Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Democrats Make Nice; Republicans Board Titanic

Everyone was so nice to each other at last night's Las Vegas Democratic candidates debate that it was evident racial jibes and incomplete appreciation of Sen. Hillary Clinton's likability have receded into the past, and the party can now go forth into the sunlit halls of harmony.

Far from merely finding Hillary "likable enough," as he foolishly did in the New Hampshire debate a week before, Sen. Barack Obama cast such a lustful look her way that, after the debate, Michelle Obama may have hit him over the head with her purse.

And why not? With the economy on the skids, Citibank going to Kuwait for a financial infusion to replace its subprime losses, Dow Jones down another 277 points for the day, new forboding reports of Islamic attacks from Thailand to Mauritania, and word that the U.S. is sending 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan, it's beginning to look, if it wasn't before, that there will be a Democratic landslide this November, even if it is a precedent-breaking Clinton-Obama ticket.

The only small spot on the Democratic horizon was the discovery that in last night's Michigan Democratic primary, only 22% of the black vote went for Clinton, while 73% went uncommitted. Obama was not on the ballot. But, presumably, the sharp unfriendlness in the black vote toward Hillary may have had something to do with the Clintons' suddenly remembering that same night that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had something to do with civil rights gains after all.

Now, Clinton and Obama can go merrily arm-in-arm to the barrios of East L.A. before the California primary, consuming tacos all the way. And moderator Bryan Williams can go with them. (He said at one point during last night's lovefest that he was in Los Angeles, when, in fact, he was in Las Vegas).

It will not even be much of a fight for the Democratic nomination, analyst Dick Morris wrote yesterday, unless former Sen. John Edwards does so badly in next week's South Carolina Democratic primary that he decides to quit the race and toss his support to Obama before the Feb . 5 superprimary day in 23 states.

On the Republican side, watching the frantic scramble for the GOP nomination -- three separate candidates, Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mike Huckabee, winning the first three serious contests, in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan -- reminds me of the scene of the two young men scrambling to catch the Titantic after winning tickets in a poker game for its maiden voyage. When they finally manage to run up the gangplank and board the ship, they congratulate themselves on what luck they've had.

Tne night the ship struck an iceburg a few days later, one of the "lucky" young men was crushed to death by a falling smokestack and the other drowned in the icy seas.

Figurately, this is apt to happen to the lucky cuss who wins the GOP nomination. The only prospective Republican candidate who wins many independent votes and creeps close to the Democrats in the matchups is McCain, who won very few votes from Republicans in last night's Michigan vote count.

Meanwhile, at the Democratic debate, the only vigorous exchange came over how fast we could withdraw our troops from Iraq. At a Democratic debate in New Hampshire a few months ago, all three leading Democratic candcidates, Clinton, Obama and Edwards, indicated they would still have some American troops in Iraq at the end of their first terms. No more. Now most all of them will be out within a year, they said Tuesday night, with the exception of perhaps 5,000 to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a few trainers and a reserve force in Kuwait to go after any Al Qaeda terrorists who may show up.

But when oil zooms to $300 a barrel, and Iran launches a missile attack against Israel, the new Democratic president may not look quite so good. All that's in the future though. No worry in 2008.

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In one of the first big changes announced under new owner Sam Zell, the Chicago Tribune said that beginning Jan. 22, help wanted ads will be terminated in the print Classified sections on weekdays, with references only in the Tuesday Business section to online listings, and will run in full in the print edition only on Sundays. Business sections will go up by three or four pages on Tuesday. No word on whether this innovation will be coming to the L.A. Times.

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The San Diego Union Tribune laid off 27 more employees, including five newsroom staffers, Tuesday afternoon, on top of 76 buyouts accepted since late December.

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