Senator jumps gun to 'endorse' President Hillary Clinton
As 'bystander-in-chief' Barack Obama plays golf, senior Democrats hope to clear the field for Hillary
IS HILLARY CLINTON ready to commit to a presidential run in 2016? And if so, who's going to run the country for the next three years if - as his critics are saying - Barack Obama has effectively retired to the golf course?
American politics took another turn down the rabbit hole on Saturday evening when Charles 'Chuck' Schumer, the Senator for New York who was Hillary's senior colleague when she served in the US Senate, went to Iowa to endorse her as the next President of the United States.
If the year was 2015, and if Hillary had finally made up her mind to throw her hat in the ring, this would have been an entirely predictable moment.
But we have not even reached the 'midterms' - next November's elections, when seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives are up for grabs - and Obama has yet to complete the first year of his second term.
Iowa, the heart of the American heartlands, is where the starting gun is fired for presidential campaigns because its political caucuses are the first on the primary season calendar. That would be in January 2016.
It is also where Obama scored his surprise victory over Hillary in the 2008 primaries, a victory without which he would almost certainly not be in the Oval Office today.
Schumer is close to the top of the Senate seniority pile, with a special place in the hearts of Clintonistas for the space he gave Hillary to launch her political career after she and Bill left the White House in January 2001.
Although a Clinton spokesman insisted she still hadn't decided whether to run in 2016, Schumer must have known what he was doing at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner. "2016 is Hillary's time," he said. "And our nation will be all the better for it."
The New York Times said that "his endorsement one year after the 2012 presidential election underscores how much the Democratic Party elders want Mrs. Clinton to enter the race."
The paper added: "With Mr. Obama's popularity waning, many party officials also want to try to clear the field for the former first lady in 2016."
Just two weeks after Obama scored his greatest victory over his Republican tormentors in Congress, an NBC poll has put him at 42 per cent approval rate and 51 per cent disapproval.
Obama has been labeled 'bystander-in-chief' by Republicans, and the label is sticking. His cool style suddenly seems disengaged and he has fallen into the habit of blaming others for everything.
Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office: 'The Buck Stops Here'. The 44th President does not seem to agree.
As the Times put it in a rare front page comment headlined 'Where the Buck Stops, Some See a Bystander', Obama's response to any difficulty has become: "I didn't know".
Last week he resolutely "didn't know" that his security services had been bugging Angela Merkel's phone. Even his own supporters on Capitol Hill said publicly that "that's a big problem".
Then came the cock-up with the "roll-out" of the very health care legislation for which America has paid so dearly in political chaos. The websites which were the key to the uninsured signing-up for Obamacare did not work. It turns out that Obama's apparatchiks knew perfectly well that the sites were full of glitches. But the President had no idea.
By the end of the week, the issue of what Obama did not know reached the level of the absurd. A book revealed that his re-election team had considered dumping Vice President Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton in 2012 to shore-up his chances against Mitt Romney.
Obama's press secretary Jay Carney told reporters: "I'm not aware that he was aware of it."
Pull the other one. The Republicans' gleeful gibe that Obama has retired to the golf course is becoming the only logical explanation.
Obama is known to have played golf 147 times since taking office. George W Bush played 24 times before giving it up because he felt it inappropriate to golf while Americans died in his wars. Woodrow Wilson holds the record with 1,600 games; Bill Clinton played 400 times.
The comparison with Clinton is interesting. Clinton used almost every game as an opportunity to charm a fundraiser or a Republican, and bend them to his will. He was working. Obama plays with junior staff, refusing to compromise sporting time with business. It is an example of Obama's reluctance to engage.
And his reaction to criticism of his golf habit is roughly the same as his reaction to leakers of embarrassing secrets, which is to go after the messenger. He has banned photographers from the links and ordered his staff not to release his scores.
If the Times is right and the Democrats are now focused on "clearing the field" for Hillary in 2016, America might as well wipe clean the political calendar for the next three years.
Tomorrow, the Great Republican Hope, Chris Christie, is slated to romp home in his re-election as Governor of New Jersey, which will leave him looking unassailable for 2016 amid the wreckage of the Tea Party rampage.
It might be an interesting contest: Christie, well overweight, is reported to have "time bomb" health issues, while Hillary would be campaigning to become the second oldest president ever. She would take office at 69, just eight months younger than Ronald Reagan was at his inauguration in 1981.
But first Americans have new rounds to endure of budget battles and debt ceiling showdowns, not to mention offended allies and furious enemies to contend with. The question is, will Obama be returning from the golf course to deal with them? ·