The Speech of a Lifetime

As I and about every other armchair political analyst out there pointed out yesterday, the expectations for Hillary Clinton’s speech were astronomical, the standards she had to meet were stratospheric, and she would need wings to accomplish the lofty and often mutually exclusive tasks set before her.

Thankfully, Mrs. Clinton apparently already knows how to fly.

While nowhere near as over-used as “under the bus”, I’ve heard the phrase, “best speech of his/her career” an awful lot over the past year and a half.  I think that is itself significant, and I kind of want everyone to ponder that for a moment.  This is a realization that partisans from both the Obama and Clinton camps may have been unwilling to come to in the past, but when you stop and think about it, these two pushed each other to their very limits, and then they kept on pushing, and as we look at what animosity still might be left between the two camps, and the path forward, there is one thing that is clear.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama would be the politicians they are today without the grueling battle they waged against one another.  Just as I don’t think Obama wouldn’t be capable of defending himself without Clinton giving him harsh lessons on how to do so, I don’t think Hillary could have delivered last night’s speech a year ago.

This is a good thing.  These are the top two stars on the same team making each other better, faster, stronger, and wiser.  And that’s something else that can’t be emphasized enough; same team.

As we noted last night during our liveblogging, Hillary was preceded by one hell of an introduction.  Set to Lenny Kravitz, this was a rock and roll slideshow that highlighted her strength, and the strength of women in general.  Everyone wants an introduction like that at some point in their lives, and Mrs. Clinton deserved it.

When she finally took the stage, she didn’t deliver the best speech of her career, she delivered the speech of a lifetime, plain and simple.  She was full throated in her support for Obama–unequivocal advocacy that can’t be spun any other way.  She was ruthless against McCain (something I’m going to talk more about in my next post, she was at once wonky and yet uplifting, and in the crescendo of her speech it simply wasn’t possible to not get chills.

Yes.  I want to make sure you read that clearly.  I, one of the most avid Obama supporters, and a sufferer of CDS for over a year, got chills watching Hillary Clinton’s speech last night.  So I guess you could call me cured.

But while the speech was just about perfect from beginning to end, it was the beginning and the end that were perhaps the most important.

For the beginning, while Clinton didn’t put it in quite so blunt of terms, the not so subtle subtext of her speech was simply this; Look, I didn’t spend thirty-five years of my life working my ass off so that a bunch of PUMAs could deliver another Republican presidency.

I want to be clear; from this moment on, there can no longer be any serious discussion about the entire bitter-ender movement.  Look, the bitter enders, the no dealers, the pumas, they have always been the equivalent of the Ron Paul rEVOLution.  The only true difference is that unlike Ron Pauls cultish supporters (that’s to say that his supporters who were cult-like, not to imply that all of them were), the bitter-enders supported a candidate that actually had a chance at winning, and participated in a long and drawn out primary.  In other words, they make a better story for the media that is looking for a story exactly like the one they provide.

But last night changed things.  The PUMAs can no longer make any valid claim that they are Clinton supporters, if ever they did have a valid stake as such.  At this point it should be widely recognized that these people are engaging in a fantasy based obsession, one in which every action that Clinton performs is not weighed and judged on the merit of itself, but instead twisted and contorted to fit their deluded image of her which itself is twisted and contorted to fit their needs.

They are overcome with hate, irrational hate, and they are using an idealized caricature of Hillary Clinton as a vehicle and justification of that hate.  You see this in comments all over the puma-sphere, comments like, “They’re forcing her to say these things,” or, “We’re standing up for her because Clinton’s too much of a class act to not support Obama.”

It’s too bad, really, because I think the real Hillary Clinton is better than this strange deity that these people worship.

Now, I have to apologize, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to get derailed on a riff against pumas, but this is essentially the last time I’m planning on talking about them, and I want to make it clear how clear Hillary Clinton made her stance on them in the opening of her speech last night.  Last night was the harsh but necessary break up, the stone cold truth, and she spoke it well.

Mrs. Clinton’s speech last night was about Democratic unity, and on that note, not only could she have not opened up better, but she could not have closed better either.  This was the part that gave me goose bumps, and the transcript doesn’t do it justice.  Even the clip that I am about to show won’t do it justice as it doesn’t capture how completely and totally the audience EXPLODED at this point in her speech, but, well, just watch:


This was a powerful moment, a deeply moving and touching moment for whom equality and civil rights is not merely a key issue but a core value.  But I think the brilliance stems from the selection of Harriet Tubman to quote for a very specific reason; this was an African American woman who worked both to free slaves and fought for women’s suffrage.

In this closer to Clinton’s speech she tied together what had been so hurtfully torn apart during the Democratic primary; the fight for equality for women, and the fight for equality for African Americans.

One of the things that was to me the saddest aspects of the past year and a half, and this Democratic primary contest, was this feeling just underneath the surface that you had to choose.  We had to make a choice that we were going to be either for equality for women, or for equality for African Americans-the two were mutually exclusive, you couldn’t be for one without being against the other.  One had to win out over the other because there was only one first place spot.

It was somehow forgotten that equality is equality, it doesn’t matter if it’s for women, or African Americans, or Muslim Americans, or homosexuals.  We somehow forgot that equality for all is the answer.

And that was the power of Mrs. Clinton’s speech last night.  She drew them back together where they belong.  She talked about the freeing of black slaves on the night that Lily Ledbetter got up and talked about how she was unable to sue for equal pay that she deserved.  Clinton brought up marching on in at the sight of torches in the forest in the same convention where all Democrats adopted the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling as a badge of honor.

Leading up to her speech, she was preceded by Democrat after Democrat that was not afraid to throw the punches.  Janet Napolatino chided him, “Because I can say to you tonight, positively, that John McCain is right. He doesn’t understand the economy as well as he should. And he doesn’t understand how the policies he has supported and wants to perpetuate have so terribly misfired,” and Brian Schweizer mocked, “Even if you drilled in all of John McCain’s back yards, even the ones he doesn’t know about.”

Hillary Clinton took the stage after speaker after speaker pounded away at McCain, eager to prove they were itching for a fight, eager to prove that this convention would not be a repeat of the 2004 convention (even if some just don’t want to see it), and Clinton came with what should be the most worrisome message for the Republicans–we’re all on the same team now.

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