2:04 pm Nov. 30, 20121
Before Hillary Clinton had ever run for anything, Charlie Rangel sold the idea to New York's political class that Clinton's mere presence in the 2000 Senate race could clear a field that, at the time, included Rudy Giuliani.
"They knew that she could just blow him out of the waters without saying anything," Rangel proudly recounted in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon.
"He looked at her and got prostate cancer and quit," Rangel said. "Giuliani just left the fight and the struggle. But quite frankly, I think Hillary Clinton was a helluva good reason to withdraw his candidacy."
Giuliani was diagnosed with cancer in the run-up to the 2000 Senate race, and withdrew. The eventual Republican nominee was then-congressman Rick Lazio.
Rangel thinks Clinton's ability to clear-cut a field could apply to the presidential race in 2016, with (ridiculously early) polls showing she would blow her potential primary competition out of the water—including Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo—if she ran.
"I don't see how an individual, male or female, could be better qualified for that particular office," Rangel said. "If we had to put together all of the things we wish we could do to have a human being be our commander in chief and president; wow, right? The thing is I don't think you need all those attributes to be a good president, but I just think she would be overwhelming."
"She just happens to be good," Rangel added. "Did you see that picture 'Analyze Me'? You remember when De Niro was telling this guy, 'You're good'? All I say is, 'You're good,' and that's enough to take care of a whole lot of unnecessary conversations. She is good."
Rangel said he hasn't "the slightest clue" what might happen in four years, but he did have a clue about how Clinton might react to a call for her candidacy.
"I think it won't take four years to decide what she's going to do," he said. "And she has the type of personality, if her nation required a draft, she would answer, she would answer. She loves this country and loves the opportunity. And the sacrifices she's already made is an indication of her strength and dedication."
"You know if you're starting now, I think you're just trying to make a career out of Hillary, and you've got good sense," Rangel added, advising me that with an annual or semi-annual report on Clinton's thinking, a reporter might "make a little history yourself."
But, Rangel said, for Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, or any other Democratic would-be contender, a lot would depend on the current president.
"I really don't think other Democrats at this point in time are searching for another candidate," he said. "They're hoping and praying that Obama can lead us out of this mess we're in. Because as good as he is, it depends on in what shape the economy is in, and if he does terrible, Democrats are not going to get an opportunity to do it again, the same way with Bush. So I don't think there's many people looking at 2016. I know I'm not."