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Disunity may cloud Democrat convention

Steven R. Hurst

WASHINGTON — A cloud of disunity hangs over preparations for the Democratic party’s national convention later this month as Barack Obama’s vanquished primary opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton has not ruled out having her name put in nomination for a roll call vote — a potentially major distraction leading into the final campaign stretch against Republican John McCain.

Obama and Clinton battled — sometimes bitterly — through state primary and caucus contests until early June, when the first-term Illinois senator secured the necessary convention delegates to assure his nomination when Democrats convene late this month in Denver.

As news began bubbling that Clinton might not block her supporters from placing her name before the convention — a largely symbolic move — she and Obama issued a joint statement last Wednesday night apparently designed to defuse concern over disunity.

“We are working together to make sure the fall campaign and the convention are a success. At the Democratic Convention, we will ensure that the voices of everyone who participated in this historic process are respected and our party will be fully unified heading into the November election,” it said.

In the primary contests, Clinton amassed major backing despite running second to Obama. Many of her supporters are said to be bitter about the loss and have refused or been slow to join Clinton in supporting Obama, who would be the first African American candidate to win a major party’s nomination for the presidency.

Still-angry supporters of Clinton, who would have been the first female nominee, assert she was unfairly treated during the nominating contest because she is a woman.

As he flew home to Chicago last Thursday, Obama told reporters that he had talked separately to Clinton and her husband, the former president, and that they were enthusiastic about having a smooth convention.

“As is true in all conventions, we’re still working out the mechanics, the coordination,” Obama said. One such issue, he confirmed, was whether there will be a convention roll call on Clinton’s nomination.

Later Thursday, Democratic officials said Bill Clinton will give a speech on the third night of the Democratic convention, before an address by Obama’s yet-to-be-named running mate.

Hillary Clinton was expected to deliver a prime-time address to delegates on Aug. 26, the second night of the convention. With the delegate roll call planned for the next evening, Obama was set to accept the nomination with a speech on the convention’s fourth and final night.

In Florida, a man has been arrested on charges he threatened to assassinate Obama. Authorities said 22-year-old Raymond Hunter Geisel was keeping weapons and military-style gear in his hotel room and car.

Geisel was arrested by the Secret Service on Aug. 3 in Miami and appeared in court last Thursday. A Secret Service affidavit charges that Geisel made the threat during a training class for bail bondsmen in Miami in late July.

According to someone else in the 48-member class, Geisel allegedly referred to Obama with a racial epithet and continued, “If he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself.”

Meanwhile, McCain’s campaign said it was returning $50,000 in contributions solicited by a foreign citizen. The move follows the disclosure that the money was being raised by a Jordanian man who is a business partner of prominent Florida Republican Harry Sargeant III.

The New York Times reported last Thursday that Sargeant allowed a longtime business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba’a, to bring in some $50,000 in donations in March from members of a single extended family in California, the Abdullahs, along with several of their friends.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said some of the people solicited by Abu Naba’a had no intention of supporting McCain for president. Rogers said “that just didn’t sound right to us,” so the money is being returned. He estimated the total at less than $50,000.

According to the Times, Abu Naba’a is a dual citizen of Jordan and the Dominican Republic.

It is illegal for foreigners to contribute their own money to U.S. political campaigns, and McCain’s campaign said Abu Naba’a made none.

A House committee chairman is looking into Sargeant’s defense contracts for shipping fuel to U.S. bases in Iraq as part of a probe into whether contractors are overcharging the government.

McCain is co-sponsor of the campaign finance reform law that bears his name and he is trying to move quickly to resolve any questions involving Sargeant.

McCain has “a deep commitment” to strictly following campaign finance law, said Rogers.

McCain, who has contended that Obama is willing to lose in Iraq to win the election, said last Thursday that his rival would forfeit the war as part of an agenda that also promotes big government and high taxes.

McCain told those gathered for an Ohio town hall meeting that Obama is a talented orator with an agenda that could be boiled down to simple policies the Arizona Republican opposes.

“Government is too big, he wants to grow it. Taxes are too high, he wants to raise them,” McCain said. “Congress spends too much and he proposes more. We need more energy and he’s against producing it. We’re finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit.”

McCain’s criticism came before he traveled to Wilmington, Ohio, to discuss possible job losses, as many as 8,000, from the proposed closure of a DHL shipping site, the result of a corporate merger aided by his campaign manager during his work as a lobbyist.

After the meeting, McCain read a statement that called for a Justice Department investigation “as soon as possible” into possible antitrust violations. He did not address his campaign manager Rick Davis’ association to the issue and left the room without taking questions from reporters.

The meeting reflects the deep concern of American voters about the troubled U.S. economy — growing unemployment, big jumps in food and fuel prices, home mortgage foreclosures — which have become the campaign focus of both McCain and Obama.

Five years ago, Davis lobbied Congress to accept German-owned DHL’s proposal to buy Airborne Express, which operated its domestic hub in Wilmington in southwest Ohio.

McCain also had a role in the DHL deal with Airborne Express. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, McCain urged then-Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens to abandon proposed legislation that would have prohibited foreign-owned carriers from flying U.S. military equipment or troops. Airborne Express said the measure was aimed at torpedoing its merger with DHL.

(Associated Press)