No Sinking Feeling About Hillary

Salena Zito
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Posted: Aug 17, 2008 12:01 AM
No Sinking Feeling About Hillary

Rumors of a contentious Democrat convention appear to be greatly exaggerated.

David Morehouse, a senior campaign adviser to Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, says the threat of revolt is a perception some small constituencies would have you believe, “but these are the same people that would bite off their own nose to spite their face.”

Larry Sabato says those tiny ripples, such as the dissension of some Clinton delegates, will be magnified by the large concentration of media at the conclave. “But all of this will be washed away by the only two things anybody ever remembers: the veep choice and the presidential nominee’s final-night speech.”

Democrat delegate expert Mark Siegel says the lead-up to this convention has nothing on the unrepentant battle between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy in 1980.

“Kennedy didn't withdraw until the first night of convention, when his effort to change the ‘robot rule’ failed in a key roll call that became the test vote of the convention,” recalls Siegel, a one-time senior adviser to Kennedy.

He says the Kennedy-Carter campaign was much uglier than the Obama-Clinton primaries, especially “with the Carter people making sub rosa Chappaquiddick attacks all through the campaign.”

Right now, all of the talk is about what Hillary will do at the convention; quite frankly, that undercurrent exists mainly because so much of the political media are bored without her in the race.

“The Clinton drama is gone,” one Democrat insider explains, and political reporters “miss it, and they will look for any grain of sand that might resurrect it.”

Hillary is not stupid, and neither is Bill, Sabato says, and “they are not going to give their critics fodder to attack them. They will recite their lines and project their smiles. It does not matter in the slightest whether or not they do it through gritted teeth.”

If Hillary is seen as a sore loser, her chances to be the nominee in the future will be slim to none -- and she knows that.

The night of her convention speech, a wise, radiant, confident Hillary should take the microphone and give her staunchest supporters the voice they want on a national stage. After highlighting their struggles, she should pivot to why Obama is the better solution than McCain, and then crown herself as Obama's surrogate for those voters.

Despite numerous news reports and blogs second-guessing her intentions and pondering a possible overthrow of the convention in some Clinton coup, the possibility of her committing such political suicide is slim to none.

And do not underestimate former President Clinton, either: He may wave a finger and become flush with emotion on the stump -- yet that is not the Bill Clinton you will see and hear speaking to the convention.

If anything, both Clintons should leave the crowd (and people back home) panting for more.

Hillary knows that this is Obama's moment and that she would gain nothing from bad behavior. She will take the high road, hold her feelings in check, and focus on the policy issues she cares about passionately.

From the ashes of her failed campaign -- not unlike the SS Titanic setting out, with her as the unsinkable Molly Brown -- she can then rise higher than ever.

Clearly, Obama can’t and won’t win in a landslide. But he must win two of the crucial states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- and he needs Hillary to do that. Without her help, he’s the candidate of change. With her help, he becomes more -- more appealing to Rust-Belters, to women, to the lunch-pail crowd and to vote-swingers (or naughty Republicans who may vote Democrat).

This convention is Obama’s moment -- his hour to welcome America into his home, the Democratic Party -- and he deserves to set the table any way he wishes.

Hillary’s job is to bring a casserole dish and to serve it with a smile.

Of course, she could go with the “nuclear-unity option,” withdrawing after her name is put in nomination and having the New York delegation move to make his nomination unanimous.

And she could top all of that by becoming the surrogate anti-McCain hit man.