DENVER Not with a bang but a whimper, the Clinton era ended. An angry and frustrated Bill Clinton could only watch as Hillary's pitifully shrunken delegate numbers were posted on the counting board. It was enough to make a devoted husband wish his wife had clung to her own name.
With the vote, the last vestige of the "old" Democratic Party was swept away. No more "the middle way," no more of the relative moderation of the Clinton years. The sea of black, female, gay (but not necessarily cheerful) and radical faces at this convention testify to the celebration of the spirit of the '60s, the most squalid decade of a grim and contentious century.
Tonight it's the Anointed One taking center stage, the stage moved to the Denver Broncos football stadium so he can make the speech of his life against the backdrop of a facade of plaster columns worthy of the righteous wrath of Samson. They're calling this one the Temple of Obama. But facades are fragile. We know what happened to Samson.
The Obama camp, if not the senator himself, is nevertheless growing increasingly nervous that they haven't put up enough mirrors or conjured enough smoke. He ought to be already getting his poll bounce, padding what he expected to be a comfortable lead. But neither the emotional accolades of Teddy Kennedy nor the oaths of loyalty from Hillary, manufactured overnight of high-impact plastic, have moved the needle.
On the eve of what should be the biggest night of the nominee's career, the campaign dispatched its legion of lawyers to attempt to suppress the First Amendment in pursuit of squelching a television commercial asking inconvenient questions about Mr. Obama's friendship and association with two violent and unrepentant '60s radicals.
The campaign commercial, not authorized by the McCain campaign, makes no wild accusations, raises no questions about anybody's patriotism, but asks pointed questions about a man's judgment in choosing his friends.
The Ayres connection, and what can be made of it, frightens the Obama campaign. There's no question that the senator has been pals with William Ayres and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, and what we know about that friendship is damaging enough. Mr. Obama launched his political career at a fundraiser in the home of William Ayres; Bernadine Dohrn was the evening's hostess. The two men served together on a foundation that dispensed money to left-wing causes and institutions in Chicago, including the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church. The two of them appeared in tandem as recently as 2002 on a panel at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The panic-like reaction to the new television commercial suggests there may be other things someone doesn't want us to know.
If the unrepentant bomb-throwers were trying to live quiet lives, to reflect on their evil, they picked an unfortunate day to emerge from those reflections. Their op-ed essay, "No Regrets For a Love of Explosives," appeared in the New York Times just a few hours before Islamist terrorists flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Talk about getting a bang for your buck.
"I don't regret setting bombs," he told a Times reporter in an accompanying profile. "I feel we didn't do enough."
This dynamic husband-and-wife duo were well known in their day. Bernadine Dohrn cut a striking figure at rallies of the Weather Underground, the first home-grown American terrorist cult, in her signature leather miniskirt and high-heeled black leather boots cut at a shapely thigh. (That's the way everybody could talk then.) She invited the like-minded to conspire with her against "Amerikkka," and once raised a three-fingered "fork salute" to Charles Manson and the "family" who killed and mutilated the actress Sharon Tate and friends.
"Dig it!" she told that rally in Flint, Mich., in 1969. "First they killed those pigs. Then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!"
Barack Obama has described William Ayres as "just somebody I know in the neighborhood." He protests now that he was only 8 years old when these friends "in the neighborhood" were killing cops and blowing up things. Nobody is suggesting that he was there, only that his judgment is not reliable. Who can trust a man who chooses friends like that?