President Obama was inaugurated just over a week ago, and here we find ourselves, a relatively teensy snippet of time into his second term. With immigration reform and the debt ceiling pressing, the gun control debate spiraling into ever more shrill pitches, and pointed looks into his use of drone strikes, now is of course the time to project into an uncertain future and remark on who might be the next guy to take his seat.
“Guy” of course, is a euphemism to a mean either “man” or Hillary Clinton. With the love-fest that was the 60 Minutes co-interview with President Obama and the outgoing Secretary of State, it looked to me to be the groundwork of the 2016 election season. In the way that Bill Clinton almost single-handedly ignited Obama’s reelection campaign, Obama is publicly repaying that favor, recycling the loving stare that Mitt Romney employed during each of their Presidential debates.
The Secret Service couldn’t contain Joe Biden during the inaugural parade as he constantly ducked around them to shake hands and kiss babies. Coming from his successful negotiation with Senate leaders to avoid the fiscal cliff, it’s looking good for Joe in 2016 as well. His goal for the short term: help secure the economy and wind down the war in Afghanistan. Long term: distance himself from Obama.
Obama’s inaugural speech was unprecedented in that he included a multitude of social ideas that had never been thus far voiced by a politician of his stature: gay rights, gun control, climate change. Boom. But when he said “Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone,” there was a disconnect between his version of events and the reality of his last term.
According to Conor Friedersdorf of The Altantic, “Obama favors greater central authority in health care, energy, education, gun regulation, and occupational safety. His underlings have actively undermined state efforts to decentralize marijuana policy. And on national-security matters, he has worked to centralize authority in the executive branch.”
Here’s where Joe comes in. Whereas Obama can scarcely contain his contempt for Congress (and who can blame him?) Joe steps up. The negotiations that mark the makeup of deal-making are his bread and butter – he knows them, he gets them, and by the reflection coming off of his shiny whites, he loves them. He can be what Obama simply cannot – the bridge between the Senate and the Oval office and the beginning of taking this country back to its federalist roots, putting power back to the states.
If Obama is the elitist who doesn’t trust the states to do what he deems is right, then Biden does, as long as there is effective leadership. This is evident from his thirty-six year tenure in the Senate, as Chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee to his work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hillary has markedly less experience in the Senate and once proved to be as polarizing a candidate as one could possibly be. Yet she brings with her the heavyweight status of Secretary of Statesmanship and the badass reputation that resulted from her tenure, traveling to 112 countries and transforming Benghazi from what the Republicans wanted to paint as her 9/11 (really?) but will be etched in the hearts of the public as the righteous smack-down of Ron Johnson and Rand Paul. What it really comes down to is what the state of the country is like four years from now: will the focus be on foreign policy, where Hillary’s experience reigns, or will we see an America fed up with partisan bickering and looking for someone like Biden, who demonstrated that he can lay down the boxing gloves long enough to make a dance partner with the likes of Mitch McConnell?
This could all be null and void if New York’s own Andrew Cuomo continues on the upward momentum of his liberal agenda. He’s already succeeded in passing gay marriage legislation, and led the country with the first and so far strictest gun control laws, effectively limiting the number of bullets magazines can hold here. After recouping the state from the inept Governor Patterson after the dramatic step-down of Eliot Spitzer, Cuomo has the advantage of being high profile politician-bred in a powerful state in need of constructive change. (I’m still not ready to talk about Spitzer. It still hurts. He should know that he and I are not on speaking terms, though I read him on Slate, and love every sensible smart word that comes out of his mouth.)
For Cuomo, he’s placing his bets on jobs and education as his “one-two punch” for economic development. If he can reinvigorate the economy and pass more laws to give him top-notch Progressive street cred (Women’s Equality Act, protecting the right to choose and legalizing pot, anyone?), both Hillary and Joe will see some serious competition. Especially if he can channel the Obama the Orator the way he did in his State of the State address:
“Our state Capitol is restored to its original majesty in many, many ways. We set out two years ago to bridge the divide. We needed to bridge a divide from yesterday to tomorrow; from what was to what can be; from dysfunction to performance; from cynicism to trust; from gridlock to cooperation to make the government work. And we are, literally and metaphorically.”
“You people in the media are incorrigible,” Obama chastised 60 Minutes‘ Steve Kroft. “I was literally inaugurated four days ago and you’re talking about elections four years from now.”
That’s why I waited all the way until now to bring this up.