I have deliberately not written about Hillary Clinton during the latter part of the Democratic nomination process.
Even while Obama had a decisive lead over Clinton, she continued to make headlines. It was all about her, all the time. And I didn’t want to contribute to that, so I (mostly) stayed quiet.
But yesterday, Clinton finally acknowledged defeat. And her farewell speech is getting some rave reviews (e.g., from Matt Yglesias).
I think it’s true that Clinton said all the right things here. I particularly appreciated the refrain, “That’s why we need to help elect Barack Obama our president.” She repeated that line four times in quick succession about halfway through her speech, and I think the repetition was important.
I don’t think Clinton sounded terribly sincere in her endorsement of Obama. But I won’t hold that against her. She sincerely believes that she is the better candidate for President. Losing the nomination hasn’t changed her mind about that. Nonetheless, she said the right words; that’s all that anyone could reasonably ask of her (for now).
That said: I can only give her a limited amount of credit. Clinton said what is expedient for her at this point in time, having received terrible reviews for the non-concession speech she gave earlier in the week. Even her supporters were appalled. So Clinton took another run at it and got it right on the second try.
Either result — a Clinton victory or an Obama victory — would have been historic. But the flip side is, someone was bound to be (bitterly) disappointed. Women have waited a long time for the first female President. African Americans have waited a long time for the first black President. One of those two groups was doomed to continue waiting, with no assurance of when another equally strong candidate will next appear.
At one point in the video, as Clinton is endorsing Obama, the camera manages to find a Clinton acolyte vigorously making the thumbs-down gesture with both hands. Similarly, at least some of time, the audience’s applause for Obama was half-hearted.
There were bound to be some hard feelings — no matter which result we got. But Clinton has knowingly encouraged such bitterness, instead of trying to ameliorate it. For weeks, she has implied that Obama’s lead is illegitimate; in effect, that the nomination was being stolen from her. (And yet it was Clinton who wanted to change the rules of the process to get the result she was after.) Clinton even compared Florida’s non-primary to Zimbabwe, where the ruler ignored the results of an unfavourable election.
Florida = Zimbabwe? No wonder Clinton’s supporters are angry and ready to take out their anger on Obama.
As Clinton herself was fond of pointing out, a speech is just a speech. Yesterday cannot erase the series of outrageous, egregious statements that preceded it.
Here’s the latest allegation:
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, who supported Hillary Clinton throughout the primary season, disclosed he received a phone call shortly before the April 22 Pennsylvania primary from a top member of Clinton’s organization and that the caller explicitly discussed a strategy of winning over Jewish voters by exploiting tensions between Jews and African-Americans. […]
“Frankly, I had a private conversation with a high-ranking person in the campaign … that used a racial line of argument that I found very disconcerting. It was extremely disconcerting given the rank of this person. It was very disturbing.”
“There are no acceptable prejudices in the 21st century.” That’s a line from Clinton’s speech. No acceptable prejudices: but some prejudices are awfully convenient — a means to a desired end.
The Clinton campaign vehemently denies Andrews’s allegation, of course. But only the folks in the bunker with Clinton are giving her the benefit of the doubt at this stage of the game.
Maybe it’s unfair to raise all the ugliness again, after such a gracious concession speech. But I think it’s a bit much to expect Obama supporters to fall all over themselves in gratitude. Clinton for Vice-President, anyone?