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Opinion

Hillary: It's time for a gracious exit

Bow out now and you'll be hailed as party savior – and a woman of principle

May 9, 2008



Dear Hillary,

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Enough. You've reaffirmed your standing as a fighter, reconnected with blue-collar America, forged an identity as a woman of heart and steel. Now you can be a uniter, too, hailed for your toughness and grace in recognizing when a losing cause is just that.

It's time to bow out of the Democratic contest.

Yes, you can fight clear through to the convention, demand that the Florida and Michigan delegations be seated; bring in your attack dogs to question Barack Obama's – um – masculine fortitude; wink at another round of Internet whispers that question your opponent's funny name, his patriotism, and his religion.

You can bash the press, browbeat the superdelegates, and boast of your prowess in the working-class kitchens of big states the party must win come November. You can post more ads of that irritating red phone and revel in your ability to nick your opponent just enough to keep him slightly off stride.

But you'll still lose. And the Democratic Party may lose with you.

Consider your legacy. Do you want to be remembered as Hillary the Pillorer, Hillary the Heckler, Clinton the Cutthroat? Surely not.

Doesn't Hillary the Healer seem more salving, more uplifting, on the pages of Democratic Party history? Surely you and Bill don't want to risk discarding your moneymaking memoirs in the trash heap of Democratic sore losers?

In so many intimate aspects of life, timing is everything. And in the end, even in the 24-7 glare of panting journalists and pushy photographers, politics is a most intimate sport. Seize the moment.

As you walk to the podium, the photographers will bring their lenses in tight. You are smiling now – a broad, wise, embracing smile. (Was that a hint of dampness in one eye or just the glare?)

You spread your arms and speak. Shower love on your supporters. Thank them for showing that a woman can win in America, that women will be back – in 2012, 2016, 2020. Hint perhaps that it may even be you. But then praise Obama as a man of toughness and integrity, a leader who can set a new course for America. Say that you will stand by his side in his fight against John McCain. That he deserves to be president. That you will fight with all your strength to make sure he gets there. That if called on, you will even serve as his vice president.

Again Hillary, timing is everything. Your fortune cookie reads: "Don't delay." So I'd speak out immediately. Why gamble away another $6.4 million on a campaign car that's leaking oil? There's no need to be the Ralph Nader of 2008; Ralph's already running. And who knows. By mid-June even some of your old friends could be calling you the Benedicta Arnold of the Democratic Party.

But act now and you will be an American heroine, irresistible to the TV bookers from Today to Tonight. Sure. Your campaign aides – and most loyal supporters – will feel hurt. Some may even feel sold out, and that's tough. But the press and public will hail you as a woman of character and principle, the savior of her party, a fighter who understood that her fight was for America's people and not for herself.

I can't help tearing up just thinking about it. You can still write a happy ending to your narrative, Hillary. Tomorrow it may be too late.

Warmest regards,

Jerry Lanson

Jerry Lanson, who voted for Obama, teaches journalism at Emerson College.

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