“I love you. I love you. I love,” former President Bill Clinton mouthed toward Hillary shortly after she began speaking Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. And as she finished, many in the hall were chanting the mantra aloud. “We love you Hillary.”
Mabye it's because Hillary Clinton made a speech for the ages Tuesday night. Her body language, that sparkling smile, those florid hand gestures, all helped loft her speech to summits of high eloquence as she delivered her crucial, headline grabbing message in wave after wave of galvanizing scorn for the politics of John McCain and electrifying support for Barack Obama.
Ah, what might have been.
Hillary can flat deliver a speech, as I wrote June 7, when Hillary conceded that Obama would be the nominee of the Democratic Party. As in that speech, there was nothing flat about Hillary's delivery on Tuesday. It was as lofty and varied as a Rocky Mountain skyline.
“In America, you always keep going,” she said, timing her remarks beautifully, to make best use of wild applause. “We're Americans. We're not big on quitting. And remember, before we can keep going, we've got to GET going by electing Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” about as clear an endorsement as a runner-up is ever likely to deliver at a convention. “We don't have a moment to lose or a vote to spare. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance.!”
I couldn't help wondering whether she had Obama second-guessing his decision to pick Joseph Biden as his running-mate.
Standing in the convention hall she'd yearned to command from a slightly higher ground-as her party's nominee-she wielded commanded over a rapt audience there and millions in America and the world over. Those in attendance appeared to drink in every word. There were tears, cheers and laughter aplenty, including some from Chelsea and Bill, who took a bow, stage left.
Even die-hard supporters who vowed never to support Obama-and yes, there were some in attendance-must've been moved. But then again, that was the raison d'etre for Hillary's prime-time appearance.
If anyone entered the hall with doubts in their hearts or minds as to Hillary's commitment to America, the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, women everywhere, our veterans, laborers, public servants, children, but most importantly to Barack Obama, she surely emptied them of such doubt and poured in conviction.
This might be the best speech any close loser ever delivered in support of a party standard-bearer. Unless Obama's a fool-and he manifestly isn't-surely over the next 10 weeks he'll find a way to make maximum use of this woman who honed her talents to a fine point in the crucible of 54 primary contests and 22 debates. In this moment, she just might be the single best politician in America, maybe the world. She was surging at the end of the primaries, winning lopsided victories in several states. Surely that record, coupled with this speech, has secured her a debt of gratitude from Obama, even if she didn't quite make the short list of candidates for vice-president.
Surely, Hillary's speech surpassed his expectations. Like the one in June, it blessed and vindicated her supporters. It lifted their hearts and minds. It validated the long struggle to keep her nomination alive to reach this point. Most of all, it embraced Obama in no uncertain terms.
It also delivered a message in a bottle to future historians. In a speech she surely knew would be history-making, no matter what she said or how she said it, she said and did all the right things.
She generously provided applause lines to Barack and Michele Obama, to Joseph and Jill Biden.
Speaking to her supporters, especially women, she admonished them never to give up.
Speaking to blacks, Hispanics and others of color, she inveighed against racism and prejudice.
Speaking to inheritors of our Earth, she gave a clarion call, summoning us all to work for renewable energy, to save the Earth and stop global warming for all creatures with whom we share our world.
Speaking to supporters of former President Bill Clinton she took pains to underscore his accomplishments in promoting a strong economy, balancing the budget, and promoting human rights.
In order to take on all these all these challenges, we must elect a Democrat.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us: jobs lost; houses gone; falling wages; rising prices; the Supreme Court in a right-wing headlock; and our government in partisan gridlock; the biggest deficit in our nation's history; money borrowed from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis; Putin and Georgia; Iran and Iraq….”
Her conclusion was a rousing plea for unity and victory.
Just as we'll never know what was lost along with her bid for president, we'll never know the magnitude of the opportunity Obama missed in not selecting her as his running-mate. She's as charismatic as Obama. She's tough, relentless, sunny, optimistic, attractive and bright. Surely she and Obama together would've been an unstoppable force in American politics and American life.
But it was not to be. Obama may rue the day come November. And if he does, Hillary could be calling in his chips come 2012.