Paul Greenberg

Here's the big problem with Jimmy Carter's having conferred with that terrorist chieftain in Damascus: Just where will the Democrats fit in him at their national convention?

To have him speak would be to risk associating the party with him in the public mind - and wherever Jimmy Carter goes, as with Al Capp's legendary comic-strip jinx, Joe Btfsplk, malaise is sure to follow.

But you can't very well leave a former president out of his party's national convention as if he were Richard Nixon after Watergate.

Yes, it's a problem.

Maybe the Democrats could schedule him for 4 a.m. one day, and make sure no television cameras were present at the time.

Or forget a personal appearance entirely and go video: Just play highlights from the famously successful Carter administration, which shouldn't take very long.

Someone could suggest that late August, which is when the Democrats are to assemble in Denver, would be the perfect time for Mr. Carter to be out of the country. Maybe he could visit his Carter Center's major benefactors in Saudi Arabia. He's said to be very popular there.

Other problems await the Democrats at Denver. With the roaring, whistling, smoking Clinton and Obama specials right on schedule for their high-speed train wreck at the convention - Denver and Bust! - you'd think the party would have enough to worry about. Now it's got to figure out what to do with an ex-president the whole country might love to forget.

The big problem for Barack Obama, the suddenly all too evitable Inevitable Nominee, has become how to get another public figure out of television range. Namely, his former pastor, mentor, spiritual adviser and current Jimmy Carter-sized headache, the contentious Rev. Jeremiah Wright of God-damn-America fame. Or rather notoriety.

Maybe the junior senator from Illinois, formerly the post-racial candidate, could deliver another speech explaining away his connections with this political albatross who's been tied around his neck.

But how many times can Barack Obama give that speech, fine as it was, without becoming a bore - and just calling more attention to his problem du jour?

Sen. Obama could just ignore the feisty preacher, but his old friend isn't easy to ignore. Jeremiah Wright is well on his way to becoming the next Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. He was all over television last weekend, and surely a book deal is in the works by now. Ignore him? It'd be like trying to ignore a steam whistle that goes off every hour on the hour.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.