A New Role for Senator Clinton

Having been rather harsh in my assessments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (see, for example, here), I noted with considerable interest the senator's vote against the recent expansion of the government's wiretapping powers. As most everyone knows by now, earlier this week the Democrats in the Senate once again found themselves cowering in the face of the Bush administration, with half of them voting with Republicans to expand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I will not engage here with the question of why this was a low point in American politics, leaving that to what appears to be about 90% of the blogosphere. Instead, I will note simply that this vote could be Sen. Clinton's opening to create an important new role for herself now that she is not running for president.

During the primaries, I was rather late to the Obama party. I never trusted Clinton, but Obama seemed like a promising enigma at best. Left with a choice of Clinton vs. Obama, of course, the choice was easy. I was never, however, among those who thought that he could do no wrong. Obama's vote in favor of the FISA bill was thus hugely disappointing but not as big a shock as it might have been. Calling the bill a "compromise" was transparently ludicrous, as even President Bush didn't bother with that fig leaf as he thanked the Congress for giving him what he asked for.

During the primaries, as the Clinton campaign spun out of control, I started to compose a blog post with the working title: "Dear Bill and Hillary, Thanks for everything. Now go away." Sen. Clinton's vote, however, suggests that she just might have a new role. Whether to prove her doubters wrong or simply to exercise the freedom of not being a candidate, she refused to do the expedient thing on this bill. It hardly seems likely that she would have taken this position had she become the Democratic presidential nominee, but no matter. If she really wants to find an important role to fill as her career goes forward, leading the Democrats when their spines weaken is (sadly) likely to be frequently necessary and is something for which Sen. Clinton is uniquely well situated. Here's hoping that she takes that path.

-- Posted by Neil H. Buchanan