While I was effusive in my praise for Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention the other night and was willing to let pass the fact that she didn't give Barack Obama a big wet smooch in urging her supporters to get with the program, it was with trepidation that I surfed away from the Phillies-Mets post-game show to see what Bill "Famously Hurt Feelings" Clinton had to offer when it was his turn on the Denver dais.
In the run-up to the second most most anticipated speech of the convention, my snarky side whispered to my non-judgmental side (yes, I have one) that Bill would have no choice but to make nice or things would be mighy chilly in the old marital bed back home in Chappaqua. But then it occurred to both my sides that the Clintons' marriage has almost certianly been one of convenience -- call it power sharing -- for a good many years.
Anyhow, reading between Hillary's lines the other night I finally if belatedly understood why PUMAs and other aggrieved supporters still were unable to let go. It's a Republican dirty trick. (I'm joking. I think.)
More to the point is that these women felt a sense of entitlement, that this was the year one of their own would burst through the glass ceiling of American politics and make it to the Big Dance and beyond. As misplaced as focusing their feelings of betrayal on Obama may be, I can still relate. (For the record, note that Greek-Americans didn't seem to feel betrayed when Bill Clinton muscled aside Paul Tsongas in 1992 to grab the nomination.)
It's Bill's own sense of entitlement and feelings of betrayal that are less easy to understand, but after his speech I think I have a clue or two about a man whose ego is even bigger than his legendary libido.
I have heard Clinton give better speeches. This one was at least adequate if somewhat disjointed, and its greatest strength was linking John McCain to not just the failures of the Bush administration, but its ideology. That is the theme more than any other that will propel Obama to the White House.
So Clinton did what he had to do --but he should have did what he had to do weeks ago and not played paddy cake with the media and his wife's base through a series of deliberate leaks and non-denials concerning his aggrievement with Obama.
Okay, maybe it was a pretty good speech. But in the end it was more important for Clinton to feel high and mighty and try to leverage a process that he should have been no part of than go after McCain from the jump. That lost opportunity may not necessarily translate into lost votes for Obama, but Clinton's post-presidential legacy -- already tarnished because of his slash-and-burn conduct during the primaries -- was not rehabilitated with one sincere-sounding speech.Photograph by J.L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times