President Clinton. If Mr. McGovern’s report of the conversation with the former President is accurate- it could be taken on its face to mean that he knows its over.
Clearly President William Jefferson Clinton is one of the most astute politicians that has graced the national stage in my lifetime. He knows how to count, he knows the metrics, he knows about momentum – so he knows its over. But Clintons don’t give up easily and they must be provided a graceful way to exit. She is a woman of testicular fortitude (a rather vivid description by her supporter Paul Gipson) and she has given her all- including more than $10 million of hers and President Clinton’s own fortune.
Some of my fellow supporters of Senator Obama believe that Senator Clinton is embarking on a scorched earth policy in order to make Mr. Obama unelectable so McCain wins and she has a shot at a Presidential election in 2012. I think that is overly cynical.
While I think that the Clintons will do almost anything to win, I do not think that they are willing to destroy their legacy by tearing the Democratic Party apart. Mrs. Clinton has to tread carefully. She needs to ensure she is seen as strong and as a fighter- yet also fair and loyal to the party – the house that Bill built in 1992. While Bill may have shown a degree of a personal self destructive streak when he embarrassed himself, his family, and the office of President by his trysts with Monica Lewinsky, I truly don’t believe that the former President has a whiff of a political self destructive streak and I think Mrs. Clinton is too smart and strategic to turn the Democratic Party the incendiary Valhalla in Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung”.
Mrs. Clinton certainly wants a political future to secure her own legacy- even if it doesn’t include the Presidency. In 2012 her seat in the Senate will be up for election. If Senator Obama doesn’t self-immolate, Mrs. Clinton will need to think hard about her future. She would certainly be a candidate for Senate Majority Leader and she is an oft talked about candidate for New York Governor in 2010. She may feel miffed by being in the Senate with colleagues where many have supported Mr. Obama. But Mrs. Clinton would get over that- she clearly got over being ticked off with the vast right wing conspiracy when she was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly and Richard Mellon Scaife- two of the paragons of that group.
Mrs. Clinton needs to have a soft landing. Mr. Obama offered that to her last night and it seems that he is not only willing to negotiate about Florida and Michigan (after all- it doesn’t matter whether or not they are counted- he will still be ahead) and there are rumblings that their a much lower level discussions being had about the Obama campaign paying the Clinton campaign’s debt.
But if she doesn’t leave soon, Senator Feinstein will be correct; there will be negative dividends. The spectre of a John McCain presidency should shake the Clintons and their supporters to their core and give everyone pause to think about how to come together. The country cannot afford a third Bush presidency.
My message to Mrs. Clinton is take a couple of weeks so you can find a greatful exit but after that you must go. As Maureen Dowd wrote so humorously on April 23rd, “Before they devour themselves once more, perhaps the Democrats will take a cue from Dr. Seuss’s ‘Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!’ (The writer once mischievously redid it for his friend Art Buchwald as ‘Richard M. Nixon Will You Please Go Now!’)”
“The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just go. … I don’t care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Hillary R. Clinton, will you please go now! You can go on skates. You can go on skis. … You can go in an old blue shoe.
Just go, go, GO!”