Debate's Final Moment - Transformative?

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 11:24 AM EST

The Clinton campaign is really pushing the final bit of yesterday's debate (coverage of the full debate here) as some kind of transformative moment. Seconds after the debate ended, Clinton's communications director Howard Wolfson sent out a short email saying this:

What we saw in the final moments in that debate is why Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. Her strength, her life experience, her compassion. She's tested and ready. It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice.

Just after midnight, the campaign sent out video of the moment. It's below. And today's Morning HUBdate (an email sent daily to supporters) began, "If You Watch One Thing Today: In the final moments of last night's debate, Hillary demonstrated her strength, life experience and compassion."

But here's the thing. That handshake was seen by some in the media last night as a valedictory. It was a composed, graceful moment that humanized Clinton (and Obama) and showed that beneath their politicians' veneers, they are just fundamentally decent human beings. But the press saw the beginning of the end for Clinton. And indeed, it could be seen as Clinton laying the groundwork for a graceful exit. Keith Olbermann speculated that it was a capitulation, a statement that she is ready to be a VP.

I don't think it was a capitulation, but I do think it was a concession in some way that she is tired of fighting and attacking, especially because her attacks on Obama haven't been working and the race has slipped away from her. It was also an acknowledgment of the fatigue that the campaign season puts a person under.

I wonder if the campaign realized that that the closing moment was dangerous, so they immediately leapt to spin it to their advantage. And because everyone was focusing on that handshake, they included the minute or two beforehand in which Clinton talked about injured vets.

Draw your own conclusions. As a nation, we've already spent fifteen years psychoanalyzing the Clintons; looks like we're not done yet.

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