Saturday, July 12, 2008

Barack not making nice to Hillary

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The bitter hassles between Sen. Barack Obama's people and Sen. Hillary Clinton's people were supposed to be resolved by now, with joint fund-raising efforts and a public show of mutual respect, if not exactly affection. Fat chance!

Despite their publicized gestures of making nice, too many folks on both sides of the Democratic divide aren't buying that baloney. The principals themselves are trying to stay above all that, but they aren't sending sufficiently strong signals about really wanting to work together in the interests of the party -- and their own futures.

There is too much tension there. Obama is the least gracious, barely concealing his desire to hide Hillary in a barrel and send her over the falls. He's the winner, and he reminds me of one of my grandsons, who announces he "doesn't share" when a toddler cousin of similar age approaches asking to join in playing with his toys. At a Manhattan fund-raiser for both politicians last week, Obama acknowledged that "with just half a wing this bird can't fly." Indeed, that is the risk he takes by insisting on going it alone without her as his running mate.

Picking her would solve so many problems. It raises serious doubts about his judgment that he refuses to do so, the chief question being a dangerously outsized ego. And, perhaps, his problem is based in a sexist attitude toward all women not his wife or daughters.

At the fund-raiser, he appealed for donations to help relieve Hillary's campaign debt. Tellingly, he didn't call her Hillary, which would have been an affectionate gesture, nor even senator.

He called her "Mrs. Clinton," as though they had barely met. Women sense this disdain, and naturally don't like it. He has had a hard time attracting the support of older, working-class white women in most states that Clinton won.

Many of them tell the pollsters they think Obama and the media treated her shabbily.

Obama's favorability rating among white women, according to a Pew Research Center poll, was only 43 percent in May.

Obama's answer to this reality was to announce a familiar-sounding plan supposedly aimed at this recalcitrant voter segment. And he appointed an "outreach" director who used to work for Clinton.

This hapless soul will attempt to do for Obama what President Bush acolyte Karen Hughes tried in the Middle East: Attack a serious issue with hollow slogans.

It didn't work for Bush and it won't for Obama. The president earned his poor reputation abroad through policies that largely stank. No amount of PR massaging could erase the odor.

Initial reports about joining their fund-raising efforts are not encouraging, but it may take a while to know for sure. In the meantime, there are other problems that fester. Clinton's role at the Democratic National Convention, for instance.

Apparently this is being negotiated with all the seriousness of a nuclear treaty. Obama, typically, would like to shunt her aside with an obscure speech slot.

Clinton, no dummy, wants her name to be put in nomination -- her huge delegate count certainly gives her the right. She should indeed record for posterity how many delegates she collected in the closest nomination fight in history. Again, this may be a female issue, but it also is a matter of fairness.

After the recorded vote, she will of course do what she is obligated to do and endorse Obama's election, which she has already done on the campaign trail.

But this is a toughie -- no party has had a roll call with two candidates since the 1976 Republican convention, when President Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan by a mere 57 votes to secure the nomination. But the Obama folks are greedy. Why won't she release her delegates now, they grouse.

Why should she? She's earned them. Clinton delegates could strike a sour note. Obama better get used to sour notes, though, if he's really got the stuff to be president. Last time we checked, this was still a democracy -- messy, loud, and imperfect, but a democracy.

Over all this hangs the question of the vice presidency. The two most prominent and useful alternatives to Hillary conspicuously took themselves out of the running -- Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Virginia Sen. James Webb.

They left no doubt they wanted no part of an Obama presidency. These are wise men, good Democratic politicians interested in the future. It makes one wonder what they found in Obama that deterred them.

Their reasons were feeble, but crystal clear. They didn't want to be tied as second fiddle to the guy. Strickland had helped Clinton carry Ohio, but Webb had been an Obama man.

Anyone else that Obama selects -- particularly a nationally unknown female official -- is going to look like a deliberate slap at Hillary, which makes no political sense if the Democrats really want to recapture the White House. It would be the act of a bully, not a man of presidential caliber.

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