A Delicate Task

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Hillary Clinton’s delicate task is winning the Democratic presidential nomination without alienating the supporters of Barack Obama. It won’t be easy.

Her best hope is that the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, and the Republican dirt machine will start attacking Obama. They would be stupid to do that as long as the Democrats are battling, but it was not without reason that a conservative guru, the late Sam Francis, labeled the Republicans the Stupid Party.

While Clinton’s supporters seem to be, on the whole, the hardheaded crowd who calculate she has a better chance of winning the general election, Obama’s supporters tend to be young, idealistic and oozing with hope. For the first time, some African-Americans can visualize a fellow black actually occupying the White House. It is an intoxicating dream.

Any hint that the Clintons are playing dirty or that the Democratic bigwigs are conspiring to "steal" the nomination from Obama will turn hope to bitterness and dreams to rage. At the very best, in such an event, American blacks may choose to sit out the 2008 election as a way to punish the party’s big shots. At the worst, the Denver convention could get very ugly. Republicans, of course, will stand and cheer.

The Democratic Party has itself to blame. It disenfranchised the Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan. It has this cockamamie system of unelected special delegates, enough that they could throw a close race either way. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, was hoping for a landslide win for one of the candidates, but instead they have run heel to heel and stayed within touching distance of each other. Now Dean and the party have to find a way to re-enfranchise the Democratic delegates in Florida and Michigan without seeming to hand them over to Hillary.

The best outcome for the Democrats would be a win streak by Hillary so that she gets enough delegates to win fair and square. Otherwise, in the backroom dealing that will surely go on, she may have to offer Obama the vice president’s spot. For most Democrats, that would be considered a dream ticket.

In the Republican ranks, the only suspense left is McCain’s choice of a running mate. Since he’s 71, it had better be someone young. With a Republican president almost as unpopular as Herbert Hoover, and with so many Republicans scarred by scandals and indictments, McCain must choose carefully. Whether he will remains to be seen.

We should not forget the other races on the ballot. A president who expects to get anything done will need a majority in the House and Senate. The Democrats won a numerical majority in 2006, but they didn’t exactly endear themselves to the voters. It will be interesting to see how the wind blows. The conventional wisdom is a Democratic sweep, but conventional wisdom sometimes doesn’t pan out.

In the meantime, outside in the real world, problems pile up like a storm surge. The apparent relative calm in Iraq is misleading. None of the underlying problems has been solved. The recent visit of Iran’s president simply shows that President Bush has made Iraq an ally of a nation he considers an enemy. Corruption is rife, and political violence still takes a toll, though at present it is mostly Iraqis who are being killed.

The American economy seems to be going worse than the war. Many Americans, like me, are not too happy watching our retirement savings evaporate as the speculators play their games on Wall Street. I’m trying to find something positive, but other than the weather — which, at least where I am, is looking like spring — the landscape seems barren of any positive signs.

Nor does the prospect of the nation being led by McCain, Clinton or Obama cheer me up. The best I can hope for in the presidency is a surprise that one of them will turn out to be wiser and more competent that I imagined.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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