NEW ORLEANS -- They might disagree with her political views, but auto dealers could learn a thing or two from Hillary Clinton.
Clinton captivated a crowd of 4,000 last week at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention here, drawing applause despite the Republican leanings of the group's members.
She did it by emphasizing shared American priorities on national security and economic growth and by spinning yarns about the cars she had driven, such as the yellow Fiat she owned while teaching at the University of Arkansas until it was stolen and wrecked in a high-speed chase. There was even a verbal wink at the notion of a Fiat reaching high speed.
Clinton hasn't driven a car since 1996, but she sure knows how to play to a room full of auto dealers.
It was a softer side of Clinton than the one people got used to seeing during two decades of nonstop political warfare, culminating in her bitter 2008 presidential campaign fight against Barack Obama. Time and again during her speech, Clinton returned to a message of unity -- that in all her travels and trials as secretary of state, she saw that the people of the world are aching to see America overcome its political divides.
"Whether Republican or Democrat or conservative or liberal, I want them to see we're all on the same team," Clinton said. "We're on the American team."
It's easy to be cynical, to say Clinton was acting the part of unifier for political gain. But the generous applause at the NADA convention made it feel, for a moment at least, like what Clinton was saying was possible.
With NADA in a pitched standoff with the Obama administration over bias in auto lending, both Clinton's message and tone are worth remembering.