Robert Strauss: Where are you when we need you the most?
The one and only Great Robert Strauss, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the 1970s, Clark Clifford in the 1950s and 1960s, emerged as the senior Democratic Party leader and peace maker in the 1980s and 90s, and also, a trusted advisor of both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Now, God bless him, Bob Strauss is in well-deserved semi-retirement and I would guess, respectfully, he is at an age where he wouldn't look forward to mediating as solution to the difficult dilemma faced by the Democratic Party over the Michigan and Florida convention delegates...
My proposed Strauss-like leader of the Democrats who can pull that off: Former Maine Senator and Democratic Majority Leader George Mitchell.
Senator Mitchell, as we all know, was centrally responsible for bringing peace to the warring factions in Northern Island. He was the trusted investigator of steroids in major league baseball. He is also a savvy politician whose years as Majority Leader taught him the wisdom of the need to make a choice between two unhappy alternatives if the absence of any deal is far worse.
The current dilemma involving Florida and Michigan in the Democratic presidential race fits that very dilemma.
On the one hand, the Clinton campaign and many others believe that the Michigan 700,000 Democratic primary voters and the 1.5 million who voted in Florida in January should not be disenfranchised, even if they violated the DNC calendar rules that everyone agreed ahead-of-time should be enforced.
On the other hand, the Obama campaign and many others believe that rules should be followed before the game is played, and not changed in the middle of the game, much less those who violated them rewarded. They favor a 50-50 split seating all the delegates – but Clinton campaign supporters and most Florida and Michigan Democrats would still see this as disenfranchising voters.
One thing everyone agrees on: Democrats cannot afford to alienate Florida and Michigan voters and possibly lose the White House in 2008 as a result.
So what to do? Enters Senator George Mitchell.
He is neutral in the Clinton-Obama race. He is highly respected. He is senior (though he has young children and shows no sign of losing any energy and vitality). And most of all, as just noted, he understands politics and the need for a better alternative among two even worse alternatives.
There is some re-vote solution out there that constitutes that alternative. A mail-in ballot, a "firehouse" primary (where voters go to various firehouses or public libraries to vote, rather than a voting machine in every precinct), or some combination. Yes, the verification process for mail ballots will be a challenge – though not too much different than handling millions of absentee ballots as has been the case in Florida and Michigan for years. Yes, the "fire houses" or libraries, etc., must be numerous and located strategically to make it relatively easy for those who did not receive a mailed ballot to vote. Provisions for transportation of voters who need it to get to the fire houses would not be all that complicated to work out.
Yes, it could cost $10-$20 million or more for the Michigan and Florida state Democratic parties to pay for all this – since taxpayers could not be expected to foot the bill.
But if George Mitchell could get Northern Ireland protestants and Catholics to make peace and craft a complicated solution for coalition governing, he should be able to get the Obama and Clinton campaigns to solve all of the above problems, especially raising the money. If both campaigns posted a special solicitation on their websites to all their donors, most of that money could be raised from small donations in days if not a couple of weeks.
So to Senator Obama and Senator Clinton: How about making a joint call to Senator Mitchell and invite him to "bring us together" and remind him: "Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall inherit the earth."
– Lanny J. Davis, former Clinton Lawyer
Editor's Note: Lanny J. Davis, a Washington attorney, is a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and has many friends and family members who support Senator Barack Obama.
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