In politics, like humor, timing is everything. Over the course of this campaign, Hillary Clinton has demonstrated some very bad timing.
Earlier this year, she thought quite incorrectly, that Super Tuesday was to be "her time." She simply had no campaign plan going forward -- no future campaign strategy to run on. Super Tuesday was to be a knockout. And, as a result, Barack Obama proceeded to run up an impressive string of wins thereafter that secured the nomination for him. Her partial recovery in the late rounds, beginning in Pennsylvania, was a case of too little too late.
This morning, or should I say this early afternoon, she threw in the towel. The New York Times political coverage, posted by Katharine Q. Seelye on their political blog, The Caucus, carried the ongoing story of Hillary Clinton's then anticipated speech -- which was to be delivered beginning at noon today at the National Building Museum-- bowing out of the 2008 race for the presidency.
But according to the live television minute-by-minute coverage, she had not even left the house by 12:20 pm, though her elderly mother was reportedly already waiting in the car! That was a bad image -- and bad timing. One commentator on Fox, Susan Estrich, perhaps harkened back to her "duty" of covering up for candidates, blamed it all on husband Bill. She actually said straight-faced that he was undoubtedly on the phone, thus delaying the departure -- conveniently, of course, ignoring the reality of cell phones, as well as undercutting the perception of discipline that Hillary should have had under the circumstances.
Today's piece posted on The Caucus, was entitled The Long Goodbye: Clinton to Endorse Obama.
The Long Goodbye -- likely an understatement to be sure! And, knowing the Clintons, even with the completion of today's speech, it will not end this year. Believe me, the long "conversation" she began with is not over! She may have suspended her campaign, and endorsed Senator Obama, but she did not and will not release her delegates unconditionally, at least until she gets what she wants.
The primary season this year was embarrassingly punctuated with a revealing and uneasy racial tension within the Democrat party, one initiated by Bill Clinton with his "fairy tale" comment in New Hampshire, and exponentially escalated with his demeaning comparison of Obama's victory in South Carolina to that of Jesse Jackson, back in 1984 and 1988. That comparison was rightfully seen, as noted at the time by Steve Kornacki in The New York Observer, as "misrepresenting history," as well as ungracious, and politically inapt. But Clinton surrogates like Geraldine Ferraro and Governor Rendell dutifully jumped on, and an unseemly scene played out in public, one that still rankles. Very bad timing!
Then, late in the campaign, both Hillary and her surrogates trotted out the victim card by charging everyone in sight with sexism, including "the media," and Barck Obama himself.
Today's speech, of course, became necessary because she failed to make it at the obvious juncture -- this past Tuesday night -- when Barack Obama won the race by securing a sufficient number of delegates, including unelected super delegates, to win the nomination.
That night, Clinton gave a singularly uncharitable speech, barely acknowledging the accomplishments of Barack Obama, and ending it in a defiant tone, saying that she was, "not going to make any decisions tonight."
Today's speech, which started over 45 minutes late, began with an opener that, given the cheers, she had to begin at least three times -- "Well, this isn't exactly the party I planned, but I appreciate the company."
And then, Hillary launched into her endless stump speech talking points, once again punctuated by her allusion to the "18 million" reminder that it was she who got the most votes.
However, she also spoke about the many accomplishments of Senator Obama, and said, suspending her campaign, and committing to "throw my full support behind him." As for the disappointment and "what if" thoughts that would inevitably arise in the minds of her supporters, she cautioned, "Please, don't go there."
But she did not say she released her delegates. She pointedly noted that in the four decades she has been in politics, Democrats have won the White House only three times, noting that the person who won two of them was sharing the stage with her -- Bill Clinton, and his record, ruefully suggesting how much better she feels the nation would be if more Democrats had been elected.
In an acknowledging nod, she did say, "I am standing with Senator Obama to say, 'Yes we can.'"
And yet, at no time during the speech today did she even breathe a single word about the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain. In fact, she has had little but praise for him in the past few weeks.
Then, in an almost sing-song manner to her supporters, she uttered a few staccato line-closers, to wit, "and that is why we have to help elect Barack Obama president." Somehow, they did not sound terribly enthusiastic, or very convincing. And, perhaps picking up or her lack of emotional commitment, the lines certainly did not sit that well with the crowd of supporters around her. By that time, their enthusiasm had quite audibly abated.
Finally, her substantial focus on herself and her campaign during the speech, ticking off all the personal accomplishments and paralleling her personal quest in politics with that of all women in all fields with this speech, she appeared to be advancing a more subtle continuation of her gambit, begun the other night, to grasp for the vice-presidential nod. She also seemed to be continuing her effort to retire her huge campaign debt. It was $30 million last month, but she certainly spent a bundle in May. That means that the $12 million she and Bill lent to the campaign as of then, probably climbed somewhat.
At least in this speech, she had the grace not to tick off the web site address where supporters can go to help her retire that debt.
By only suspending her campaign, she was obviously also keeping the door open to raising the money to pay off the debt she accumulated in the closing weeks of the campaign.
And that fact, possibly more many others, may figure strongly in the calculus of Barack Obama in deciding who his running mate will be. He does not need to be financially hobbled by his running mate. But, he does not need to have Hillary Clinton openly competing with him for campaign dollars.
Perhaps in their little private chat on Thursday night at Diane Feinstein's home in Washington, D.C., Senator Obama found a way to assure the junior senator from New York that he will indirectly do all he can to help her retire that debt, without having committed to a spot on the ticket, thus prompting her polite exit from the campaign today.
Just by not naming someone else immediately, and abruptly pushing her completely off the stage, he helps her accomplish that goal. Primarily, he just wants an abbreviated goodbye, so she doesn't continue sucking all the wind out of the arena. Good luck on that one! In politics, as he knows, November is right around the corner.
And timing, after all, is everything.
UPDATE: 5:25 pm:
An Update on the Michelle Obama Rant
By Larry Johnson . . .
The recording that shows Michelle Obama saying disparaging things about white folks is for real. It is not part of some elaborate dirty trick. The people who have seen her comments describe it as “stunning” or “devastating.” I have not spoken directly with the people who have seen the tape, but I have spoken to two of my friends who are friends with those who watched the tape/dvd.
. . . .
Update II, 9:00 pm 06/07:
Five new posts on various anti-Obama topics on Larry's web site since the first one we noted, above, all put up just after Hillary's conciliatory speech. Busy now, aren't they?