Hillary Clinton Calls For Party Unity In DNC Speech Former presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton electrified the Democratic National Convention last night. She called on her supporters to back Sen. Barack Obama, in an effort to unite the Democratic Party. Farai Chideya dissects Clinton's speech with our political contributors.
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Hillary Clinton Calls For Party Unity In DNC Speech

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Hillary Clinton Calls For Party Unity In DNC Speech

Hillary Clinton Calls For Party Unity In DNC Speech

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TONY COX, host:

From NPR News, this is News and Notes. I'm Tony Cox.

Tonight Bill Clinton takes center stage in Denver, but this morning's talk is still about the other Clinton. Hillary electrified the Democratic National Convention last night.

(Soundbite of speech)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president.

COX: NPR's Farai Chideya is here to dissect Senator Clinton's speech with the help of our political contributors. Robert Traynham is the D.C. bureau chief for the Comcast cable network CN8, and he is at the Denver convention this week. And Mary Frances Berry is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, and the former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, who is in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Farai, take it away.

FARAI CHIDEYA: Thank you, Tony. Well guys, it is poppin' over here and, you know, let's just go ahead and start straight away. Robert, you were in Denver privy to the inside action. What was your impression of Hillary Clinton and how people received her?

Mr. ROBERT TRAYNHAM (D.C. Bureau Chief, CN8): You know, Farai, it was actually mixed emotions. On one end, it was electrifying. There were a lot of folks here on the floor that were crying, that were saying Hillary, please don't do this. Please do not drop out. We still need you. It's pretty interesting to see a good handful of Clinton supporters that just simply would not let go. And on the other side there were a lot of folks out there that were cheering, they were saying thank goodness this is finally over. You know, they buried the hatchet all the way through November so that we could get Barack Obama into the White House. It was pretty - very, very interesting.

CHIDEYA: Watching it from the eagle eye view, Mary, what did you see?

Dr. MARY FRANCES BERRY (Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania): Well, what I saw and also what I hear from phone calls and from emails from people who were there, they both sort of fit together. One was that Hillary Clinton did what she had to do. The audience - I mean, the delegates are fairly well divided. I mean, you've got about half Clinton supporters, and about half Obama supporters, and most people, though, thought she, and I agree, that she did what she had to do, that the speech - she didn't say anything which showed a loss of integrity on her part. That is she didn't tell any lies about anybody or anything. And she did give a full-throated speech in support of him. And she did beg, practically, her supporters to go along and stop complaining, and whining, and to move on, and to try and get him elected. And she attacked McCain in tones that she would have used if she were the nominee. She could have said exactly what she said about McCain last night if she were the nominee saying it about McCain. And so, she didn't have to give up credibility or integrity, and she could make the case.

CHIDEYA: Let's listen to a little bit more of Hillary Clinton.

(Soundbite of speech)

Senator CLINTON: I ran to stand up for all those who have been invisible to their government for eight long years. Those are the reasons I ran for president, and those are the reasons I support Barack Obama for president.

CHIDEYA: Mary, despite what she just said, some people said well, was she really far enough behind Senator Obama, and, you know, in any campaign you're going to have back and forth. I mean, Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden also said things, you know, about his opponent in the primaries. But do you think that Senator Clinton went far enough in endorsing Obama?

Dr. BERRY: Oh, I think absolutely. What she said was that he's the Democratic nominee, and we need a Democrat winning the presidency, and we do not want John McCain under any circumstances. He's my candidate. You voted for me. So what? Let's move on and let's get with it and, of course, in the primary season people criticize each other. The Republicans do it, and I'm sure who ever McCain picks, if he picks Romney, for example, he's going to have the same problem. But I think - and Biden, of course, as you said did say things about Obama during the primaries that you could quote, and put it in ad, and I'm sure it's already in an ad somewhere that I haven't seen. So that in fact, that's what you expect and then when the primaries are over you come back and you say what you have to say. You suck it up. You move on. You look happy. You campaign for your party, and then that's the way it is. That's what she's doing.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Farai, may I interject for a moment?

CHIDEYA: Please.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Two quick things. One, I agree with Mary, but the wound here is so deep. It's to the bone. And that doesn't take months to heal. That takes years to heal sometimes. And what's also very interesting about Senator Clinton's speech last night are the placards. You know, they didn't say barackobama.com, go to barackobama.com. They still had hillaryclinton.com. And if you also look at some of the nuances of Senator Clinton's speech, she clearly endorsed Senator Obama. She clearly threw her hat into the ring for Senator Obama in that sense, but she also was very clear about why I ran. And why I'm a leader in this country, and how I look forward to serving in the United States Senate, and hopefully maybe doing something even bigger in the future. Those are my words, not hers obviously. So, there was some nuance there where she clearly left the door not open, but certainly ajar for the future.

Dr. BERRY: Well the door is open. That should - after she has worked herself to death on it and he's worked on it, Obama has, if he loses I have no doubt that she would probably run again. But I'm not one of those people who thinks she's sitting around, you know, praying somehow that he's going to. And in fact, in 1988 when Jesse Jackson came in and had some delegates and obviously didn't win, when we were all there we had signs that said Jesse when he was up speaking. The whole audience, everybody, all the delegates, we had Jesse signs. And the other night- last night what they did is they turned them over and they had unite after they had Hillary Clinton, which was to give support while she was speaking. So, I don't take any particular signals from that. I do believe, however, that if Obama, when all is said and done doesn't win, and I think she hopes he wins because she wants the Democrats to win, she might run again, but by then there might be somebody else running.

CHIDEYA: OK, there's a couple more things I want to hit on. But one thing we want to do is really give the floor to some of the Hillary delegates. We've got Brad Taylor, Deb Cummings and Anne Price Mills speaking after Hillary Clinton's speech.

Mr. BRAD TAYLOR (Delegate, Democratic National Convention): After listening to that speech, that's why I'm a Hillary delegate. I'm - she really did well tonight. She, I think for me, she put closure on her campaign and now it's time to move on to Barack.

Ms. DEB CUMMINGS (Delegate, Democratic National Convention): When I heard her say, in the words of Harriet Tubman, keep going. So, voting for Barack Obama is going to keep her campaign alive, and keep what Hillary's about for the people going. When Obama speaks Thursday night, I'll be a full ten.

Ms. ANNE PRICE MILLS (Delegate, Democratic National Convention): I will not vote for McCain. I will not vote for McCain. But for the first time since I was 18, and that's been a long time, I may be faced with something I don't want to have to deal with. I've never not voted. I am one of the strongest Democrats I know. I call up all my family and say Carl, you need to get out of the house. I don't care how much rain is pouring down. I don't care what's going on in your schedule. You need to vote. And for the first time I'm faced with not being the person who calls them and say go vote. They may have to call me.

CHIDEYA: Now, Robert, I'm going to start with you. I actually spoke to some additional delegates. We heard the emotion there, and some delegates said well yeah, I know people who are going to switch over to the McCain side. What do you feel is going to happen?

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, the McCain campaign has done a very good job of creating a wedge issue between the Clinton delegates and the Obama delegates. We say that earlier this week with the release of a McCain ad that features a Clinton delegate. We also see that with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani here at the Democratic National Convention, and former Governor Mitt Romney literally going up and down the hallways just grabbing as many people as he possibly can. Just getting in front of as many cameras as they can saying, you have to vote for John McCain. There is no option here. Don't take our words for it. Take Hillary Clinton's words for it. You know, and that delegate that you just - that you just ran, Farai, she had tears in her eyes. I saw her last night and she was just bawling simply because of the emotion that she and some of her fellow delegates feel. But again, to go back to your original question, the Republicans smell blood. They're doing a very good job of creating a wedge issue out there on this particular issue, and there is some traction on this.

Dr. BERRY: There are people who believe, Farai, there are people who believe that, of course, that Hillary Clinton was somehow mistreated who are mad. There are people who believe that she should have been asked to be VP and they're mad. There are other people who aren't so much mad are people who wanted a woman president who were mad and don't see any down the road. But there are also people who believe that while Obama stands for all the things that Clinton seemed to stand for, that they don't - that he can't accomplish it, and he can't win. And even if he did, he can't do it because he doesn't have the experience. For that last set of people who are the less emotional ones, Joe Biden has to close the case for him - for them. He's on the ticket in order to make that case. To argue that if he doesn't have the experience, I've got it. If it's foreign policy you're worried about, I can do it. What Hillary has done is said, Obama stands for all the right things. He stands for the same things and I - and the Democrats need to win, and all of you should get on board. So, Biden should help with the experience part. I don't know who can help the people who think there should have been a woman, who thinks there was sexism, who thinks - who think that she was somehow mistreated, and who therefore don't want to give up the idea of her. But I think that's a very small group.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: You know, Farai...

CHIDEYA: Robert, let me, Robert, let me actually jump in since time is short for us here. Let me ask you how you think this is going to stack up as stagecraft, as drama compared to the Republican convention where you do have a transition from a sitting president?

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, look, Senator Obama has a lot of weight on his shoulders tomorrow. He has to one, reunify the party. Two, articulate to the American people his vision for the country. But also three, try to convince the American people that he's ready to be president, which are three very different messages. On the McCain side he has a very different challenge and that is to say, first of all, I'm not George Bush. I'm not running for George Bush's third term. I am a maverick. I am an independent thinker. I am someone that's going to lead this party for the next four to eight years. But having said that, I also need to distance myself from the Bush administration, but also embrace it at that same time. Very tricky.

CHIDEYA: All right. Mary, very quickly.

Dr. BERRY: I think that the Democrat's spectacles so far highlights have been the Clintons - a lot of the speeches were boring. The governor of Montana was interesting. But a lot of the spectacle that has gone on has been boring, and a lot of the premature celebration on the floor has not been particularly interesting. And they haven't had a lot of coverage on primetime, as we know. The Republicans will try to, perhaps maybe they can pick speakers who - that will somehow more energize people, and I don't know what the drama is going to be at the Republican Convention. There was drama. There's drama going on at the Democratic Convention, but the Republicans are going to have to think of something. Concoct something somehow that will put a little drama into it.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, I want to thank you both, so much to talk about. Thanks.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Thank you.

Dr. BERRY: All right Farai, thank you.

COX: That was NPR's Farai Chideya in Denver speaking with Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. She joined us from the studios at Morris Creative Services in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. And Robert Traynham, the D.C. bureau chief for the Comcast cable network CN8. He spoke with us by phone from Denver. Just ahead, there are 5,000 more journalists prowling Denver than athletes who competed in Beijing. So, how do blogging voices rise above the chatter? We'll have a special bloggers' roundtable from the mile-high city.

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