January 9, 2012
Nonsense Meme of the Day: Hillary Clinton Will Replace Joe Biden as VP

Man oh man does nature abhor a vacuum.

Even the slightest pause in the Republican campaign allows a space for other noise to fill the void, and one of the noises currently making up the cacophony of American politics is the notion that Hillary Clinton will replace Joe Biden as Obama’s VP, and then Biden will be named Secretary of State. Originally proposed, at least for my sight, by Robert Reich, the New York TImes has promulgated this nonsense today.

But it isn’t going to happen. 

Let me explain why in the form of a pop quiz: who was the last President to change Vice Presidents at an election when the VP had himself been elected to the Vice Presidency? (This excludes Ford, who replaced Nelson Rockefeller with Bob Dole in 1976, but Rockefeller was appointed VP when Ford assumed the Presidency on Nixon’s resignation.)

The answer? Franklin Roosevelt.

Don’t get me wrong: this gets discussed all the time. Every presidential election someone suggests a change, and massive amounts of ink—or, now, pixels—gets spilled discussing the permutations of the possibility of who, what, why, when and where. Speculation is more intense when the VP is obviously weak, as, for example, Dan Quayle was in 1992…. but it still doesn’t happen. 

Why? That’s easy: the negatives far outweigh the positives. Even if the change were to do a president good—and I’ve argued previously that the VP choice is essentially meaningless—there would be extraordinary speculation about the change: is the administration in trouble? Is there chaos at the top? Was there a palace coup? Is Barack Obama a man of his word? Did Biden do something wrong? (And, indeed, I might add: how is Biden a problem for Obama, exactly, such that he should be dumped? Or how is Hillary so great that she needs to lose actual power as Secretary of State to be given a job John Nance Garner (one of FDR’s THREE VPs!) once described as “not worth a bucket of warm spit”?) 

Such speculation is all noise, and life is noisy enough right now. Waste time thinking about something else. Play with your dog. Enjoy the lovely “winter” we’re having. But move on. It ain’t ever gonna happen.

August 4, 2011
Cheerleader for the Left? How dare he!

From press4change:

Does it amuse (or annoy) you to see Robt Reich featured in progressive aggregators - esp his message to “Organize & Mobilize”?  You must remember what he and Bill Clinton did to the anti-sweatshop uprising of the mid- to late-90s: strangled it in its cradle (I can send u photo of Bill Clinton w/ Phil Knight &  Kathie Lee…also, I saw first-hand how Reich dissembled when some smart old priest @ Bosto College asked him about “worker rights” provisions written into our trade law [Generalized System of Preferences].) Thanks & b/rgds, Jeff


Hypocrisy is one of those things that’s easy to find and easy to rationalize. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much of it!

I’ll offer three comments about when evident hypocrisy may not be entirely hypocritical.

First, everyone who chooses to join an administration that they themselves do not manage has to make a decision to adapt their views to that of the administration. (George HW Bush’s adoption of supply side economics and anti-abortion politics in order to become Ronald Reagan’s VP stands a famous example.) This is, of course, a moral choice, and one does not have to make it. But if you want to join an administration, that’s one of the rules.

Like it or not, Bill Clinton was President when Reich was in government, not Lyndon Johnson. Just as, like it or not, Barack Obama is President today, not, say, Paul Krugman. If one decides to play, one plays the hand one is dealt.

Second, it is entirely possible for people to change their minds. I’ve done it. My guess is that you and everyone else reading this post has done it. We learn things, we change, we grow. As a political matter, this often leads to the accusation of being a flip-flopper: of not having fixed and firm opinions that voters can rely on you to implement in office. But in the real world, we all get to change our minds and adopt new politics that fit our new understandings of the world.

Third, while we often fail to recognize this, politics is a highly ritualized practice. Mantras are repeated time and again; genuflections are made to various gods (say, tax cuts or the welfare state); totems are laid as symbols of community togetherness (flag pins on lapels, etc.).

One such ritual is the majority-opposition dyad. Once one has chosen to get in the game, one expresses one’s team’s rituals depending on one’s position as in power or out of it. And whenever one’s position changes—say, from in power to out of it—one articulates to the exact same “out of power” mantras that one’s opposition used to fire at you.

So do I, personally, wish that Robert Reich and Bill Clinton had been more aggressive in supporting global workers’ rights movements than they were? Yes. Can I understand why both failed to? Yes. Even Reich, who was substantially more progressive than Clinton BEFORE Clinton became President? Absolutely.

The stronger criticism of Reich is not that he may be a hypocrite. At some level, all of us are. The better criticism is that he, like, I think, Colin Powell under George W Bush, lent their names and their reputations to an administration that deviated so far from their views as to impugn their motives and their credibility. I am immensely critical of Powell for lending his imprimatur to the ridiculous Iraq War. My sense is, you feel the same about Reich.