THE PLANK AUGUST 26, 2008
Hillary Clinton obviously doesn't like Barack Obama, and she's clearly hesitant about the prospect of him as president--either because she doesn't trust him, because his victory would probably bar her path to the presidency, or because she's convinced herself of the former in service of the latter. But she delivered the best speech she could honestly give for him.The key passage came when, after describing some people she had met and was looking to defend, Clinton said:
"I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"
This is a powerful argument to her supporters. Many of them have given the sense that they are Clinton-ists more than liberals or Democrats. Clinton openly called them on that, demanding that they think of their ideals and not just their loyalty to her.
Clinton's reservations were obvious. She praised Joe Biden personally. ("A strong leader and a good man ... He is pragmatic, tough, and wise.") She even praised John McCain personally. ("John McCain is my colleague and my friend. He has served our country with honor and courage.")But she did not say anything positive about Obama as a person. Her reasons for supporting Obama were all ways of saying that Obama is a Democrat. "This won't be easy. Progress never is. But it will be impossible if we don't fight to put a Democrat in the White House," she said. Or, "Democrats know how to do this. As I recall, President Clinton and the Democrats did it before. And President Obama and the Democrats will do it again." This is an argument for a yellow-dog Democrat.And yet, given all these clear reservations, Clinton managed to deliver a strong and coherent case for her supporters to elect Obama. She even added a line at the end, not in the prepared text, asking the audience again to elect Obama and Biden.If she was more enthusiastic, it probably would have sounded phony. But Clinton did seem to realize that politics is about more than herself, and she did her best to persuade her supporters of the same.--Jonathan Chait