Is Clinton Being Vetted?

Let's stipulate that Howard Wolfson remains a trusted Clinton adviser. I asked someone else who most certainly would know if Clinton had been asked to turn over documents whether that part of the process had begun, and the response was equivocal: "I wouldn't tell you if I knew." Another person close to Clinton said that only one or two Clinton friends would be inside the VP circle of trust -- Cheryl Mills, her longtime legal counsel, and maybe Maggie Williams, her campaign chief of staff.

And let's define "vetting." Vetting involves, to my mind, deliberate scrutiny and consideration from the chooser's side as well as documents and cooperation from the choosee's side. For McCain's team, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the subject of the chooser's attention; he insists he hasn't been asked to provide documents just yet. (One presumes this is not a rhetorical sleight of hand; maybe his lawyer has been asked?) On the other side, Obama's search team, in conversations with Democrats, have asked about Sen. Joe Biden, and the Biden team is aware of the interest. But Biden has also not been asked to provide documents; perhaps that will change, perhaps not. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius probably has been asked, given her non-denial denials.

Here's some guesswork: Vetting, or pretending to vet Hillary Clinton costs almost nothing and has an enormous upside. Not vetting her costs nothing and has a big downside if the fact of the non-vetting is revealed. So even if Obama doesn't intend to select Clinton -- and I don't think he does -- there's really no reason why his search team wouldn't want to, at some point, ask Cheryl Mills to send over some documents...those not already in the public domain. That five minute telephone call -- and later reporting that she's been vetted -- will give Clinton supporters some evidence that Obama takes Clinton seriously. I don't know whether Obama intends to play these VP games, so I don't know whether this level of political manipulation is even available to his team.