Do or Die All Over Again

Behind The News
April 21, 2008 6:07:59 PM PDT
I'm trying to figure out how many "do or die" primaries there have been, because to listen to the cable news folks, tomorrow's Pennsylvania primary is yet another do-or-die election for Hillary Clinton. I know part of it is to sell the drama, but c'mon, she's a senator not a cat. I mean how many lives can she have?

Even if she ran the table of the remaining primaries, experts say Clinton can't win the nomination, based on delegate counts. But if she should lose the Pennsylvania primary, she could lose the nomination.

If we believe the polls, Senator Clinton is ahead in Pennsylvania by 6 or 7 points. Which means that, because the Democrats do not have a winner-take-all system in their primaries like the Republicans do (that's why John McCain has had the Republican nomination wrapped up for two months), Clinton and Barack Obama will split the Pennsylvania delegates like they have in the previous primaries -- according to the percentage of the votes they garner.

So for Clinton, winning by a few points Tuesday could give her some bragging rights, as the Democrats slowly, oh-so-very-slowly crawl to their August nominating convention in Denver.

The Clinton-Obama battle has become so nasty, so personal, that the thought of a so-called dream ticket of the two finalists joining forces in the general election seems now a pipe dream.

The last primary was 6 weeks ago, and so all eyes, and all money, is on Pennsylvania. When it's over, Obama will have spent more than $9 million on TV ads, and Clinton will have spent nearly $4 million in the past six weeks. Combined with the other costs of campaigning -- direct mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts -- the total cost of the Pennsylvania primary for these two fighting Dems will reach $20 million.

Is this any way to select a President? Many are asking that question tonight, and the campaign that just two months ago seemed to invigorate the nation, now seems a bit like a house guest who's stayed a tad too long.

Our political reporter Dave Evans is in Pennsylvania for the primary, and he'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

The war in Iraq remains, next to the economy, the big issue in the election. The war itself is the controversy, but the stretching thin of the military is also a topic under the microscope.

And today Congress added fuel to the debate, when it released disturbing new information about the increase in convicted felons who have been admitted to the Army. It jumped -- and more than doubled -- from 249 in 2006 to 511 last year. To be sure, there are no known murderers who've been admitted.

Most of the crimes involved burglaries and drug offenses. But there were several dozen Army and Marine recruits convicted of aggravated assault or robbery, some of them involving weapons. And there were nine sex crime felons, and six of the recruits were convicted of manslaughter or vehicular homicide.

The military will argue that desperate times call for desperate measures, but it can't be a comforting thought to a soldier fighting overseas that the person next to you might be a convicted felon.

And speaking of overseas, we're following developments in the Middle East, where former President Jimmy Carter is getting praise and criticism tonight over his talks in Syria with Hamas.

Mr. Carter now says that Hamas is prepared to accept Israel to "live as a neighbor next door in peace," and is open to peace talks.

The White House, which asked Carter not to meet with Hamas, says it's open to listening to his summary of the meeting and his suggestions. But Israel says Carter has emboldened Hamas and Palestinian extremists, and done harm to moderates in the area who would like to make peace with Israel.

It is a complicated situation, as always. But in this season of the Jewish Passover holiday, which celebrates the Jews' exodus from the oppression of the Pharaoh in Egypt, there are many who believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that the Palestinian plight, the extremists aside, is not that different from the plight of the Biblical Jewish people.

Getting peace is the goal. Tonight, Mr. Carter is trying his approach. We'll have the latest, and reaction, at 11.

Before I sign off, a couple final words about the Pope's visit to New York -- a dramatic tour that included the first-ever head-on high-ranking Vatican public discussion of the priest sex abuse scandal, the first papal visit to a synagogue in the U.S., the pope's visit to Ground Zero, and a remarkable Mass for 57,000 at Yankee Stadium, which turned the historic and doomed ballpark into an outdoor cathedral.

All that we know. I thought I'd share a couple of things you don't know.

Security, as we've talked about all week, was amazingly intense. I've not seen anything like it for any other public event I've covered.

For example, for the Mass yesterday, those of us who were broadcasting reported to a big hotel in Midtown Manhattan at 4 a.m., where we underwent a 2-hour security check by the Secret Service. Completely understandable, and, despite some not-surprising grousing by some crusty reporters, folks knew and appreciated the need for security.

Which is why so many of us were surprised that when the Secret Service let us out of the hotel to get to the buses that would take us to Yankees Stadium at 6 a.m. (for a Mass that began at 2:30 p.m.), we were shocked to find ourselves outside on a Midtown street, alone, to walk nearly a couple of hundred feet to the corner to where the bus was waiting. To walk unescorted -- after our bags were hand-searched and after we went through metal detectors.

A severe breach of security, and it was, others told me, repeated several times throughout the morning until the 1,000 or so journalists who were being screened by the Secret Service made their way to the Stadium.

The other item that surprised me was how quickly Catholic officials reacted to our suggestion on-air that our expert analyst for the Mass, Father James Martin, might not take communion during the Mass because he would be explaining what was happening on TV. Apparently, someone from the Archdiocese heard my comment, because, a few minutes after I said it on the air, a Church representative showed up and said that a Priest would be coming by to administer communion to Father Jim.

They were watching our coverage.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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