Interesting Choices

Democrats are making some interesting choices that may have deeper ramifications leading into 2010.

According to media reports, President-elect Barack Obama has offered Hillary Clinton the job of secretary of State. That guarantees that Bill Clinton will continue to be in the news for the next four years (or until Hillary is nominated for the Supreme Court).

That Clinton is taking the job is a story unto itself. Yes, she gets her own plane, and yes, she gets to try to broker deals in the Middle East and all the hotspots around the globe. But her expertise is not foreign policy. She is best known for her efforts (failed) on healthcare, and her true passion has been children’s issues.

Making Hillary the face of American foreign policy is not a bad strategy, however. If she fails, it is her fault. If she succeeds, it is because of Obama’s leadership. Hillary, ironically, is a much bigger hawk than Obama, and her appointment will make the defense intelligentsia breathe a bit easier.

There has been some talk that Caroline Kennedy would be New York Gov. David Paterson’s choice to fill the Clinton seat, although I still think Patterson would be wiser to pick Andrew Cuomo (and take away a potential primary problem). This gives Rudy Giuliani a golden opportunity to run for the Senate, and win one back for the GOP. A Giuliani win could help him re-establish his credentials for a possible run for president in 2012 or 2016.

The Senate Democrats decided that discretion makes the better part of valor by keeping Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) around in the Democratic caucus. They need his vote to get to 60 and Harry Reid has successfully infuriated his base, just as he gets ready for his own run in 2010. Reid is obviously gambling that production from the Senate will trump any hard feelings from the left-wing blogosphere, although his victory is far from certain. Watch as Reid tries to tack to the center, artfully, in an effort to become more acceptable to his centrist state.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) successfully took out John Dingell (D-Mich.), the lion of the House and the best champion for the auto industry. This settles a long grudge match that started when Pelosi backed a little-known and slightly regarded female member of Congress, Lynn Rivers, in a primary match against Dingell six years ago.

With Henry Waxman at the helm of the Energy and Commerce panel, possibly Pete Stark at Ways and Means (should Charles Rangel be forced to step down) and with George Miller at Education and Labor, Pelosi is stacking the deck with left-wing Californians. These folks want to do to the rest of the country what they have done to California, basically making it almost impossible for businesses to operate. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tried mightily to make the business atmosphere better, but to little effect.

The elevation of Waxman makes it clear that the House will move sharply to the left. That makes Blue Dogs very nervous, and if they are forced to walk the plank on vote after vote, look for a revolt among those vulnerable Democrats who are keeping their seats warm for those Republicans looking to run in 2010.

Things look bleak for the GOP right now, and they need to do some massive retooling if they want to be competitive. But if they start making some good choices now, they can take advantage of some good opportunities in two short years.


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