The latest reporting from Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny on talk of Hillary Clinton as vice presidential nominee helps me clarify my thinking on this topic. Consider two different scenarios. In one scenario, Clinton herself would strongly prefer being a candidate for the vice presidency than being a United States Senator with a clear shot at 2012 if Obama loses to McCain. In another scenario. Clinton herself isn’t necessarily sold on the idea of being #2 but could be open to persuasion.
My assumption throughout these discussions has been that we’re in scenario number two. Under those circumstances, I don’t think there’s a good case for Obama trying to persuade her. As unity proponent Ed Kilgore recognizes there are all kinds of “threshold problems” with the idea, and I think the upside to picking Clinton over a Janet Napolitano or a Kathleen Sebelius is hard to see. But if we’re in the scenario number one, it’s a different matter entirely — you don’t need Clinton on the ticket to unify the party unless Clinton wants to make it the case that you need Clinton on the ticket to unify the party but if she does want to do that, I think she probably has it in her power. If that’s her attitude, that’d be a kind of crappy attitude to have, but it wouldn’t shock me and much as Paris is worth a Mass, the White House would be worth tapping Clinton as a running mate.
But I remain skeptical that Clinton actually does want to be Vice President. My take is that a substantial swathe of her staff wants her to be Vice President because they think a “unity ticket” is now their best realistic shot at getting jobs in the executive branch. As I’ve observed before, Bill and Hillary have great fallback jobs — as a multimillionaires, and the head of an important foundation and a U.S. Senator respectively — but that’s not at all true of lots of their campaign staffers.