Clinton endorses Obama and calls for unity
Published 27/08/2008 | 08:13
Hillary Clinton cast aside bitterness and made a clarion call for unity behind Barack Obama in her speech to the Democratic National Convention last night.
Former president Bill Clinton beamed with pride while looking down from the gods, where he was surrounded by banner waving Obama delegates. Many of Mrs Clinton's supporters choked with emotion as she gave one of the most powerful speeches she has delivered throughout the entire electoral season.
"Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose," Mrs Clinton said. "We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines."
She went on to declare that the party must do nothing that would help the Republicans win the presidency. "No way. No how. No McCain," to thunderous applause.
She repeatedly offered her support for the democrat's chosen candidate for the presidency, while also staking out political space for a possible future run for the White House.
Delegates waved banners reading “Hillary” or “Obama” on one side and “Unity” on the other and Mrs Clinton said that for sake of those hard up and struggling Americans she met on the campaign trail, the party needed to unify.
Mrs Clinton's 23-minute speech, which had little input form the Obama campaign, revealed no bitterness at being passed over for a job she once assumed would be hers. Bill Clinton, who addresses the convention tonight, remains furious however, at what he considers were slights against his wife by the Obama campaign. He is also angry at the way his own administration is never given credit by Senator Obama and at the way he was accused of stirring up racial tensions during the primaries.
Mrs Clinton took the opportunity to praise her husband’s economic management skills, highlighting the absence of praise from Mr Obama.
She also delivered some wickedly acid attack on Mr McCain. “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,” she said, referring to the venue of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota.
The Democratic high command has taken extraordinary measures to prevent dissent breaking out on the floor of the National Convention in Denver as delegates move to endorse Senator Obama for president today.
After backroom manoeuvring, there will be no formal roll call of delegates on the convention floor, as disaffected Hillary Clinton delegates had wanted so they could show their fury with Barack Obama live on national television. Instead the roll call is expected to take place away from with public view in hotel breakfast rooms across Denver.
Mr Clinton gets to be centre stage at tonight’s event, along with the vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.
It is a difficult week for Team Clinton, but Hillary has also instructed her aides to work closely with the Obama campaign to stifle any public outbreaks of dissent on the convention floor. Her campaign remains in debt to the tune of over $22m and she is relying on the man who beat her to help eliminate much of it in the months ahead.
Despite the disappointment of her supporters, for the most part they are gamely agreeing to the plan to present a united front behind Senator Obama today. Instead of angry scenes of frustrated delegates, the Democratic leadership wants to ensure that the picture being beamed into the living rooms of millions of Americans is of enthusiastic banner-waving delegates.
The real business of nominating the candidate will take place with a roll call over breakfast, at the delegate’s hotels. At the convention centre this evening Mr Obama’s home delegation of Illinois will be called on to cast a symbolic vote. Then New York delegation will be called on to applaud Mrs Clinton’s mould-breaking candidacy. A motion will then be moved to accept the votes cast over breakfast, ending once and for all, the party leaders hope, the divisions and rancour, which have dominated the convention.
Kelly Jacobs, a Clinton delegate from Mississippi, expressed anger at the plan, saying, “I could have voted from my home, she is our captain and we don’t want to see her disrespected.”
It is people like Ms Jacobs that Barack Obama needs to win over, particularly in battleground swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. Polls consistently show him struggling to attract significant numbers of white Democrats without college educations – the people who flocked to Mrs Clinton in the primaries, and whom Republican nominee John McCain is trying to lure to his side.
On the opening night of the convention, Michelle Obama did her bit to placate still-wounded Clinton supporters, who had hoped to see their woman as the first female commander-in-chief. Even delegates wearing “Hillary” badges in the audience choked up with emotion as the woman who would be the first black First Lady described the hardships of her working class upbringing and her love of her husband. Mrs Obama also recognised the achievements of Mrs Clinton, "who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters - and our sons - can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.” Whether Mr Clinton can stick to the unity script remains to be seen.