Please Don't Go

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 6, 2008; 3:03 PM

If, as this vexing veep search plays out, Barack Obama eventually picks someone other than Hillary Clinton, anyone else, to be his running mate, it could have a devastating impact on part of the nation's economy.

What would the media do?

I mean, really: How could we fill airtime and column inches without the Clintonian soap opera? How could pundits draw paychecks without asking what Hillary really wants? How could we fulfill our First Amendment responsibilities without wildly speculating about the role of Bill Clinton in an Obama administration?

For all the unrelenting criticism of Hillary Clinton for refusing to get off the stage, the media really don't want her off the stage. There has been a journalistic fascination with her, bordering on obsession, ever since she emerged as the wronged woman in the Gennifer Flowers episode and as the headband-wearing feminist who said she could have stayed home and baked cookies but decided to pursue her law career instead. Throughout the White House years--through Whitewater and the missing billing records and Paula and Monica and her declaration of a vast right-wing conspiracy--Hillary was big news.

She was big news when she became the first first lady elected to the Senate, big news as she geared up for a presidential campaign, big news when she teared up, big news when she went from inevitable to impossible, big news when she talked about answering the phone at 3 a.m., big news when she said "Shame on you, Barack Obama!" one day and touted their friendship the next.

And on the rare days when she wasn't big news, Bill Clinton was.

Now, after weeks of chronicling why she stayed in the race, why she didn't concede when Obama clinched the nomination, and why she made a very public hint of her availability for the No. 2 slot, Hillary is the gift that keeps on giving. The media world is awash with reporting and speculation about her motivation and advice to Obama on what he should do.

And if Obama wins in November, imagine the joys of covering whether Vice President Clinton is pursuing her own agenda, and the inevitable stories about what the Second Spouse is up to. Now compare that to the prospect of covering, say, Evan Bayh in the VP's office. Case closed.

So don't believe those stories about how Hillary should pack it in for the good of the party. The media, which roughed her up during this campaign season, are her biggest boosters now.

( Note: The original headline on this column was "Hey, Ho, Please Don't Go," which is, of course, a play on Vietnam-era antiwar chants that often began "Hey Hey, Ho Ho." It frankly never occurred to me that some readers would seize on the "ho" and view that as a disparaging remark about Hillary Clinton. As someone who has criticized some of the sexist treatment she has received, I regret if anyone took that the wrong way.)

A day after her campaign said she would end her quest for the presidential nomination, says the New York Times, "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton disavowed an effort by her supporters to pressure Mr. Obama into choosing her as his running mate. Mrs. Clinton said that they were acting on their own and that the decision was 'Senator Obama's and his alone.' "

That's all well and good, but did you hear the breathless cable chatter last night after NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported that Obama was going to Clinton's D.C. home for a secret meeting? You would have thought that Obama was sneaking into an Iranian safe house. Later, despite the camera stakeouts, no one got the shot. (They apparently met at someone else's home.) This is why the media don't really want Hillary to go.

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