Gordon Campbell: Russel Norman’s Entry and Hillary's Exit

As predicted on Scoop last Friday. former Green Party MP Mike Ward has done a U-turn, and will now step aside to enable Greens co- leader Russel Norman to become an MP. The process of Nandor Tanczos exiting and Norman stepping into his shoes should take a few weeks. 

The usual jibes will be leveled at Norman cynically wanting to get his hands on taxpayer funded travel and office expenses, but such criticisms are unfounded. Making Norman an MP (by the only means available) is really the final recovery from the impact of Rod Donald’s sudden death – which, unexpectedly, left the best candidate to replace him stranded outside Parliament.

The unsung hero of the process has been list candidate Catherine Delahunty, who quietly stepped aside at the outset – and who, if the polls continue to hold up for the Greens, should also be an MP by year’s end. Delahunty’s selfless and unifying role throughout the Ward affair will only enhance her considerable mana within the party, and the overall strength of the party’s social justice faction.

Longer term, the goodwill may enable Delahunty to serve next year as a formidable numbers person for Sue Bradford – if and when Bradford puts her name alongside Metiria Turei as a possible candidate to replace Jeanette Fitzsimons as female co-leader. On the weekend, Fitzsimons signalled that 2008 will be her last election campaign. That being so, one could reasonably expect Fitzsimons and the party to want her successor in place well before the 2011 election. Expect the politicking to begin in earnest next year, with a verdict at the 2010 annual conference.

Finally it may be over. Later today, Hillary Clinton seems certain to pull the plug on her presidential nomination hopes. Is she a possible vice-presidential choice for Barrack Obama? Possible, but unlikely. Clinton could be both a vote winner and a rancorously divisive figure – both in the campaign against John McCain, and eventually within the White House as well, presuming she would still have her husband in tow. Her poisonous behaviour as a candidate – up to an including her tasteless reference to Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June, as a reason for still holding out hope, should rule her out.

Accepting Clinton on the ticket would also kill Obama’s message of change, hope and unity beyond the Democratic Party. Still, I thought the conclave of cardinals in Rome couldn’t possibly choose Joseph Ratzinger as Pope, for the same reasons. Yet they did. Obama could try to satisfy some of the Clinton holdouts by playing the gender card with a different woman as his running mate – and there are some ale state governors (especially Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, but also Janet Napolitano of Arizona ) up to the job.

Trouble is, they would look like second best, the non-Hillary. And their presence ( the black guy, and the woman ) wouldn’t do much to attract those elusive white working class voters in Ohio, Florida and other swing states. If outright pandering is the aim, as Chris Kelly says on the Huffington Post, why not go the whole hog – old, southern, Hispanic, war mongering and a woman so popular she’s a Broadway musical. Eva Peron, in other words. But isn’t she um…like, dead? Hey, as Kelly says, we’re running against John McCain. Personally, I wish Obama would choose John Edwards, who put poverty and healthcare into the campaign debates this year, in ways that made those issues impossible for Clinton and Obama to ignore. I think though, that he’ll ask Virginia’s James Webb – a senator from a southern state with a military service/ wounded in action record well able to match McCain.

If Hillary isn’t chosen, she can largely blame her dickhead husband, once again. Right to the very last, the Big Dog kept knocking over the furniture. Yesterday, during the final primary Clinton push in South Dakota and Montana, Bill Clinton was saying that this may well be the ‘last day’ of political campaigning in his career . So… isn’t that saying he doesn’t expect to be campaigning for Obama, his party’s presidential nominee? What a guy.