Time for the Clintons to Grow Up

By: PAUL SCHINDLER | Maybe the solution is to get 18 million tickets for a production of Shakespeare in the Park. After all, at a gathering of her supporters in California earlier this month, Senator Hillary Clinton, who probably knows her way to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, said, “Look, what we want to have happen is for Senator Obama to be nominated by a unified convention of Democrats, and as I have said, the best way I think – and I could be wrong – but the best way I think to do that is to have a strategy so that my delegates feel like they've had a role and that their legitimacy has been validated and that kind of – you know, it's as old as, you know, as Greek drama – you know, there is a catharsis. I mean everybody comes and, you know, they wanna yell and scream and have their opportunity, and I think that's all to the good, because then, you know, everybody can go, 'OK great. Now lets go out and win!'”

Isn't that the Clinton way? Create a lot of drama on the road to the White House.

And how do we know that Clinton uttered these words?

They were posted on YouTube by PUMA/ Just Say No Deal, the Clinton die-hard faction whose very name is all about division, not pulling together: Party Unity My Ass. That patronage probably tells us that we really won't need to stress out the Public Theater by asking for 18 million tickets. A few thousand may do the trick.

I say that because there is no clear indication that Americans at large, or Democrats for that matter, are yearning for that catharsis. Obama is up by six points nationally in the latest Gallup tracking poll. Realclearpolitics.com, one of the best aggregators of polling data around, shows the Democrat favored in states accounting for 238 electoral votes, versus McCain's 163. If all the toss-ups are assigned as they are currently leaning, Obama has a clean Electoral College win of 304 to 234.

The story is similar when you examine the pivotal swing states. Obama is comfortably ahead in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and holds leads as well in Michigan and Colorado (long a Republican shoo-in), and is about even in Ohio, which went for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Even in Virginia, the Democrat is within a point and a half, about McCain's margin of advantage in Florida as well. Among leading swing states, only in Missouri, another Red State in 2000 and 2004, is Obama trailing by more than two points – 2.3 to be precise.

The long-running Clinton narrative was that Obama is weak among women and among independents, but polling is not bearing out either of those suppositions. Among women voters generally, the presumptive Democratic nominee holds a 52-36 percent edge over his GOP rival. That 16-point margin is up from nine points the second week of June, immediately following Clinton's exit from the race.

In 2004, Democrat John Kerry lost white women voters as a group 51-42. Obama is dead even with McCain among that demographic.

And he holds a two-point edge over McCain among independents.

Clearly, Hillary Clinton's warning, voiced repeatedly to superdelegates this past spring – “He can't be elected!” – is not supported by any current readings of the electorate's leanings.

Yet, there remains a troubling but unmistakable pattern of sabotage going on among leading figures in Camp Clinton.

Bill Clinton, asked by ABC News while on a trip to Rwanda, whether Obama was prepared to be president, replied, in that too clever by half tone he adopts at his most disingenuous, “You can argue that nobody is ready to be president.”

You can argue that. But would you if you were committed to electing your party's candidate president?

The former president's unhelpful answer came during the same interview in which he felt compelled to insist, “I am not a racist,” apparently having learned nothing from Richard Nixon's tirade, “I'm not a crook.”

Now let's to turn to Mark Penn, the most unpleasant Democratic consultant since Dick Morris abandoned the Clintons to belly up to the troughs of right-wing publishers and broadcasters willing to pay him handsomely to write and say nasty things about the former first couple. The Atlantic Monthly's new backstory account of the Clinton campaign offers this gem culled from a memo written by Penn, who served Hillary as chief strategist: “[Obama's] roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”

Of course the statement is shocking, but it's also telling – in offering a window into just how far gone at least some of the New York senator's team were in their vitriol aimed at Obama.

Howard Wolfson used to be among the Clintonites who hadn't jumped the shark, who urged a high-road, positive, issues-oriented approach on his boss. In fact, everything about his career in New York politics up until this year suggested that Wolfson was a smart, thoughtful guy who kept his eye on the prize – putting progressive Democrats into office.

Now, mind you, since the end of the Clinton campaign, Wolfson has signed on as a Fox News contributor, never a good sign for a Democrat who's still up to the job (see Alan Colmes).

And then, along came the John Edwards scandal. In a weekend full of idiotic observations about the matter, Wolfson trumped them all. Complaining that Edwards should have come clean before his 2008 presidential run and that the Clinton campaign had the dirt on him but held back from using it, Wolfson said that had Edwards been taken out before the New Year, “I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee.”

Now that's truly tragic – on the scale of, say, Greek drama.

And that takes us back to Senator Clinton herself. Even as she goes on the road for Obama, she and her team dangle the prospect of disrupting the Denver proceedings. Having reported from President Clinton's reelection convention in Chicago in 1996, I learned what a tight ship a convention can be. Bill would have never brooked the sort of nonsense – having a roll-call vote with the nomination fight already over – that he and his wife are still hinting at.

But don't take it from me. Let's hear from the chairman of the New York State delegation to the Denver convention, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Asked this week by Gay City News whether there ought to be a roll-call vote in Denver, Silver replied, “I don't think so. I don't think it will happen ultimately. I don't think it serves any purpose.”

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