Adam Ash

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

This Democrat thinks Hillary sucks giant eggs

Others To Choose From -- by David Michael Green

"If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from." -- Hillary Clinton

Some folks have been agitating about the-week-that-was in Democratic Party presidential politics, but I have to say that I like what happened.

I think it was encouraging, both in ways that are clear and others that are less obvious, and I’d like to see more of the same in the coming weeks. Indeed, I might even be tempted to say “Bring it on!”, though perhaps a better expression can be found. But you get the idea.

The big story, of course, was the internecine feud between the Clinton and Obama camps which spilled onto the headlines. Chill-Hill versus Bam-Bam in Smackdown ‘07. In a way, it was the smallest of disputes about the smallest of issues. No, they weren’t battling over how to undo the neocon nightmare in Iraq, nor were they contending over who has the best healthcare plan or a solution to global warming. And the fact that they weren’t has disappointed some pundits.

Okay, fair enough. Chalk it up as yet another measure of our debased politics. But I say scratch the surface and you’ll find a bit more of interest here, and even some reasons to be hopeful.

What precipitated the Hillary-Barack row was a set of comments by Hollywood mogul and big-time Democratic Party fundraiser, David Geffen. In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Geffen walked away from his longtime prior support for the Clintons, and threw it – and his money, and his friends’ money – behind Obama.

Geffen had grown disgusted with the Clintons’ ability to tell lies with the greatest of ease, and he had the courage to say so in print. He was also disenchanted with Hillary’s inability to admit the ‘error’ of her Iraq vote (more on the error of calling it an error, below). And he was still smarting from Wild Bill’s failure to pardon wrongly-accused and long-imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier, at the same time Bubba was doing just that for Marc Rich, described by Geffen as “an oil profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice”.

Geffen had finally had enough. And that, I’d say is the first sign of hope from the incident. Democrats will never amount to anything better than Republiclones until they begin demanding more of their presidents and members of Congress, both as candidates and as incumbents. The Clintons – both of them – represent the death of progressivism in the Democratic Party. Their brand of donkey politics is essentially Wall Street with a dash of gay rights thrown in (and only kinda, sorta, maybe, half-hearted, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, at that). As opposed to the Republicans, who offer voters the alternative of Wall Street with a side order of gay-bashing. And who says the two-party system doesn’t offer American voters real choice?

What first energized me about Geffen’s move is that, at last, the Clinton’s are being held to account for their politics. I have long been amazed and mystified at how Democratic voters have adored Bill and Hill. I suppose he has some sort of charismatic magnetism for many people, though he never did anything for me. And, anyway, that’s about the worst reason to vote for someone, isn’t it? Do you really want to assist in the process of being made to feel good while your own wallet is being fleeced? Trust me, you don’t. Trust me, when the jingle-jangle has been fully drained from your tattered pockets, there will be no more charisma wasted on you.

My first and last cheer for Bill Clinton (but not really) came on the night of his election in 1992. I literally walked out of the house I was living in, onto the street, and tattooed a big old howl on eardrums across the local neighborhood and the less local cosmos. Sorta like the Lennon shredder that opens the song “Revolution”, but less demure. Actually, though, it wasn’t Clinton I was cheering, but rather the end of twelve unrelenting years of suffocatingly depressing Reaganism (not imagining then that it would get lots worse later). In any case, that moment was the warmest I ever felt toward Slick Willy. Almost everything he did from that point forward was just another disappointment succeeding the last one.

As for Hillary, well, I can’t imagine using the word ‘warm’ in the same sentence with her name. She’s got all of Bill’s lousy politics with none of the charisma. Kinda like a warm O’Doul’s without the carbonation.

But the truth is that it’s not that the Clintons have such bad politics, but that neither of them really have any politics at all. I once spoke at a conference on the Bill’s presidency, where all these scholars and cabinet members and journalists were tearing their hair out trying to reconcile all the contradictory indicators so they could figure out whether the guy was a liberal or a moderate or conservative or what. As I saw it, and as I expressed to them, he was none of those things.

Rather, the ideology of Bill Clinton was always Bill Clinton. That means if you need to fry some mentally retarded Arkansas kid – a guy so out of it that he actually asked to set aside the pecan pie from his last meal so he could eat it later – in order to demonstrate your tough-on-crime bona fides, well then, it’s goodbye Ricky Ray Rector. That means if you have to diss Sister Souljah to signal to white closet-racists that you’re a different kind of Democrat, then diss is what you do, and dat’s just too bad. That means if you have to kill an entire welfare system and cast millions of families onto the streets to get reelected, or sign trade bills that include nothing for workers or the environment, then... well, you know the drill. Same with Hillary. In a career full of sellouts to choose from, the only personal-best contender to her Iraq war vote was the monstrosity of a healthcare plan she came up with as First Lady, rather than simply doing the right thing – universal national coverage.

Before Howard Dean borrowed the line, Paul Wellstone used to say “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party”, and the only reason either of them had to use it at all was because of total sellouts like both Clintons and their Democratic Leadership Council fellow-travelers. So I’m glad, this week, to see Democrats (especially those with leverage) sending this message loud and clear: “Do not take our votes, and our volunteer time, and our money, for granted. The era of bad government is over. We want something in return for our support, and warm and fuzzy feel-good sessions in which Bill feels our pain (let alone cold and clammy ones in which Hillary doesn’t) are not what we had in mind.”

Last week the Imperious One reminded us that there are “others to choose from” if we didn’t like her politics. I think that was supposed to signal resoluteness to us impressionable voters. As in, “Wow, that Hillary sure sticks to her guns when the going gets tough!” As if we hadn’t seen just a tad too much of that kind of politics in the last, oh, six years, one month and nine days. Or so. (But who’s counting?) I’m pretty sure that a lot of people responded to her clarion call to consider other candidates by thinking, “Okay!” And I suspect Hillary knows that they did. Something tells me that we won’t be hearing that line much again. I don’t see an increasingly desperate Clinton camp taking a lot of opportunities in the future to remind us that we have alternatives.

Of course, those others to choose from are – at least now – principally Barack Obama. I’m not thrilled about his candidacy, but I can say I like him more than I did a week ago, and that I liked him more a week ago than the week before that. Of the Big Three at the moment (Edwards being the other candidate in the most viable tier), Obama has staked out probably the most consistently sensible position on the key question of our time, Iraq. And what is more, he has held that position from the beginning, something neither of the other two can say.

However, at the time Clinton and Edwards were voting for a certain war resolution, Obama was in the Illinois state legislature, not the United States Senate, and the idea that he might be running for president in 2008 was probably laughable even to him. That made the potential costs of his denunciation of the war considerably less than those facing the other two. For me, that takes more than a bit of the shine off of the image now being sold of Barack Obama, Great Antiwar Crusader, especially when coupled with his relative silence on the issue since he has come to the Senate. And even that wouldn’t be such a big deal but for the pattern of style over substance that forms the context for this man. The guy writes entire books on himself and still it’s impossible to locate his position on nearly any issue! Okay, we get it, Barack. You’re a black man living in America. You’ve had some challenges coming up. Standard issue boilerplate presidential candidate book fodder. Put your mug on the cover, flag in the background. Bind ‘em and ship ‘em. But what’s your position on global warming, dude?

As Obama has himself admitted, much of the excitement surrounding his candidacy is a combination of celebrity gaga and people projecting their hopes and aspirations on to a blank slate. We’ve been down that road before, people. It was called Bill Clinton, and the outcome was not pretty – except in comparison to what followed. But then Nixon was pretty in comparison to what followed Clinton.

Meanwhile, Obama’s rhetoric about a new, post-ideological politics really smacks far too much of old, non-ideological Clintonism – and of progressive defeatism – to fall within my comfort zone. Call me old-fashioned, but I think progressive ideas like economic justice, universal healthcare, environmental protection and peaceful multilateral solutions to global problems are the right ideas. I’m not looking for a fight with anybody, but I think those principles need to be won and constantly defended against the dark forces of regressive conservatism, and, unfortunately, that requires fighting. (It would be so much easier if the other side would just go away, but – alas – I don’t think we’re going to get that lucky.)

And, just for the record, this is not exactly the first time this sort of fight has arisen. Today, the difference between progressive ideas and regressive ones is the difference between having healthcare coverage for your middle-class family or not. Yesterday, it was the difference between Barack Obama being a slave, versus him being a candidate for the highest office in the land. I don’t need to remind you which side conservatives were on then. Or on women’s rights. Or on environmentalism. Or on fair wages. Or on Social Security. Or on civil rights. Or on civil liberties. Yawn... My goodness, this is tedious.

I’m tired of having to choose between losing a whole loaf with Republicans or three-quarters of a loaf with pretend-Democrats. I like Barack Obama because he’s challenging a leading candidate who badly needs the challenging, and because he seems to be leaning left – maybe. Before I can get too excited about him, however, I want to see that he has some real principles, that they’re good ones, and that he can throw a punch.

He’ll need to. I think we know pretty well what the GOP would do with a Barack Hussein Obama nomination. They could hope that he drafted Osama bin Laden for his running mate, but short of that, they could hardly ask for a better opponent to excoriate. These are the guys who savaged three politicians (including one of their own) based on their Vietnam War records, even though nobody who matters in the Bush administration had bothered to show up for that war at all. These are the guys who played the race card in South Carolina and the religion card in Michigan. These are the guys who disenfranchised black voters by the tens of thousands in Florida and Ohio. You don’t need a crystal ball to see what they’ll try to do to ‘Bama.

The cool thing, though, is that if he is as good as he is now hinting he might be (mind you, it is very, very early, and he is very, very rookie), he would likely succeed in making them look only more monstrous than they already are. In the hands of a Democratic candidate who for once could combine some street savvy with a little guts, the 20-point trouncing for which the Regressocans are now already heading anyhow could become a 30-point near-death experience. We could only wish! Who would mourn the loss of this abomination, this lusus naturae, this American affliction? Who can find an ocean deep enough to sink this turd of a party?

Meanwhile, Obama’s vaguely-near-your-face response to Clinton’s attempts at political hardball brings me to the other thing I like about the Geffen dust-up of this last week. Just this small exchange, and the money behind it, has already virtually dissipated the ‘inevitability’ of Hillary’s nomination, a notion that has hung over this race for a couple of years now, at least.

That’s good because she is a lousy candidate with lousy politics, but also because it has shaken her tree quite considerably. You can sniff her campaign’s desperation in their behavior during the Geffen exchange, an over-reaction which had all the subtlety of do-it-yourself haircut. They actually called on Obama to denounce Geffen and give back the money the latter had raised for his campaign. It’s hard to know where to start in counting the absurdities of that response. Obama came back with precisely the proper retort. He laughed, then he said, “It's not clear to me why I would be apologizing for someone else's remarks.” He might also have added, “Since David Geffen once gave millions to the Clintons, and was their guest in the White House Lincoln Bedroom, by the same logic Hillary should also be apologizing to herself for Geffen’s recent remarks about her.” Er, something like that...

It’s not hard to imagine why the Obama challenge has given the Hillary camp a collective case of political acid reflux. What are they going to do with this guy? She’s already fighting a reputation as an ice-queen street-fighter. Most any personal critique of him runs a severe risk of amplifying those perceptions, and thus backfiring and hurting her more than him. Meanwhile, if he does finally start filling in the substantive blanks, it’s looking like his politics are going to be a lot closer to where the base, and especially the activists, of the Democratic Party are than are hers, which obviously doesn’t help Clinton either. All these years she figured she had the nomination sewed up tight, so she could lean right to try to win the general election. Then came Iraq. Now the kaleidoscope has been shaken and the old assumptions no longer hold. Seems those pesky Democratic voters are seeking to nominate an actual Democratic for president next year. Which means, at this rate, Hillary might want to be chatting with a career coach pretty soon.

What can she do about Obama? I don’t know, and I’m glad. Hillary’s crimes of silence these last years have been multiple and felonious. She’s coasted all these months on the perceived lack of competition, a sense of invincible inevitability that has accompanied her everywhere, and that good old say-everything-and-do-nothing triangulation magic, still left over from the bad old 1990s.

None of that seems to be working anymore, for which we can probably thank George W. Bush more than anyone. There are early vibes afloat of what might be a new American politics headed this way, one which demands real and progressive solutions to issues people care about. The nightmare of Bushism may just have awakened a few tens of millions of dormant citizens across this country to the need to care about politics a lot more, and in doing so it might also have saved progressivism from the likes of the Clintons. (Saying thanks to George, even for this kind gift, is probably more than I can bear, though I could probably be persuaded to send a brief card to him at his new address in The Hague.)

Hillary is nothing if not a walking political windsock, so don’t be surprised when she decides to apologize for her war vote, after all. That will satisfy a lot of angry Democrats, but it shouldn’t. Indeed, this newest triangulation should be considered all the more insulting. Both its motivating purpose and its substance would fairly scream of yet another layer of disingenuousness, yet another attempt at positioning – lives, justice and the public interest be damned. If Hillary apologizes now, it will only be because of her desperation to find the Obama antidote. And if she apologizes at all, you can bet she’ll tell us yet again about how she was duped by George Bush.

Bullshit.

That’s nonsense. Anyone who was paying attention at the time knew what was up. And let us remember that almost all of the rest of the world got it right – even though damn few on that list were United States senators. Nevertheless, we knew why Rove scheduled the vote right before an election. We knew that Iraq had zero to do with 9/11. We knew that invading Iraq was a diversion from fighting al Qaeda. We knew that Saddam was no threat. We knew that he had not attacked us. We knew that he had not threatened to attack us. We knew that he knew (like the Soviets had known, and like every country in the world knows today) that if you attack us we’ll atomize your country. We knew that there was no emergency, and no risk in allowing the weapons inspectors a few more weeks to finish their work. We knew that Bush lied when he said there would be an up-or-down vote at the Security Council on whether to authorize the war. We knew that days later he pulled that resolution because he could only get four out of fifteen votes, less than half the number needed to pass. And we knew that an invasion of Iraq under such circumstances was about as clear a violation of international law – including the UN Charter, to which the US is a signatory – as is imaginable.

Given all this, the obscenity of Clinton’s (and Kerry’s, and Edward’s and Dodd’s and Biden’s) votes for the war make the question obvious beyond words, but let us ask it anyhow: If all of us could figure this out without the resources attendant to a United States senator, why couldn’t you?

Of course, it’s the question that is wrong, not any insult-added-to-injury response we might expect from Hillary or the others. Because not only could she figure it out, she did figure it out. They all did. They all knew how bogus the war was. But they also knew the national mood at the time. And the president’s popularity. And the decades-long history of Republicans hammering their opponents as soft on national security should they dare to stray a micron from supporting any American jingoistic adventure abroad. (Rove is no different than McCarthy or Nixon ever was at that ‘wimp’-baiting game – he just had better material to work with.) And these senators also knew what happened to those who had had the courage to oppose the Gulf War of 1990-91.

They not only voted for this shameful war resolution for their own career ambitions, but hours before they also all voted against an amendment that would have required Security Council approval prior to authorizing the use of force in Iraq. When you hear them say that they thought they were just strengthening the president’s hand at the UN, not actually authorizing war, they might as well be saying they thought they were cosmonauts orbiting Alpha Centauri. Indeed, the whole ‘authorization’ aspect of this vote has been nonsense from the beginning. Every commander-in-chief – and most especially this one – owns the right to deploy forces as they see fit, without any sort of congressional action or approval. Bush was going to do what he was going to do, and it was all perfectly constitutional. This resolution, therefore, was an act of political symbolism, pure and simple. We should make no mistake about this – those who voted ‘aye’ put themselves on the side of war, and they did precisely that knowingly.

Which would make any such apology today all the more nauseating, because it would be just another political calculation, cut from the same cloth as the original sin. Like the others in this hall of shame, Hillary figured in 2002 that anyone opposing the resolution could kiss away forever their presidential aspirations. So she multiplied Ricky Ray Rector by the tens of thousands and condemned to death all those American soldiers and Iraqi civilians who got in the way of her personal ambition.

You know what? I’m not interested in Ms. Clinton’s apology. I wouldn’t even be interested in it if it was half-way sincere. What kind of people can sacrifice the lives of so many others in order to fulfill their personal dream? It’s no more okay to forfeit thousands of people’s lives to become president than it is to burn down villages to become a rock star, if that is your dream, or to poison people on the way to becoming a famous chef. And, anyhow, why in the world would we choose such a person – even after a legitimate apology, let alone before – as the one among 300 million of us to carry our standard? Can’t we do much, much better than that?

I like some of what Barack Obama and John Edwards are doing lately, though I remain deeply suspicious of both. But it’s nice to see the occasional blip on the Democratic Party’s heart monitor nowadays, even if it took the electroshock therapy of the George W. Bush administration to put it there. And it’s nice to see Cold Queen Hillary squirm a bit.

It was Balzac who said “Behind every great fortune there is a crime”. When I see the Clintons in action I know he meant more than just monetary fortunes.

The good lady Justice has been on holiday for too long in American politics. Welcome home, dear woman. It’s nice to see you back.

(David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.)

1 Comments:

At 1/07/2008 6:31 PM, Anonymous El Grande said...

The Pope and Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) are on the same stage in front of a huge crowd. "Her Majesty" and His Holiness, however, have seen it all before, so to make it a little more interesting, the senator says to the Pope, "Did you know that with just one little wave of my hand I can make every Democrat in the crowd go wild?" He doubts it, so she shows him.

Sure enough, the wave elicits rapture and cheering from every democrat in the crowd. Gradually, the cheering subsides.

The Pope, not wanting to be out done by such a level of arrogance, considers what he could do. "That was impressive. But did you know that with just one little wave of MY hand I can make EVERY person in the crowd go crazy with joy? This Joy will not be a momentary display like that of your subjects, but will go deep into their hearts, and they will forever speak of this day and REJOICE."

The senator seriously doubts this, and says so. "One little wave of your hand and ALL the people will rejoice forever? Show me!!"

Sooo----the Pope slapped her

 

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