Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton asked the question herself, on the last night of the primaries in June: “What does Hillary want?”
That is still a bit of a mystery, particularly as she and Senator Barack Obama negotiate the delicate question of her role at the Democratic convention in Denver and in the campaign beyond. But at least the convention role of one important person, former President Bill Clinton, has been settled with the decision Thursday that he would be speaking at the convention.
Mrs. Clinton, of New York, and Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said Thursday that they were working to resolve matters. Mr. Obama said: “As is true in all conventions, we’re still working out the mechanics of the four days. Our staffs are in communication, my staff with Senator Clinton’s staff. But I don’t anticipate any problems.”
In a public peace offering Thursday, the Obama campaign allowed a draft of the party platform to note that Mrs. Clinton was “the first woman in American history to win presidential primaries in our nation.” It added that the party was “proud that we have put 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling,” which, of course, was her own formulation of her popular vote total.
This is already a somewhat fraught period for both Mrs. Clinton and her husband since the convention will officially mark the changing of the guard in the Democratic Party, the moment when yet another Democratic nominee will try to do what only one, Mr. Clinton, has managed to do in a generation: be elected.
Both Clintons are sensitive to the process of shaping their legacies. At stake are not just their convention roles but also how history will treat them, and how she is positioned for the future.
But the surfacing of a video in which Mrs. Clinton suggests that her supporters need a “catharsis” after the roller-coaster primary season and that they may place her name in nomination would seem to add complexity to the negotiations.
The video was taken at a July 31 cocktail reception near Palo Alto, Calif., for supporters of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. In response to questions, as various cameras are visible, Mrs. Clinton says that the best way to unify the party is “to have a strategy so that my delegates feel like they’ve had a role and that their legitimacy has been validated.”
She adds: “It’s as old as Greek drama. There’s a catharsis. Everybody comes, and they want to yell and scream and have their opportunity, and I think that’s all to the good.”
While the video of Mrs. Clinton plays on cable television and the Internet, a new video of her husband, in an interview with ABC News, is also playing on a seemingly endless loop. The striking moment comes when he is not quite able to say that Mr. Obama is qualified to be president.
But Mr. Clinton was offered an invitation to speak on Aug. 27, three senior Democratic officials said, before the address by the party’s vice-presidential nominee. The Obama campaign extended the offer on Thursday to Mr. Clinton, who accepted it.
Mr. Obama has already given Mrs. Clinton a speaking role at the convention, on Aug. 26. So what else does she want? As Al Gore learned in 2000, having one Clinton, let alone two, hover over you as you campaign for the presidency can be trying.
The Gore campaign had hoped to choreograph Mr. Clinton out of the picture at its convention, in Los Angeles, giving him the prime-time speaking slot Monday and then staging a symbolic “passing of the torch” to Mr. Gore the next day in Michigan.
But Mr. Clinton started to steal the limelight on the prior Thursday, in a lengthy public confessional in which he said that voters should not hold Mr. Gore accountable for Mr. Clinton’s personal failings. The president then arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and was the toast of the town for three days leading up to his convention speech. He dominated the torch moment in Michigan and much of the news afterward.
Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who has worked at the top levels of several campaigns in such negotiations, said that, generally, defeated candidates want to nail down things like how they will be used in the fall campaign and whether the nominee will pay for a separate plane and staff. They usually want to know how big a “show” they will get, Mr. Devine said.
Once the video spread across the blogosphere, many commented that Mrs. Clinton was still angling to become Mr. Obama’s running mate.
But some who know her say this is not the case. One Democratic loyalist with connections to the Clintons said that if Mrs. Clinton wanted to send Mr. Obama a message, she would not have relied on a chat on a random front porch in a video that took several days to become public.
Either way, she does have leverage. Polling shows that Mrs. Clinton remains as popular among Democrats these days as Mr. Obama, despite his having campaigned for two months as the party nominee.
Her goal now, she says in the video, is this: “We do not want any Democrat in the hall or in the stadium or at home walking away saying, ‘I’m just not satisfied, I’m not happy.’ That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”
But Mrs. Clinton seems to give a green light to her supporters to make whatever mischief they might:
“I’ve made it very clear that I’m supporting Senator Obama,” she says, “and we’re working cooperatively on a lot of different matters. But delegates can decide to do this on their own; they don’t need permission.”
Hillary said she likes "long movies" and she was telling the truth.