First, apologies to all the political strategists, pundits, consultants, and media personalities who will undoubtedly hurl tomatoes at this column since it threatens their lucrative empire that thrives on political drama and divisiveness.
Second, apologies to everyone else for my being so naïve and, dare I say it, hopeful.
Lately, it seems that the Democratic Party is falling back into its bad habits and foolish ways. Just walk down the streets of NYC and mention the words Hillary or Obama and you find good friends screaming at each other, family members sleeping on couches, and more divisiveness than unity. It is sad -- but apparently unavoidable. Just look at yesterday's nasty exchanges and today's New York Times headlines.
Reality: We are a nation arguably on the cusp of a third war (with Iran) and already in an economic recession (heck, even President Bush is starting to admit it). We are overdue for another domestic terrorist attack. We are disliked (if not outright hated) by much of the world. We have made little progress when it comes to global warming. Millions can't afford health care.
Given this situation, I am sick and tired of Democrats being disorganized, self-interested, and destructive to each other and to our country. It is high-time for LEADERSHIP and SACRIFICE, which should begin with our top two candidates for president.
If Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really want to be uniters and not dividers, then why don't they both do something so out-of-the-box and head turning that it would virtually guarantee the White House to the Democrats in 08? Namely: if Clinton is ahead in delegates after the 22 primaries and caucuses on February 5, Obama should stop running and join her in a national unity ticket. No divisive battles like the Reagan-Ford contest in 1976 or the Kennedy-Carter contest in 1980 -- struggles that probably doomed both Ford and Carter.
Democrats simply can't afford that in 2008, not after the disasters of Bush & Cheney.
Obviously, Obama won't withdraw now when he's still a possible presidential nominee. He wouldn't simply toss aside some 400,000 donors and millions of supporters who've been stirred by his words and promises.
But if Clinton takes a real lead on February 6, here are the benefits of a merger between these two titans.
First, it is the smartest long-term strategic move for the 46-year-old Obama. He spends eight years as VP, and then runs for President in 2016. Who could then criticize him for lacking "experience"? During Obama's eight years as VP he would be able to hone skills, gather experience, and produce good works. And if the Clinton-Obama administration is as good as I suspect it would be, it would assure Democrats 16 years of White House governance.
Second, for anyone who thinks this suggestion is an insult and/or demotion for Obama, I have two words for you: Dick Cheney. Not that Hillary would need a #2 to rely on as much as Bush did. But the state of our country right now really does call for a form of powerful, intelligent co-parenting. Truth be told, there is an awful lot of work to be done--too much work for one man or woman alone.
Of course, this arrangement would also require an amount of graciousness and sacrifice on behalf of Hillary Clinton. With Obama as her VP, she'd need to share the limelight with an eloquent, luminous star -- and she'd surrender the normal nominee's option of choosing a running mate only on the basis of politics and chemistry.
But just think about the message that this would send to the world. The two most popular and powerful Democrats would be putting aside their egos for the good of the post-Bush America, based on the theory that their whole is greater than merely the sum of their parts.
Sure it's hard to arrange such a result. But here's what's far worse: wasting tens of millions of dollars in the mutual destruction of our two best and brightest. Because the next few weeks have the potential to get ugly. The bickering. The name-calling. The fratricide. It is such a waste of time and money. And, frankly, we are better than that. Let's leave such antics to the Republicans.
Would this be viewed as an unseemly "deal," just the kind of thing that an untraditional Obama would scorn? If a similar arrangement worked for another Illinois legislator in 1846 -- when Abe Lincoln agreed to sit only one term in Congress and then defer to a rival to serve the next -- it should be okay for Obama. Surely Obama can frame it as surrendering his personal ambition for the larger good of the United States of America, to quote him.
Except for extreme partisans and crazed staff, the truth is that the differences between Obama and Hillary are insignificant compared with the risks of, in effect, handing the White House to the Bush Republicans for a third term.
Both Hillary and Barack are great people and they will both be great leaders. We deeply need their complementary styles, experience, personalities and vision to fix our ailing country.
Bottom line? Its either Clinton-Obama next month or (yikes) the risk of McCain-Giuliani next year.