- - Monday, October 3, 2016


Three weeks before the opening of the Democratic National Convention last July, Barack Obama invited Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office to discuss the choice of a vice presidential running mate. Mr. Obama lost no time in telling Hillary whom he in mind: Tim Kaine, the junior Democratic senator from Virginia.

According to my sources, who provide behind-the-scenes intel in my new book “Guilty as Sin,” Hillary listened and nodded, but didn’t say much. After all, everyone in Democratic circles knew that the Clintons had a problem with Mr. Kaine.

Back in 2008, when Mr. Kaine was governor of Virginia, he had been among the first Democratic governors to support Mr. Obama in his hotly contested presidential primary race against Hillary. Until that moment, Bill Clinton had considered Mr. Kaine a Clinton loyalist, and when Mr. Kaine jumped on the Obama bandwagon, Bill took it as a personal betrayal.

Naturally, Mr. Obama was aware of the history of bad blood between the Clintons and Mr. Kaine, but he persisted in making the case for Mr. Kaine in his Oval Office meeting with Hillary.

As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, Mr. Kaine was popular among union bosses and the LGBT community. He had helped pass Obamacare, and was an advocate of same-sex marriage, despite the opposition of the Catholic Church, of which he is a member. In addition, Mr. Obama pointed out, Mr. Kaine was a great campaigner who has never lost an election.

After she left the meeting with Mr. Obama, Hillary phoned Bill to discuss what she should do. Hillary later told a close friend that she needed the full-throated support of Barack and Michelle Obama if she was going to reassemble the coalition of minorities, women and youth that had elected Mr. Obama twice to the presidency. She expected that Mr. Obama would exact a price for that support, and she believed that choosing Mr. Kaine was a relatively small price to pay.

According to a source close to Bill Clinton, the Big Dog saw things differently. If a Clinton-Kaine ticket was successful at the ballot box in November, Mr. Obama would in effect have a mole in the White House. Mr. Kaine would keep Mr. Obama fully briefed, and Mr. Obama would have much more access to the Clinton White House than the Clintons ever did to the Obama White House.

“Bill also talked about Hillary’s health and the possibility that she might fall ill, leaving Kaine with more responsibility,” the source said. “The idea of Obama pulling the strings through Kaine horrified Bill. On the other hand, if Hillary ran for a second term, she could dump Kaine and pick a different vice president.”

For now, Bill decided he would have to swallow his pride. For as Jeffrey Anderson pointed out in The Weekly Standard, Hillary needed Mr. Obama’s help “in turning out the Democratic base.” Indeed, polling commissioned by Valerie Jarrett, the Obama consigliere, showed that Hillary, who was widely mistrusted by the electorate, was going to have an uphill battle against the Republican nominee without a massive minority and millennial turnout.”

“In short, a mere endorsement by Barack and Michele wasn’t going to be enough; Hillary desperately needed Barack and Michelle to get out on the campaign trail and beat the drums for her,” said a source familiar with Ms. Jarrett’s thinking. “Asking for something — like a vice president pick — in exchange for getting a person elected to the presidency is as natural to the American political process as shaking hands and kissing babies. Hillary and Bill understood that, and in the end, they decided they could live with Tim Kaine.”

Ed Klein is the author of “Guilty as Sin” (Regnery, 2016).

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