Friday, June 06, 2008

Can Hillary Be a Healer?

As they hold their private summit in Washington tonight, the question that hangs in the air, whether she is on Obama's ticket or not, is: Can Hillary Clinton rise above a lifetime of experience to help heal the Democratic Party?

As someone who has had to fight all her public life, from the 1992 health care fiasco through her husband's impeachment and a year and a half of brass-knuckles campaigning, who has had to show voters she is tough enough to be Commander-in-Chief, who has had to carry the accumulated anger and resentments of her gender, and now their bitter disappointment, is it humanly possible for one woman, however resilient, to turn away from all that and use her strength to bring peace to a fractured party?

This moment is as much a test for Hillary Clinton as her 2002 vote for the resolution authorizing Bush to invade Iraq. Back then, none of the potential Democratic candidates could summon the courage to oppose it for fear of appearing weak. They all failed, but how much more pressure did she feel then as a woman in that position and five years later not to admit it was mistake?

As it turned out, the need to appear tough hurt her candidacy, and in the past few weeks, her posture as "a fighter" in the face of impending defeat and in the past few days her refusal to acknowledge the reality of it have damaged her even further.

But now, in these next days, Hillary Clinton has a chance to turn away from all that. As her backers try to blackmail Obama into putting her on the ticket, her statement today that the choice is his alone is a good start.

It would be heartening to see her rise above the politicking of this moment and show the wisdom and leadership her party needs to start repairing the damage that eight years of nasty Bush-Rove politics has done to the country.

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