- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2008

An ugly scene

Hillary Clinton won the Nevada popular vote, and Barack Obama‘s campaign is claiming he won more delegates, but it was hard not to worry that the Democratic Party could wind up the loser as I sat watching a nasty caucus battle at the Paris Hotel and Casino Saturday afternoon,” Joan Walsh writes at www.salon .com.

“At the end of the day, having called around to Democrats and reporters who were at other caucus sites, I’m pretty sure I witnessed one of the most extreme and ugly standoffs between Clinton and Obama supporters. But it’s still a window on the tensions in the Democratic Party as it faces a future in which its nominee will almost certainly be either African-American or female. And it’s unsettling,” she said.

“… I saw it all at the Paris: It was union member vs. union member, men against women, blacks against Latinos. An AFSCME worker (she wouldn’t give me her name) was riling up the Clinton crowd, and got into a shouting match with an Obama supporter. ‘Hillary Clinton has never walked a picket line in her life,’ shouted Ray Wadsworth, an African-American pantry worker at Bally’s casino who was just laid off. ‘I’ve walked picket lines with Hillary Clinton,’ the AFSCME woman shouted back.

“A Latina worker at Paris started yelling at Wadsworth: ‘Show respect, she’s a woman!’ At the worst of it, Wadsworth and other Obama supporters were yelling insults about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, while the heavily Latino Clinton caucus was trying to shout them down with chants of “Hillary!’ ”

Obama’s style

Barack Obama made quite a splash with his comment last week likening himself to Ronald Reagan. Who’d have guessed such a thought had crossed his mind? Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“ ’Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way Richard Nixon did not and a way that Bill Clinton did not,” Obama said. Then he suggested he leads an optimistic, dynamic political movement just as Reagan did.

“Obama was right about Reagan as a leader who changed America but wrong about the way in which he’s like the former president. He flatters himself to think he heads a movement. In truth, he’s an extraordinarily self-disciplined insurgent candidate who’s like Reagan in personality,” Mr. Barnes said.

“OK, he lacks Reagan’s sense of humor. But here’s how the Las Vegas Sun described Obama during an interview last week: ‘Looking poised and relatively fresh given the grueling schedule of a presidential campaign, [he] spoke in his customary manner — cool, measured, deliberate.’ Obama was unruffled by anything the paper threw at him. Reagan was always unruffled.

“Insurgent candidates are often combative and inclined to exaggerate wildly. They’re hot rather than cool. Think John Edwards or Howard Dean or Jesse Jackson. But that wasn’t Reagan’s style and it’s not Obama’s. Whenever Obama has been criticized in televised debates, he’s reacted calmly. I half-expect him to tell Hillary Clinton, ‘There you go again.’

“The key to being calm and composed is self-discipline. Reagan had plenty of it and so does Obama. Their likability comes into play here, too. You can’t fake likability but you can will it. But it takes the self-discipline of a Reagan or Obama.”

Fred’s attacks

“However magical his victory in Iowa, Mike Huckabee’s campaign staff knew that their dance towards the Republican nomination had to be a two-step. Without wins in Iowa and South Carolina, the two early-voting states teeming with evangelical voters, trouble would loom,” Michael Scherer writes at www.time .com.

“On Saturday, trouble arrived — along with bad weather, the surging campaign of John McCain and the unexpectedly fierce attacks of also-ran Fred Thompson. As the results poured in, it became clear to Huckabee’s senior advisers that Thompson had made significant inroads in the conservative northern part of the state, where Huckabee needed big numbers to fend off McCain’s moderate support along the coast.

“ ’We needed bigger margins out of Greenville and Spartanburg, and the difference was Fred,’ said Huckabee’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, after his candidate conceded. ‘He wasn’t running a race for him. He was attacking Mike Huckabee for the last two weeks.’

“Those attacks became a standard feature of Thompson’s campaign in the closing days before the primary. The Huckabee campaign had no solution for Thompson, who barely polled within striking distance of second place and was seen by some as a foil for McCain, with whom he is friends. ‘Fred Thompson, John McCain’s lapdog, came down here and definitely hurt the Huckabee vote, no doubt about that,’ said former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, who chaired the Huckabee campaign here, after the loss.

“Too short on cash to blanket local television with ads, Huckabee also suffered from a self-inflicted wound — the decision to put up a fight in last Tuesday’s Michigan primary. ‘Had we had a couple more days here, we would have definitely won, no ifs, ands, or buts about it,’ said Beasley. Instead, while Thompson camped out in South Carolina, Huckabee spent nearly four days after the New Hampshire primary traveling through Michigan, where he finished a distant third.”

Forgotten issue

“Little makes the White House team crazier than when critics, pundits, and reporters raise President Bush‘s legacy without mentioning his efforts in Africa and his $30 billion AIDS program,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Like the Lost Continent itself, Africa gets forgotten in the mix of other legacy issues headlined by 9/11, the war, taxes, and partisanship. ‘It’s frustrating,’ says a former top aide, ‘because it’s one of the things he’s most proud of.’

“This is an issue that involves all of the administration. ‘It’s a family affair,’ says an aide. ‘When the president talks about all the reasons America is important, it’s one of them.’ Bush’s top aide, Josh Bolten, is described as ‘passionate’ on the issue, first lady Laura Bush has toured African nations, and daughter Barbara Bush has cared for African AIDS babies. In the ‘Who knew?’ category, Bush has met with more African leaders than any other president.

“Well, enough waiting: We hear that Bush plans to talk up his Africa and AIDS efforts in the State of the Union address and will travel to Africa next month. His wish: Americans will hear voices like Zambian Bridget Chisenga, who credits the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with saving her life. ‘I’ve seen the Lazarus effect,’ she told Bush privately last November. ‘I’m alive because I have received this help from your initiative.’ ”

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

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