After watching a tape of Hillary's speech, I generally agree with Chait and Cohn: The speech was effective and convincing, and there were just enough juicy soundbites to ensure good media coverage over the next 24 hours. What continues to fascinate me--and what fascinated me about the post speech television coverage--are the unstated assumptions behind the various bits of punditry. This primarily breaks down into two categories:
--First, and this was no less true of various friends who text messaged or IM'ed me tonight, was the surprise and admiration that went along with the praise for Hillary. Could you believe how kind and generous she was? Wasn't she supportive of Obama? Didn't she tell her supporters to do the right thing and vote Democratic? Yes, yes, and yes. But, again, what is the assumption here? Can you imagine if it had been Obama who had lost the primary to Clinton (or Al Gore to Bill Bradley, or John Kerry to John Edwards, or...)? The idea that this would even have been an issue at the end of August borders on absurdity. In other words, the respect people feel for Senator Clinton derives from that fact that she did something every single other presidential candidate who lost a primary in this stage-managed modern era would have done. How wonderful! So, then, the compliments also seem to be a bit of a back-handed criticism, as in, "Thank God she behaved. That was so mature of her." (Case in point, here is Slate's superb columnist, Dahlia Lithwick on the speech: "Let’s give her credit for doing what she had to do.")
--My major pet-peeve about the media tonight has been the assumption that all these Hillary-supporting dead-enders will get in line because their heroine has delivered a conventional, well-written speech. Maybe so. But again, what exactly is the underlying assumption here? Everyone knows Clinton endorsed Obama two months ago, but apparently these folks needed the woman they would follow to the gates of Hell to, once again, tell them to do the obviously correct thing. That speaks highly of these voters, don't you think? This follows the traditional press role of reporting stories that make average Americans seem rather dumb, but without so much as hinting that this is in fact the case. To do so would be oh-so-elitist.
To return briefly to point one, expect the same rules to apply to Bill tomorrow. If the former president gives a canned, boring, partisan speech, you can predict huge kudos for his "mature" behavior.