Hillary, Barack, let go of your egos

The Baltimore Sun

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have an opportunity to make history, and give the United States and the world several years of progressive leadership that could extend the life of the planet. As of today, they're squandering it.

Smug political pundits keep telling us that a Clinton-Obama ticket will never happen -- they can't stand each other, supposedly, or Bill Clinton won't approve the partnership -- and so the campaign for the nomination goes on, with attacks increasing the likelihood of a fractured party and the possibility of a John McCain victory in November.

This battle of egos will only get uglier, and we'll hear more of the media-stoked inanities that came out of Pennsylvania during the last couple of weeks -- all of it a distraction from the real mess at hand: Recession and a costly, endless war, energy crisis, food crisis, global warming and the extensive, long-term damage from the worst presidency in history.

The Democrats can only claim two presidencies out of the last six; Obama, Clinton and party leaders seem determined to maintain tradition and give the Republicans the White House yet again, even as the call for change has reached the level of scream.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that, world over, land and sea surface temperatures in March were the second highest in 129 years of recordkeeping.

Geoscientists meeting in Vienna said glacial and mountain snow has been melting earlier in the year than ever, releasing water needed in summer for crops in the earth's sub-tropic zones, where about 70 percent of the world's population lives. A European hydrologist referred to the trend as a water "time bomb."

Climate change is considered a major contributor to the global food crisis, which has led to increased hunger, political upheaval and violence in some countries.

George W. Bush, meanwhile, announced a goal of stabilizing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, when he will be nearly two decades removed from office and pushing 80.

Maybe all those YouTubers got in the game this year because they were excited about Obama's candidacy.

They might also be worried about theirs being the last generation that gets to have a full life on the planet. Many of them certainly realize that they might not live as long or as well as their baby boom parents have.

And even if their fears are not quite that grandiose, they certainly must worry about the future in a way no previous generation has. Other generations survived recessions, even economic depression and wars. This generation can look ahead and see all that plus a perfect global storm -- climate change and ecological degradation, the rising costs of food and fuel, surging poverty and commensurate anarchy, and a world population expected to reach 9 billion by the time this year's high school seniors are in their late 50s.

All of which would explain why they're entranced by Obama's promise of "change."

Would young voters settle for an Obama-Clinton ticket?

If their man said such a thing was in the best interest of the nation, they would.

But that's a big "if," getting Obama to check his ego at the door, reach over the heads of convention delegates and take Clinton's hand.

The even bigger "if" is the one with Hillary Rodham Clinton. No one seems to be able to imagine a concession from Clinton that she'd best serve the nation as Obama's running mate and vice president (in the way the older Lyndon Johnson agreed to serve with John Kennedy.)

This requires complete suspension of the ego-fired ambition that burns red in Clinton's eyes and is less discernible, but certainly present, in Obama's.

It requires these two intelligent, progressive politicians to take a much larger view of what they and their children have inherited -- to see past the next campaign appearance to the massive challenges this nation faces in a post-Bush/Cheney world.

There's plenty of work for the two of them.

Obama and Clinton need to strike a partnership now and agree to speak blunt truth to the nation and offer a striking choice from the same-old sure to come with a McCain presidency.

Forming a ticket now will free Clinton and Obama from the he-said-she-said bickering of the campaign. They can combine their funds and stop taking contributions from the Wall Street aristocracy at a time when the nation is in a severe economic crunch brought on, in large part, by the practices of Wall Street.

They can spend the remainder of spring working out a new deal for working-class Americans who face stagnating wages and rising home foreclosures. They can map a new strategy for getting the troops home from Iraq, chart a smarter and restorative foreign policy.

"We must cooperate with other nations," John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, told Britain's Daily Mirror this week. "The world has shifted. The dangers are much less nation state against nation state. They are extreme poverty, climate change, access to water, the spread of disease. ... The wealthiest nations, starting with America, must do more to combat these forces, which could destroy our planet. But we are co-dependent on each other -- world problems require global effort. Bush has alienated people around the world, and America will have to go round being nice for a change."

And that starts with Obama and Clinton making nice -- and making a deal -- with each other, and the sooner the better.


Dan Rodricks can be heard on "Midday," Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 2 p.m., on 88.1 WYPR-FM.

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