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March 7, 2007

Who is Leonard Peltier?

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Among all the recent breaking news as to who is the real father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby and Britney Spears' latest hairdo and tattoo, presidential hopefuls Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, of New York, erupted into a major food fight of kindergarten proportions.

Watching cable news the last several weeks has been like watching "The Twilight Zone." Many of us fled to safer venues. Then - just when we thought it was safe to stop watching re-runs of "Bonanza," Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, who now goes by simply "Hillary," got into a scrape about some comments former (FOB - Friend of Bill) President Clinton supporter David Geffen made in Maureen Dowd's New York Times' column on February 21.

It seems that Mr. Geffen now backs Senator Obama and "explained" this to Ms. Dowd's readers by saying, in part, "Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it's troubling."

Mr. Geffen is a genius and multi-billionaire, who rose from college dropout and usher at CBS in 1961 to be a principle in major motion picture production company, DreamWorks SKG.

The news about the spat between Senators Obama and Clinton was greeted by many with a big yawn. As quickly as it erupted - it went away. Then again, it seemed so petty - so inside baseball.

But for the Hillary Clinton campaign, this is upsetting because they are aware that among insiders, Mr. Geffen is not only someone who can raise millions of dollars for campaign coffers, but even his critics accept that he has a first-rate mind and is quite an opinion maker.

Throw corn flakes in the grocery store checkout line and hardly anyone cares - or knows the major players in this food fight: David Geffen, Marc Rich, and Leonard Peltier.

Mr. Geffen recently raised almost $1.5 million for Senator Obama in one night in Beverly Hills. Folks like Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, and drum roll please, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, all coughed-up $2,300 a piece to attend.

Now, with folks like this supporting the Illinois senator, heckfire, the race is over. Right? Well, maybe not. Nevertheless, observe who is backing Senator Obama. Can the average American relate to any of the values these folks represent?

Marc Rich is an alleged fugitive financier, who skipped out of the country many years ago rather than face charges that he worked with the Iranians on petroleum contracts during the hostage crisis that began November 4, 1979. In the waning months of President Clinton's presidency, Mr. Rich was given a presidential pardon along with a laundry list of approximately 150 other druggies and sleaze-bags. (If you are keeping score, President George W. Bush has issued 113 pardons to date.)

Mr. Geffen had wanted one more name to be given a presidential pardon by the Clinton administration, Leonard Peltier. The FBI lobbied hard against it. To President Clinton's credit, he did not give Peltier a pardon.

And who, you ask, is Leonard Peltier? Well, here lies the underlying friction that erupted between Senator Clinton and her over-aged-teenager Hollywood-fawning opponent, Senator Obama.

For starters, you know how liberals just adore cop-killers. Can you say Mumia Abu-Jamal? Born Wesley Cook, this is the Black Panther who was convicted in July 1982 of killing a police officer named Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981. Hollywood celebrities and liberals have clamored for his release from prison ever since.

Mr. Geffen and many Hollywood-types wanted a presidential pardon for Peltier, who was convicted of participating in what has been characterized as the execution of two FBI agents, Ronald A. Williams and Jack R. Coler on June 26, 1975, on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota.

A Chippewa Native-American and a member of the American Indian Movement, Peltier was found guilty on April 18, 1977, of the first-degree murders of the two agents.

A veritable who's who of the usual suspects wanted President Clinton to grant clemency to Peltier. Folks and organizations like Maxine Waters, John Conyers, Jr., Constance Morella, Leon Panetta, Shirley Chisholm, the National Lawyers Guild and the United University Professions have joined many Hollywood-types clamoring for Peltier's release, clemency or parole - whatever it takes.

Fast forward to February 21, many political pundits were amazed at how quickly and vociferously the Clinton campaign reacted to Mr. Geffen's comments, especially since Hillary's handlers are trying hard to soften her image and keep her to the right of her Democratic opponents.

Nevertheless, when it comes to a knife fight in a phone booth, no one is better than a Clintonista and perhaps she was being crazy like a fox. Maybe she wanted more folks to know about this "inside baseball" moment? Never, ever, underestimate Senator Clinton's political competence.

Ultimately this was quite a "telling" moment. The keen observer may want to know just what is Senator Obama's position on Peltier. And what insights into his worldview are we allowed if we are to deduct by Mr. Geffen's support that Senator Obama has agreed that Peltier deserves to released?

We already know Senator Obama's position on the war in Iraq. Surrender immediately and bring our troops home.

Many savvy Democrats are beginning to put some distance between themselves and that approach. Certainly the American public is pondering whether or not the Dems have recently over-played their hand in the congressional debates over the president's troop surge adjustment in tactics in Iraq. Especially since preliminary reports are that the approach is working to bring about some stability in the war-torn country.

Considering that many Americans perceive liberal Democrats as soft on national defense and law and order matters, was this really a smart series of events for a political neophyte such as Barack Obama?

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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