Hillary Clinton is so united!
“I'm just trying to move people to where they need to be,” she says repeatedly. Her enraged supporters call, bearing reports of new perceived slights or betrayals on the part of the Obama forces. “It's all going to be fine. We have to take a deep breath,” she tells them. “This will all work out. Have a good summer. Go to the beach.”
It's Democratic unity week. In Washington, Hillary introduced her party's future presidential nominee to a couple hundred of her gold-standard donors, who arrived at the festivities bearing large checks, the political equivalent of flowers or a nice bottle of wine. Then Clinton and Obama hopped on a jet and flew together to Unity, N.H., for their first post-primary joint appearance.
“Everything will work itself out,” one of her aides says cheerfully. Unity has spread throughout the Clinton offices, where formerly fierce political operatives have taken on the aura of a particularly mellow religious cult.
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Hillary has been saying that her supporters are moving through the five stages of grief. But she herself seems to have invented some brand-new sixth stage of chipper serenity. Maybe it's just that she's been getting some sleep. Maybe it hasn't really sunk in yet that instead of spending the next four years negotiating with world leaders, she'll be fighting to save the Niagara Falls airport. But really, she ought to market her current mind-set as a brand of new age meditation or yoga. Cross your legs, close your eyes and feel yourself unifying from the base of your spine to the top of your head.
Bill may not be there yet. The former president was regarded as insufficiently enthusiastic when he issued a statement that he is “obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do” to get Obama elected. However, it was an absolute howl of support compared with the comments of Elizabeth Edwards, which so far add up to dead silence.
And let us be fair. For almost a year, people have been complaining about Bill's failure to shut up and behave like a proper presidential spouse. Now he's getting out of the way so Hillary and Barack can have the stage, and everyone has decided he's sulking.
“Are you worried you need to hear more from the former president?” Obama was asked this week at a news conference. This may be the first time in modern history when someone complained about not hearing enough from Bill Clinton.
The hard-core Hillary supporters have certainly not yet achieved total unification bliss. Perhaps it's just that their heroine hasn't had a chance yet to reprogram each one individually. (“Repeat after me: ‘This will all work out.' And let me hear that ocean breath.”) A breakfast for staunch Clinton backers in Manhattan this week was said to have ended in less than total success. “It just felt like old politics,” one of the attendees said. “Would you sign up to volunteer? What committee would you work on? It sounded like the old churchwoman's auxiliary.”
This brings us to one of the critical problems in political rapprochements. The defeated side would like to have a meeting so it can offer the winning side insights into the issues it needs to address and policies it really ought to tweak. The winning side would like to get back to their campaign and reward the losing side by welcoming them into the ranks of willing workers. No hard feelings!
One matter that particularly upsets some of the unregenerate Hillary backers is the Democratic convention. The Obama campaign has already asked Clinton to make a speech, but it seems pretty clear that they'd also like her to release her delegates before the voting starts so that Barack could be nominated unanimously, cleanly and quickly. (Clean and quick is admirable if you are talking suturing a wound or waxing a floor, but a bit much to expect in a gathering of thousands of politicians.)
Recorded for history
Electing a woman president has always been the marker for success in the American women's movement. Clinton failed to hit the home run, but she certainly scored a triple, and some of her backers feel as if it deserves to be officially tallied, before Hillary releases everyone to support the inevitable nominee. “Many of us feel this needs to be recorded for history,” said Rosina Rubin, a New York delegate who will be attending the Washington fundraiser.
Everybody does not agree with this theory. “A lot of people would see that as being counterproductive,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a former Clinton supporter who has become very, very unified.
It's Hillary's call. All the drama of the past few weeks was built around the fear that Clinton did not know what the politically smart thing to do was, or that she did not have the self-control to do it.
But, in the end, she always does. And whatever she decides, this will work out.