Thursday, June 05, 2008

So long, Hillary, it's been a blast

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It was being reported yesterday -- by ABC News, among others -- that Hillary was set to drop out of the race, and endorse Obama, tomorrow.

It will now be Saturday, as both the Times and Post are reporting. From the former:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will endorse Senator Barack Obama on Saturday, bringing a close to her 17-month campaign for the White House, aides said. Her decision came after Democrats urged her Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama.

Howard Wolfson, one of Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategists, and other aides said she would express support for Mr. Obama and party unity at an event in Washington that day. One adviser said Mrs. Clinton would concede defeat, congratulate Mr. Obama and proclaim him the party’s nominee, while pledging to do what was needed to assure his victory in November.

Her decision came after a day of conversations with supporters on Capitol Hill about her future now that Mr. Obama had clinched the nomination. Mrs. Clinton had, in a speech after Tuesday night’s primaries, suggested she wanted to wait before deciding about her future, but in conversations Wednesday, her aides said, she was urged to step aside.

“We pledged to support her to the end,” Representative Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat who has been a patron of Mrs. Clinton since she first ran for the Senate, said in an interview. “Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.”

Mrs. Clinton’s decision came as some of her most prominent supporters — including former Vice President Walter F. Mondale — announced they were now backing Mr. Obama. “I was for Hillary — I wasn’t against Obama, who I think is very talented,” Mr. Mondale said. “I’m glad we made a decision and I hope we can unite our party and move forward.”

Tomes upon tomes will be written on Hillaryland by Hillarylanders, as well as by ardent Hillary- and Hillaryland- watchers, offering insider perspectives on what happened, on what went wrong, on who liked whom, and all the rest of it -- and we've seen some of it already (TNR's Michelle Cottle, one of the better Hillaryland-watchers -- and one of the most acutely critical -- offered a sentimental eulogy a couple of days ago).

But what the Times account suggests is that Hillary is only reluctantly dropping out of the race. Contra Rangel, the problem is not that we can't determine when the end is, or was, but that Hillary doesn't seem to know, or to accept, that the race is over, that it has already ended. Did she really need to be "urged to step aside"? I realize that political campaigns can be like bubbles, where the occupants lose any sort of firm grasp on reality -- much like Bush's bubble -- and it could be that Hillary had fallen under the spell of her own egotistical ambition or the delusional enthusiasm of her inner circle and most ardent supporters, or both, but it is troubling that, even at the end, it was all about herself.

Of course, it could be that it is only being spun that she needed to be "urged to step aside," perhaps in order not to look like a loser to her supporters, to indicate that she could have fought on and had the desire to do so, and, as always, to imply that she is somehow the victim of forces beyond her control.

But enough Hillary. She won't be Obama's running mate and, for now, we can take comfort in the fact that she is set to drop out of the race, endorse Obama, and call for party unity.

Let's just hope she can put aside her arrogant self-glorification -- of the sort that made her speech the other night so utterly appalling -- long enough to do Obama, and the Democratic Party, some good.

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