After sixteen months of often bitter disunity, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Friday staged a “Unity Rally” in the town of Unity, New Hampshire – just in case anyone might have missed the point.
By Edward Luce
Instead of calling Mr Obama “naïve and irresponsible”, as she often had on the campaign trail, Mrs Clinton praised the Democratic nominee’s “grit, determination and grace”.
Instead of referring to the former First Lady as someone who would “do or say anything to get elected”, Mr Obama waxed lyrical about “this great leader standing next to me.”
The only explicit reference to the rancour that had tinged so many of their exchanges came when Mrs Clinton referred to their “spirited dialogue” on the campaign trail – “that was the nicest way I could think of phrasing it,” she added.
If either Mr Obama or Mrs Clinton were pretending, then they deserved Oscars. From their whispered intimacies on the podium to their cheerful one-hour conversation on the plane beforehand, the event was choreographed to perfection.
Even their clothes were co-ordinated – Mr Obama’s blue tie exactly matched Mrs Clinton’s blue trouser suit. Mindful of the vocal minority of Mrs Clinton’s supporters who continue to disdain his candidacy, Mr Obama emphasised that her candidacy had proved that women can do politics better than men – “they can even do it in heels,” he added.
Clinton’s future role
Her eyes watering up towards the end of her speech, Mrs Clinton said it had been “the honour and privilege of my life” to have run for the presidency. Quoting Winston Churchill, who said that “Americans always get round to doing the right thing after they have tried everything else”, Mrs Clinton said she would work “tirelessly” to elect a Democrat to the White House after seven years of George W. Bush.
“I know what we start here on this field in Unity, New Hampshire will end on the steps of Capitol Hill next January as Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our next president,” she said. Mr Obama made little pretence of why the event mattered so much to him. Citing the fact that each of them had received 107 votes from Unity’s electorate in the New Hampshire primary in January, the Democratic nominee said that from now on Unity’s vote tally would be 214.
The two leaders have yet to work out Mrs Clinton’s role in Mr Obama’s campaign. And there is still bad blood between Mr Obama and Bill Clinton, who this week issued a half-hearted endorsement of his wife’s nemesis.
Debt and VP before help
At a private event with Mrs Clinton’s fund-raisers on Thursday in Washington DC, Mr Obama got a lukewarm reception, according to people who attended the event. “People were saying, “we will raise money for you if you do something for Hillary”,” said a Clinton fund-raiser.
Mr Obama waved a $2,300 cheque he had written to help pay off Mrs Clinton’s $22m in campaign debt. But for some Clinton supporters only the vice-presidential slot would assuage their resentment. Possible venues for that unlikely announcement might include Good Cheer, Iowa or possibly even Intercourse, Pennsylvania.