Clinton Discusses What She Wants, but Not What She Will Do
By KATE ZERNIKE
Published: June 4, 2008
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage before supporters Tuesday night and finally asked the question that so many people had been posing: “What does Hillary want?”
She listed some policy goals and demanded respect for her supporters. But she did not really answer her own question, demurely suggesting instead that it was up to her backers to advise her by e-mail on what she should do next.
What the crowd gathered at Baruch College in Manhattan for her final primary night celebration wanted was clear, from those outside chanting “Denver, Denver,” urging her to go all the way to the party’s convention in August, to those inside interrupting her speech with shouts of “Yes, she will! Yes, she will!”
And while Mrs. Clinton reminisced about her campaign and talked of a need to unite the party, she did not concede, and indeed did not acknowledge that her rival, Senator Barack Obama, had passed the threshold of delegates needed to secure the nomination.
The evening had the atmosphere of a high school graduation: pride mixing with sadness, staff and supporters snapping photographs for posterity even as they were unwilling to talk about moving on to the next stage.
Her fierce fight had left those supporters unable to believe that it could be over, not quite believing that the woman who had earned a reputation as a warrior had been vanquished.
Some of the donors and supporters who had been summoned referred to the campaign in the past tense as they waited for her to speak. But her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, introduced her to the roaring crowd as “the next president of the United States of America!”
Mrs. Clinton then emerged in an improbably blue pantsuit to the speakers booming “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” holding the hands of her daughter, Chelsea, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton bit his lip through a smile and nodded until his daughter took his hand to walk from center stage.
Mrs. Clinton spoke nostalgically about a campaign that had taken her “from the hills of New Hampshire to the hollows of West Virginia and Kentucky.” She gratefully acknowledged her supporters and the nearly 18 million voters who cast their ballots for her, declaring that they had given her a majority of the popular vote — the Obama campaign disagrees — and more votes than any other primary candidate in history.
“So many people said this race was over five months ago in Iowa, but we had faith in each other,” she said. “I will carry your stories and your dreams with me every day for the rest of my life.”
She was also defiant. Speaking, as she noted, not far from the Statue of Liberty and the site of the World Trade Center, she declared her faith in Americans.
“We are resilient, we are courageous, we embrace all of our people,” she said. “When we face our challenges together, there is no barrier we can’t overcome, no dream we can’t realize, nothing we can’t do if we just start acting like Americans again.”
Her comments would have fit into a farewell speech. But she did not say goodbye. Instead, her speech repeated the argument she has made to superdelegates: that she is the strongest candidate to win in November, that she has prevailed in the states a Democrat will need to gain victory in the Electoral College.
Still, the day had seemed to conspire against her. Aides had tried to beat back the inevitable, denying as “100 percent wrong” an Associated Press report that Mrs. Clinton would concede in her speech that Mr. Obama had won the nomination, and announcing her endorsement by a superdelegate from Wyoming at 8:30 p.m., just as the networks were proclaiming that Mr. Obama had secured the delegates he needed.
After a 16-month campaign, Tuesday’s events came rapid fire. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina endorsed Mr. Obama in the morning, leading several other superdelegates from his state who did the same. Suddenly, Mr. Obama needed just 30 delegates to win, then 12, then 11, then 6, then 4, until he finally grabbed the prize, dwarfing the news the next moment that Mrs. Clinton had won another state by a large margin, South Dakota.
Mrs. Clinton’s crowd of several hundred in the basement gymnasium at Baruch was far smaller than the one gathered in an arena for Mr. Obama in St. Paul, but what it lacked in size it made up for with passion.
Throughout the crowd, small knots of women with “Hillary” buttons furiously recounted what they deemed the sexism and slights of the campaign, some still angry at Mr. Obama for dismissing Mrs. Clinton in an early debate as “likable enough.” One man waved a homemade “Hillary or Nobody” sign. One supporter interrupted her speech by shouting, “You’re an amazing woman!”
After Mrs. Clinton had finished speaking, a group of core supporters — Washington lawmakers, Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, her husband and daughter, and Mr. McAuliffe — broke into a bit of a dance to the tune of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best.”
Watching them, the crowd that had been foot-stomping the moment before seemed suddenly subdued, charged with telling Mrs. Clinton what to do next but looking uncertain.
Source: The NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/us/politics/04clinton.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
June 4, 2008