Washington Matters


What Hillary Should Say


After a primary battle that was longer, more expensive and closer than any in history, Hillary Clinton will finally (and reluctantly) throw in the towel Saturday. In a speech to her supporters, she'll endorse Barack Obama, with whom she met last night to discuss party unity. I'm sure he was too polite to tell her what to say tomorrow, but I'm not.

 

Hillary, you've done more damage to your image and standing among Democrats in the last week than in the last eight years. Your delay in endorsing your rival and your unseemly push for the vice presidency have hurt you badly, but you can go a long way toward making amends Saturday if you handle it right.

 

First, remember that it's fine to thank your supporters for backing you to the end, long after it became obvious that it would all be in vain. But after your thank you, which should be brief, give the most enthusiastic endorsement that Obama has ever received. Explain why you think he would make a strong president and do it in positive terms -- emphasizing his good points and why the voting blocs that backed you (women, working class whites) should feel comfortable with him. It's okay to say all sorts of scary things about what you think will happen if John McCain wins, but make this a speech that is primarily FOR Obama, not against McCain.

 

Then drop two bombshells. Say you think you can help the party more if you are NOT Obama's running mate. I know you told your supporters to stop pressuring Obama, but go further -- say you think it's a lousy idea. It doesn't have to be a Shermanesque refusal, and you can always accept for the good of the party if he asks you (don't count on it), but do everything you can to take the pressure off of him as he considers his options.

 

Then release your pledged delegates. I know you want your name submitted for the roll call in Denver, and Obama can still let that happen. Technically, your delegates aren't really bound to you anyway, and holding onto them is an implicit threat -- a kind of blackmail suggesting if you don't get what you want, you'll give Obama headaches at the convention. Be magnanimous and let your delegates go. You'll win lots of friends by doing so.

 

And one thing you should definitely not say:

 

Don't claim to have won the popular vote. Everytime you do that, it sounds like sour grapes, and anyway it's not true. Plus, it's a not-so-subtle way of reminding us that you still think you'd be a better candidate. Democrats know you believe that and they no longer think it's relevant.

 

As a final check, when you read over your text, count the number of  times you use the pronoun "I". Try to limit it to six. You won't make it, but it will remind you that this speech should be about Obama, not you. You had your chance Tuesday.

 




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