Bloomberg News

Obama Swap for Hillary Clinton Is ‘Ridiculous’ Idea, Tanden Says

November 30, 2011

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- The idea of President Barack Obama stepping aside to let Hillary Clinton run for the White House, as posed by two pollsters this week, is “ridiculous,” said Neera Tanden, a former aide to both politicians.

“It was fascinating that the right uses Hillary against Obama,” said Tanden, who served as her policy director during the 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination and has worked in the administrations of both Bill Clinton and Obama.

“It was actually just the president’s political enemies using Hillary as a battering ram against him,” Tanden, who now runs the Democratic Party-aligned Center for American Progress, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “The only people that that serves is very conservative Republicans.”

Patrick Caddell, who was a pollster to former President Jimmy Carter, and Douglas Schoen, who worked for Bill Clinton, said Obama should abandon his re-election effort, in an opinion piece in the Nov. 21 Wall Street Journal. Hillary Clinton is “the only leader capable of uniting the country,” said the pair, who aren’t now active with leading Democrats.

Clinton said on CNN earlier this year that she intends to step down as secretary of state after Obama’s first term and doesn’t want to serve in the Cabinet or seek elected office again.

Obama is doing well in the polls, has done “a good job” for Americans and passed historic health-care legislation, Tanden said. The idea that he “would not seek re-election is ridiculous to me,” she said.

Preparing for Re-Election

Tanden said her group is preparing for Obama’s re-election and developing economic proposals to be ready for 2013. She rejected the idea that there’s no money to spend on a “progressive” agenda, saying investing in jobs and growth will lead to “deficit reduction that’s working for everyone.”

Republicans who say the path to growth is cutting taxes don’t have the facts on their side, Tanden said. After massive tax cuts in the last decade, wages fell, and growth was the worst of any period since before World War II, she said.

While Tanden spoke favorably of a value-added tax -- which is applied at every level of production on most goods and services -- she said it would be too disruptive to put in place. A “small VAT” to pay for something in particular like health care is possible, she said.

Tanden, a Yale Law School graduate, said the Supreme Court won’t throw out Obama’s health-care overhaul. If the court does anything, it might reject the requirement to buy health insurance, she said. That would make coverage more expensive, and energize Democrats to push for more liberal court appointments in the future, she said.

Not Broccoli

She rejected arguments that the mandate gives unlimited power to government, saying that health care is unique.

“Health care is different from every other issue, every other part of the economy, in the sense that the government today has a simple rule which says that if you’re sick or dying, the hospitals have to cover you,” she said. “That’s not true for broccoli or for Nintendos or iPads.”

When asked why the Obama White House seems insular, she said the president is “particularly comfortable” with a group of advisers that have been with him for a long time. She said the White House has been seeking advice from a “broader spectrum” of people during the last year.

She also said Obama was reaching out more to Bill Clinton, adding that they recently played golf together.

“Five hours on the golf course with Bill Clinton,” she mused of her former boss, “I’m sure there is a lot of advice given there.”

--Editors: Mark McQuillan, Robin Meszoly

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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