Hillary Clinton had a variety of competing goals to achieve in her convention speech last night, none of them easy. She had to offer her forceful, unequivocal support for her former rival, Barack Obama. She had to make the case that John McCain would be a disaster. She to convince some of her reluctant supporters to come together as Democrats for the good of the nation. And she had to do it all with grace, humor, and memorable soundbites that could be replayed over and over again.
To borrow the grand-slam metaphor I've heard quite a bit, Clinton touched all the bases.
To those supporters who may be tempted to help McCain win, Clinton's message was unambiguous: "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?" It was a powerful reminder that Clinton's values and priorities are more important than one candidate or one campaign.
It was an obvious argument that Clinton made eloquently -- it won't honor to Clinton to betray her vision for a stronger nation. To support her is to support her agenda, and Obama shares her agenda.
Her indictment against McCain was just as powerful: "[W]e don't need four more years, of the last eight years. More economic stagnation, and less affordable health care. More high gas prices, and less alternative energy.... John McCain says the economy is fundamentally sound. John McCain doesn't think that 47 million people without health insurance is a crisis. John McCain wants to privatize Social Security. And in 2008, he still thinks it's okay when women don't earn equal pay for equal work. With an agenda like that, it makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities. Because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart."
I've seen some argue that Clinton's endorsement of Obama wasn't personal enough. Perhaps. But at the same time, she effectively explained that an Obama victory is an absolute necessity: "We are Americans. We're not big on quitting. But remember, before we can keep going, we have to get going by electing Barack Obama president. 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 hang in the balance."
There wasn't a hint of disappointment or regret. I don't know if this will silence the incessant media obsession with an intra-party "rift" -- it probably won't -- but most reasonable people who gave Clinton a fair hearing came away feeling more confident in the strength of the party, and Obama's chances in November.
Some of McCain's advertising this week has emphasized the line, "Hillary's right." After watching her address last night, I kept thinking, "She sure is."