Clinton's Thankless Job
By Marie Cocco
Tuesday, August 26, 2008; A13
If there is a political job more fraught with peril than running to become the next commander in chief, surely it is being cast as cheerleader in chief.
Clinton can't win tonight. But then, she knows that.
She is set to address the
Clinton is a woman who knows how to lose -- to lose any shred of privacy, to lose face, to lose any expectation of being treated with a modicum of respect by the talking heads in the media and, now, to lose a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination that she expected to win. As if to heap insult upon injury, the Obama campaign let it be known that it did not for a minute seriously consider Clinton as a vice presidential candidate, notwithstanding the 18 million votes she earned during the primaries and her demonstrated ability to win over white, working-class voters who remain cool to Obama and who are necessary for victory in the fall. A reference to those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, which the Obama forces conceded could appear in the party's platform, would be just words.
In her 2003 memoir, "Living History," this is how Clinton described her reaction to her earliest political loss, during her senior year in high school: "I ran for student government president against several boys and lost, which did not surprise me but still hurt, especially because one of my opponents told me I was 'really stupid if I thought a girl could be elected president.' As soon as the election was over, the winner asked me to head the Organizations Committee, which as far as I could tell was expected to do most of the work. I agreed."
The work of the next phase of Clinton's career has been going on doggedly, and often with little notice, since she suspended her campaign on June 7. She's been a campaign emissary for Obama to the Sheet Metal Workers union; to Hispanics and others in New Mexico and Nevada; to older women in South Florida who still haven't quite accepted the loss of what for some of them may be their last chance to see a woman elected president. The speech Clinton made in departing from the race was, among Democratic activists, "probably the most seen, talked about, buzzed about speech of the campaign," says Mike Lux, a consultant for Democratic interest groups and an Obama supporter. It went over well, even among Obama loyalists.
That tends to be how Clinton does things. The public Clinton doesn't usually show hints of the private pain that burns inside.
The same cannot be said of some of her supporters, who can be expected to stage at least a few demonstrations of their fury at the outcome of the race and at what they perceive as repeated displays of disrespect that Obama has shown their hero. It is not lost on them that in selecting
The television cameras will linger on angry and tearful Clinton delegates in the convention crowd. The commentators will no doubt take this as a demonstration of disunity -- and not a few will, of course, blame Clinton.
But it is usually the job of the party nominee to build unity once a vanquished rival has conceded and made the right gestures. Unless the loser happens to be a woman. Then it's just like high school, and she must do the work.
Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is