- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama’s problem

Barack Obama has defeated Hillary [Rodham] Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination — but with a new and unwelcome twist. He hasn’t succeeded in ridding himself of Clinton (or her husband Bill). She refuses to go away, much less concede,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“The effect was to inject a sharply negative and divisive element in the already bitter race at the very moment that Obama was making history by becoming the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination. Her goal, from all indications, is to force him to choose her as his vice presidential running mate. And her tactic is political hardball,” Mr. Barnes said.

“So rather than concede or even acknowledge that Obama had captured a majority of the delegates who will decide the nomination at the party’s convention in Denver in August, Clinton sent him an unmistakable message.

“It was this: The primaries are over, but I can still drag this contest all the way to the convention, denying you the opportunity to concentrate on your Republican opponent, John McCain. I can try to flip delegates who’ve lined up with you by persuading them I would have a better chance of beating McCain in the general election. And there’s only one way you can stop me and that’s by making me your running mate.”

Blame game

The conspiracy keep getting more and more vast, and less and less right wing.

Politico.com reports that Bill Clinton has been blaming his wife’s imminent defeat “on enemies including a brazenly biased media that tried to suppress blue-collar votes, a powerful anti-war group that endorsed rival Barack Obama and weak-willed party leaders unable to stand up to either of these nefarious forces.”

“Pieced together from the former president’s public remarks at his wife’s campaign events and a private conversation last week with top donors to her campaign, the theory goes something like this: After Hillary [Rodham Clinton] recovered from a string of losses to rival Barack Obama with March 4 wins in Texas and Ohio, powerful forces conspired to pressure the superdelegates who will decide the nomination to back Obama by discouraging her supporters from voting and trying to hide evidence proving she would fare better than Obama against presumptive GOP nominee John McCain,” writer Kenneth Vogel reports.

Politico obtained a recording of a conference call last week with maxed-out donors to the Clinton campaign in which the former president fleshed out his theory.

“After rattling off a series of poll numbers showing Hillary Clinton faring better than Obama against McCain, Bill Clinton told donors: ‘We are in the strongest conceivable position electorally and not in a good fix with the superdelegates, because they have felt all the pressure from the Obama side, from the media, from the MoveOn crowd who they think is an automatic ATM machine for everybody for life. So, they’re reluctant to take on all that.’ ”

Obama mysteries

“With Barack Obama clinching the Democratic Party nomination, it is worth noting what an extraordinary moment this is. Democrats are nominating a freshman senator barely three years out of the Illinois legislature whom most of America still hardly knows. The polls say he is the odds-on favorite to become our next president,” the Wall Street Journal said yesterday in an editorial.

While acknowledging that “his political gifts are formidable,” the newspaper noted there “is also the matter of judgment, and the roots of his political character.”

“A 2004 Chicago Sun-Times interview with Mr. Obama mentioned three men as his religious guides. One was Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright. Another was Father Michael Pfleger, the Louis Farrakhan ally whose recent remarks caused Mr. Obama to resign from Trinity, but for whose Chicago church Mr. Obama channeled at least $225,000 in grants as a state senator. Until recently, the priest was connected to the campaign, which flew him to Iowa to host an interfaith forum. Father Pfleger’s testimony for the candidate has since been scrubbed from Mr. Obama’s campaign Web site. A third mentor was Illinois state Sen. James Meeks, another Chicago pastor who has generated controversy for mixing pulpit and politics.

“The point is not that Mr. Obama now shares the radical views of these men. The concern is that by the senator’s own admission they have been major moral influences, and their views are starkly at odds with the candidate’s vision as a transracial peacemaker. Their patronage was also useful as Mr. Obama was making his way in Chicago politics. But only now, in the glare of a national campaign, is he distancing himself from them. The question is what in fact Mr. Obama does believe.”

Historic parallel

“In 1928, Democrats nominated the Catholic governor of New York, Al Smith, but he lost to Herbert Hoover,” John B. Judis writes at New Republic Web site (www.tnr.com).

“Then, in 1960, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to be president. Kennedy’s success removed a political stigma from Catholics, to the extent that it is no longer a serious question whether a Catholic can win the presidency. …

“The question of Obama’s prospects can be framed in this manner: Is Obama, the first African American nominee of a major party, going to repeat Al Smith’s sorry experience, or will he enjoy John Kennedy’s success? The answer is by no means clear yet, but by looking at the historical parallels, one can begin to appreciate the enormous obstacles that Obama faces this November. …

“So, is Obama’s fate likely to resemble Smith’s or Kennedy’s? In several important respects, his campaign is like Smith’s rather than Kennedy’s,” Mr. Judis said.

Bad move

“McCain’s speech was creaky, ungracious, and unnecessary,” Amy Holmes writes at in a blog at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“I never understand why politicians don’t take the opportunity, when so easily presented, to simply be gracious and hold their fire. Watching McCain, I couldn’t help but think of the astonishing contrast Barack’s triumphant speech to a massive and adoring crowd will be. It was not a comparison McCain should have invited,” Miss Holmes said.

“It would have been more statesmanlike — precisely the profile McCain is attempting to craft — to acknowledge this historic moment in American politics. A major party is on the cusp of selecting an African American to be their nominee for president of the United States. It’s a tribute to America that we’ve come this far. It would have been magnanimous to leave it at that, and wait until [Wednesday] to declare with enthusiasm and relish, ‘It’s on!’ ”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce(at)washingtontimes.com.

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