Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who Plays Peacemaker between Barack and Hillary?

With the Democratic Race looking to be decided by Super Delegates at the convention, how that process plays out will be vital future of the Democratic Party in both the short and long term. Getting Barack and Hillary to strike some sort of deal and put the party's interests before their own, will be as tricky as attempting to broker piece in the Middle East.

Just as in the Middle East though there will need to be an 'honest broker'. With Bill Clinton heavily vested in his wife's campaign, and Ted Kennedy stumping all over the country for Obama, two of the party's elder statesmen and most powerful forces are no longer in postition to be mediators or brokers.

Logically you would look at the highest elected officials within the Party. Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, the highest ranking Democrat in the government. Her counterpart in the Senate Harry Reid would by rank be in line to play this role. While they would seem to be the people in place to take leadership in this situation, they both represent divided Democratic Constituencies in their chambers of Congress they have to keep happy.

Pelosi has around 80 Congresspeople backing Hillary and 60 backing Barack. Amongst Democratic Congressmen still over 90 members have endorsed neither candidate. Powerful Congressional Committee Chairmen and party leaders like John Dingell, Charlie Rangel, David Obey, George Miller and others are all committed to one candidate or the other. Pelosi showing favorite status to either would antagonize a chunk of her caucus.

Reid is in a similar spot. The second highest ranking member of the Senate, Dick Durbin is an Obama Campaign Co-Chair. High profile Senators like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Pat Leahy, and 5 others are currently working hard for Obama. Another 12 Senators including Dianne Feinstein, potential VP Evan Bayh, and DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer are big Hillary supporters. Soon many of the other 30 Democratic Senators will start taking sides and the situation will become even more difficult for Reid.

Pelosi and Reid wants to keep their spots as Speaker and Majority Leader. Antagonizing the Obama or Clinton camps will certainly threaten their positions.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean has the title to hold this position and will have to be part of the process. Dean has said that he won't let the fight go to the convention. Dean has the benefit of not reporting to the constituencies of Reid or Pelosi. He is in a better position to be more diplomatic than either of the other leaders.

The problem that Dean, Reid and Pelosi have is that none have the stature in the party or the country to be in a role of a King Maker. How this goes down will be a political war unlike any seen in more than a generation.
Dean, Pelosi, and Reid are all heavyweights in the Democratic Party but when it comes Hillary and Barack they are not in the same league right now. I can not imagine any of those three playing mediator with Bill and Hillary on one side of the table, and Obama and Ted Kennedy on the other side. In terms of stature they would all be the oddball at the table

If Hillary wasn't running, this is where you'd expect the stature, diplomatic ability, and political intelligence of Bill Clinton to come in and deal with the two sides. Ted Kennedy's status as the liberal lion would be another great option. Personally, I think Rep. John Dingell (D-Mi) would be the best member of Congress to be an honest broker. Due to the immense respect for which he is held and his reputation as a tough shrewd negotiator. This guy was able to get the Clean Air Act written and passed and the latest bill on Clean Air that was signed off by both the auto industry and mainstream environmentalist. Plus, he was around during brokered conventions of the 50's and 60's. He just came out for Clinton however which would probably eliminate him from this role. These three men are all powerful enough prescences to not be intimidated by anyone. The problem for the mediator is that its likely these three power negotiators will all be at the table pushing their candidates.

Some other names start with Jimmy Carter. He is an ex-President, but with the names and egos involved, think this role would be over his head. Walter Mondale is a distant memory for many of the voters that are pushing Obama. Tom Daschle is a huge Obama backer. Dick Gephardt has the respect of many, but is not the national figure and has been nonexistent since his failed 2004 campaign. John Edwards will probably endorse one of the two and still doesn't fit the profile needed to keep these two sides from killing each other. 2004 nominee John Kerry you may ask? Even if he had not endorsed Obama, this blogger would say, no.

In the current age of the Democratic Party with 24 hour news and the internet the person has to be well known, respected, and have the gravitas to sell it to the campaigns and more importantly the voters. The job is one that would be a risk for whomever takes it on. Obama and Clinton supporters are fiercely loyal and would most likely hold a grudge against the party elders that stick their necks out.

In my opinion the Democrats have two people they should turn to for this job.
George Mitchell or Al Gore.

Many people forget that Mitchell, now best known for Major League Baseball's "Mitchell Report" on Steroid Use in baseball was Democratic Senate Majority Leader. He has respect in the party and a history of diplomacy. Mitchell's success in brokering the "Good Friday Accords" in Ireland and the Mitchell plan for peace in Israel show his strength in diplomacy. Mitchell has also received high marks for his steroid investigation that was a tough assignment from Bud Selig. He has the media savvy and has been out of the political arena for some time now. He seems to find high profile causes and while he plays a humble guy on TV am sure he would love the spotlight.

The best choice one person in the country who could best handle this role is Al Gore. Gore's popularity and favorability crosses the lines of both parties and not being in this race has actually elevated his standing. He has avoided the slings and arrows of the two campaigns, has not endorsed and lost his home state like Kerry and Kennedy did. He has been a true statesman and will most likely not endorse as reported by CNN's Jessica Yellin today.
"If an agreement needs to be struck between Clinton and Obama down the road, Gore is in position to be the likely facilitator of that discussion." (From CNN.com)

Gore has stayed out of high profile public fights in politics since his endorsement of Howard Dean. He has remained above the fray and on message on his issue of Global Warming. Many Democrats including myself hoped he would enter this campaign and be the next President. He may now play an even bigger role in deciding who the next President is.

Why would I want Gore as the broker over Mitchell or others? Not because he is more well known, but rather his unique perspective.
Who knows how it feels to have an election decided by someone other than voters other than Al Gore? This is a man who had the Presidency taken from him by the Supreme Court. He will have perspective and empathy for both sides that noone else could possibly have.


Vito said...

Good thoughts Johnny, but you know Al Gore might "melt down" with all the heat of the convention. Also if "super delegates" are going to decide the race for either one of them, then can "smoke-filled" rooms and locked doors be far behind. As a Republican--hisssss--I fear Barack much more than Hillary. One seems to be a rock star with questionable, real ideas, not just plattitudes, but the other has a lot more "baggage" Sorry about the spelling-- I do so love your thoughts and the sharing of a Crown with you.

17 People said...

Thanks Vito,

'Crown' gave it away to me.

Keep one thing in mind. This is a different Al Gore than we are all used to from 2000.

He won't melt, but he will have to deal with the "Bill and Teddy Show' if he plays the role of statesman. Something neither of them have been during this election.

Patrick said...

I think Al Gore is going to sit back, wait for the second ballot, and offer himself as a reasonable choice to unite the party and end the chaos.

17 People said...


I even made a slight reference to that point in an earlier post.

He is probably the one guy that could do that and bring the party together.

I just don't think he's gonna pull an Eric Baker. These two candidate are not Bingo Bob and John Hoynes. lol.

Though will say this. If Hillary makes a big sweep in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania and both campaigns act like fools, that Gore would be able to step in even easier if he tries to broker a deal.

You know kinda the same way Dick Cheney did when he led the VP selection committee that selected him.