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Bergeson Column: Queen Hillary

Last Friday, a little group of us drove to Grand Forks to see Senators Obama and Clinton. We arrived too late. The shuttle driver from the remote parking lot wouldn't take us. The arena was full.

While we dithered, a Hillary supporter pulled up in a van. "What if we just want to see Hillary?"

I was incredulous. As an Obama fan, I couldn't imagine anybody coming just to see Clinton.

"Oh, there will be plenty of open seats by the time she speaks," I said derisively, hoping the place would be so empty by then that you could hear the rafters squeak in the wind.

The woman missed the point. "Why would anybody leave after Obama when they have a chance to see them both?" she asked.

Why? Maybe because we're sick of the Clintons? Maybe because we're tired of Hillary's strained relationship with the truth? Her petulant husband? Her cynical campaign tactics? Her thuggish staff?

Those were my thoughts, but I held my tongue. The woman drove off, and we hoofed it two miles to the arena, knowing we wouldn't get in.

When we arrived, we found we had been lied to. Security had reopened the doors.

We entered to the opening strains of Barack Obama's stump speech. The senator was a speck in the distance. His voice was garbled by the PA system. But it was fun to be there.

After Obama finished, Hillary was due in an hour. During that time, security relaxed. Democratic officials encouraged the riff-raff to sit closer to the stage, which I thought was real nice of them until I realized it was the Clinton people wanting to fill the seats for the TV cameras.

Eventually, I got brave and went right up to the barricades. I could see backstage, behind the curtain, where Hillary would arrive.

I could see the door to the room that held the dignitaries and the rich people who paid $1,000 to have their picture taken with the candidate.

Out ambled Byron Dorgan. Then came Earl Pomeroy. Finally, amidst a burst of flashes, Hillary Clinton emerged. Only about 100 of us could see her, but she dazzled in the backstage darkness.

"She's so beautiful!" a woman next to me gasped, and I had to agree. On television, Clinton looks wrinked and squatty. But in person, she exudes an intoxicating combination of beauty and power.

In an instant -- and for the first time -- I understood why she's such an appealing candidate to many people, and why she won't easily be beaten.

As Former North Dakota Gov. George Sinner worked his way through a doddering introduction, Clinton lined up some local law enforcement officers backstage for a picture. The boys obeyed, and quick.

After a quick and silly "hey girlfriends!" wave to some women by the barricade, Clinton resumed her Ice Queen demeanor. I have never seen somebody so imperious, so dominant, so comfortable with command.

People who still support Hillary Clinton have frustrated me lately. Don't they see her dictatorial tendencies? Don't they see that she'll do anything to win, decency be damned?

After seeing her, I realized that Clinton has tapped into America's long-time fascination with monarchy. We're a democracy, sure. But the drudgery of democracy is no match for the glamour and power of dynasty. And Hillary plays the role perfectly. She carries herself like a queen who has a divine right to rule.

Clinton's speech, I am sorry to say, knocked Obama's out of the water. It was well planned, meticulous in its detail and delivered in a clear, if hoarse, voice.

Clinton ended her speech with a touching story of a woman who died after being turned away from an emergency room for not having a deposit of $100. Clinton held the crowd in the palm of her hand as she breathlessly recalled the sad details and rolled through a slam-dunk argument for universal health care.

The story was effective. And it was false. Earlier in the day, the Washington Post reported that the hospital in question had proven Clinton wrong. The campaign staff was back-pedaling that afternoon.

Yet Clinton told the story again that evening.

It was Hillary's best and worst coming out at once: She's the queen, yes. But she also seems to believe that whatever she says should be accepted as true if only because she issues the decree.

That's been her habit for decades. Only now do I understand how she pulls it off.