|Speeches that Could Have Been: Hillary at the Convention|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  27 Aug 2008
Hillary's convention speech left many wanting more -- and pundits pointing out, all over again, how she'd condemned him as too inexperienced for the job. However brilliant in execution, her speed didn't do what it needed to do -- what we knew she had to do with the speech. She failed to address the elephant in the corner: her past, harsh statements against Obama. Within minutes of the speech, the McCain campaign issued a statement pointing out exactly this. In failing to address her past statements, she gave more ammunition to Obama detractors and made those comments a news story yet again.
Interviews with her ardent supporters pointed this out. While they praised the speech, they still didn't know whether they'd vote for Obama. This might be taken as a sign of how strong her support runs. In fact, it shows that she didn't do her job.
So what could she have said? Here's my version:
It was a hard-fought campaign. I believed that I was the best candidate. But, in the passion of the campaign, I said things that weren't true. Obama is as qualified as many Presidents have been. He is older than my husband when he was elected. But his qualifications run deeper: he not only had the judgement to oppose the Iraq war but the courage to say so when it was wildly unpopular. His resume may not have been as long as mine, but he had the courage and intellectual honesty that I did not.
I can now say that my vote to authorize the war was a mistake. I wish I'd said it in the campaign. I made the best choice I could, knowing what I knew at the time. I would never have authorized war unless I thought it was what was best for our country. But, in hindsight, it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. And I was too proud to admit it.
Obama didn't have that problem. I was right that he didn't have the experience I had. What I couldn't see -- what I couldn't admit to myself -- was that he had been right and, for all my experience, I had been wrong. I thought the country wanted a tough leader, one who stood by her decisions. It's hard for women in politics because we sometimes have to be extra tough, doubly tough, to fight against people's preconceptions about us. But I was wrong. I was wrong, and Obama was right.
But he wasn't just right about Iraq. He was inspiring. He was a movement. He brought young people into this process as never before. He revolutionized fundraising. He went from nothing to take on the inevitable Democratic candidate and wrestle the nomination away from me. He was and is the right man -- the right person -- for the right time.
He ran a better campaign. He beat me fair and square. He is an excellent politician who firmly believes in the causes that unite all of us as Democrats -- and all of us as Americans. It's true: he doesn't have my experience in Washington. But he has the judgement and personal courage that I did not. He can inspire all of America and the world to reach to a brighter tomorrow. What I got through experience, he has naturally. He is phenomenon. But he's also a good man. In short, he will make an excellent President -- one I, and the rest of this great country of ours, will be proud to serve.
This could be followed by talk about how important this election is, how much McCain just repeats Bush's ill-advised policies, and how much we need a Democrat in office -- the stuff she did so well.
It's not a speech that would have raised as many cheers, except at the end. But it's one that would have held the convention floor -- and all those watching on TV and online -- in rapt silence, knowing that they were witnessing something historic.
Can anyone doubt that she would be lionized as a hero in the wake of such a speech?
Instead of talking about the elephant in the corner, pundits would be talking about her courage in addressing the issue. She would have been hailed for her shocking honesty.
She would have acquired, in short, that elusive quality that Obama possessed and that she seemed to lack: authenticity.
Americans love an apology. They forgive politicians instinctively. When you're in a political crisis, the best thing you can do is take full and unhesitating responsibility and apologize in the biggest forum you can. In her own political quandry, Hillary would have done well to remember this -- not that the Clintons have a record of instinctively doing so.
The irony is that this is the speech that really would have left everyone with the impression that she would have been the best candidate. Everyone would be saying, as with Gore's concession speech, that if this Hillary had run, she would have won the nomination.
So this isn't just a speech that helps Obama and heals the rift between her die-hards and his. It's the speech that would have best positioned her for 2012. If she has won respect in her campaign, just imagine how much she would have won with this speech.
As it is, Hillary gave a great, empassioned speech. But it could have been one of the best moments in the history of American politics.
subscribe to site or just to non-fiction