A very good speech: generous, graceful, and when addressing the question of women and the White House, quite moving.
Michelle Cottle, whose reports on the internal machinations of the Clinton campaign were one of the journalistic highlights of the cycle, posted an anguished goodbye to Hillary last week. It includes this passage:
It is easy to poke fun at the cultishness of Hillaryland gals, with their locked-lipped, obsessive devotion to the group's namesake. But the women themselves are an exceedingly likeable, unnervingly impressive lot, all of whom hold Hillary--and specifically her humanity--in the highest regard. For all her flaws, it says something about the much-maligned Senator Clinton that she has inspired such enduring loyalty and affection.
It's worth contemplating this, on the day that Hillary Clinton officially concedes. You wouldn't have thought, given the vitriol and contumely that has rained down from all sides on Mrs Clinton over the last six months - sections of the left proving themselves as hysterical as those on the right in this regard - that she might be capable of inspiring anything but fear, or that she was anything but a hostile stranger to 'humanity'.
It wasn't just those with a political stake in this race who consistently sought to caricature Clinton as somehow inhuman, or who gave every impression of wanting her to disappear. In a recent post, Mark Halperin noted that Clinton may underestimate the 'disdain' felt towards her in most newsrooms, even as she knew it was high; when she occasionally suggested that the media had an in-built bias against her, she wasn't exaggerating.
I must say, I've never really understood it. Yes, Clinton can be over-calculating, ungenerous, and unscrupulous in her pursuit of political victory. But those faults are the faults of her breed: all politicians suffer them. If she seems to suffer them worse than most, that might be the flipside of the fact that she's also better at her job than most.
And how unscrupulous was she? A staple of the commentary on this race has been the 'they're taking the gloves off' story. After a Clinton defeat, some Democratic consultant or unnamed source 'close to the Clinton campaign' would intimate that things were about to get really, really vicious. The Clintons were going to take down their opponent by any means necessary; you ain't seen nothing yet. But each time we expected the worst we got...well, nothing very much. Just the same old attacks (one or two of them admittedly crossing the line of acceptable intra-party competition) but little that was truly low. Anyone who thinks that Clinton showed no restraint in her attacks on Obama will just have to shut their eyes and ears once the Republicans get into their stride, lest they faint with shock.
Whatever else we've seen over the last year, we've also seen a politician of exceptional intellect, great campaigning skills - in the last couple of months on the trail, even as the sun went down, she really came into her own - and the kind of fierce, unquenchable will to win that sorts out the women from the boys at this level.
Clinton was a terrific candidate, who would have won in virtually any other year facing virtually any other opponent. Her campaign made mistakes, of course. But, as I tried to suggest here, the real reason she lost was that she faced a precision-guided missile: a candidate whose strengths so precisely matched her vulnerabilities that it was all she could do to keep it close.
It's hard to conclude that the widespread, visceral dislike of Clinton, particularly amongst those who consider themselves good liberals, is down to anything but discomfort with powerful women. Time to get over that, no? But having grown up with one running the country, perhaps that's easy for me to say.