This commentary appeared on AC360/CNN.COM on June 4, 2008
By Carl Bernstein
Senator Hillary Clinton personally assured Barack Obama today that she recognizes he has won the Democratic nomination for president, and that “I’m prepared to help in any way I can,” according to a person familiar with their conversation.
Though she would prefer to be on his ticket as the vice presidential nominee, said this person, Senator Clinton has said her only requirement as the campaign goes forward is that “she be a player in the whole process. She doesn’t necessarily want to leave the Senate, but she does want to be sure that key people from her campaign will have a role in Obama’s presidential campaign and—if he wins the presidency—his administration.”
“Yes, it is somewhat a power play for vice president,” said this person, a Clinton supporter in Washington with whom she sometimes counsels on important matters. “But being on the ticket is not a requirement” for her unqualified help, especially in convincing her supporters to embrace Obama’s candidacy. “Her speech [Tuesday night] was about being a player and making sure she was a player.”
However, as late as three this morning, said a source in touch with the highest levels of her campaign, Senator Clinton still believed it remained remotely possible she might become the eventual nomineee of the party, and was determined not to concede to Obama imminently. Her thinking, said this source, remained focused on the idea that some piece of negative information about Obama might surface, or that some of the superdelegates might be somehow swayed after reconsidering that she was the more electable candidate, after some days of reflection and polling.
“It’s crazy. Her head is not there yet, to the point where she is willing to accept that she’s not going to be the nominee,” said one of her major supporters this morning, based on knowledge of conversations Tuesday night between Senator Clinton and her seniormost advisors.
Apparently one of the things that changed her mind was the obviously negative reaction of some of her most important backers—-including members of Congress–to her failure to acknowledge Obama as the nominee in her speech to supporters, after Obama had definitively secured the number of delegates necessary to be the nominee.
As the critical response, especially from supporters who had never before wavered, threatened to reach a crescendo-—and it became evident that her chances of becoming the vice presiential nominee were being adversely affected by the reaction—-she went out of her way to assure Obama personally that she recognized his victory, would give him her complete support, and try to bring along her own acolytes skeptical of his candidacy, and would do so rapidly.
Her effusive praise of Obama before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee today was partly intended to assure him of the kind of support she intends to put forward—and demonstrate credibility with certain constitutencies she hopes will lead Obama to choose her as his running mate.
“I think she’ll be a total activist. Within a very short period of time you’ll see a very united deal,” said a member of her senior-support network. Apparently, that will occur Saturday, according to a statement from the Clinton campaign.
Meanwhile, her representatives have begun talking with senior Obama advisors about ways that he can help her pay off more than $10 million in campaign debt, through his partcipation in fund-raising efforts on her behalf between now and September, according to a knowledgeable source. September is the legal deadline for retiring certain forms of campaign debt under Federal law.
In terms of her vice-presidential aspirations, which Bill Clinton has been pushing privatey as an alternative if she failed in her bid for the presidency, Senator Clinton is said by her closest supporters to be genuinely convinced that Obama will have a very difficult time winning the presidency without her on the ticket, and that she is intent on demonsrating over the coming weeks her indispensibility to his cause.
“He (Obama) has a real problem with the Jewish vote, with white women over fifty, and a Catholic problem,” said one of Senator Clinton’s backers. “She can do a lot for him with those groups.”
It will be a very difficult sell, according to Obama’s senior advisors, many of whom have come to despise—the word is not too strong–the Clintons with the same degree of contempt that the Clintons have, in private and not-so-private, exhibited toward Obama.
However, Senator Obama is said by some of these same senior advisors not to be nearly so disdainful of Senator Clinton as some on his staff, but he has been deeply angered at the conduct of aspects of her campaign and the words of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.