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Who Will Bell Hillary

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              THE CONSERVATIVE REVIEW   
                   February 26, 2008
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Who Will Bell Hillary?
By Robert D. Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Even before Sen. Barack Obama won his 
ninth-straight contest against Sen. Hillary Clinton in 
Wisconsin last Tuesday, wise old heads in the Democratic 
Party were asking this question: Who will tell her that 
it's over, that she cannot win the presidential nomination 
and the sooner she leaves the race the more it will im-
prove chances of defeating Sen. John McCain in November?

In an ideal though unattainable world, Clinton would have 
dropped out when it became clear even before Wisconsin 
that she could not be nominated. The nightmare scenario 
was that she would win in Wisconsin, claiming a "comeback" 
that would propel her to narrow victories in Texas and 
Ohio March 4. That still would not cut her a path to the 
nomination. Telling her then to end her candidacy and 
avoid a bloody battle stretching to the party's Denver 
national convention might not be achievable. 

The Democratic dilemma recalls the Republican problem, 
in a much different context, 34 years ago, when GOP 
graybeards asked: "Who will bell the cat?" -- go to 
Richard M. Nixon and inform him he had lost his support 
in the party and must resign the presidency. Sen. Barry 
Goldwater successfully performed that mission in 1974, 
but there is no Goldwater facsimile in today's Demo-
cratic Party (except for Sen. Ted Kennedy, who could 
not do it because he has endorsed Obama).
 
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Clinton's rationale for remaining a candidate is the Texas-
Ohio parlay on March 4, with pre-Wisconsin polls giving her 
a comfortable lead in both states. But Texas has become a 
dead heat, and her Ohio margin is down to single digits. 
Gov. Ted Strickland, Clinton's leading endorser in Ohio, 
is reported following the Wisconsin returns to privately 
have expressed concern as to whether he could hold the 
state for her in the ensuing two weeks. If she ekes out 
a win in Ohio while losing Texas, who then will bell 
Hillary?

The inevitability of Clinton becoming the first female 
president was based on her dominance over weak fields in 
both parties. McCain was the one Republican who worried 
Democratic strategists, and he appeared dead three months 
ago. Mitt Romney, the then-likely Republican nominee, 
was viewed in Democratic circles as unelectable.

Obama's improbable candidacy always worried Clinton in-
siders, which explains the whispering campaign that the 
Illinois neophyte would prove vulnerable to Republican 
onslaught as the presidential nominee. That private 
assault continues to this day, with Obama described as 
a latter-day George McGovern whose career record of 
radical positions will prove easy prey for GOP attack 
dogs. 

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But Clinton could not go before Democratic primary voters 
and assail Obama for being too far to the left. Instead, 
she insinuated moral turpitude by asserting that Obama had 
not been "vetted." When that backfired, she claimed plag-
iarism by Obama in lifting a paragraph from a speech by 
his friend and supporter Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick 
-- an approach that yielded mainly derisive laughter among 
politicians.

I listened in on last Wednesday's news media conference 
calls by Clinton campaign managers Mark Penn and Harold 
Ickes in the wake of her Wisconsin drubbing. Incredibly, 
they were hawking the same plagiarism charge that had 
proved ineffective. Clinton herself raised the bogus 
issue again in Thursday night's debate from Austin and 
was rewarded with boos from the Democratic audience. 

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Clinton's burden is not only Obama's charisma but also 
McCain's resurrection. Some of the same Democrats who short 
months ago were heralding her as the "perfect" candidate 
now call her a sure loser against McCain, saying she would 
do the party a favor by just leaving.

Clinton's tipping point may have come when it was announced 
that her $5 million loan to her campaign came from a joint 
fund she shares evenly with Bill Clinton. That puts into 
play for the general election business deals by the former 
president that had transformed him from an indigent to a 
multimillionaire and excite interest in their income tax 
returns, which the Clinton's refuse to reveal. The prospect 
impels many Democratic insiders to pray for clear Obama 
victories on March 4 that they hope will make it unnecess-
ary for anybody to beg Hillary Clinton to end her failed 
campaign. 

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