National Commentary

Helen Thomas: Hillary Should Hang In There

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton should hang in there and run a good race.

And she has vowed to do so.

Clinton has been under unprecedented pressure to bow out of the divisive Democratic primary and to clear the field for her opponent — Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Among those who want her to throw in the towel are, of course, Obama's supporters. But many other Democrats are trying to push her out of the contest on the ground that a contentious race can hurt the party and could help their Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Clinton also has been deserted by some fair-weather friends like New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson, who held two Cabinet appointments during her husband's presidency.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has urged the two contenders to end their competition by July 1. But Clinton says she plans to go all the way to the Democratic National Convention Aug. 25-28.

Campaigning in Indiana last weekend, Clinton said:

"I know there are some people who want to shut this down — and I think they are wrong. I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we resolve Florida and Michigan.

And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention — that's what credentials committees are for."

Her references to Florida and Michigan focus on the mess that the Democrats have made for themselves in those two states where state officials violated the national Democratic Party's timetable and moved their primary elections to January. The party has disqualified the convention delegates elected in those states — a situation that will have to be settled before the August convention.

Clinton said she "is committed to competing everywhere that there is an election."

Although Obama has racked up more delegates, neither candidate has nailed the 2,024 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Obama has captivated the enthusiastic support of America's youth and ignited their interest in presidential politics. His eloquent speeches are designed for the bully pulpit. But does a good speech make a good president?

Obama stresses he was against the invasion of Iraq, but he doesn't say he was not in the Senate when it was initiated. Since become a senator, he has twice voted to fund the war.

I am still trying to find the key that has made Obama a prime candidate for the presidency, and to understand what he has done for the country beyond his middle-of-the-road political moves to make his name known and to steer clear of hot-button issues.

The Rev. Martin Luther King had a dream too. But he acted on it. He went to jail, he marched, he led.

There is no question that the pundits and the news media have been harder on Clinton, perhaps because she has been longer in the public eye and there is more to pick on.

A Feb. 20-24 New York Times-CBS poll found that 48 percent of respondents said the news media were tougher on Clinton compared to 43 percent, who thought the media were tougher on Obama.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that the major newspaper columnists are giving Obama a free ride, while trashing Clinton. Likeability undoubtedly goes a long way with them, and he has mesmerized the media.

Clinton, on the other hand, has left herself open to criticism for dubious involvement in foreign policy decisions in the Clinton years. But one can't deny that she was there and that her opinion was respected.

Obama can be forgiven for acting like a front runner, but not for his patronizing remarks such as: "My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants."

Even Clinton has the audacity of hope — and why not?


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