Hillary hanging out for a VP slot, or a payday?

So says George Stephanopolous. In an exchange with Charles Gibson, the former Clinton aide says that Hillary Clinton wants to latch onto Obama for a historic run at the Presidency, even if she’s taking the supporting role, if she can’t be at the top. However, does she think that continuing to expose Obama’s weaknesses is an endearing trait?

CHARLES GIBSON: Is there any discussion of what kind of an exit strategy there would be?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: There are various exit strategies right now. Number one would be, go out on a win. So, stay in until West Virginia, where Sen. Clinton is likely the winner, and Kentucky on May 20, and after that, bow out. Two, negotiate for the imposition of Michigan and Florida, to get those delegations seated, declare victory on that, and get out. But the big one, Charlie  and this is what some people close to the Clintons are talking about: Is there a way to negotiate a settlement with Barack Obama to have Sen. Clinton on the ticket?

CHARLES GIBSON: And what do they think?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s hard to know. I mean, first of all, would Sen. Obama go for it? Can he get over the bitterness of this campaign? Can he be convinced that it’s the strongest ticket? Third, of course, would Sen. Clinton take it? I think if it was offered in the right way, yes.

This seems rather counter-intuitive. Hillary is forcing Obama to remain on the defensive and to spend a large amount of time and money focusing on her rather than John McCain. It’s all well and good to claim that Hillary’s run made him a better candidate by forcing Obama to respond to the Wright Stuff and William Ayers controversies now — but she has also legitimized both issues for John McCain in the fall.

In other words, she’s not helping. The longer she stays in the race, the more she will weigh down on his efforts, and the longer he will have to overlook McCain as a target. If she wants the #2 slot, this isn’t the way to endear herself to Obama to get it.

How annoyed has Obama become? According to Tom Edsall at the HuffPo, so annoyed that he’s willing to buy Hillary out of the race, to the tune of $25 million or more. It almost sounds like a Ronco deal. If she leaves now, Obama would repay the $11.4 million in personal loans she herself made to the campaign. But wait — there’s more! Obama would also cover the considerable debt her campaign has racked up, as much as $15 million, by some estimates But wait — if she calls now, a special one-time offer is hers! They could arrange a leadership position in the Senate, and help assuage the bitterness between the Clintons and black voters in the party to help salvage Bill’s legacy.

The dream ticket won’t work, anyway. They don’t complement each other as much as they combine weaknesses in experience and policy and give the GOP a broader target to hit in the fall. If Hillary would have settled for a VP slot, she would have left the race after the face-saving victory in Ohio and Texas. She wants a win, or she wants a big enough payoff to make the Senate her career.