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Let Hillary Be Hillary

The TV commentators I saw last night loved the Hillary speech. Thus far, the print pundits I've read have been considerably harsher, obsessing about Hillary's lack of visible enthusiasm and passion for Obama personally. I tend to be more generous. I mean, it's not as though Hill is widely known for her passionate, warm, and inspirational oratory in the jolliest of times. The gal has trouble connecting, whether talking about Barack Obama or universal health care. It's a central shortcoming of her as a public figure.

All told, I thought it was a damn good speech delivered in an atmosphere so pressurized it would make most people's ears bleed. Hillary knew every word, gesture, smile, sigh, and facial tic would be torn apart by the press and public. She nonetheless delivered arguably the best speech I've seen her give. What's the point now in sitting around opining about whether deep down she really really thinks she should have been the nominee and is still resentful of Obama. Honestly. What normal person in her situation wouldn't harbor such thoughts? 

But I digress. Watching last night's performance made me think that, in the coming weeks, the Obama people would be wise to use Hillary as a key attack dog against McCain and the GOP. Obama is the leader of hope and unity and change and promise. He cannot afford to be too angry or too negative. But Hillary...Hillary has always been a polarizer. She is angry. She is a brawler. She is a grudge-holder. She has issues. Most particularly, she knows what it's like to be slapped around by Republicans better than anyone in this country, and, whatever bipartisan strides she has made in her senate years, she still has the taste for Republican blood. You can see it in those bulging blue eyes. 

Better still, playing the attack dog would lessen the need for Hillary to fake enthusiasm for Obama. All her anger and resentment and disappointment of the past 20 months--hell, the last 20 years--could be channeled into gutting McCain like a trout. People expect Hillary to rage against the Republican machine. For years, she has been their whipping girl, just as for years she has stood as a symbol of perseverence and strength for many Democrats--especially women. Instead of having her run around trying to sunnily convince women or working-class whites of what a swell guy her former opponent is, Obama's people should just wind her up, point her in the direction of these constituencies, and let her rip John McCain and his whole lousy party a new one. It would be honest. It would be real. For Obama, it would be useful. For Hillary, it might even be a little cathartic. Everybody wins! Except McCain. Which is the whole point, right?

--Michelle Cottle