If Barack Obama winds up losing the election this November, most likely a significant portion of the blame will affix to his selection of a running mate. The issue will not have much of anything to do with Senator Joe Biden’s personality or performance. It will simply be a case of “what might have been” if Hillary Rodham Clinton had been placed on the ticket.
John McCain’s choice of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate has further-fueled speculation and discussion about this.
In fact, the man who would be John F. Kennedy, who has sought the Camelot mantle and basked in déjà vu images of a time that never really was, has for the first time in his once-quixotic campaign departed from the script. JFK would have made the tough and pragmatic choice, against the advice of those closest to him – particularly brother Bobby. He would have chosen Clinton. In fact, he did choose “his” Hillary – a man named Lyndon.
It remains for the story to fully unfold, and for journalists and historians to research and write about the behind the scenes machinations leading to the Biden selection and, more importantly, the Clinton rejection. But I suspect that we will come to learn about strong feelings generated by the deep wounds inflicted during fierce political battle.
The whole image of all things Kennedy clearly resonates with the Democratic standard bearer. He has laboriously cultivated a calculated political resemblance. But there are many compelling distinctions between Barack and Jack, not the least of which are fundamental differences in temperament and personality.
Kennedy was not only cool – he was cold. He could turn the charm on when necessary – and did so with unparalleled effectiveness – but his default mode was to be detached and aloof. As Seymour Hersh wrote in The Dark Side of Camelot, the public-at-large was enamored of Jack’s “charm and style,” but most “would see very little of the real John F. Kennedy, and would never fully sense the Kennedy cynicism and toughness.”
It is, of course, a very good thing that Mr. Obama has a demonstrable capacity for closeness to others, as is clearly apparent with his marriage and family (another contrast with JFK). And this suggests that when people close to him feel strongly, he can and will be influenced.
In other words, some in his inner circle have never gotten over what Bill and Hillary Clinton said and did during the primary campaign. It is that simple.