Five stages of grief for her dying dream


Since it was pretty clear that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama wasn’t going to withdraw from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in the face of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s admirably annoying tenacity, it fell to the New York senator to adjust to a harsh political reality that a year ago was absolutely unthinkable: She lost.

So, when did Hillary Clinton get the first hint of defeat? When she kept losing caucuses? When she didn’t wrap up the super prize by Feb. 5? When Obama’s money machine kept churning out millions?

In the last many weeks, as Obama’s delegate totals moved closer to the magic majority, many watched in fascination as Clinton seemed to move through the five stages of grief that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described in “On Death and Dying.” Except it was Clinton’s White House dream that was dying.


The first stage is denial: This isn’t happening. How could this be happening when she was to inherit the political mantle of her once-again-popular husband, the only Democratic president elected twice since Franklin Delano Roosevelt? How could this Illinois nobody with no credentials and few accomplishments other than a golden tongue move in so easily?

The second stage is anger: “Shame on you, Barack Obama!” Remember those angry outbursts a few hours after the kissy we’re-all-Democrats-in-this-together, it’s-an-honor-to-compete-against-Sen.-Obama stuff at the debates?

The third stage is bargaining: That’s less visible to observers, more internal. If only I work harder, things will work out. No one can doubt her determination and grit despite internal campaign turmoil, overspending and controversies with her overpaid consultant who was working both sides of the Colombian trade deal.

In recent weeks, when so many thought her effort was hopeless, she sure didn’t show hopelessness. And her loyalists responded to that fighting spirit with overwhelming victories in crucial places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

The fourth stage is depression: This manifests itself in many ways, possibly in a stubborn refusal to accept the inevitable delegate math. And, so often, the Clintons’ political careers have been boosted by last-minute salvations in the face of what others saw as hopeless adversity.

Gennifer Flowers didn’t derail Bill in 1992’s New Hampshire primary; he took only second, but he declared victory, and folks remember him as having won. How similar that Hillary was holding what looked like a victory rally in Texas while Obama won some more states elsewhere. Or what really was a victory rally for herself in Florida, after a vote that wasn’t supposed to count.

The same could be said of her Tuesday night speech, when so many convinced themselves (despite contrary signals from her aides) that she would concede.

She said she was going to take a few days to decide her future path. There’s a momentum and life force to major national campaigns. You can’t turn off the machine and the candidate’s adrenaline and emotional commitment like a light switch. It winds down.

The defeat must sink in.

Which brings us to stage 5: acceptance. That might have come to her over the following week or so. But Wednesday’s predawn joint statement by Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and who’s-its, the West Virginia governor, sped up that process. They set a Friday deadline for uncommitted superdelegates to make their calls, which forced Hillary’s hand.

And so she readied herself to lay down her cards.

Hey, Anderson Cooper! Boo!

Ah, we must be thankful to politics for exposing us to what is to many a new English word: “boo.” Not as in scary gremlins at Halloween. But as in “She’s my boo” (girlfriend) or “He’s my boo” (boyfriend).

Thanks to a tip from loyal Ticket reader Brady, we saw that word quickly become one of this week’s most-searched items on Google News. And why do you suppose that was?

Because CNN’s Anderson Cooper didn’t know what it was either, and he walked right into an embarrassing expression in a back-and-forth during election-night coverage with Donna Brazile, a network commentator and a Democratic superdelegate, allegedly uncommitted.

She had said that Obama, who’d just clinched his party’s presidential nomination, had phoned her not to seek her support but to discuss his proposed ways of ensuring party unity for the fall election after the sometimes-bitter primary campaigns against Clinton.

Cooper was pressing Brazile on what Obama actually said. “He’s told everyone,” she replied, “that he plans to sit down with Sen. Clinton at the right time.”

Cooper replied: “I’m looking for something he hasn’t told anyone else -- just you.”

“Anderson,” Brazile replied with cocked head, “you’re not my boo.”

The panel laughed. And Cooper walked right into it.

I want to be your boo, he said, pausing as the panel broke out laughing. “I don’t really even know what that means.”

At that, Brazile, who was Al Gore’s presidential campaign manager in 2000, looked at her watch and asked, “Anderson, are we still on TV?”

“Yes, we are, Donna Brazile.”

“Well, I think I better watch my words.”

“Someone can explain it to me later,” said Cooper.

And presumably someone did.

Michelle’s turn

on ‘The View’

To the victors belong . . . ever-increasing television exposure.

ABC’s woman-oriented chat show “The View” says that Michelle Obama, the presumed Democratic contender for first lady, will appear on the program June 18. In fact, she’s being billed not only as a guest but a “co-host” -- which means she stays on the entire hour -- with regulars Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd.

Michelle Obama had been scheduled for a drop-by in early December, but -- good Democrat that she is -- she canceled because of the writers strike.

As it turns out, her pending appearance is more propitiously timed, given that one of her husband’s immediate challenges is to make nice with Clinton’s legion of female supporters.

For those keeping track, Cindy McCain, wife of GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain, has already been a “View” co-host.

Villaraigosa can’t

stop believing

We’re betting that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is like a lot of Clinton’s dedicated supporters: They’re doing their best to learn a new song, but it’s hard to let go of the music in their hearts.

Asked by The Times’ Joel Rubin about the Democratic presidential race, Villaraigosa stressed that he’s ready to put on his traveling shoes for Obama. But he also still wanted to say good things about Clinton -- and dismiss any notion that he regretted the decision to serve as one of her most ardent advocates.

“I was proud to have supported Sen. Clinton and her effort,” the mayor said during a news conference. “I have never been involved in a presidential campaign where I’ve seen anyone with the passion and persistence and intestinal fortitude of Hillary Clinton. I was proud to be associated with that campaign.”


Excerpted from The Times’ political blog, Top of the Ticket, at topoftheticket.