Hillary and Bill have hijacked the Denver convention, making it into a carbon copy of what it would have looked like had she won until the last possible moment. By the time Obama gets up to speak and put his stamp on the convention, Hillary will have had one prime time night all to herself. Bill will have pre-empted a second night. Hillary will have had all the nominating and seconding speeches she wants. And the roll call of the states would record, in graphic detail, how the voters of state after state rejected Obama’s candidacy in the primaries. Only then, after three and a half days of all Clinton all the time will the convention then, finally, turn to its nominee and allow him to have an hour in the sun!
And what leverage did the Clintons have to achieve all of this? None. Hillary could not have taken the convention by storm and any show of party disunity would marginalize her forever in the Democratic Party. Had she or her supporters tried to pull off distracting demonstrations or to recreate Lafayette Park in Chicago in 1968, she would have paid a permanent price among the party faithful for sabotaging Obama’s candidacy.
This Clintonian tour de force raises a key question about Barack Obama: Is he strong enough to be president or can he be pushed around? His failure to stand up to the Clintons makes one wonder how effective he will be against bin Laden, Iran, Chavez, or Putin.
And now word emerges from the Obama camp that Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is on the short list for vice president. To select Bayh would bring Obama’s nemesis, Mark Penn, in through the campaign’s back door. Penn and Bayh are an item. Mark’s second (and current) wife, Nancy Jacobson was the key fund raiser for the Senator during his Senate campaigns. Penn has always been Bayh’s consultant and chief advisor. Penn played the key role in 1996 in getting Bayh a slot as the convention keynote speaker. Bayh has always marched to Mark Penn’s tune.
This, of course, the same Mark Penn who structured the vilification of Barack Obama as a marginal American and orchestrated the campaign to summon the white working class in opposition to his candidacy.
How much will Obama take?
His weakness if the face of the Clinton demands coupled with his refusal to debate McCain in the town forum meetings raise the question of whether he is tough when the teleprompter is turned off. Why is he afraid or unwilling to do tough interviews? It is not enough for him to say that he is the front runner and ask why he should risk such confrontations. In case he hasn’t noticed, he’s not the front runner. The tracking polls all suggest a tied race where taking certain risks would be reasonable, unless his handlers worry about his vulnerability in difficult or extemporaneous situations.
Is an unscripted Obama a pushover? Will foreign leaders conclude that he is not up to the job, just as Khrushchev did with JFK at his 1961 Vienna summit that presaged the Cuban Missile crisis? If he does so poorly in negotiating with the Clintons, how will he do with the Russians?