Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Take Me Out of the Ballgame

Last night Obama claimed victory with high-minded grace, while Clinton was again equivocating and dissembling when she should have been conceding. Obama's message was inclusive -- complimenting his opponent, and seeking common ground on which the party could march forward.

Around the time this was happening, I was at a Dodgers game with my son, where he was treated to his first pile-on brawl. I remember the first time I had witnessed this up-close, and marveled not only at the insanity of it, but also at the bloodlust it brought out in fans.

In this particular instance, it started as a shoving match between a catcher and an opposing batter. Then one took a swing at the other, clearing (in rapid sequence) the benches, the dugout, the outfield. Players from both teams swarmed toward homeplate to dive onto the sea of squirming uniforms. Eventually teammates pulled each other off the ridiculous heap, the original two combatants were tossed out of the game (and probably fined), the field was cleared, and eventually the game resumed.

Meanwhile, fans were cheering, hooting, hollering, hissing -- in short, gleefully going nuts. They loved it! I'm embarassed to report that my son was among those celebrants.

It had nothing and everything to do with baseball. After the game, sportscasters commented on how the violent display proved that the teams still had spark and energy -- ostensibly a favorable sign.

Driving home, I imagined Obama and Clinton as opposing ballplayers, and amused myself with trying to envision how they would behave in such a situation. I also imagined myself, standing in the outfield and witnessing my teammates and their rivals charging full-speed toward the mayhem so they could get a piece of the action. I'd like to think I wouldn't have any part of this nonsense -- even if it meant that I'd be the cheese standing alone. I could easily see feisty Hillary coming out swinging. But then I envisioned Obama serenely maintaining his stance on third base, calmly rising above the fray, the consummate peacemaker bemusedly shaking his head as he marveled at the "silly season."

Did you see his speech last night? Whether he came to bury or to praise, he did it with his typical eloquence and genuine class, the likes of which we rarely see these days.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign. She has made history not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight. I congratulate her on her victory in South Dakota and I congratulate her on the race she has run throughout this contest.

We've certainly had our differences over the last 16 months. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning -- even in the face of tough odds -- is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as first lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency -- an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country -- and we will win that fight -- she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kinda makes you proud, after a long dry spell, to again be able to say: Only in America!

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