As he approaches the end of his career in elected office, Barack Obama is in a truly precarious position: He is going to exit the White House having accomplished almost nothing substantive on the policy front — his health-care program is not going to survive, Gitmo is not going to be closed, we are not leaving Afghanistan, and he is sending troops into Iraq — and outside of his perch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his party is in ruins: In Congress and the states, the Democrats are in their weakest position in modern political history. If the Democrats do not win the presidency in 2016, there are going to be some very uncomfortable questions about what exactly Obama & Co. accomplished, and at what price.
What to do? Throw Herself to the wolves, of course.
Progressives understand this. Conservatives sometimes fail to.
Obama did not build this machine to hand it over to the Clintons on a cold winter morning in 2017.
But the Clintons aren’t Obama’s people. Bill Clinton thinks of Obama as his own political Stepin Fetchit, the guy who only a few years ago would have been “carrying our bags.” Herself was Obama’s main obstacle to power. (No, Senator McCain most certainly was not.) Obama did not build this machine to hand it over to the Clintons on a cold winter morning in 2017. That puts him in a double bind: He has to make it beyond question that he and his clique now own the Democratic party — that the Clintons are just weird sad old 1990s relics like those ancient AOL CDs that some youngsters ironically collect — but he also needs the Democrats to win the presidency in 2016 in order for the party to be worth owning. And of the candidates in the race, only Herself has a plausible shot at being elected president of these United States. Senator Sanders vs. Senator Rubio? Republicans would have their best year since 1988.
If President Obama really were the bloodless Machiavellian his critics sometimes think he is, he’d see to it that Herself and a few of her top staffers were indicted under 18 U.S. Code § 793 and 18 U.S. Code § 798 for their improper handling of classified documents, and then put out the word that the time has come to choose sides. That she should be indicted is beside the point, politically; it would, however, be the last anybody ever heard of the Clintons. Or he may calculate that her troubles will continue to deepen and decide to simply watch quietly as she goes under with no assistance from him.
The problem is that there is no one in the field to swoop in and lead the Democrats to victory in 2016. Obama has a personnel problem.And that’s where Joe Biden comes in. Biden is the Obama guy who isn’t really an Obama guy — he was elected to the U.S. Senate when Barack Obama was eleven years old. He had a life and a political career before he hitched his wagon to the teapot messiah from Chicago, and though his is not the keenest mind in politics, he surely gets the game: If he gets in, he is to be reduced to a purely instrumental condition, an enabler of Obama’s last and most important political play, a placeholder keeping the chair warm until Obama’s people have settled on a real president. Biden doesn’t seem like a man who minds being used so long as the deal is a square one, but he is also old and tired and has recently suffered the loss of a child, which must be nearly unbearable. There are three possible outcomes for him: He could get in the race, win, and become a figurehead. He could get in the race, lose, and retire with the stink of defeat upon him.
Or he could just keep smiling.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.