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Not Much of an Endorsement

I was somehow watching a very different speech from the one my colleagues saw last night.

Yes, I agree that Hillary Clinton was forceful and effective. She is a much-improved speaker compared with the beginning of her campaign (when her emotional intensity generally took the form of annoying lecturing). In her speech, she established herself as a feminist icon and a powerful party leader. And she did repeatedly endorse the candidate of her party (certainly more frequently than did Reagan in '76 or Kennedy in '80).

But it is the substance of that endorsement that should concern Obama. Hillary urged her supporters to vote for him because of the minimum wage, Social Security and health care – not because of Obama's judgment, character or experience. Yet Clinton almost secured the Democratic nomination by attacking Obama's judgment, character and experience – remember the 3 a.m. wake-up-call ad? Hillary refused to defend him against her own most effective primary arguments – which are also the most likely McCain attacks moving forward. She endorsed a generic Democrat instead of Obama himself.

The emerging question in this election is not: Does Obama support equal pay for equal work? Voters are asking: Is he ready? Hillary didn't even address the issue – an issue she did more to raise than anyone else.

By Michael Gerson  | August 27, 2008; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Gerson  | Tags:  Michael Gerson  
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Next: More Notes From Last Night


She didn't endorse Obama? She said, multiple times, Vote for Barack Obama ... we need Barack Obama in the White House ... if you care about the things I care about you will put Barack Obama in the White House ... and more. What else do you need, Mr. Gerson? I don't often say this about opinion pieces, but truly, this is a really, really stupid column and a really dumb opinion to actually put in print.

Posted by: klipvm | August 27, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Senator Hillary Clinton promoted Senator Barack Obama. Obama still not ready.

Posted by: mmarii | August 27, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The media pushed a wrong candidate to become the nominee. You are certainly one of these.
Insecure people punished Hillary for her husband's mistakes by selecting Obama.
Good luck democrats with yhe wrong person on the ticket.

Posted by: kris | August 27, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Yes, she never said "I endorse Barack Obama." But "endorse" means "to give approval of or support to, esp. by public statement" (source: American Heritage Dictionary). I think it is fair to say she did that last night. Did you watch the speech?

Posted by: Dave | August 27, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

What about "He is my candidate!" isn't an endorsement?

She's a Clinton. They don't admit mistakes. And she's not about to go back and admit she was wrong to say something one of her not so great campaign managers told her to say.

Posted by: Flatlander | August 27, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama is not pulling ahead because he is the WRONG candidate, and the people KNOW this. He has NO EXPERIENCE. You guys need to quit blaming Hillary for EVERYTHING including whether the sun will come up in the morning......You guys chose this guy who had no experience and the numbers in the polls clearly show the people of this country do NOT want another inexperienced person like GWB. We just spent 8 years with GWB and NO EXPERIENCE.....most people DON'T want THAT again. Get out of here, and quit putting EVERYTHING on Hillary. ENOUGH!

Write In Hillary 2008

the TRUE LEGITIMATE candidate of the Democratic Party with

Posted by: librairie | August 27, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Cohen and Gerson both came to the same conclusion.

Posted by: dmm | August 27, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm beginning to think it is a waste of time reading some of the columns you reporters write. Talk about being out of touch with the American people...You need to get a life!

Posted by: Pat | August 27, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Mr.Gerson,Really! Did you expect Hillary to lie? The guy (Obama) hasn,t been in the senate long enough for any Senator to know hin well.He is the wrong choice,she knows it.Why should she compramise her convictions.And how many men should she put into the Whitehouse?....When is iy up to Obama to make his case? Why is it left to Hillary or President Clinton to get him elected?......You are all wet with this column.

Posted by: Erica Stephens | August 27, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

This column is dead on. Hillary failed at the most important task -- to counter her own claims that Obama is not ready to be commander-in-chief. Regardless of how bitter she is or whatever, he's the Democratic candidate, and by not filling that hole, she failed her party.

Posted by: | August 27, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

So much cyberspace, so many opinions...
With all this talk of Old Democrats and New Democrats, how about we deal with the fact that the OLDEST Democratic operating procedure is to circle the wagons and shoot in... After eight years of inept, divisive Republican leadership, we're now going to squat on the precipice of history and grumble about how the fellow who best played the game -- and won -- has a resume deficiency? Where is Aaron Sorkin when we need him?

Posted by: Harry Towns | August 27, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Senator Clinton obviously endorsed Barack Obama both implicitly and explicitly. She wisely refrained from saying anything that would be endlessly parsed for sincerity by the unqualified armchair analysts in the media (and on comment boards), instead choosing to make a forceful and convincing statement about the shared goals of both senators and of the Democratic Party. It seems it's not Clinton's supporters who are unable to move on; it's the media and, to some extent, Obama supporters for whom nothing is ever enough. All of us would be wise to adopt Senator Obama's view, which was that the speech was an unqualified success. I understand why the media fail to do so, because they want to find a story where there is none; the media seems rather obsessive and even codependent where the Clintons are concerned. But Senator Obama's supporters have no such excuse. Their candidate's goals -- the goals of our party -- are not well served by their perseveration.

Posted by: ezr1 | August 27, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Clinton should not be expected to lie for Obama. She said to vote for him. She made the only case she could. This election is now about the lesser of two evils, the lesser being Obama. Obama needs to make the case that he's ready for the 3 a.m. call. That's his problem to solve, not Clinton's. She was right to raise real doubts about him during the primaries. We self-destructive democrats ignored the plain facts and picked the wrong candidate. We wanted amorphous "change" and "feel good" stuff, and we're stuck with him now. This is Obama's election to win or lose now. Hillary has done much more for him than anyone should be expected to do.

Posted by: Rosepetals64 | August 27, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

JHC!!! If HRC doesn't say what YOU want she didn't make the case? She was great, she said what was important...let it go. We the PEOPLE are really tired you you the media trying to put a president in the WH. One person one vote and we are taking it back.

Posted by: Mego | August 27, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what speech you were watching, but to me, Hillary fully endorsed Obama.

Posted by: Dwayne Smith | August 27, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Go away.. then go awasy farther...


Posted by: Issa Gallego | August 27, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Geez, give the woman a break.

Mr. Gerson, you noted that Hillary gave a more fuller endorsement of Obama than Reagan did of Ford (Reagan never mentioned Ford's name) and Kennedy did of Carter (one mention of Carter's name).

Considering the appalling fact that Hillary, despite 18 million primary votes, wasn't even considered for the VP slot, her speech last night was very gracious. I dare say few others would have said as much had they had the experience Hillary has had this past primary season.

At some point, it has to be Obama who convinces people to vote for him. He hasn't closed the deal, but that isn't Hillary's fault.

Posted by: Terry | August 27, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

he WAS watching the same speech, he just has (R) filters on that enable him to deny reality. as usual, gerson has to shill for the beleagered (R)'s so he denies his lying eyes and makes up a story. the only reason to read him is to discern what the (R) talking points are so you can rebut them. it's getting easier and easier because there is alot of fear on that side and their attacks are pathetic.

Posted by: preAmerikkkan | August 27, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Hillary made no case for Obama whatsoever, besides the simple fact that he's a Democrat. It was a great campaign speech, but an inappropriate convention speech. Hillary could have started off saying, "Here is what I've learned about Barack Obama," and spent her time building a case for his personal leadership. Instead, her address could be paraphrased like this: "Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me -- oh, and Barack Obama.

The CNN interview with an inflamed Hillary delegate on the floor told the story: Hillary's speech was divisive, not unifying. It pains me to say it, but the Democrats are such losers. Nobody is controlling this convention.

Posted by: Brad Hill | August 27, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Is Obama ready to lead? Compared to what? George Bush? Compared to George Bush, the average anybody can make smarter decisions. Supporters of George Bush have no business even voicing the question, "Is he ready?" To a Bush supporter, readiness to lead is an irrelevant characteristic in a Presidential candidate.

Posted by: Ira Luft | August 27, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

It is very simple: we as Democrats can continue to beat up on ourselves after the primaries and convention are over, OR we can unify behind our candidate to defeat the failed policies of the Republicans.

How many anti-war demonstrators from 1968 wish they could do it over again and support the flawed Democratic ticket of Humphrey-Muskie instead of sitting on the sidelines carping as Tricky Dick and Spiro "No lo contendre" Agnew waltzed into the White House? How many truly believe that a Republican agenda will be better for this country than a Democratic agenda?

While we seek the perfect candidate, the Republicans continue to get theirs elected. Come on! Don't make the same mistakes of 40 years ago, look at the big picture!

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana

Posted by: Lou | August 27, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

While I would agree with you in principle, clearly you would be wrong in spirit. I understand your position and endorse it to a point. However, that point then ceases to exist when the masses, as so many here do, accept what they believe to be a position contrary to your own. Sadly however, it is not what was said, but what was not said. It is not a matter of understanding, as so many here believe they do, its a matter of not mis-understanding and to that end I would agree with you.

Posted by: Discerning TV | August 27, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

She did the best job imaginable. She barely lost but was still gracious to come out and point her supporters in Obama's direction. She was passionate and convincing. So what if she didn't extol his greatness...enough people do that and maybe she doesn't believe it and that's ok too. They were competitors and not everyone has to love Obama and lavish praise upon him. He now has to convince us, me, that he is all others say he is. Even though I was a Hillary supporter, I still make my own judgements and need him to convince me to vote for him not her.

(although I will vote for him anyway because I don't want a Republican)

Posted by: Michelle | August 27, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that Hillary Clinton made a cogent argument to her supporters when she asked the question: Are you in this for me, or because you support a Democratic agenda?

I'm a woman of a certain age who found Hillary's candidacy inspiring. Like many other women of an age, I am disappointed she didn't win the primary race. I'm wondering how long it will be before a woman wins the nomination or the presidency. Will it be in my lifetime? Maybe not.

There are a lot of us out here. We are disappointed. Maybe even a little heartbroken.

So, she didn't need to get up there last night and tell me what a great guy Obama is. Quite frankly, I don't think I care whether he's a great guy. She needed to remind me why I am a Democrat in the first place, and what, precisely, is at stake.

I think she did a fabulous job of that. And I will be voting for Obama in the fall.

Posted by: PAJ | August 27, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Obama's Temple:

“Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's big speech on Thursday night will be delivered from an elaborate columned stage resembling a miniature Greek temple.

The stage, similar to structures used for rock concerts, has been set up at the 50-yard-line, the midpoint of Invesco Field, the stadium where the Denver Broncos' National Football League team plays.

Some 80,000 supporters will see Obama appear from between plywood columns painted off-white, reminiscent of Washington's Capitol building or even the White House, to accept the party's nomination for president.

He will stride out to a raised platform to a podium that can be raised from beneath the floor.”

Posted by: Anonymous | August 27, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I though that HRC could not have done better than she did last night. I am a big Obama supporter and you would have to have blood in your veins not to have been moved last night. I think Obama is even greater than her and hope the country comes to the same conclusion. I don't know how we can live through the next four months of Bush/Cheney/McCain. Let alone 4 more years.

Posted by: karen bourland | August 27, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

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