- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

Train wreck

“Despite their frantic efforts to one-up each other on issues large and small, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could soon find themselves sharing the same unhappy burden: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Unless one of them can find the courage and the sense to forcefully denounce the black pastor, Clinton and Obama both could end up watching John McCain get elected president,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Midway through the second week of the Wright fiasco, and five days after Obama tried to cool the boiling issue with an important speech on race, it is increasingly clear we are witnessing a Democratic train wreck. For months, the collision has been unfolding in slow motion as the closely fought campaign worked its way across the country and the chances for a clear winner slipped away one state at a time.

“Suddenly, the wreck is happening at full speed. The dream team is looking like a nightmare. Race was always a touchy subject, but not the dominant one, at least on the surface. Now there is no other issue.

“With only 10 contests left, the campaign is turning on Wright’s outlandish anti-American statements and Obama’s tepid reaction to them.”

Name-calling

Prominent supporters of both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama yesterday faulted the Obama campaign for allowing a retired general and backer of the Illinois senator to equate comments by Mrs. Clinton’s husband to McCarthyism, the Associated Press reports.

“I don’t believe President Clinton was implying that,” saidNew Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former presidential candidate who endorsed Mr. Obama last week. “But the point here … is that the campaign has gotten too negative — too many personal attacks, too much negativity that is not resounding with the public.”

On Friday in Charlotte, N.C., speculating about a general election matchup pitting his wife against Republican Sen. John McCain, Bill Clinton told a group of veterans: “I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”

Retired Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak, a co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s campaign, compared the former president’s comments with those of Joseph McCarthy, the 1950s communist-hunting senator. “I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I’ve had enough of it,” he said.

Asked whether Mr. Obama’s campaign was being too negative in accusing Mr. Clinton of McCarthyism,Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Clinton supporter, said, “Of course … the Obama campaign tries to have it both ways,” he said, adding: “If they want to tone it down, don’t accuse someone of McCarthyism.”

Both governors commented on “Fox News Sunday.”

Lucky man

John McCain is one lucky fellow,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“Of course you can make your own luck, as the saying goes. That’s what McCain did with great courage to survive five-and-a-half years at the Hanoi Hilton. And he made his own luck again by advocating a surge of troops in Iraq that later proved to be successful,” Mr. Barnes said.

“In winning the Republican presidential nomination, however, McCain has mostly been just plain lucky, no thanks to his own fortitude or foresight. Conservatives inadvertently aided him by failing to line up behind a single rival. Mike Huckabee ruined Mitt Romney’s strategy by beating him in Iowa. And Rudy Giuliani helped by pulling out of New Hampshire and fading in Florida, allowing McCain to sneak ahead and win primaries in both states.

“Now Democrats are boosting McCain’s chances of winning the presidency by prolonging the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. ‘They are eating their own,’ says Dick Morris, the one-time adviser to the Clintons. The result, for the moment anyway, is that McCain is inching ahead in polls matching him against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“So long as Clinton stays in the race, the bitter divide among Democrats will widen — to McCain’s advantage … . No matter who ultimately wins the nomination, the prospects for electing a Democratic president this fall will have declined. And through no machinations of his own, McCain’s chances of winning will have improved. There’s a name for that happenstance: luck.”

Next big issue

“For much of this election cycle, the assumption has been that foreign policy, specifically Iraq, would be the dominant issue on the campaign trail. Then, for a while, immigration had voters fixated, and in recent weeks, the economy has taken center stage,” Steven Stark writes in the Boston Phoenix.

“But if Barack Obama ends up the Democratic nominee, the issue on which the election may well turn is one that few initially expected to arise: affirmative action, which, of course, means race,” Mr. Stark said.

“Affirmative action continues to be among the most divisive issues in America — no wonder, since our country’s tragic racial history is complex, and the issues surrounding its legacy are far from simple. As Slate blogger Mickey Kaus recently noted, affirmative action was the issue that handed the closely contested 1990 North Carolina Senate race to Jesse Helms. Helms ran an ad against Harvey Gantt, his black opponent, which featured a close-up shot of two hands holding a letter and then crumpling it as a narrator said, ‘You needed that job, and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority.’

“Ever since, in nearly every instance voters have been given the chance to eliminate affirmative action, they’ve taken the opportunity — in referenda in states from California to Michigan. So we should have expected that, when a black candidate started winning presidential contests, the issue would rear its head.”

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

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