Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The dilemma of the Democrats is not whether the bloom is coming off the rose, but whether events will wilt it. The past that will not die commands a lot of wilting power.

Demands that Hillary die at once have gone unheeded. The size of crowds is often misleading, but hers are growing larger and more spirited. Some Democrats who only a few days ago were lining up to kick the corpse are taking due note.

“I think the race should continue,” says Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico who was enthusiastically grooving on the Clinton death rattle. “She has every right to stay in the race,” he says now. “She’s run a very good campaign.” Bill Clinton, the lively ghost in the background, reminds everyone that Hillary trails in the popular vote by less than a percentage point and by only 130 delegates, a margin that could be easily erased by the superdelegates when they get to the August convention and Barack Obama, bruised and bloody, is limping into Denver on a lame horse.

The bruises won’t be so much of Hillary’s making as by the resurrection of haints, skeletons and other wraiths of the night. The Philadelphia speech was meant to put his past to bed. But it didn’t. That’s why he takes every suggestion that he isn’t as electable as Hillary — or even electable at all — as racism. But “electability” is what every political campaign is all about, measuring black, white, male, female, conservative and liberal alike against an unforgiving standard. Mr. Dooley’s famous maxim that “politics ain’t beanbag” gives some of our modern Democrats the vapors, and Harry Truman’s rebuke that “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” only showed him to be brutish and insensitive.

But Sen. Obama’s preacher trouble will not go away, and there may be more where that came from. The racist rants of another Chicago preacher with whom the senator has political ties, tenuous so far as we know now, is bubbling on YouTube.com, where the Rev. Jeremiah Wright continues to invoke the damnation of God on America. This second preacher is the Rev. James Meeks, an Illinois state senator and key player in the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s political organization, which strongly backs Mr. Obama. Mr. Meeks inveighs against white mayors as “slave masters” and scorns blacks who disagree with him as “house [servants].” The more we learn about who Sen. Obama hangs out with in Chicago, the less authentic his mantra of “brotherhood” and “unity” sounds. We could get the wrong idea about him.

“As the high-water mark for Barack Obama recedes,” says Charles Lipson, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, “his campaign must now confront several dangerous stumps that were once hidden below the surface [of the water].” Writing on RealClear Politics.com, he identifies one “stump” from the radical-left past that Mr. Obama has diligently hidden. He served on the board of the Woods Fund, a small radical foundation, with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn late of the Weather Underground, the radical cell that killed cops and tried to plant a bomb in the U.S. Capitol. They’re married to each other now and after a decade on the run turned themselves in and served prison time. They’re unrepentant. In an interview with the New York Times, Prof. Ayers boasted that he had no regrets about setting bombs to kill innocents: “I feel we didn’t do enough.”

When the senator and the unrepentant bomber served together on the Woods Fund board, the Fund awarded $6,000 to Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church “in recognition of Barack Obama’s contributions of Woods Fund as a director.” Later the Obama-Ayers board awarded a generous grant to the Arab-American Action Network. It’s entirely possible that Barack Obama missed the board meetings when such awards were made. He says he missed Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary sermons, too. The man has a gift for avoiding the wrong place at the right time.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.

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