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In the Big Hall With Hillary

09/27/2008 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

I had not been back to a national convention since 1976, so I had forgotten something: conventions are a lot like Super Bowls. When there are moments of drama, there's nothing like being there. The rest of the time - like the Super Bowl halftime show, for instance - being there means witnessing an event made for television, and it's a lot better being near your own refrigerator and your own bathroom.

And so it was Tuesday evening, especially for the early speakers. There was no drama, and they struggled to be heard over the cacaphony of backslapping and general mild interest in what they had to say. They didn't help themselves in the big hall by offering up lots of humorless recitations of the obvious, but I did feel sorry for the many of them who had dreamed of the day they would get to address a national convention. Interestingly, watching the replay of the cable coverage later, it seemed as though the commentators (watching on television) were getting more out of the early speeches than those in the arena. Only the penultimate speaker, the delightful governor of Montana seemed to know what to do with this crowd. He was like a great televangelist in his Big Church: relentlessly conversational, funny, and he created his own drama

Hillary came with a natural advantage. Her very presence, and the circumstances that surrounded it, created drama and demanded attention. But to her credit, she has improved so much as a speaker through this primary process. She knew she did not have to speak loudly to be heard, even in such a big hall. So she offered her remarks with grace and humor and elegance. She even avoided her tendancy to yell over her applause lines. Ironically, that made it difficult for those in the arena to make out the ends of those lines, but to the millions watching at home, she was pitch perfect.

Early Obama supporters like me were, of course, curious about what she would have to say, and to my mind, she delivered. What she had to had to say was much more convincing than if she simply heaped unending praise on Obama. Wearing my trial lawyer hat, I thought her question to her supporters was the line that won the case: she asked, in effect, "are you in it for me, or for what we stand for?" Her logic was compelling and inescapable. For the people who care about what she cares about, there simply is no other choice. No way. No how.

I'm sure the question she asked her supporters is the same question she asked herself over the past weeks, and I think she concluded that the obvious answer was the same: It's not all about me, it's about what I believe in. The cynics will always say that she's it in for "me". At some level, we're all in it for "me". But I would submit that any of us that have reached some success in life have had at least one ultimate epiphany that the best way to serve "me" is to put your head down and work your butt off to serve some bigger purpose. After that, the "me" will take care of itself. That is why I never bought into the goofy idea that she would try to blow up Obama to improve her own chances in 2012.

Later in the evening I watched Andrea Mitchell interview a female senior citizen delegate from Western Pennsylvania, and it was clear that Hillary carried the day with her jury in the arena. The delegates who will be charged to go home and work hard for the ticket will do just that, and I believe the vast majority of Hillary voters will vote for Obama.

From what I've seen in Denver, it is a minority of very high level Hillary supporters - the ones that were calling us at the beginning of the campaign telling us that Hillary was inevitable, that the train was leaving the station, and that those of us who dallied with other loser candidates would be remembered - those people may not be fully there yet. I believe that even the majority of them will listen to Hillary's message. And all of us have to ask ourselves the question: are we in it for "me", or what we stand for?