In observing the myriad articles, blogs, interviews, and commentaries on Clinton's speech this morning, it strikes me that she could have stood on her head while pledging her undying love for Obama, and the reactions still would have been the same. I could have written this piece last night. Nothing changed today except that Clinton kept her word and made the concession and endorsement that she had promised.
Pundits, analysts, politicos, and ordinary Americans watched Clinton's speech and then read into it what they already believed about Clinton, what they expected from Clinton. In short, Clinton's speech was a Rorschach test.
Both sides have lingering anger, mistrust, and resentment. Both those who were inclined to see the best in Clinton and those who were inclined to see the worst in Clinton are now citing passages of her speech, her tone of voice, and her body language as proof of what they have posited.
Some pundits timed the minutes until she spoke Obama's name. Others tabulated the total number of times she said his name (according to MSNBC, she said his name 14 times). Others lamented that she had not spent more time giving her supporters concrete reasons why they should support Obama, not McCain. At the same time, others lauded the litany of issues that Clinton cited as reason to support Obama over McCain.
Some pored over her words, looking for hints that Clinton might betray Obama at the convention in Denver. A few lamented her choice to suspend her campaign rather than releasing her delegates. Others called it an audition for the vice presidency. The headline on CNN.com read, "What Will Clinton Do Next?"
Reporters and commentators even interpreted the audience reactions differently. Fox News reported, "Clinton was met with ear-splitting cheers when she began her address, but the crowd response became progressively more tepid as she spoke about driving Obama to victory in November." At CNN, pundits noted that the crowd responded tepidly to Clinton's first mention of Obama but responded more enthusiastically to successive mentions of Obama as the speech continued.
The Clinton camp and the Obama camp have become the Hatfields and McCoys of politics, each side garnering supporters who have become entrenched in a dangerous family feud. Today, both Clinton and Obama are taking the first steps toward reconciliation.
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Obama is also asking his supporters on his website to send positive messages of support:
Senator Clinton made history over the past 16 months -- not just because she has broken barriers, but because she has inspired millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to causes like universal health care that make a difference in the lives of hardworking Americans. Take a minute to thank her for her hard work and for supporting this campaign.
Sure, there is some lingering anger and mistrust between Obama supporters and Clinton supporters, but today we began the journey toward unity.