Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Will The Democrat Rules Committee Issue A Pardon?

Updates (5), all below:

Increasingly, the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee seem to be really feeling the heat. They will be meeting this Saturday to decide the "fate" of the Florida and Michigan delegations to the Democrat Convention in Denver.

The 38-page "legal opinion" by Committee lawyers, cited in this AP article by Nedra Pinkler, says that all they can do is seat half of the delegations from Michigan and Florida. That won't likely sell. From the article:
A Democratic Party rules committee has the authority to seat some delegates from Michigan and Florida but not fully restore the two states as Hillary Rodham Clinton wants, according to party lawyers.

Democratic National Committee rules require that the two states lose at least half of their convention delegates for holding elections too early, the party's legal experts wrote in a 38-page memo.

The memo was sent late Tuesday to the 30 members of the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which plans to meet Saturday at a Washington hotel. The committee is considering ways to include the two important general election battlegrounds at the nominating convention in August, and the staff analysis says seating half the delegates is "as far as it legally can" go.

But is there a rule, or some sort of a precedent whereby they have "pardon" authority? Or, will this contentious continue to be a huge thorn in the side of the Democrat Party as they show up for their convention in Denver -- a matter that would then have to be directly addressed in a floor fight?

And, what if that floor vote is close, giving Hillary a basis for claiming that it would have been resolved in her favor, if the entire delegations had been seated?

Maybe it would not be quite as bad if this did not involve Florida!

Florida, for crying out loud! Of all places for Democrats to be charged with nullifying election results!

Think about what kinds of comments, and signs and very active street theater will become very public this coming Saturday (a veritable YouTube bonanza, one would think). And you have to believe that it will all, thereafter, be laid directly at the doorstep of Barack Obama, no?

Saturday's meeting is expected to draw a large crowd, with Clinton supporters among those encouraging a protest outside demanding that all the states' delegates be seated. Proponents of full reseating have mailed committee members Florida oranges and pairs of shoes to get their attention.

DNC officials are concerned about a potentially large turnout at the "Count Every Vote" rally outside the event and have asked the hotel staff to increase security to keep everyone safe. The DNC says the roughly 500 seats available to the public inside were taken within three or four minutes of becoming available online Tuesday.

This year seems a little like 1968, but potentially could become worse in terms of public relations. Shrill charges of racism and sexism already fill the airwaves, and could be accentuated as the public pays more attention at the time of the convention.

Almost none of the street protesters in Chicago back in 1968 were actual insiders, or party activists. (I couldn't find what was to me at the time the most graphic image of the street protests -- that of the Chicago Police shoving a crowd up against a plate glass window of the Hilton Hotel, causing the glass to shatter with the shards of glass falling down directly into the crowd.)

But spurned delegations this year could easily organize, and focus their case in a very public way.
Susie Buell, one of Clinton's top fundraisers, has formed a political action committee encouraging women to support full seating of the delegates. The WomenCountPAC has taken out ads in USA Today and The New York Times promoting attendance at the rally.
In 1968, there were a few credentials confrontations inside the hall, including an incident with Dan Rather being shoved around in the hall.

By the way, you can bet the farm that there will be outside agitators present at both conventions this year as well!

Secondly, think about some of the graphic the images of that 1968 convention, and the even greater impact that the constant replaying of YouTube clips might have had then?

Makes you wonder . . . what were the Democrat Party officials thinking when they decided -- upon penalty of complete exclusion of a delegation from the national convention -- that state parties are prohibited, before a certain date, from deciding when they may hold their own primaries?

Update: Yesterday, Roger Simon recognized the extraordinary importance of the topic -- and of the meeting in his, "Democrats Seek To Avoid Meltdown" posted on Politico. Here are the seemingly intractable issues he saw that the members of the Rules & Bylaws Committee were trying to resolve:
But finding a solution will not be easy, and one reason is that there are so many competing agendas.

First, both Michigan and Florida have mounted furious public campaigns to get their punishment lifted, saying the party really has no choice if the Democratic nominee wants to win those states in November.

Second, there is the Clinton campaign, which sees the rules committee meeting as its last, best hope to gain significant ground on Obama.

Third, there is the Obama campaign, which does not want to see the gains it has made in primaries and caucuses overturned by a committee vote.

Then, and most overlooked, is the agenda of the committee itself. It is a rules committee, its members believe in rules and that rules must be enforced, even as political realities are addressed.

There is a further complication: Not only does the rules committee have to decide what percentage of the Florida and Michigan delegations to seat (the options run from zero to 100 percent) but what percentage Clinton gets and what percentage Obama gets. Clinton “won” both states, but the contests were controversial: She was the only major candidate on the ballot in Michigan, and everybody agreed not to campaign in Florida.

Stay tuned!

Update II: The Washington Times reports today in "'Chaos' threatens DNC delegate solution" that the Obama campaign is now openly accusing the Clinton Campaign of trying to create a chaotic atmosphere over Saturday's Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington, with Obama campaign manager, David Plouffe calling it an attempt by the Clinton forces to "create chaos."

Supporter and former Bill Clinton activist, David Wilhelm, said the risk was the creation of a "circus" atmosphere.

In what appeared to be a veiled threat, Plouffe also suggested that the Obama campaign could quickly retaliate by generating "tens of thousands" of counter-demonstrators. That sounds like an unhelpful bluff if, as they say, the avoidance of a circus atmosphere is their goal. But, maybe down deep that is what they all want -- a way to let off steam at one another.

Is that the "Entrance of the Gladiators!" we can hear? Or, for those who might prefer a French version of some clown music.

From the Washington Times story:
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said his boss is being charitable by compromising for some seating of the Michigan and Florida delegations even though those states broke party rules by holding their primaries too early.

"We don't think it's a helpful dynamic to create chaos," Mr. Plouffe told reporters in advance of Saturday's daylong hearing to resolve the disputed contests.

He characterized the planned protests as "a scene" and "a spectacle" while Obama supporter David Wilhelm, who ran Bill Clinton's campaign in 1992, said the protesters risk turning "this thing into a circus."

Mr. Plouffe argued that the campaign has considerable support in the Mid-Atlantic region - Mr. Obama swept the Feb. 12 primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia - and said with the simple "click of a mouse" the campaign could generate "tens of thousands of people" to rally for the Obama cause.

Perhaps in a show of unity they could get together afterward and sing us the refrain from the old circus song!

We are Clowns Now

We are all clowns today
We are all clowns today
Hey Ho the derry O!
We are all clowns today

Update 3: Now, who would have guessed, at least according to Sam Stein at the Huffington Post, that Lanny Davis would volunteer to take the lead . . . and lose his cool?

UPDATE 4: More here from Dan Balz at the WaPo. The Clinton campaign was incensed by the way the Committee determined the Michigan delegate votes were to be split, with Hillary getting 34.5 and Obama getting 29.5.
"This motion will hijack -- hijack -- remove four delegates won by Hillary Clinton," said Harold Ickes, who oversees delegate operations for the Clinton campaign and is also a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee. "This body of 30 individuals has decided that they're going to substitute their judgment for 600,000 voters."

Arguing that the Michigan compromise "is not a good way to start down the path of party unity," Ickes warned that Clinton had authorized him to note that she will "reserve her rights to take it to the credentials committee" later. Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson later affirmed that Clinton will reserve her right to challenge the outcome.
The New York Times, per Katharine Q. Seeyle and Jeff Zeleny, reports today that the net gain in committed convention delegates for Clinton was 24, leaving the difference between the two at "about 176 delegates." The story details much of the divisive back and forth among attendees in responding to committee actions or proposals. The following occurred when an Obama member proposed splitting the Michigan delegates evenly between the two:

At that point, Tina Flournoy, a Clinton adviser and member of the rules committee, said Mr. Obama’s proposal essentially called for overriding the will of the voters.

"What is being proposed here is that you go into a voting booth and at some point later down the road, someone decides that your vote is for someone else," she said. "If we’re going to do that, let’s cancel 2012, and let’s divide all the delegates in all the states."

Party unity? Read the whole account.

Update 5: John Hinderaker at Powerline posted a piece on the demonstrations late yesteday entitled, "Recreate '68" noting the potential for similarities. In particular, watch the embeded video which gives a good taste of the strong feelings of many of Hillary Clinton's supporters demonstrating outside the Rules Committee hearing. You can also find the clip here on YouTube. Note who this woman from California says she'll vote for if Hillary is not the nominee. (Hint: It's not Obama.) Those strong feelings can only have been amplified by her victory in Puerto Rico, announced earlier this afternoon.

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