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Obamites Pile on Clinton at Own Peril

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Many in the Obama camp, having outfoxed the apparently not-so-formidable Clinton machine, can't seem to get the hang of winning gracefully. They feel a need to drive a stake in Hillary Clinton's reputation, then dance. If they were smart, they'd heap praise on Clinton and let her finish out the race, however she chooses to do so.

That's sage advice, even though offered by Republican mastermind-turned-pundit Karl Rove. Treat Clinton shabbily, he says, and many of her supporters "will remember it by November."

Nonetheless, Obamites are throwing victory parties over the impending defeat of a fellow Democrat who has thus far pulled in over 47 percent of their party's primary and caucus participants. Some take a more direct approach. In anticipation of the West Virginia primary, college students for Obama were hurling insults at farmers and truck drivers holding signs for Clinton.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, unable to contain himself, administered one last kick to Clinton's dignity by opining that the New York senator lacks the "real leadership" needed for the job of vice president. He said that Obama should pick someone who is "in tune with his appeal for the nobler aspirations of the American people."

So much for the nobility of aspirations held by his own state's Democratic primary voters, who preferred Clinton over Obama by 15 percentage points. Next door in Rhode Island, Rep. Patrick Kennedy dittoes Dad as an unwavering super-delegate for Obama -- this despite Clinton's 18-point win in that state's primary. It's as if the voters are invisible.

Disrespecting the nearly 17 million who have supported Clinton is politically unwise, but turning them into "the enemy" is insane. Last week's enemy was working-class white people. The Democrats can win without a majority of white voters -- as Obama strategists undiplomatically note -- but they can't win without a strong showing among them.

So Obama partisans do not help their cause by willfully misrepresenting Clinton's reference to "hard-working Americans, white Americans" as racist rather than as a poorly worded observation made in a state of utter exhaustion. The fervor of their outrage suggests that some regard the mere consideration of white people, particularly white men, as a demographic needing a special message is an act of bigotry. (That's as opposed to a thousand other racial and socio-economic groups that politicos routinely slice and dice.)

We now hear pained remarks from the Obama camp that many white men won't vote for any black. Oh really? No one was complaining during the early races in Iowa, Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin, when most of the white male participants backed Obama. That was before the Rev. Jeremiah Wright ugliness became public.

Weirdly, Obamite triumphalism seems to be merging with the festivities on the Republican side. You can understand why the right would welcome what it prays is "the end of the Clinton era." Bill Clinton presided over the longest peacetime expansion since World War II. His budget surpluses put his so-called conservative predecessors and successor to shame. Wouldn't a vow to build on the Clinton legacy, rather than dismantle it, be a better tack for the Obama campaign?

By the way, Clinton's continued sparring with Obama does not hurt the Illinois senator's chances in November. It only crowds out Republican efforts along that line. Believe me, you'd rather have the Clinton version.

Obama can't beat John McCain without large chunks of Clinton's core constituency: women, Hispanics and the white working class. Dumping on their candidate is one step removed from dumping on them -- and some of the Obama people don't even bother with that step. Rove must be enjoying the show.

COPYRIGHT 2008 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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