Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Hillary's Campaign Oration

While Jimmy Carter and Joseph Lowery got the lion's share of coverage -- and criticism -- about the "political" aspect of Coretta Scott King's Tuesday funeral, Hillary Clinton may have pulled off the more subtle bit of political positioning.

At first, one would have to be nuts to follow a Bill Clinton speech. The hold that "the first black president" still holds on the African-American community was quite evident -- as was the man's basic charisma and ability to weave in Biblical phrases effortlessly:

We would have all forgiven her, even honored her if she said, "I have stumbled on enough stony roads. I have been beaten by enough bitter rods. I have endured enough dangers, toils and snares. I'm going home and raising my kids. I wish you all well."
He is still a master of political stagecraft -- upstaging all around him, including the incumbent president.

How does Hillary compete with that? Answer: She doesn't, but happily allows herself to get part of the spotlight that Bill brings with him. She stands with Bill, as he speaks, appearing in every shot (though, like at the State of the Union, she has to remember that the camera is always upon her; she can't afford to ever break out of even a forced smile, lest she look pained or petulant.) But, in short, if Bill Clinton is the "Super Bowl," Hillary is
"Grey's Anatomy": maximizing a spectacular lead-in to introduce herself to some new "viewers."

All three cable stations carried the funeral live. Those tuning in -- including those on leader Fox News -- saw Bill "hand off" to Hillary who
said the following:

As we are called, each of us must decide whether to answer that call by saying send me.
And when I think of Coretta Scott King, I think of a woman who lived out her calling. She lived her life as an extension of her faith and conviction.
Now, when she met this young divinity student, and he told her what Bill has just reminded us, and proclaimed that he was looking for a woman like her to be his wife, I can imagine that she thought for a minute, 'What am I getting myself into?'
And, in fact, she waited six months to give him an answer because she had to have known in her heart that she wasn't just marrying a young man, but she was bringing her calling to be joined with his.
As they began their marriage and their partnership, it could not have been easy. Because there they were, young, becoming parents, starting their ministry at a moment in history that they were called to lead.
Leadership is something that many who are called refuse to accept.
Many of the Republican-leaning Fox watchers may have tuned out Bill. More may have switched or turned off the TVs when Hillary spoke. This was still one of the larger daytime cable audiences for her to demonstrate her use of scripture.

And, hey, could it hurt if some who hear her story of Martin and Coretta's courtship also hear something of a parable about another young woman asked to be the life-partner of another young charismatic man with big dreams for himself and the country?

That question of mixed glory and sacrifice hangs in the air: "'What am I getting myself into?'"

"[T]hey were called to lead. Leadership is something that many who are called refuse to accept."


And, how interesting that Hillary also adopted the "send me" phrasing from her husband's
Democratic Convention speech praising John Kerry. (Though, considering the 2004 result, that might not have been the best choice.)

Regardless, give the lady credit. Let Carter and Lowery get criticized for "politicizing" a funeral; she knows how to keep the rhetoric at an appropriate, respectful level -- while grabbing a nice bit of the national spotlight for herself -- in a way that may come prove beneficial a few years down the road.

UPDATE: A reader asks, "Will history record Mrs. King's funneral as Hillary's coming out party? You are correct. It really did look as if Bill handed her the baton [Tuesday]." Wednesday, it looked like she decided to run with it.

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