Hillary Wants [at Least] a First Ballot Vote at the Convention

08/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A news story Saturday in the New York Daily News stuck pretty much to the headline, "Hillary Clinton Asks Not to be Nominated at Democratic National Convention." Wrong. Her supporters say, as they've been saying for months, "Not so fast," and claim that Hillary has asked no such thing. I wrote about the Daily News story and the reaction of one of her supporters Friday.
Since then a You Tube video, taken at a cocktail hour, retire-Hillary's debt "Unity" event at the home of a major supporter in Los Altos Hills, California, has been getting plenty of hits. The video bears watching and re-watching, not only to understand the words, but also to read the body language and the tenor of the group of well-dressed, well-spoken, and not-anywhere-near-ready-to-concede women who peppered Hillary with questions.

(McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina, who has been wooing disenchanted Hillary backers, also lives in Los Altos Hills but was not in attendance.)

The women urged Hillary to allow her name to be put in nomination. One woman asked the senator from New York what she would do if, when the roll call was completed, Hillary actually won by a "narrow margin." Hillary responded, "That is not going to happen, not going to happen." She seemed to say the right things about Obama--"I've made it very clear that I'm supporting Sen. Obama."

But Hillary also seemed to encourage that woman and the others to push for "Hillary Clinton" to be placed in nomination; she told them that her delegates don't need her permission for there to be a roll call vote that included the names of both Clinton and Obama. "I think delegates can decide to do this on their own," she said. "They don't need permission."

Hillary twice used the word "catharsis."

"Look, what we want to have happen is for Sen. Obama to be nominated by a unified convention of Democrats....The best way...I think to do that is to have a strategy so that my delegates feel like they've had a role and that their legitimacy has been validated....It's as old as Greek drama. There is a catharsis. Everybody yell and scream....Then, okay, great, now let's go out and win." She did not say, at that point, "Let's go out and win for Obama."

When a woman who identified herself as "a proud delegate of yours," said she wants to be able to vote for Hillary "on the first ballot," adding that she wants to "let everybody know that there are a lot of delegates who have signed a put Hillary's name on the ballot," Hillary smiled at the hearty applause and said, "I think you can understand I don't have total control over this."

A minute earlier she told her supporters, "I think it would be better if we had a plan that actually we put in place and everybody knew what it was and then we executed it....I think that would go more smoothly. And so I hope that's what we come up with, some kind of strategy."

That sounds like Hillary--a woman who doesn't like to leave much to chance.

Hillary friend and financial backer, San Franciscan Susie Tompkins Buell, lunched with Hillary earlier that day. She will probably never be sold on Obama; she describes him as short on legislative achievement and long on ruthlessness. "As we are seeing and learning more and more about him and what he has not done for any legislation and what he did to get so far, it makes it harder to accept this. Buell wrote in an email to me that over lunch she looked at Hillary and thought, "Why not her, why him?" She described Hillary as "resolved and jok[ing] and pondering. She was giving us all a boost....She is so gracious and doing all she can to unite the party but so many of us can simply not go there yet. We are waiting to see HIM unite the party. He is not doing that at all and as a matter of fact, it is now the opposite that he is doing."

Buell, whom I have written about often and who was an important source for my biography of Bill Clinton's post presidency, made the big time Sunday, when Maureen Dowd wrote, "Before the Obama campaign even had a chance to denounce Ludacris, one of the rappers on the senator's iPod, Hillary Inc. started to mobilize. Susie Tompkins Buell ... told the New York Observer that Obama had to distance himself, given [hip-hop star] Ludacris's new song rooting for Obama to "paint the White House black" and calling Hillary the b-word."

Buell is particularly offended that Obama is "not even considering Hillary for VP," which she calls "such poor judgment....It seems careless to not want the strongest person possible to fill your shoes should something happen. Who is this Gov. Kaine [Tim Kaine of Virginia]? Seems like he is a lure for dissatisfied republicans to come to Obama. It also alienates women further for him to discount Hillary."

Buell signed her email, "Sadder than ever."

And so the Greek drama, as Hillary put it, continues.