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In Speech, Clinton Tries to Unite Party Behind Obama

As the Democrats wrap up day two of their convention in Denver, analysts and historians review the night's key moments, in particular Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech in support of Sen. Barack Obama.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now we're going to get some closing thoughts here on this second night, Hillary Clinton night, at the Democratic convention here in Denver.

    Mark Shields and David Brooks are still with me. And in our other studio are our convention historian team of Michael Beschloss, Richard Norton-Smith, and Peniel Joseph. And down on the floor is Gwen Ifill.

    First, a quick reaction from you, Mark and David, to what just happened.

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Jim, Hillary Clinton did everything that could have been asked of her by the Obama people, by the Democratic Party.

    She was a character witness for him. She drew the differences. She did it with humor. She did it factually. She never went over-the-top. She spoke to her own people.

    There was nobody who's a party to this whole event who could have been disappointed by what she said. I mean, she left nobody out.

    The only criticism I had was she stepped on, I thought, one of her great lines, which was, "My mother was born before a woman could vote, but in this election my daughter voted — got to vote for her mother for president."

  • JIM LEHRER:

    She stepped on it because there was so much applause and cheers at the time, yes.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    There was so much applause. But I thought she drew the McCain-Bush connection. She did it well. There was no meanness to it. And she did it with humor, and she did it factually.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I agree. I thought it was a very good speech filled with good formulations, original things.

    I thought the "keep going" thing was a very effective thing at the end. It had rhythms of the "dream will never die" passage from Teddy Roosevelt. "We didn't get there this time, but keep going, keep going."

    For me, the highlight of the speech, which was to address the problem of unity in the party, was when she said, "Were you in this for me?" She had talked about the Marine who was injured. She talked about the woman with cancer.

    And then she asked, really, her followers and said, "Were you in this for me? Or are you in this for them?" And there's no way to answer that question and say, "I was in it for Hillary."

    And that was a beautiful way, I thought, to unify the party. That was very well-done.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And you think it will go out of this, this message will go — to go out into the country, not just in this hall?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, I mean, that's the question. I mean, I think she laid the groundwork, she made the case for Barack Obama. He's got to go before the jury, and the jury isn't just in this room.

    The jury is — to repeat — in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, 18 battleground states, and a lot of other neighborhoods and families around the country.

    But she certainly — she certainly was a character witness. She gave him an introduction and a sendoff that it's up to him to deliver.

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