The Brief Hiatus and the Weekend that Was

11Jun08

Naturally, I chose to be busy during the not-so thrilling conclusion of the Democratic Primary, so apologies for not live blogging the “cracking of the glass ceiling.”

Biggest Story: After somewhere between 16 months and arguably 50 some-odd years, Hillary Clinton has conceded that she will not be the Democratic nominee in 2008. If you’ve read most other blogs, including the XX factor or most of the Huffington Post, you’d believe that Clinton delivered an eloquent and emotional speech endorsing Barack Obama for president. However, if you are a sentient person who watched Clinton’s speech on television after waiting over 45 minutes for her to show up, then you probably had a different impression.

Hillary’s speech opened with the same rhetoric that her speech in South Dakota last week did.  She started by thanking her supporters, especially those who “scrimped and saved” to donate to her campaign. The irony of her saying this was that Clinton’s strategy from the beginning was to sure up big money support early. When that strategy landed her roughly $20 million in debt, she started taking money from 11 year olds that sell their video games to support her

(Three ancillary notes on this most pathetic of political stories: 1) Barack Obama has been accused of basically hypnotizing young people into voting for him by Bill Clinton, but his campaign has pledged not to take money from anyone under the age of sixteen. 2) As strange and sad as this story is, I guess its not too surprising that it happened in Kentucky. 3)Hillary has jumped on the “ban violent video games wagon,” and we now all see that it was just a trick to get the big ticket 11 year old white boys to pony up. Boy, that would have been a scandal)

She then made sure to start building the case that the reason she is not the nominee is due to sexism.  Clinton invokes the women’s suffrage movement, of which some of its participants back Hillary’s candidacy.  Normally, I think this would be fair game, but it begs the question: Could Obama, had he lost, used racism as a reason for not doing well by invoking pre-civil rights era offenses? The answer is a resounding no. The Obama campaign practically had tape over its mouth trying to explain the West Virginia and Kentucky losses, fearing the repurcussions of stating the obvious truth that race was a deciding factor for many voters in those states.

Roughly 20% of the way through her speech, she finally starts her endorsement of Obama. Amongst the considerable applause, there are many loud and noticeable boos. Terry McAuliffe looks like he just found out Santa Clause isn’t real. It is also when the body language starts.

Clinton cannot bring herself to smile when in her pauses mentioning Obama’s success. She makes no effort to stop any of the boos. But when she mentions her talking points (“every American insured, no exceptions, (unlike what Barack’s plan will cover”), she’s cheery as ever, smiling, shining, and maybe even more than she has in her competitive speeches.

She powers through this speech, which is essentially no different from her stump speech other than that she says to vote for Obama this time.  If Hillary is robotic, then she seems to nearly short-circuit during the speech. For someone who has been accused of doing anything for political purposes, she cannot even look happy to see that her party is moving forward. That’s understandable–but it doesn’t indicate the grace and dignity that many reporters and pundits are fawning over. I have to wonder what they are thinking; is it just that she didn’t vow to go to the convention? Is the press feeling pressured to push back against the accusations of an Obama bias? More on press bias later this week, but it certainly seems that there was a sort of collective agenda here to praise the speech in order to stop talking about the primary. That works for me, it will probably help the Democrats in the coming months, but the message seems to be very spun.

My dissatisfaction poses the question though, just what were my fellow Obama supporters and I looking for in this speech? By the end of the race, Obama had about a 10% polling lead on Clinton, and in some of the states in which Clinton initially beat Obama, such as New Jersey and California, the Obama campaign actually now outperformed Clinton in the polls. It was clear to many that this race was over in March after Obama had, without a miracle, clinched the delegate lead after the Potomac primary.

Personally, I guess I wanted some sort of apology. The negative campaigning, the lying, the race-baiting…I never really thought Clinton enjoyed (even if she called it the “fun part”) using any of those tactics, and that if she had won, she would have been overtly apologetic. I wanted her to concede not only the race, but moreso that Obama was the new face of the party, and that his message not defeated her, but rather inspired her to strive for the “new politics.” Doing so may have put her feminist credentials at risk, but so has staying married to Bill Clinton, which is also the right “political” decision (at least it was before this year). And speaking of feminist credentials, what I absolutely did not want to see was Clinton talk about sexism in this speech. Again, if this were Obama and he spoke about racism, he would become the next Al Sharpton. Also, Hillary’s complaints about sexism make no sense, when she says she won popular vote, won more votes than “any candidate in primary history,” etc. Finally, who complains about the officials immediately after losing a thrilling championship game?

Maybe I am asking for too much. However, it was reported that Hillary would be dropping out of the race and endorsing Obama. On Saturday, I heard about the dropping out, that Obama was the Democratic nominee, that we should get behind the nominee, but I did not hear much in terms of an endorsement. She apparently did not even want him there–one can assume that had she requested his presence he would have been foolish to turn her down–No, she did not want him there, just as it was all along.

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