Saturday, May 17, 2008


Could there be a worse idea from the Obama campaign than declaring victory on May 20th? Maybe, but for a campaign that has ridden successfully through some very rough waters, you would not imagine they would save their tactical miscues for the all-important endgame. Or pronounce them with such fanfare in advance.

Clearly, the campaign leadership is tired, and hoping to bring this long saga to an end. But what they suggest as an event to provide closure will do exactly the opposite.

This has been a long and dramatic campaign. Indeed, through all of the drama and the sweep of the narrative—from the early predictions of an all-New York contest pitting Clinton against Guiliani, to Michael Bloomberg’s flirtations, Mark Warner’s non-flirtations and Fred Thompson’s failed flirtations, to these final months of the resurgent Clinton drive—two things have proven out. First, public opinion polling is a ragged science. Second, hubris will not go unpunished.

Which brings us back to May 20th.

Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination. Barring the tsunami that remains the whispered hope of Terry McAuliffe, Howard Wolfson and Harold Ickes, the race is over. They held a primary in West Virginia, and no one cared.

What is left in the Democrat race is the denouement of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the beginning of the reconstruction of the spirit and determination of a divided party. The Hudna, if you will, when emotions calm in advance of the real battles yet to come.

What remains is for Hillary Clinton to choose her time and place for showing the strength of character and resolve to lead her proud and determined troupes into the tent. This Obama cannot do, but this the Obama campaign can surely undermine. Clinton and even more her followers need time and calm and an opening to move toward unity. The test of character for Obama is remain still and allow this to happen.

The Clinton campaign has mapped out the steps for this to occur. Like the Obama campaign, they have broadcast their plans for the endgame. Oregon and Kentucky will vote. The Party will meet in due course on May 31st to address the Florida and Michigan situation. Puerto Rico will vote on June 3rd, two weeks from now.

And then it will be over. As Clinton has suggested, all voters will have had their say. All outstanding issues will have been formally addressed. The math will be the math, and the outcome will be clear. The dance will be complete. Then, after whatever negotiations are to be had—whether around campaign debts, the vice-presidency or a nomination to the Supreme Court—Clinton will stand with Obama on a stage.

Standing with him at her side, she will offer her fiery oratory against John McCain, call her supporters to arms, declare her full-throated support of her erstwhile adversary, and stand united with him, hands joined and arms aloft.

Which brings us back to May 20th.

The proposed victory declaration does nothing to advance this agenda. Clinton’s West Virginia victory offered conclusive proof that the end has come. This is the endgame not of the battles but of the party nomination process. This is a time for quiet attention to mending, rather than the pounding of chests and gloating that will only cast new fuel on the dying embers, and rip open wounds that are just looking for reasons to heal.