Clinton's Last Opportunity for Grace?

Washington Matters

Clinton's Last Opportunity for Grace?

The time has finally arrived for Hillary Clinton to decide what matters most -- her or the Democratic Party. Clinton can do as she has promised and press on, forcing Barack Obama to beat her and making many superdelegates choose between personal loyalty to her and her husband and party unity. Or she can seize her last opportunity to be graceful by pulling the plug on her presidential aspirations herself.

Despite her successes in April, it's clear now that Clinton has lost the momentum. Cash is so low that she recently loaned her campaign another $6 million. She may have lost to Obama in Indiana Tuesday had it not been for a contingent of Republican trouble-makers hoping to prolong the Democrats' painful battle.

Clinton has not quite reached the point where slim hope turns into utter desperation, but if she waits until the last dog dies, as her husband used to put it in stump speeches, she will have squandered an important opportunity for both herself and Democrats. She's an incredibly tough and resilient fighter -- qualities that will be desperately needed by the greener and less combative Obama in the fall campaign against John McCain. If she is willing to put those attributes to work on behalf of Obama and the party now, if she can sacrifice the last few ounces of hope, Clinton could immediately change the appearance and tone of the presidential campaign. By ending her campaign on a noble high note and giving some genuine inspiration, purpose and direction to her supporters -- especially the white blue-collar voters she so desperately and so successfully pulled behind her by helping to drive a wedge between them and Obama -- she could give the party a much needed blast of vigor.

Clinton certainly can and may decide to be beaten rather than give up gracefully. And sure, she would still embrace Obama at that stage and campaign for him. But by then she would have no choice. To do otherwise would seem so churlish that she would do far more damage to her reputation than to Democrats as a whole. No matter how heart-felt, her campaigning for Obama under those circumstances would ring a little hollow. The suspicion would be that she was going through the motions for appearance's sake rather than out of personal and moral conviction.

Sadly and fittingly, that would reinforce the image that may have cost her the nomination -- that of a politician willing to sacrifice almost anything on the altar of politically expediency. Is that the way Hillary Clinton wants to go out?