Tony Blankley

Starting with Obama's big win in South Carolina, followed by the exit polling that suggested Bill Clinton had offended Democrats with his race-baiting, and enhanced by Sen. Ted and Caroline Kennedy's seemingly poignantly symbolic endorsements -- something close to an Obama fever is sweeping over media commentators. Maybe they are right, and Bill and Hillary are about to be discarded (figuratively, not literally) as dispositively as Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were in Romania on Christmas Day 1989 -- a fierce personal rejection of a ruling couple.

The metaphor that is being more bandied about is that this is "The Last Hurrah" for the Clintons. This refers to the eponymous classic Edwin O'Connor novel from 1956 in which a beloved and superb old-time big-city mayor (Frank Skeffington) loses his last race to a faceless cipher because times have changed. In that instance, what had changed was that big-city mayors were being undercut by New Deal national welfare programs in their ability to deliver money, housing, jobs and health care largesse to the voters.

What the Clintons are betting on is that the correct correlation is to Walter Mondale's 1984 nomination fight with Gary Hart, who stylized himself as the fresh face who would appeal to the younger voters and criticized Mondale as old-fashioned and representing failed policies of the past. Mondale relied on his institutional power and the allegation that Hart's "new ideas" were insubstantial. (He famously used the advertisement phrase of the time, "Where's the beef?")

Certainly, Obama is vulnerable to the charge that his "change" theme is insubstantial. His and Hillary's policies seem almost identical. And when he talks about working together with Republicans rather than perpetuating the old partisan divisiveness, Hillary could challenge Obama to explain where he would cave to Republicans to end the divisiveness.

After all, if he is going to approach partisan, divided Washington with sweet words but no policy compromise, he merely will perpetuate the divisiveness. So he will have to compromise. Hillary could ask him in a debate: "Which Republican policies will you cave to? Tax breaks for the rich, more troops to Iraq, support for Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, No Child Left Behind, NAFTA, no national health care? And if you are not going to compromise, then isn't your claim to bring people together as phony as George Bush's claim to be a uniter not a divider? After all, the only people to be brought together in Washington are Republicans and Democrats." It seems to me that Obama's "rising above partisanship" balloon is dangerously vulnerable to being punctured by a few simple, logical questions.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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