The Hillary Clinton campaign was nicely laid out in the parlor only days ago. But somebody forgot to drive the stake through the corpse's kind and gentle heart.
The big poohbahs of the Democratic Party were so sure that Hillary had succumbed in the dust of Barack Obama's that after Texas and Ohio the only task left would be the delegation of one of their rank to go to Hillary (and Bill) and tell them it was time for the undertaker to close the coffin lid and the preacher to read Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar."
Someone suggested that Al Gore was the man for the job, but he didn't want it. If he went on such a fool's errand, to tell Hillary to give up the ghost, he knew he would soon be delivering lectures on global warming in high soprano.
Now we're not quite back to where we were, but close. Maybe now we can expect better entertainment. Tom Hanks, the Hollywood movie star, says he's ready for the campaign to be over because he's bored. He probably speaks for the masses. The good news is that short attention spans are about to be rewarded. A survey by the Associated Press, out late yesterday, finds that neither Hillary nor Obama is likely to get the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, and if the superdelegates remain deeply divided, the Democratic National Convention, opening Aug. 25, will be the best show in Denver since the Unsinkable Molly Brown played to SRO.
This frightens the party pols, who thought they had prevented everything bad, with superdelegates standing by only to adjust an unfortunate decision by ordinary people. Modern conventions are meant to be coronations, deprived of controversy and suspense, which explains why the television ratings sag lower with each election year. The pols are afraid that a real contest would further divide their constituents, forgetting that Democrats have always taken brass knucks to unity meetings. The best cure for disappointment, frustration or blighted hope is a bracing saloon brawl. Hand-to-hand combat always results only in more combatants. (You should ask your daddy why.)
It's a puzzle why a media that can't get enough fire and wholesale death on the television screen should demand such mild entertainment on the hustings. Maybe the assignment editors should bring in their political reporters for counseling and therapy and send out the TV critics, accustomed to rowdy mayhem, in their place.
The mildest questions posed by Hillary and Barack Obama to each other are cited as insult worthy of satisfaction that can be obtained only by pistols at dawn, except that no Democrat can admit knowing which end of a pistol is the business end. Howard Wolfson, invariably described as Hillary's attack dog, fiercely decried the dents in Hillary's honor yesterday, attacking Sen. Obama for attacking Hillary. He invoked the name of the dreaded Ken Starr to show how serious he is.
"When Sen. Obama was confronted with questions over whether he was ready to be commander in chief and steward of the economy he chose not to address those questions, but to attack Sen. Clinton," he said. "I for one do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president." Has crying out "George W. Bush" in a loud, angry voice lost its power to set Democratic passions aflame?
The party rules, written to assure the nomination of Hillary Clinton no later than Super Tuesday on March 4, created the unelected superdelegates to top up the count if Hillary needed a few more to clinch the nomination. But the authors of those rules did not foresee Barack Obama, nor the delicious dilemma posed by renegade primaries in Florida and Michigan. The contest, with the man from Illinois still the favorite, comes down to who has "the big 'mo." Maybe it's still Barack Obama, but the corpse in Hillary's parlor is nevertheless up and walking around.