NOT SO FAST… Via Kevin, Ezra Klein argues today that Hillary should set her sights on the Senate Democratic leadership job instead of the presidency. Her ability to get press attention, her fundraising prowess, and her demonstrated skill at reaching out to opponents, Ezra says, would make her a “superlative Senate leader.”
I have no opinion whatsoever on the President Hillary issue, but this seems wrong. I’ve been talking to alot of Republican staffers in the Senate for a forthcoming story, and almost all of them have stressed the extent to which Bill Frist’s presidential aspirations have compromised his ability to run the Senate. The very qualities that made Frist seem like an attractive candidate in 2002 — his telegenic presence, his communication skills, his ability to serve as an appealing spokesman for the party — have in fact made colleagues resentful, often justifiably, that he’s hogging scarce media attention for himself, and that he’s got one eye on his presidential run. In response, for their next leader they’ve turned to a guy — Mitch McConnell — with no aspirations to higher office, or notable charisma. And on the Democratic side, Harry Reid has been largely successful as leader without ever being a very good communicator. Instead, he’s proved himself a master of parliamentary maneuvering, as when he humiliated Frist by shutting down the Senate to force debate on the manipulation of intelligence on Iraq.
Successful Senate leaders (and the Dems have to be thinking about being in the majority soon, if not in January) in this hyper-partisan age aren’t the media stars. They’re the ones who defer to colleagues, remain largely behind the scenes, and understand the rules well enough to use them to their party’s advantage. Hillary is more Frist than McConnell or Reid. She hasn’t yet served a full Senate term, not nearly long enough to master its procedures. And speculation about her interest in the presidency is always going to be there. Yes, the fundraising ability is nice, but Reid hasn’t been bad on that front either, and you have to assume no one’s gonna get the job unless they can raise money.