Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Robert Guttman Headshot

Controversy, Coronation and the Clintons at the Convention

Posted: Updated:

This is supposed to be a convention honoring Barack Obama for winning the most delegates and for making it official that the senator from Illinois is the Democratic candidate for president.

Conventions are not set up to appease the losing candidates but to have a "coronation" and bestow the crown on the new head of the Democratic Party. The new head of the Democratic Party is Barack Obama. So why, once again, are the Clintons' being talked about almost more than the man who will be the nominee of the party?

Why in the world should Hillary Clinton have her name put in nomination for president other than for her own ego and the other huge ego of her husband. This will not unify the convention. It will have the opposite effect and will split the convention and take the spotlight away from Obama and put it back on the Clintons.

Why should the Clintons be allowed to speak on two separate nights on prime time television? I would put them both on at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, August 25th, the first day of the convention, and then say goodbye to both of them and move on with the business of the convention, which is officially choosing the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the party.

In politics, as in other parts of our lives, there are winners and losers. The winners bask in the spotlight and the losers move on to other endeavors. Having Hillary speak in prime time and having her name placed in nomination for president are both big mistakes.

Having just finished teaching a graduate course on the History of Political Conventions at Johns Hopkins University last night, I find that conventions are emotional affairs. Putting the senator from New York's name into nomination risks having a stampede of yelling and demonstrations that could force some unknown consequences to happen -- giving her a leg up for VP if the VP candidate has not yet been chosen -- or some other event that is not needed by Obama.

Having her name put in nomination also takes the spotlight away from the Democratic vice-presidential candidate who will need as much national television exposure as he or she can get. The Clintons will be stealing time away from the country getting to know the vice-presidential candidate better.

Obama's theme is change and having Bill Clinton talk in prime time reminds the voters of the past and not of the future. The Clintons do not represent change, but rather the status quo and the past.

Certainly a two-term former Democratic president should be allowed to speak, but put him on the first day of the convention. We know he won't talk much about Obama and the future but will talk about his favorite topic -- himself. He will talk about his administrations and how well the country was doing then. On economic issues and certainly in foreign policy, times were better, but we don't vote for what happened in the past -- we vote for what we hope will happen in the future.

Conventions stopped being controversial decades ago and the Obama team needs to show that they are in charge of the convention from the opening night. Having the Clintons dominate the news for two of the four nights in Denver is not good for the party.

We all know Hillary ran for president. It will do absolutely nothing for her place in history to have her name put in nomination. It is a bad idea that will take attention away from Obama and, once again, put the spotlight back on the Clintons.

This might make the Clintons happy but it will do nothing to advance the cause of putting Obama into the White House. Conventions are to be controlled by the winning candidate. They are not for making losing candidates feel better or for the losing candidates' followers to feel better. Forget all this psychological mumble jumble about catharsis for the Clinton camp and get back to politics.

Conventions, which are basically parties for the party, still have certain functions to perform and holding the hand of the losing candidate is not one that I have found mentioned in history.

Obama would look stronger and more forceful if he had not agreed to let Hillary's name be put into nomination. Obama and his vice-presidential choice should be 100% of the news out of Denver. Hillary lost to Obama fair and square and her husband is no longer president. It is time to move on.

Let the Clintons talk Monday afternoon -- the first day of the convention -- and then forget them and start praising Obama and his running mate. Goodbye Clintons -- move offstage and make room for Obama to assert his control of the party!

This is a winning ticket for November.