Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Bright Side

Although John Edwards has money, a large and competent campaign staff, a good organization, and a fair chance to win the Iowa caucuses, the corporate media in tandem with their alter ego, NPR, have fixated on Clinton v. Obama, diligently ignoring Edwards, relegating him for the time being to the category of the also rans Richardson, Biden, and Dodd. [That category is just a few steps removed from oblivion, the place they’ve consigned the two candidates with the most to say, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.] Could there be a pattern here? Might it have something to do with being insufficiently corporate friendly? Anyway, in Edwards’ case at least, there’s a bright side to he media’s neglect. Should he or any of his campaign workers be tempted to say something stupid about the Bhutto assassination or about Pakistani politics generally, at least no one would know of it. Not so, with the media’s favorite daughter and son.

With a level of tactical dexterity equal only to her husband’s, Hillary Clinton switched abruptly from promoting a warm and cuddly image, last week’s implausible message, to projecting competence in handling world affairs --based presumably on on-again off-again pillow talk. In addition, she has also taken every opportunity to proclaim her affinities with Benazir Bhutto. Lucky for her that the corporate media and NPR, if they know better, won’t point out how corrupt Benazir and her entourage were. What is more telling though is how thoroughly Clinton’s (current) line accords with that of the Bush government. It was Washington that engineered the (now failed) liaison between Bhutto and General Musharref – fearing that their man in Islamabad is too unreliable or too weak or both to be counted on to do their bidding on his own. Since they were wary of the man Pervez Musharref deposed, Nawaz Sharif, Bush policy makers had no choice but to pin their hopes on a Bhutto/Musharref alliance. Evidently, this is (or was) another Cheney/Bush adventure that Hillary Clinton supports. Now, like so many others, it too has failed. The only difference is that, in the face of yet another example of Cheney/Bush incompetence, Hillary can say that the world and nation now need her competence more than ever. The fact that she can say it with a straight face demonstrates the value of having a man like Bill for a role model and helpmate.

Is Obama on the Cheney/Bush page too? It looks like it, though it’s hard to say, since Obama is not an easy man to pin down – on anything. But his buddy and close advisor, David Axelrod, did have a prime stupidity to offer. He said it’s all Hillary’s fault. Why? Because she voted to authorize Bush to make war against Iraq, and the Iraq War led the United States to neglect its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then this neglect led, in turn, to Pakistan’s political crises. Never mind that Axelrod’s argument is weak on cause and effect. It is also ignorant. Were it not for the failed war in Afghanistan and the vicissitudes of the so-called War on Terror, the internecine struggles between Musharref, Bhutto, and Sharif would doubtless have proceeded differently, though perhaps no less violently. Without doubt, American meddling has stirred up some of the disasters waiting to happen in the Pakistani political culture. But, in all likelihood, the level of unhelpful (and misguided) interference would have been worse had the U.S. been more invested in its Afghanistan war; and the consequences would have been worse. As Obama and Axelrod should know, but probably don’t, that war is even more unwinnable than Bush’s Iraq War. The U.S. never had a chance of establishing a state in Afghanistan that would be to its liking. It would be all but impossible for any outside power to establish any unitary and enduring state there. The Russians couldn’t do it in the waning days of the Soviet empire, with many more troops than the U.S. would or could have sent. Do Axelrod or Obama really think it would have been different after 9/11 had the likes of General Petreus been in charge?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Best Reason to Vote AGAINST Obama

On a day when an article by Patrick Healy in The New York Times (Dec. 26) sensibly deflates Hillary Clinton’s claims for foreign policy experience, we should recall that the best case for the hypothesis that Obama is a (not very closeted) Clintonite – and therefore the best reason to vote against him – is that he claims that the majority of (Bill) Clinton’s foreign policy “experts” favor him. There is no doubt that Hillary would bring many of them back on board. Now it’s clearer that he would too.

Since our “democracy” vests inordinate political influence upon Iowa caucus goers and New Hampshire voters, lets do all that we can to remind those folks, our de facto representatives, of the Iraq sanctions, the bombing escapades, the illegal “demonstration war” against Serbia in Kosovo and in Serbia proper, and indeed all the (somewhat more competently executed) neo-con policies the Clintonites implemented. One of the reasons it was hard to vote for John Kerry in 2004 was the prospect that Richard Holbrooke or someone of his ilk (perhaps even Joe Biden) would become Secretary of State. That reason pertains now, with equal or greater force, not just to Hillary but to Obama as well. John Edwards could restore Clintonites to power too; but, in his case, there is still hope.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Populism" is Back

I’ve written before about how the corporate media, with NPR in tow, denigrate whatever falls outside the bounds of acceptable, corporate-friendly politics by calling its proponents “populists,” in disregard of that term’s historical and philosophical meanings. This is a second-best strategy, pursued only when dissent cannot be ignored outright. In the current electoral cycle, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich seldom make it into the “populist” category because their campaigns are skimpy enough to be marginalized. But because his campaign is well financed, John Edwards cannot be so easily ignored – though the “journalists” at NPR do try their level best. However now that it has dawned on the guardians of conventional wisdom that Edwards just might pull off upsets in the Iowa caucuses and in the early primaries, the “populist” charge has flared up again -- this time, however, with a new twist.

The pundits were blindsided and embarrassed by Mike Huckabee’s rise from nowhere to the front ranks of GOP contenders. Being prideful and dull (think George Will), they either won’t admit or can’t grasp the fact that they were wrong in proclaiming, as they have countless times, that the GOP base has risen above the godliness that they used to tell us Karl Rove deftly exploited; that nowadays “security” matters more to “values voters” than gay marriage or abortion. So they can’t or won’t accept the obvious fact that it’s the stalwarts of Rove’s purportedly superannuated God Squad who are fueling the Huckabee campaign. In their minds, it has to be something else. Ever since Mitt Romney, running scared, started proclaiming that Huckabee is a closet Democrat, what that something else is became clear – it seems that Huckabee too is a populist. This “insight” came first to Walter Shapiro, writing in December 21. But then the Sunday morning talk shows were full of it, in all senses of that belabored expression. The Stephanopoulos crew got so into the idea that they even conjured up memories of George Wallace and, believe it or not, George McGovern. Why not! How convenient for Clintonite publicists (I mean “liberal” pundits) to lump the one “electable” candidate who isn’t entirely on the corporate globalization page together with an affable creationist preacher who only the most benighted God squadder could vote for. If they can make that nonsense stick, it might even help clear the bad consciences of self-declared “progressive” Clinton supporters, as their standard bearer struggles to become the empire’s next steward – or rather, as her defenders stress (when it suits their purpose), its first stewardess.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bringing the War Back Home

It was predictable that, as long as the Democrats were falling all over each other “supporting the troops,” they would be unable to do anything at all for the anti-war voters who made them the majority in both houses of Congress. Now that has come to pass yet again: the Cheney/Bush Administration and the minority Republicans in the Senate and House conceded nothing to them in the funding bill the President just signed – not even meaningless timelines for troop reductions. According to George W. Bush, making funding contingent on anything at all is out of the question because it betrays troops needful of their nation’s “support.” He’s not entirely wrong. If “supporting the troops” meant making amends to economic conscripts and their families, and taking care of those who return injured or maimed, then the way to support them is to stop the war NOW. That’s what “supporting the troops” ought to mean, but it isn’t what it actually does mean in our debased political culture. That’s because Clintonized Democrats, as much as Cheney and Bush and their neo-con advisors want to avoid the appearance of defeat, lest an Iraq Syndrome impede American dominance of our ever “globalizing” world economy. So, whether they like it or not, the Democrats have no choice but to “support the troops” by supporting their “mission.” That was Bush’s point. W is nothing if not linguistically (and intellectually) “challenged.” But in this case, as he campaigned for full funding -- he nailed the Democrats good.

The anti-war movement is culpable too. So fearful are its leaders of the urban legends surrounding “the troops” in Vietnam – for example, that they were spat upon when they returned home – that they exude ambivalence towards the vastly more successful anti-war – and anti-military! --movement of the Vietnam era. Thus they too effectively buy into the Clintonite/neo-con consensus. Ditto for Dennis Kucinich. In this respect, Mike Gravel is a little better. As a throwback to the golden days of yesteryear, he at least knows enough not to declare support for the troops at every possible opportunity. But his is barely a voice in the wilderness.

More even than misleading media reports about U.S. successes in Iraq, the failure of almost all Democrats to assume a genuinely oppositional position has helped deflect attention away from the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where abject defeat is also looming. Should the war monger McCain “surge” in the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, this will be part of the reason why. Ironically, a McCain victory would be bad news for the Democrats’ electoral prospects. McCain is every bit as awful as any other conceivable GOP nominee. But he’s not nearly as risible as the rest of them. He would therefore be a more formidable opponent. This time around, it is all but inconceivable that the Democrats will lose. But if it can be done, count on them to pull it off!

I’ve written before about the nightmare scenario – Clinton v. Giuliani (with or without Michael Bloomberg). Clinton v. McCain seemed to be off the agenda back then. Now that prospect is back, just as it was before the Presidential campaigns got underway. Clinton v. McCain is every bit as scary as Clinton v. Giuliani. Will an electorate so plainly opposed to the Bush wars let this happen? We’ll know in just a few weeks time.

Meanwhile, for the next few weeks, let the optimists among us think John Edwards thoughts – and, since money is to our “democracy” what location is to real estate, send money to his campaign as well, distasteful as that may be. To vote for John Kerry in 2004, it was necessary to forget a great deal. In the same spirit, we must, for now, forget Herzliya [where, last January, to win the hearts and minds of the Israel lobby, Edwards declared “all options on the table” in Iran.] If we are fortunate, there will be time enough to bring it (and much else too) up later, again and again. Lets also prepare ourselves to acquiesce, if need be, in an even more unpleasant because more Clintonite prospect -- an Obama candidacy. And since it is still more probable than not that the most Clintonite candidate of all, Slick Willy’s better half, will win the nomination, and since she falls below the acceptable lesser evil threshold, lets keep in the back of our minds the thought that we -- those of us who live in “safe” states, anyway -- may soon need to mobilize in support of Cynthia McKinney or whatever other progressive alternative develops.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Squirm On

Watch John Conyers squirm as he ‘explains’ why he won’t call for impeachment hearings against Dick Cheney, as Robert Wexler and other member of the House Judiciary Committee, and over a hundred thousand petitioners, demand. It’s pure Pelosiism. It’s also shameful at his age. You’d think that like Mike Gravel or Jimmy Carter, he’d feel free enough, at this point, not to make demeaning compromises with his party’s leadership. Why does he think he can’t take chances? And why, for that matter, does he feel so insecure about remaining a “player”? Given his seniority and near iconic status, the Pelosiite leadership could hardly remove him from his committee positions. In any case, his seat in Congress is so secure that he couldn’t be forced out of it.

In this respect, his situation is not at all like Cynthia McKinney’s was. McKinney was forced out of office twice – for being too much the free spirit and, not incidentally, for arousing the wrath of the Israel lobby. She just announced that she will be leaving the Democratic Party to run for the Presidential nomination of the Green Party. Since lesser evilism has its limits, and since Hillary Clinton (and also Joe Biden) fall short of them, it just might be necessary to support her.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Tom Tancredo’s imminent abandonment of his bid for the Republican nomination represents a minor, but significant, blow to the vile nativism that the Republican candidates have stirred up. No doubt the others will assume his place; they mostly already have. Such is their moral and intellectual level. But it is always heartening when an especially loathsome figure meets defeat. It will be wonderful to see the back of him.

It is also heartening that Rudy Giuliani seems lately to have lost his luster. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy! In this case, though, the main beneficiaries seem to be Preacher Huckabee and War Monger McCain. It is impossible to say whether this is a move from bad to worse or whether the change is for the better. The Republican candidates are well beyond the threshold where comparisons become superfluous.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have, for a change, capitulated utterly to the Cheney/Bush administration and the Republican minority in Congress -- giving them nearly everything they want. Thus the “anti-war” party, yet again, talks one way and acts another – illustrating, as clearly as they can, what Pelosiism is. The hapless Clintonite (or is it Obamaite?) Rahm Emanuel’s protestations on NPR (December 20) notwithstanding, it would be hard to imagine a more feckless majority. The POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, is worse than cowardly. It is all but useless. If the Democrats nominate a Clinton or a Clintonite for President, as they probably will, even that qualification will pass. It is not a pretty prospect, but it is looking increasingly like the thing to do now, with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary looming, is to pull out all the stops for John Edwards. It’s our last best hope (and it is only a hope!) not to have years of Pelosiite governance ahead.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The news this morning (December 16) is that The Des Moines Register continues to act shamefully: for the Republican nomination, they endorsed John McCain, the warmonger, and (surprise! surprise!) Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. In time for the New Hampshire primary, the “liberal” Boston Globe, also endorsed McCain, but at least they had the decency to go for Barack Obama over Clinton.

Note: according to, the sanctimonious twit and unabashed Likudnik, Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, will join The Register and The Globe tomorrow by endorsing John McCain.

The Clinton endorsement -- and the Obama one too, though less egregiously -- is an endorsement of corporate “globalization” led by the United States and backed by military force. That’s what the Clinton administration was about; just as much as its successor. The difference is just that (Bill) Clinton did it better than Cheney or Bush. Therefore why The Globe or even The Register would bother to endorse a Republican is beyond me. Could they still think that their corporate bosses need the Republicans? Well, maybe, since the Democrats are accountable, barely, to constituencies with interests at odds with those of what The Register euphemistically calls “the business community.” But Republicans these days are inept, and their crop of candidates is pathetic. If they are good at anything, it’s in making Cheney and Bush look good by comparison. McCain may be the least risible among them. Perhaps that’s what the editors of The Register and The Globe saw in him. Then maybe it isn’t such a mystery that they’d endorse him. If they really want to be true to their mission, now is the time to come to the aid of the party duopoly system. That there be Republicans and Democrats and nothing else is crucial for the regime they labor tirelessly to reproduce. So they had to find some Republican they could endorse. Not being too much of a bad joke must therefore count for something, enough to override that pesky war criminal/war monger thing.

On the other hand, for those of us who don’t have quite the same stake in the duopoly, it’s plain that any Democrat would be better than any of the Republicans’ sorry crew. They’re horrendous in different ways, but not one stands out as better than the others – except maybe the libertarian Ron Paul. It wasn’t always so. I’m not just talking about before Ronald Reagan. In 1992, I let myself be talked into voting for Bill Clinton over the Bush boy’s Poppy, but I was never convinced he was the lesser evil. I’m still not. In 2000, it was far from obvious that the not yet transformed Al Gore would be all that much better than Poppy’s dimwitted little boy. That only became clear later. Today, however, there is no doubt about who the lesser evil is. Even the worst of the Democrats is better by far than anyone she or he will run against.

Ranking the Republicans is therefore easy: if minus numbers are unavailable, they all get zeros. Ranking the Democrats is more complicated. The problem is that there’s a qualitative difference among them that has to be taken into account. Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich can’t be factored in with the rest.

This is not just because they have no chance of winning. Going by the polls, neither do Richardson, Dodd or Biden. Neither is it just because they’ve been marginalized in the media – for example, by The Des Moines Register, which excluded them from their “debate.” It’s because they’re not really running for the office, though they probably think they are. Given that they cannot win -- and that if, by a miracle, one or the other somehow did win, they could not govern -- what they’re doing is more worthwhile than trying to become President.

Since I live in neither Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, I, along with most other Americans, will probably have no influence at all over the choice of the Democratic nominee. Such is the “wisdom” of our electoral system. That’s why, if it’s clear who the nominee will be by the time I get to “vote,” I’ll probably vote for Mike Gravel. Along with Kucinich and (perhaps) Bill Richardson, he’s the only genuinely anti-war candidate. But that’s not the main reason I’ll vote for him. I like Mike because, being old enough to be free to speak the truth (like Jimmy Carter on Israel/Palestine), he says, every chance he gets that the other candidates, the Democratic Party, the electoral system, and the regime The Des Moines Register and Boston Globe defend are, to put it concisely, full of shit. If the Democrats nominate a Clintonite and especially if they nominate Hillary Clinton, that’s precisely the message I’ll want to convey through my vote.

Kucinich has a more serious campaign and more developed positions on a range of issues. On those issues, none of the other Democratic contenders come close. But, for reasons I’ve discussed several times, “issues” aren’t where the action is. The Clintonized Democratic Party and the Republicans of Cheney and Bush are, for the most part, peas in a pod; the main difference is that the one is fairly competent while the other does a “heck of a job.” To break out of that mold, what is needed are not better positions on given issues, but the introduction of a new dynamic that will change the agenda – and therefore the issues -- altogether. To that end, having better positions on given issues is important. It is wonderful when Kucinich gets a chance to present his views, and appalling when they are suppressed, as they just were in Des Moines, or marginalized. But getting the issues right isn’t tantamount to moving the agenda forward. This is a point that much of what passes for the left today seems to have forgotten. They, along with Kucinich, are like “utopian socialists,” though without any hint of socialism or any other saving grace. They think that having better positions is enough.

Which raises yet another complaint against the Kucinich campaign: if he’s going to propose better policies on the issues without much regard for the underlying conditions that generate the policies that must be changed and the constraints on changing them, why stop where he does? If we are to be utopian, why also be modest? It isn’t just the Bush family that’s deficient on “the vision thing.” A far, far better world is possible than the one Kucinich’s program envisions. Its broad contours have been well understood for at least the past two centuries. Why not spread that word?

There are, however, several points Kucinich makes that the “electable” candidates do not, that urgently need to be injected into the present campaign. I will cite just two of them, corresponding to what, as of now, seem to be the two main “issues” of the campaign:

a) on Iraq, Kucinich (and Gravel) not only want the war ended NOW; they want no residual U.S. presence in Iraq. [So too does Bill Richardson, though his “timetable” for getting out is longer than theirs.] In varying degrees, the other candidates – Hillary Clinton, most blatantly – want to leave large bases in Iraq, leaving the administration of law and order in the country itself to a comprador government. Kucinich’s is and theirs is not a genuine anti-war policy. Indeed, what the Democrats seem to want is what Cheney and Bush wanted all along. It is now beyond serious dispute that what the Iraq War was really about was controlling oil, the world economy’s most important strategic resource. All the rest was either a lie (as in “weapons of mass destruction” or “establishing democracy”) or icing on the cake (as in installing a government that would make nice with Israel – not just under the radar, but up front). Hillary Clinton still hasn’t admitted she was wrong when she voted to authorize Cheney and Bush to go to war. Maybe that’s because she’s still doing it. Maybe it’s because she believes in it – as much as a Clinton can believe in anything.

b) on health care, only Kucinich calls for ridding the system of private (for profit) insurance companies. This is clearly preferable to the mandate plus subsidies systems proposed by John Edwards and, lately, Hillary Clinton, or the even weaker plan proposed by Barack Obama. Proposing single-payer, not for profit health insurance goes up against the political power of the insurance companies. But it makes eminently good sense both economically and morally. It makes sense economically because it is inefficient to impose layers of bureaucracy on the health care system; it makes sense morally because it is indefensible for capitalist enterprises that contribute nothing to health care to profit off the illnesses of others. More tellingly, though, there is reason to think that, in practice, only a single-payer plan can achieve universal coverage. Kucinich understands this; if the others do, then they don’t really care about universal coverage. That is to be expected where “serious” players, unlike Gravel and Kucinich, are involved. When it comes down to a choice between serving the people and serving the paymasters, the paymasters win every time.

* *

Then who should we be rooting for in the early primaries? Excluding all the Republicans and, for very different reasons, Kucinich and Gravel, how should the other candidates be ranked?

I think the top choice is easy – it’s John Edwards, for reasons I’ve amply explained in past entries. I must say, though, that I’m not hopeful. The corporate media, including NPR, have been doing their best to ignore him. Such is to be expected when the message of the campaign is anti-corporate. We’ll know soon enough how effective they have been. Perhaps Iowans will pleasantly surprise the world.

The bottom choice is easy too – as I’ve argued ad nauseum, it’s Hillary Clinton. Joe Biden is not much better. He’s a Clintonite – through and through. He’s also hilariously mindless, not just when he mouths off but also when he advances his more thought-out ideas (like dismembering Iraq). Biden is as much or more in AIPAC’s pocket as any of the other candidates, Hillary included. And he’s arrogant to a degree that is politically disabling. No one could possibly be as smart about foreign policy as he thinks he is, and no one could be as stupid as he seems to be. Well, maybe Condoleezza could, but she’s not running.

I’d rank Bill Richardson second, and Chris Dodd third – both way behind Edwards. Between those two, it’s a close call. Richardson is better on the war – he says he will bring all the troops home in a year. Dodd is better on the environment – he wants to tax corporate polluters directly. I hold it against Richardson that he was such an integral part of the (Bill) Clinton administration. But I think it counts for something that he is an Hispanic. [I don’t pretend to be so far beyond liberal goody-goodyism that this doesn’t count; especially after rejecting the woman and the African American.] And I hold Dodd’s repeated calls for “civility” against him. As Barry the G might have said, civility in defense of Clintonism is no virtue. Every time Dodd tries to make peace between Hillary and her competitors, I wish that Mike Gravel was there to let some light shine through.

I could live with Obama, if that’s what it takes to keep Hillary out, but I’d rank him below Richardson and Dodd. As a guilty white liberal, I’d like to be able to be more enthusiastic; I really would. I also don’t see his purported lack of “experience” as a problem, the way The Des Moines Register editors do. In fact, I’m puzzled that they, or anyone else, think that Hillary’s position, whatever it might have been, in Bill’s bedroom counts as “experience” (of the relevant kind). No, the problem with Obama is that, whenever a little substance shows through his feel good talk about unity, it looks disturbingly Clintonite. Obama’s appeal to the corporate media is that he’s safe. If a new, more progressive dynamic is to be unleashed, safety is not anything to prize. Also, as The Des Moines Register editors noted, he’s relying substantially on (Bill) Clinton advisors, especially on foreign policy. Not restoring them is as important as not restoring the Clintons themselves. Remember the murderous Iraq sanctions, the bombing campaigns, the illegal demonstration wars (Kosovo, especially), and the “humanitarian interventions.”

But, Obama will do. Clinton is another story. There are limits to lesser evilism, after all. If the Democratic caucus goers and voters in the favored states don’t rise to their responsibilities, it may be time yet again to try to buck the duopoly system. Yes, I would vote for Hillary over a Huckabee/Petraeus ticket, or whatever the Republicans come up with. But only if I lived in a state where the tally is likely to be close. Fortunately, I don’t. So if a third party option is unavailable, then, as in many elections past, I’ll find myself having to make a difficult choice. I’ll have to decide which of my dogs’ or friends’ names to write in.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shame on The Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Television and CNN

The better to dumb down political discourse and marginalize dissent, the latest and last of the Iowa debates did not include the two candidates with by far the most to offer – Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. The rationale (said to have been concocted at The Register, though Iowa Public Television, the co-sponsor of the debate, didn’t object, and neither did CNN which carried it for all the world to see) – that neither candidate has an office or paid staff in Iowa. [No matter that Kucinich, at least, polls as well or better than some of the safer candidates that the guardians of the status quo felt comfortable including.]

In the other debates, Kucinich and sometimes Gravel were included. But what they had to say was ignored -- not just by the masters and mistresses of ceremony, but by the other candidates as well. At least The Register doesn’t bother to pretend. Ironically, there is virtue in that -- hardly enough, though, to wipe away a not insignificant crime against democracy.

As for the debate itself, predictably no one had much of interest to say. Everybody was more or less in (familiar) character except maybe Hillary who, seeing which way the wind was blowing, seemed to let a bit of light get between her position on trade and that of her better half. She said that parts of NAFTA, her husband’s crowning achievement, should be “reviewed.” But, of course, a Clinton will say whatever she or he must. For that twosome, sincerity and consistency are “the hobgoblins of little minds.”

To his credit, John Edwards lambasted corporate power at every opportunity. What he said was generally ignored too – by the CNN pundits who popped up as the debate ended and by the other candidates. But at least they can’t silence him. If Iowa caucus goers rise to the occasion and do the obviously right thing, that message won’t be so easy to ignore in the next round.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I’ve written here, as recently as yesterday, that with Mitt Romney, the worrisome thing is that his “faith” might be more than just conveniently feigned, not that he’s a Mormon. My rationale: that the only difference between Mormonism and the religions voters feel comfortable with is that the snake oil salesmen who concocted it were born several millennia too late -- because snake oil takes that long to properly age. Well, if the You Tube video that everyone now seems to have seen got Mormon “theology” right, perhaps I was too hasty. Still, I stand by my claim. At this point, I could gloat that the “faith tradition” that I reject isn’t very demanding with respect to weird beliefs. We Chosen folks can pretty much think as we please – so long as we believe that God, if He exists, is our real estate agent. Judaism is as casual in the belief department as it is obsessively compulsive in regulating daily life. But since only Blues Brothers look alikes care about that these days, all but the willfully unassimilated get off easy. On the other hand, Catholics could give the Mormons a run for the money, at least if their saints and angels count. But that doesn’t render Catholics, like JFK or even John Kerry, unfit to govern. As they wear their beliefs lightly, worldly Catholics can just ignore the more egregious nonsense. The same goes for Romney or rather would go if he doesn’t really believe it all. That could well be the case: if his record shows anything, it’s that he’s “flexible.” Not to worry, however -- there are more than enough other reasons to find his candidacy risible. The even more risible Mike Huckabee, if he somehow manages to stay on top in the polls, will publicize them in due course.

There’s also my claim from yesterday that, while John Edwards beats Obama on just about every “issue,” Obama will do, if he can be the one to rid the country and world of those meddlesome Clintons. I also said that while Oprah is just a running joke on “Married With Children,” if she can turn the tide against Hillary, then more power to her. But after reading this piece by Bill Dixon, I’m persuaded that I was too kind to Obama and Oprah. Still, I stand by my point – if they’re what it takes, then so be it. [I was wondering whether, if Hillary is the nominee, it might not be a good idea to start a branch of “Socialists for Huckabee.” The Clintons are that bad! Just look at the record – their sanctions, their illegal wars, their assault on “welfare as we know it,” and, worst of all, their success in co-opting their natural enemies – like the tiresome Maya Angelou whom they’ve now dragged out to counter Oprah, since Babs Streisand evidently ain’t enuf.]

It bears mention that, according to The New York Times (December 12), with their back(s) against the wall in Iowa, the Clintons have decided to go after Obama big time, even if it indirectly strengthens John Edwards. This is great news. Let them knock each other down, so that the better man is left standing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Weird Primaries

Perhaps there is some reason why Iowans -- and citizens of New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina -- should have more influence in selecting the Democrats’ and Republicans’ presidential candidates than the rest of us or why, for the Democrats at least, citizens of Florida and Michigan should have no say at all. But I’ll be damned if I know what it is. Neither can I imagine how such gross inequalities of political influence can be reconciled with any plausible notion of democracy. But this is how it is in the Land of the Free. So let us hope that the good people of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina rise to the occasion by dispatching the Clintons from our political life. I have no idea why it must be them. But somebody has to do it – or else we’ll find ourselves saddled again with the political heirs of Gerry Ford, Brent Scowcroft, and Ronald Reagan, clothed as kinder, gentler “liberals.”

I’m also mystified by the Oprah phenomenon. Maybe I’m too far out of the housewife, daytime TV demographic. To me, Oprah, along with Peg’s bonbons, is just a running joke on “Married With Children.” Yet, all the pundits in captivity report that hers is a uniquely magic touch that could transform the dynamic of the campaign. Well, in this case too, if by backing Obama, Oprah helps knock Hillary out of the water, then – Go Oprah! I can’t explain it, and I certainly can’t justify it. But it’s the bottom line that counts.

Even before Oprah, the media have been pumping Obama more than usual. They’ve also been busy ignoring John Edwards almost as much as they do the “non-electable” candidates -- including the two, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, who have something worthwhile to say. Could that be because Edwards is more threatening than Obama to their bosses and to the interests the “liberal” media serves? It’s because I think he is that I hope he, not Obama, is the one who benefits most from any Clinton decline, whether occasioned by Oprah or anyone else. Now that Edwards is polling better than Obama or Clinton against all the Republican candidates, maybe he’ll get more attention. That should register with the pundit wannabe Democratic voters who, as in 2004, think they should vote for the candidate most likely to beat the Republicans, no matter how Republican Lite that candidate’s politics might be. Hillary has been riding that train until now because somehow the pundit wannabes never quite figured out that Hillary is all the Republicans have going for them. Perhaps, as polling data accumulates, the obvious will finally dawn on them. But I’m not holding my breath.

The other recent “news” is the remarkable rise of Mike Huckabee – in Iowa and nationally. Maybe, it’s just that since our elections are little more than popularity contests, his vaunted “likeability” counts. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t “believe” in evolution. For whatever reason, among likely Republican voters, Huckabee is now up there with Rudy Giuliani. In their own unique and special ways, all the Republican candidates are extremely implausible. None of them excels at anything except making George Bush look good. But surely Giuliani and Huckabee are the two most implausible of all. Go figure.

Against Huckabee or Giuliani or, for that matter, any of the others, how can the Democrats lose? It won’t be easy. But if there’s a way, be sure they’ll find it – just as they did in 2000 and 2004. If they don’t dispatch the Clintons ASAP, even if only for Obama, they’ll be well on their way.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pelosiism Now

Pelosiism is the Clintonism of “parliamentary cretins,” as they were called in better days, confronted by constituencies far to their left. Pelosiites talk left and act right -- sometimes for (misguided) strategic reasons; more often out of genuine conviction. Thus, according to news reports, the Pelosiites are again about to give the preposterously weak Bush government carte blanche to continue its stupendously unpopular occupation of Iraq. To save face, the Republicans offered and the (“anti-war”) Pelosiites accepted a paltry sum of money for domestic spending.

The Democrats will say that they tried to stop the murder and mayhem but Bush, with the power of the veto, wouldn’t let them. But, of course, it is nowhere written that they have to continue to fund Bush’s wars. For Pelosiites, though, it would be unthinkable not to “support the troops” – by disrupting their lives and the lives of their families, putting them in harm’s way, and turning them into the executors of Cheney’s and Bush’s deadly machinations. Just saying NO, as is their Constitutional responsibility, is out of the question. Better to talk one way and vote the other.

How far will Pelosiites go? Pretty much all the way, according to The Washington Post (November 9). It seems that as early as September, 2002, Democratic lawmakers – including Nancy Pelosi herself and, not surprisingly, Jane Harman and John D. Rockefeller IV – were briefed on CIA “interrogation techniques,” including water boarding and other forms of torture, and objected not a peep. Thus they lent their support, in this way too, to Cheney and Bush -- until torture, water boarding especially, became impolitic to defend, much like the war itself. I’ve written many times in these entries that Clintonism (and therefore Pelosiism) is a “kinder, gentler” version of neo-conservatism; that they are both fruit of the same noxious imperialist tree. It may be necessary to rethink the first part of this contention because, the more we learn, the more it seems that the words “kinder, gentler” give the Pelosiites, or at least Pelosi herself, too much credit.

Mormonism and "Moronism"

Mitt Romney’s December 6 speech at Poppy Doc Bush’s Presidential library was spun as his “Kennedy moment,” where he would lay to rest the Mormon Question, much as Kennedy’s speech on September 12, 1960 before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association is said to have removed the Catholic Question from our political life. It seems that evangelical Christians in the early primary states are enough bothered by Romney’s Mormonism that he had no choice but to address the issue now. His strategy for winning the Republican nomination is predicated on doing well in the early p

In fact, he only mentioned Mormonism once in that much touted speech, and he said nothing at all about its bizarre beliefs. Instead, unlike Kennedy, who boldly defended secularism, Romney used the occasion to preach about the importance of a “faith perspective” in politics, insisting that in this regard he’s of one mind with the evangelicals. As I wrote in an earlier entry, Mormonism shouldn’t be the issue. Mormons believe ridiculous things. But so do the evangelicals Romney was trying to win over. So does his new main rival in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, the likeable and much reduced Arkansas governor and former minister (Southern Baptist). So do all Christians, Muslims and Jews. They are all the heirs of ancestors gullible enough to have fallen prey to snake oil salesmen -- those of them who did not fall prey on their own. The difference between mainstream Protestants, Catholics and Jews, on the one hand, and Mormons, on the other, is that snake oil seems benign the more it has aged, and the snake oil the Mormons fell for is too fresh by centuries. To turn Romney’s (and Huckabee’s and the evangelicals’) position on its head, the issue should be belief itself. It is one thing to identify with a “faith tradition.” There are all kinds of reasons why someone – especially someone running for elective office -- might do that; none of them good, but some of them fairly harmless. On the other hand, wanting to put the snake oil they or their ancestors fell for in control is worrisome indeed. Rudy Giuliani’s entire (and very implausible) candidacy is based on how worrisome it is that Islamic snake oil is in control in much of the world. How hard is it to see that the snake oil Americans feel comfortable with is no better?

Catholicism peddles ancient snake oil, but Catholic meddling in political affairs is modern and continuing. This is why Kennedy had to lay to rest any notion that he would be the Vatican’s man in Washington. I would venture that he was able to do so – not just to the Houston ministers but to nearly everyone -- because like most sensible, intelligent, educated “believers,” he wore his “faith” lightly. Everyone understood this; everyone expected it. I would venture too that the problem the pastors and their flocks had with Kennedy’s Catholicism had very little to do with the Catholic religion. No doubt, as one plumbs the depths of low church Protestant denominations, some vestigial post-Reformation anti-Catholic animosity can still be found. But the bigger problem in the Bible Belt in 1960, and not only there, was good old American nativist hostility towards immigrants. There had been a lot of that, decades earlier, directed against immigrants from Catholic Europe, but it was on the wane by the time of Kennedy’s speech. In 1960, the immigrants the nativists loved to hate – mainly, the Irish, the Italians, and various Slavic peoples – were already well assimilated. [So too were the Jews, the most venerable target of Protestant and Catholic animosity.] But the news had yet to register in the political culture. Thus Kennedy had to show not just that it was OK that he was Catholic, hardly anyone cared about that, but also, mainly, that it was OK that he was Irish. Of that there was no question. From Camelot’s inception, if not from long before, it was clear to all, that the Kennedys were the equals of any WASP dynasty past or present. Compare them, for a moment, with the descendants of Prescott Bush. The so-called Kennedy moment that pundits have been chattering about before and after Romney’s speech, had more to do with welcoming the Irish into national politics at the highest level than with fears that the Vatican and the White House would effectively merge. The Irish were the vanguard. Soon other assimilated immigrant groups would follow.

Since 9/11, virulent nativism is back, especially in Republican ranks, but this time it is directed against immigrants from the global South, not Ireland or southern and eastern Europe. The contemporary phenomenon pits Catholics (along with others) against Catholics and, of course, against Muslims. Romney’s speech, unlike Kennedy’s, did nothing to counter this unfortunate turn of events. If anything, his candidacy reinforces it, though not quite as blatantly as that of some of his rivals.

In 1960, cultural diversity was seldom “celebrated,” and the longstanding black/white divide that is so central to American history was about to explode – not just in the segregated South but in the North as well. In these respects, there has been progress since Kennedy’s time. But, back then, the political culture was resolutely secular. Even the Houston ministers were on board, as Kennedy intuited. In 1960, only a handful of political actors succumbed to theocratic temptations. Lets call them the morons.

[I use the word “moron” not just because it is only one letter away from “Mormon” – though I confess to being mindful of that fact -- and not because theocrats are always literally moronic, though they often are. I use it because it is moronic, in the plain sense of the term, to try to undo one of the few indisputably progressive achievements of the first two hundred years of our political history – the relegation of “faith” (or its absence) to a realm of private conscience, outside the political arena.]

Times change, though, and not always for the better. In recent years, the secular character of our politics has become less secure. With the exception of Ron Paul, all the Republican candidates, not just Mitt Romney, want to be the standard bearer for those who would make our country “one nation under God” in more than just idle pledges of allegiance. They are all proponents of what I suggest we call “moronism.” Were he, “God forbid,” to win in 2008, Romney would be the country’s first Mormon President. Too bad for him that he can no longer be the first moron President; the chances for that vanished when five right wing Supreme Court justices decided the 2000 election. What is still possible, though, is that Romney can be the first moron President to welcome his co-religionists, the benighted followers of Joseph Smith Jr., into the larger moronic tent – in other words, into the company of Protestant evangelicals, charismatics, socially conservative Catholics, and Zion besotted Jews.

After 2004, the Democrats seemed poised to abandon the secularism Kennedy defended by becoming as ostentatiously faith friendly as their Republican rivals. Being good Clintonites, their policy was -- if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. However George Bush has given moronism such a bad name by now that the Democratic candidates, while keeping their options open, have remained, for the time being, in the secular camp. Even Hillary Clinton has been mum on the “politics of meaning” that she tried to float back in her “first lady” days. Lets work to keep it that way. Too often, where Republicans go, Democrats follow – in a kinder, gentler and, lately, more competent (and therefore potentially more effective) way. Since it is far from certain that they won’t follow Mitt Romney and the other Republicans down the path Kennedy wisely sought to avoid, we have our work cut out for us.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I Like Mike

I confess: I’ve given money to John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich – not much, even by my standards, but some. I may give more – to both of them. In Edwards’ case, it’s because I think he’s better than the only other contender with any chance of sending the Clintons packing. [They could use their time away from the White House to write a joint memoir. For a title, I suggest How We Completed the “Reagan Revolution” and, With Sanctions, Bombs, and “Humanitarian Interventions,” Made Cheney’s and Bush’s Wars, Including their War on the Rule of Law, Possible.] To be sure, Edwards’ “all options are on the table” speech (with regard to Iran) in Herzliya last January was unforgivable. I understand that “serious” Democratic contenders have to pander to the Israel lobby; but this was over the top. Still, he’s better than Obama – on just about everything, but especially on trade and support for organized labor. I could live with Obama, though, if it comes to that. What makes the flesh crawl is the prospect of a Clinton leading a Clintonite Restoration. Where is Monica Lewinsky now that we need her!

Kucinich is better than anybody on the issues. He’s even better than Mike Gravel, whose campaign is too feeble to have much to say about many of them. It’s wonderful that Kucinich is able to make his points in the “debates,” even if what he says is ignored by the other candidates and the media (except when UFO sightings are involved). But the Kucinich campaign still leaves me uneasy; and it isn’t just because the candidate doesn’t seem “presidential.” My problem with the Kucinich campaign is that it exemplifies what the Left has become in recent decades. Bereft of all but the palest vision of what a better world might be like, and not very interested even in understanding how the actual world works, the Left has devolved into a motley of good causes, without much of an idea about how to get from here to there or, for that matter, about what there there is.

This was my problem with the Nader campaign in 2000 as well, though that was about more than just “issues.” It was also about party building. [Another confession: I supported that campaign financially to the maximum extent allowable at the time, and I don’t regret it.] In 2000, there was the prospect of getting the Green Party out of limbo; a goal that turned out to matter less to Nader himself than to many of his supporters (like me). A “third” party, clearly to the left of the Democrats that is too big to be marginalized would be a major boon to our political culture. To me, this mattered more than that Nader was good on the issues. In the end, though, the hopes I and others had for the Nader campaign were blocked by “liberal” Democrats campaigning against him rather than George Bush, and by the institutions twentieth century Republicrats installed to maintain their duopoly. But it was a noble effort. If we lived in a country with more open political processes, where political parties can enter and exit more easily, or even where ballot access is more readily and inexpensively available, it would have done much good. In the actual world, it was, in retrospect, a fool’s errand – but still one not to regret. Kucinich’s attempt to change the Democratic Party from within is also a fool’s errand. It just can’t be done by being the best on the issues. Change is possible, but not that way. What the Democrats need is a leader who can unleash a popular dynamic for progressive change – much as FDR did for a brief portion of his long reign. That’s why I want Edwards to be the candidate even if, by a miracle, Kucinich could somehow win. I agree with Kucinich more, much more, on the issues at hand. But that’s just not where the action is.

It is said that politics is “the art of the possible.” That’s not the same thing as getting the issues right. It’s understanding the constraints and, more importantly, understanding how to change those constraints – how to open up new possibilities – and therefore to make new issues. This is not to say that it isn’t important to be good on the issues currently in view. It’s good that somebody is. But if that’s all it’s about, why stop where Kucinich does or, for that matter, where Nader did? For more than two centuries, the world has abounded with proposals for changing life for the better – in ways that the positions Kucinich defends barely touch. In the political culture of recent decades, those proposals have been derogated as “utopian” or ignored as naïve and depassé. I don’t think they are. But I do think that the case against radicalism that afflicts what passes for a Left today applies, say, to Kucinich’s single-payer not for profit healthcare plan – obviously preferable to what the other candidates have in mind -- nearly as much as it does to leaping more boldly forward into the realm of freedom. Good policy positions are indispensable. But they are also radically insufficient. The way forward now, as it always has been, is by building collective movements organized around coherent visions of what can be, and sound understandings of what now is. Taking all that for granted and just being better on the issues pales in comparison.

Which brings me to Mike Gravel. He’s good on the issues too, though perhaps not quite as good as Kucinich. But, unlike Kucinich, he’s a breath of fresh of air. For Democrats these days, that seems possible only for septuagenarians no longer interested in being Washington “players.” [This might seem like an odd thing to say about someone running for President, but I think it fits the case. It’s also why, though I like Mike the best, I’m more reluctant to throw money his way rather than Kucinich’s or Edwards’.] Jimmy Carter is another example. To the dismay of the Democratic leadership, he’s free to state the obvious – about the Apartheid character of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, for example. Similarly, Gravel is free to speak truth of and to the other candidates, especially the front-runners. Thus, within the bounds of decorum, he takes every opportunity, as goody-goody Kucinich does not, to point out that the others, Hillary Clinton especially, are full of shit.

In this regard, the Iran portion of the December 4, NPR radio debate was particularly revealing. Only Gravel dared say that Iran poses no threat, with or without nuclear weapons, to the United States; that it never did and probably never will. He might have added that the United States long has and still does pose a very serious threat to Iran. Instead, he said something almost equally obvious – that it is Israel that wants the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, and that if we do it, it will mainly be for them. He might have added that it is the Israel lobby in the United States, in conjunction with their neo-conservative co-thinkers in the Vice President’s office, who are mainly behind this move towards yet another war. Saying such things is unthinkable in the United States where there is a strict taboo against speaking ill of the state of Yahweh’s Chosen People – my state, I suppose, though I want nothing to do with it. Gravel violated the taboo; he might as well have farted in public, the way the others pretended not to notice.

They ignore Kucinich too; Joe Biden is especially good at it. Biden is a case. It’d hard to believe that anyone could be as good at foreign policy as he thinks he is, or that anyone (this side of the Republican Party) could have as many dumb ideas about foreign policy as he does. His plan to dismember Iraq is at the top of the list, but it’s not the only item on it. Still, his performance during the China part of the NPR “debate” strains credulity. It’s fine that he wants the United States to be tough on human rights in China – not that it has any moral standing left in that department. But then he went on and on about how the Land of the Free would never let any ally – he mentioned France and Germany, specifically – get away with what it lets China get away with. Well, Joe, what about the dearest ally of all, Israel? He could hardly have forgotten about it; after all, he’s even more deeply ensconced in AIPAC’s deep pockets than the rest of them, including Hillary Clinton. If anyone needs a 257,000st reason to send the Clintons packing, think about this: Hillary is as likely as not to give that piece of work the job he’s always coveted – Secretary of State.

But to return to Mike Gravel, imagine that Israel/Palestine somehow was discussable. Here’s what I think he would say: he’d say that America should look out for its own interests, not Israel’s, and that there is no good reason for the United States to support that country financially and diplomatically to the extent that it now does. He would say, most likely, that the United States should treat Israel the way it treats other countries – not the way irresponsible parents enable their out of control children by letting them get away with anything (at no matter what cost).

On the other hand, in the rare instances when he cannot avoid the question, Kucinich says that the United States should throw its support behind the Israeli left. That’s a fine idea; better, by far, than the usual practice of giving carte blanche to the government of Israel. But it’s the issues thing all over again. What are the political, strategic and military constraints shaping American policy? How constraining are those constraints? Is a “two state” solution, the goal of the Israeli left, even possible anymore? To these and other pertinent questions, Kucinich is oblivious. Like so many others on today’s left, he seems to think that niceness is enough. But even with the Christmas season upon us, is there anybody who thinks that “good will to all” is a viable strategy? Mike Gravel understands that it is not. That’s why I like him.

NOTE: On Iran, Gravel also pointed out that the intelligence community has finally shown courage by digging in its heels to the great consternation of Dick Cheney and the neo-cons. With the just released NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) indicating that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons plans in 2003, the bureaucracies of sixteen agencies “dropkicked” the administration’s war plans right off the field. Gravel’s hope may be premature, but his observation is well taken. It is worth noting too that the information on which the NIE report is based has been shuffling around in government precincts for some time, and that it was well confirmed even before the 2006 elections. The Cheney/Bush government was able to suppress the news until now. Evidently, they no longer can. [For more on who knew what and when, look here.] Where were the Democrats while this was going on? To be sure, a few of them, like Dennis Kucinich, insisted all along that Iran is not a threat. But the vast majority played along with the neo-cons; indeed, as of the NPR debate, they were still at it. Yes, they favor “aggressive diplomacy,” not bombs (for the time being). Yes, they all – except Hillary -- reject the Kyl-Lieberman amendment effectively authorizing Bush to go to war. But the view of Iran that they project is no different from the view George Bush and Dick Cheney would have us all believe. How pitiful is that!

Monday, December 3, 2007


It probably won’t become clear for some time just how much the United States meddled in the Venezuelan national referendum where, to the delight of the mainstream media, Hugo Chavez lost – not by very much but by enough. Unlike the 1990 Nicaraguan elections, which unseated the Sandinista government, the vote in Venezuela will not undo what Noam Chomsky would call “the threat of a good example”. It marks a setback for the Venezuelan and Latin American left, not an historic defeat. “Liberals” should regret this outcome. Not many do, at least not if the Democratic presidential contenders are an indication. Thus in the recent Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines, they again displayed their affinities with all other stewards of the American empire, past and present, Democrat and Republican, by bad mouthing Fidel Castro and, of course, Chavez too. As usual, Hillary Clinton was the worst, but the others were not much better. Dennis Kucinich might have been an exception. But he didn’t get much chance to speak and, when he did, it was about more pressing “issues” – like health care and the Iraq War.

Our Democrats, like our Republicans, are (small-d) democrats only when the demos behaves the way they want – witness the consensus view of Hamas’ victory in Gaza, for example. Our Democrats, like our Republicans, outdo themselves with rank hypocrisy – subscribing to double, triple, quadruple standards -- when they “justify” their role in supporting the empire’s interests. Witness how differently they reacted, prospectively, to the Russian and Venezuelan elections last weekend – back when they assumed that Chavez would win resoundingly, as Vladimir Putin did in the election he rigged. Yes, along with Dick Cheney and George Bush, they “regretted” Putin’s turn towards “authoritarianism.” But from the time that George Bush, the right hand of God, looked into Putin’s eyes and saw that his soul was good, no mainstream Democrat has so much as murmured anything more negative about him. Contrast that with how, from the time that Hugo Chavez started openly to proclaim the obvious about American meddling in Venezuelan affairs, they have not had a kind word to say about him.

It bears mention that Chavez was rather shy about proclaiming the obvious, at first. It wasn’t until after the U.S. collaborated with the Venezuelan right in 2002 to try to overthrow his (elected) government that he became emboldened. But, for Republicrats, it hardly matters that he was duly provoked. If there’s one thing an imperialist can’t stand it’s insubordination, especially in the hemisphere which, after all, belongs to “us.” Think of the Kennedys and Cuba. When it comes to keeping our wayward children in line, liberals and conservatives stand arm in arm.

Still, if there is any room for lucidity and honesty in the Democratic ranks, the Democrats might ask themselves who, after all is a better (small-d) democrat – Chavez or themselves? If democracy means “the rule of the demos,” the popular masses, the question answers itself. But even in the most hollow, procedural sense of the term -- the one for the sake of which, we are told, we are laying waste to Iraq -- no Democrat has anything to teach Hugo Chavez. Look how graciously he accepted defeat, just as the Sandinistas did, even though neither he nor they lost fair and square (even by our own dismal electoral standards). Are any of the Des Moines debaters capable of comparable levels of statesmanship?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Brown, Black and Blue

The December 1 “Brown and Black Forum” in Des Moines, Iowa, attended by all the Democratic candidates except Mike Gravel and by none of the Republicans, clearly demonstrated a few well established, but not always acknowledged, facts:

1) that not only are the Democrats better than the Republicans on “the issues,” but also that every Democratic candidate is vastly more capable, on every pertinent dimension, than every Republican candidate. It is as if in utero they got more of whatever it is that promotes cognitive development;

2) that the best of PBS (Ray Suarez) and NPR (Michelle Norris) stand in roughly a similar relation to the luminaries of CNN (for example, Wolff Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, the emcees, respectively, of the two most recent CNN “debates”);

3) that even, notching up the discussion several quantum levels thanks to (1) and (2), some shibboleths of our political culture remain sacrosanct: among others, that Cuba is and will remain evil until Fidel Castro passes away, and that uppity Latin Americans – especially ones like Hugo Chavez, who aren’t even100% white – certainly have their nerve for wanting to use their country’s oil wealth to benefit their own citizens rather than American capitalists. It’s especially galling, it seems, that Chavez will even go so far as to use democratic means to this end.

4) that Hillary Clinton is the worst of the lot on these points, as on almost every “issue,” but that the others, Dennis Kucinich excepted, aren’t much better;

5) and that even the most probing and intelligent moderators PBS and NPR have won’t push the limits on (3), even though they probably know better. Neither will they in any other way question unassailable “mainstream” thinking.

There were also some less well-known facts that emerged:

6) that, the ostensibly unelectable candidates – Kucinich, especially – have learned how to address the media’s marginalization of them with dignity and humor;

7) that Barack Obama’s calls for drawing Americans together can be almost as tedious as Mitt Romney’s invocations of “family values” or Rudy Giuliani’s use of 9/11;

8) that Joe Biden becomes more inadvertently funny the more resolutely he ensconces himself on his high horse, and the more arrogantly he boasts of his “experience” and of the soundness of his unsound ideas, like dismembering Iraq; and

9) that John Edwards can wax eloquent when he isn’t waxing Clintonite -- in other words, when he talks about domestic, not foreign, policy. He was especially eloquent when he spoke about poverty and the evils of racism.

In a slightly more rational world, Edwards would be running ahead of Barack Obama who would, in turn, be running way ahead of Hillary Clinton, particularly at a Brown and Black Forum. After all, it is precisely brown and black voters who have born the brunt of the domestic policies of the past several decades; for them, one would think that poverty would be a major concern, powerful enough to trump Obama’s (disputed) blackness, not to mention Clinton’s je ne sais quoi. But of the three “electable” (that is, well-financed) contenders, he’s doing the least well among browns and blacks and Clinton is doing the best. Go figure! It was her husband, after all -- the man to whom she is joined politically (if in no other way) at the hip --whose policies devastated the emerging black and brown middle classes, bringing a few “minorities” to the top while lowering the majority into the ranks of the poor. To his everlasting credit, Ray Suarez did ask Hillary about her husband’s reforms of the federal legal system, pointing out that they have played a significant role in vastly increasing the incarceration rate among black males. He might also have asked her about how the neo-liberal globalization Bill Clinton did so much to promote has harmed African-American youth. But this minor deviation from the Republicrat script turned out to be a flash in the pan. Clinton gave a Clintonian weasel answer – the kind that lets her supporters hear what they want to hear -- and the matter was dropped.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Republicans Now

How could anyone actually watch more than a few minutes of the Republicans’ November 28 debate in Saint Petersburg without succumbing to nausea? I know I had to stop. But TV Land abounds with viewers with strange tastes, and I suppose the debate did have a certain Ripley’s Believe It or Not appeal. After all, who would have thought it possible to assemble eight men together in one room at one time who actually make George W. Bush look good! [In fairness, only seven of them do, since Ron Paul, the libertarian, isn’t quite that awful.] Could there be a clearer illustration of the rush to the bottom that our duopolistic electoral system encourages! The eight (or seven) are so pitiful that, no matter how many times one sees them together – the corrupt, incompetent mayor, the flip-flopping family values plutocrat, the war monger, the lazy actor, the likeable dieter, and the ones too unmemorable to name -- it always surprises. If even the worst of the Democrats – that would be Hillary, of course, though Joe Biden could give her a run for the money – can’t slaughter any one of them in a free and fair election (one no more rigged than usual), then Democrats now are even more inept than I can imagine. Of course, I’m not very imaginative, as recent polling data suggests. On the other hand, the stars do seem recently to be lining up just right.

What was most alarming Wednesday night, even more than the candidates themselves, were the You Tube videos that “grass roots” Republicans sent in. I’m assuming, of course, that the questions the CNN producers selected were typical. Who knows if that assumption is fair? If CNN is good at anything, it’s at dumbing down political discourse and eliciting mindless, “newsworthy” sound bites, embedded, ideally, in pointless, contrived quarrels -- witness Wolff Blitzer’s machinations at the Democrats’ Las Vegas debate or the Anderson Cooper character last Wednesday. Representative or not, what a gaggle of racist, nativist, gun toting, God and “Islamo-fascist” fearing, War on Terror loving “useful fools”! It was enough to make even the hardiest among us despair for the Home of the Brave. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising; after all, these people, succeeded twice in electing Cheney and Bush. [Well, maybe not exactly “electing”]. But the questions still amazed.

Since before the 2004 election, I have maintained, only somewhat facetiously, that the Republican Party would not survive to 2008; that it would fall victim to a culture clash, with its Fortune 500 plutocrats and their white shoe allies on one side, and the racist, nativist, gun toting, God and “Islamo-fascist” fearing, War on Terror loving know-nothings on the other. There just aren’t enough of the “cloth coat Republicans” of Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech left to serve, as it were, as a middle class that could hold the Grand Old Party together; especially when, with George Bush at the helm and straddling both sides of the Divide, the useful fools took over. How can the plutocrats stand it? How could they watch the debate? Could it be that their greed, their passion for tax cutting and deregulation, is powerful enough to keep them on board? No doubt it is for a while. But, if nothing else, class snobbery is bound eventually to defeat the base self-interest of the rich and greedy. Or so I believe, sort of. “No new taxes” used to be a winner or, as in the case of Poppy Bush, a loser. But by now, with the military and intelligence budgets untouchable (in an age of perpetual “war”), cutting taxes isn’t what it used to be. For one thing, it no longer serves one of its old purposes – undoing the remnants of the New Deal and Great Society. It isn’t just that the Clintonites have taken up the cause. It’s mainly that there aren’t very many useful social programs left to cut.

My prediction hasn’t quite come true yet; and it’s probably wishful thinking on my part that it ever will. But, after the last debate, my confidence in it is enhanced. There is, however, a factor of unknown potency pulling in the opposite direction. It’s the likelihood that the Democrats will come to the Republicans’ aid. The Republican candidates being who they are, and the failures of the Cheney/Bush administration being so blatant, it is now only the Democrats who can unite their “rival” or at least keep it together. If they were smart, which of course they aren’t, Mitt and Rudy and the rest would be stuffing Hillary’s coffers. They’d probably get caught though – maybe even by CNN – so it’s lucky for them, I suppose, that they are as dumb as they are. In any case, the only chance the GOP now has is that the foolishness of Democratic voters, the kind that turned the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, from bad to worse in the Clinton and Bush years, may make Hillary boosting by Republican operatives unnecessary.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Revelatory Moments

It isn’t often that both our lesser and greater evil parties reveal their deepest natures within just a few days of each other.

The Democrats went first. They got retired army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez to deliver their ‘rebuttal’ to George Bush’s Saturday (November 24) radio address. Sanchez ran the Cheney/Bush Iraq operation between 2003 and 2004. He was the one in charge when the (known) “abuses” of prisoners occurred at Abu Ghraib and other locations, and there is good reason to think that he not only knew what was going on, but even ordered it indirectly. Yet he was the one chosen to pontificate on the anti-torture provisions of the Geneva Conventions and to echo the Democrats’ line about “supporting the troops.” Getting Sanchez to speak for the Democrats exceeds the usual opportunism of National Security wannabes. It reveals the true depth of the Democrats’ Pelosiism.

[Pelosiism, as I’ve explained before, is the Clintonism of our era. Pelosiites parade their “progressivism” while doing Cheney’s and Bush’s work for them – not just out of cowardice or bad strategizing, but because, as Clintonites, they are of one mind with Cheney and Bush.]

Then, not to be outdone, the Republicans showed what they’re about when Trent Lott decided he’d quit the Senate before the New Year – presumably to evade a law that goes into effect January 1 requiring Senators to wait at least two years after leaving office before they can go to work collecting millions as lobbyists. [Lott is the Senate Minority Whip. He used to be the Minority Leader, but he had to step down in the furor over his remarks praising Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Dixiecrat campaign]. Turning political connections into gold is the stuff of modern politics. But this is qualitatively more crass. Lott has finally done one thing memorably well; he’s brought sleaziness and corruption to a new level. No Bush named George, not even Dick Cheney in his prime, could have illustrated the Republican essence better.

I confess that every time Cheney’s ticker falters, as it did again last weekend, I half expect him to seize the opportunity for a good excuse, and go the way of Trent Lott. But then I realize that this is wishful thinking on my part-- because he’s already made his zillions, and because he probably feels he still has responsibilities he can’t shirk looking out for the folks who will soon be stuffing Trent Lott’s pockets. Besides, he can’t resign because almost all the rats have already fled the sinking ship, so there’s no one else left to mind the Bush boy. Condoleezza used to be the designated nanny, but after Annapolis she’ll be too busy trying, again in vain, to mend her “legacy.” [If only Stanford had let her kill, maybe she’d have gotten it out of her system years ago, and would then have left the Palestinians (and Iraqis and Afghanis and all the others – including, especially, back in the summer of 2006 during the Israeli aggression, the Lebanese) in peace.]

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Looking Up Down Under

The good news is that John Howard, Dick Cheney’s soul mate and co-thinker, suffered a humiliating electoral defeat in the Australian elections. The less good news is that the victorious Labour Party is another lesser evil party, the down under equivalent of our Democrats. The new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is something of an Australian Clintonite too. But maybe that’s too harsh. After all, Australia is a country with a parliamentary system of government and more reasonable electoral laws. Its politicians therefore have less need than ours to chase money and pander. Think Gordon Brown, then -- not Bill or Hillary.

[A Clintonite, as I’ve explained countless times in these entries, is a pre-Reaganite Republican – a social liberal, a fiscal conservative and a sensible steward of the empire, its bloated military machine, and its overgrown intelligence apparatus. Unlike the neoconservatives who won Dick Cheney’s sick heart and worse mind, Clintonites suffer from bad consciences for having become the people they detested in their youths. Their bad consciences come to the fore especially when their exploits founder – all the more so if there’s a lot of murder and mayhem involved. Clintonism, in short, is a kinder, gentler and more competent version of the neo-liberal, imperialist ideology that produced the neoconservative movement. It is neo-conservatism without the hubris and know-nothingness. As such, it’s not quite up to the Eisenhower Republican standard – not just because Ike, unlike the Clintons, never wanted to reverse the progress made under the New Deal and Fair Deal, but also because Eisenhower had a sense of history and of the limits of American power (even at a time when it was far greater, comparatively, than it now is.) For more on the evils of Clintonism, look here.]

Much like Gordon Brown, Rudd would redeploy Australian troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. In American terms, that puts him in the Howard Dean camp, circa 2004, along with most of the 2008 Democratic contenders including Hillary Clinton, the most Clintonite of the lot.

On Iraq, Rudd is, of course, vastly better than Howard. But he is still to the right of most Democratic voters. He is probably also to the right of a majority of Americans, and of a far bigger majority of Australians. I still fear that it may only be wishful thinking, but it is looking more and more like being so far to the right of the base could be a problem for the most Clintonite of them all. The press is full of reports that the former “first lady” has hit a few “bumps in the road,” and that she has a problem in Iowa, where both Barack Obama and John Edwards could defeat her. According to the pundits, she’s playing too much to the “center” – in order to be well positioned for the general election. It now seems that this strategy, which she can’t abruptly change, may have been unwise. [It is said that she and Bill arrived at it together; no doubt, at an intimate moment.] Such, at least, is the new conventional wisdom. I hope it’s right. The conventional wisdom seldom is, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

It is true, of course, that the other (electable) candidates aren’t much better on “the issues.” They may soon have an occasion to show this yet again, when the ill-planned and ill-advised Condoleezza Rice conference on the Israel-Palestine conflict in Annapolis founders – because the U.S. and Israel won’t be able to get even Abu Abbas and the gaggle of corrupt Arab leaders they rustle up to consent to “giving” the Palestinians a Bantustan state. [In fact, the comparison is unfair because Bantustans at least had integral borders.] There are many in Israel and elsewhere who think that Rice’s “failure” could result in a third intifada. If it does, watch all the Democratic contenders – except, of course, the unelectable ones, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel -- race to see who is the most eager to give Israel carte blanche. Would that someone would ask Hillary and the others what level of atrocity it would take before they’d condemn the Israeli occupation. Or, more subtly, someone might ask the candidates about their positions on ethnic cleansing and Apartheid.]

Still, no matter how bad the others are (in comparison with what decency requires), any move to the left of the Clintons is a move in the right direction, even if it is accomplished by someone still in the broader Clintonite fold. The media have lately gotten behind Barack Obama. I think that John Edwards would be a better candidate and President, at least on domestic issues. But if Obama can get the Clinton family – and their leftover retainers -- out of our politics and out of our lives, all power to him. Having endured Cheney and Bush and their (Clintonite) aiders and abettors for so long, we deserve up here at least as good as what they’ll be getting down under.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Class War

During the November 15 Las Vegas debate, John Edwards, the so-called “populist,” was charged with invoking the specter of “class war.” If only it were so! The “criticism” is risible enough not to warrant further comment except to note how familiar this refrain has become in our political culture. The assumption is that it is normal for state policies to operate first and foremost with the interests of capital in mind; so normal that it goes unnoticed. What is abnormal – and downright unseemly – is to care about the victims of the system those policies reinforce. There is, of course, “compassion.” But within the Clintonized Democratic Party, where the “pain” of the victims is felt, compassion is almost as otiose as it has been for our compassionate conservative in-chief. Of course, both parties will address the problems of the millions at the bottom of our increasingly unequal society if they must; when placation is in order. Fortunately, for them, that is seldom the case, especially in recent years. This is not because the condition of people not at the top has gotten better. It has gotten worse. It’s because our political culture has dumbed down. For that, our economic elites can thank the liberal media – for example, the sponsor of the last debate, CNN. Evidently, outside the Republican base, mind numbing CNN banter works better for fostering acquiescence than Fox style propaganda. Not long ago, things were different. The need to placate was everywhere. It was that need that made the New Deal and later the Great Society necessary and possible. Our rulers have every reason, this holiday season, to give thanks that this is no longer so. After all, placation can have contradictory – even anti-systemic – consequences. Thus the New Deal and Great Society did more than just save capitalism from itself. These brief moments, when an affirmative government actually did worthwhile things, helped move society forward – to an extent that not even dedicated Republicrats (Reaganites, Bush familiars, and Clintonites alike,) can entirely reverse – no matter how much media help they get.

That a class war directed against capitalism’s victims is too normal even to notice, while any hint of resistance from the other side elicits dismissive ridicule or self-righteous consternation is especially evident in the spate of media reports in the past few days in both the financial press and the ‘liberal media” attacking that dastardly Hugo Chavez for using so much of Venezuela’s oil revenues to finance worthwhile social programs for Venezuelans – instead of investing in new refinery capacities to feed America’s oil consumption. Why it is even more outrageous than those lingering old European concerns with income security, leisure time, and social services! How dare anyone think that resources should be used to serve the people, not just to benefit “the investor classes!”

Compared to Chavez, Edwards is a corporate sycophant. But on the off chance that he were to become the Democrats’ candidate, expect the fury now unleashed against Chavez to focus on him. [This would happen ten-fold over were Dennis Kucinich to become the candidate; but of course, in our barely democratic political system, where money is the great legitimator, that’s almost infinitely improbable.] Given how pitiful the Republican field is, an Edwards candidacy would pose a real dilemma for the beneficiaries of the system in place. Will they go with another incompetent fool (who might even someday make the Bush boy look good) or will they be the ones who acquiesce for once by backing someone who might, ever so slightly, buck the Republicrat consensus. Their plight would be wonderful to behold. But I doubt we’ll have the chance because, if the polls are right, Democratic voters are not yet ready to dispatch Clintonism. In other words, too few of them are currently disposed to stop waging class war on the wrong side.

If it comes to this, we “populists” can still, in small and “privatized” ways, express resistance. Here’s one suggestion: if you are going to drive and if it is possible where you live, fill your tank with Citgo gas. That will increase Venezuela’s dividend – infinitesimally, to be sure. But it will feel great. Think of it as a way to flip the bird to both Cheney and Bush, on the one hand, and to the lesser evil party, on the other; and also to defy The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and all the other movers and shapers of our morbidly acquiescent political culture.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Las Vegas

Within seconds of last night’s “debate,” moderated by the cartoon character Wolff Blitzer, the deep thinkers CNN has for pundits, led by former Wall Street Journal editorial page columnist, former PBS bore (on the soporific Jim Lehrer show), former (Bill) Clinton advisor, and current Harvard (Kennedy School) “professor,” David Gergen, pronounced a victory of sorts for Hillary Clinton. It seems she got past the drivers’ license issue OK. Then, this morning, the paper of record praised her “assertive tone,” and noted especially her remark (full of pith) that Democrats (read John Edwards and Barack Obama) “should stop ‘throwing mud’ and adopting tactics ‘right out of the Republican playbook’.” Even Christopher Dodd seemed to agree.

Well, here’s a better instant comment: Democrats – not just the ones in Congress who play games with the Bush boy by throwing money at “the troops," but also the candidates should stop adopting strategies right out of the Republican agenda. John Edwards was a partial exception -- but only because he wants the interests of the poor and other victims of Republicrat feed-the-rich politics to receive mention. Dennis Kucinich was, as usual, a more thoroughgoing exception – because, on every “issue,” his position is far superior to his rivals. [To the viewers’ and listeners’ detriment, Mike Gravel was, again, excluded.] But, of course, in our “marketplace of ideas,” what matters is not what candidates say but how what they say is reported – and our opinion shapers, for now, seem to be falling into line behind the likes of David Gergen.

Time is running out. Were there anything to pray to, now would be the time to pray that something, anything, happens to remind Democratic voters of the evils of Clintonism, evils amply chronicled here in preceding entries. With only a tad of consciousness about that, the regime’s risible media flunkies would be swamped, and the prospect of a Clintonite restoration reversed. But, alas, prayer is of no avail: by not existing, the Living God, still doing “a heck of a job,” has left it up to us -- and it is looking increasingly like we’re not up to the task.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Kind of Moron Do They Think We Are?

Evidently, the answer is “first class.” Yet again, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are going through their “support the troops” charade – giving Cheney and Bush even more money than they’ve asked for for their wars, but with a “timeline” attached. It’s the Democrats’ version of the surge theory – since the maneuver hasn’t worked yet, try more of it. Wearily, I must repeat the obvious: the only way to “support the troops” is to bring them home (unconditionally); the only way to end Cheney’s and Bush’s wars is to defund them; and, while we’re at it, the best outcome that can emerge from the Iraq debacle would be an abject defeat, followed by an Iraq Syndrome – much like the Vietnam Syndrome Reagan and the first Bush inveighed against, only deeper and more enduring. [Of course, abject defeat is already a fact on the ground; the issue now is to face the fact squarely; not obscure it the way leading Democrats, and Republicans, are desperately trying to do.] It’s also obvious that, to keep Cheney and Bush from making the situation much worse in the the next fourteen months – by extending their perpetual “war on terror” into Iran -- they must be removed from office ASAP. I might add, again wearily (as I’ve said it many times before), that the best way to repair some of the harm Cheney and Bush have done would be to bring them to justice. But, for reasons I have also amply discussed,the Pelosiite leadership of the Democratic Party wants no truck with the obvious. They’d rather remain Cheney/Bush aiders and abettors, thinking that they can somehow mollify their “base” by continuing a charade that fools nobody, probably not even themselves.

Meanwhile, with another Democratic presidential candidates debate looming, the November 26 issue of The Nation, contains “endorsements” for each of the Democratic contenders. Was this a debating exercise? One would hope so, at least in some cases, because rejecting some of those candidates is a true no-brainer. But I fear that the authors took their endorsements seriously. If they did,, this would be yet another example of The Nation’s ecumenicism lapsing into political incoherence, if not downright silliness. The endorsements are worth reading nevertheless. Gore Vidal’s piece on Dennis Kucinich is a gem, and several of the others are good too – Bruce Shapiro on Christopher Dodd, Richard Kim on Mike Gravel, and, above all, Katherine Newman on John Edwards. Michael Eric Dyson makes a fairly lame case for Barack Obama and Rocky Anderson, the “radical” mayor of Salt Lake City, makes an even lamer case for Bill Richardson. Of course, Anderson didn’t have much to work with. The latest flurry of media interest in Obama notwithstanding, it’s looking increasingly like Dyson didn’t either. But what was John Nichols thinking in endorsing Joe Biden? Unless this really was a debating exercise, he should have his head examined because Biden is, if anything, even worse than Hillary Clinton – even more Clintonite. Which brings me back to the “what kind of morons…” question. If you really want to know, take a look (if you have the stomach for it) at what Ellen Chesler finds to say in support of the Hillary. Or maybe the real message of her piece is that the Democratic leadership is on to something: that many, indeed most, Democratic voters (according to the polls), genuinely are “first class.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Profiles in Pelosiism

Pelosiism is the form Clintonism takes when the vast majority of the people (the demos in democracy) are far to the left of their rulers, for whom the exigencies of governing an empire and, not unrelatedly, serving their corporate paymasters are the highest priority. Pelosiites talk to their left, while aiding and abetting their Republican “rivals” with whom they disagree only enough to remain the lesser evil -- a point to which I will return.

Here are three especially flagrant examples of Pelosiism, all of them in the news in just the past few days:

(1) As Democrats prattle on about their abhorrence of torture and their respect for the rule of law, two of their number on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein, voted with the Republicans – sending Michael Mukasey’s nomination for Attorney General to the full Senate for a vote where he will in all likelihood be confirmed (again with Democratic support). For all the many reasons that the eight Democrats who voted the right way could (and should) have opposed Michael Mukasey, they settled on only one: his professed uncertainty about whether water-boarding – drowning persons almost to the point of death – is torture and therefore illegal. Since the man is not an idiot and not more than usually ill informed, this can only mean that he supports the torture regime Cheney and Bush inaugurated. So too therefore do Schumer and Feinstein, even as they proclaim otherwise, and so, on balance, does the party that will let Bush have the Ashcroft-Gonzales successor he craves.

(2) As Democrats prattle on about their opposition to Cheney and Bush, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives succeeded in quashing Dennis Kucinich’s motion before the full House to impeach Dick Cheney, by referring it to the House Judiciary Committee, where liberal icon John Conyers, along with his fellow Democrats, will let it die a quiet death. Although the outcome was never in doubt, the leadership stumbled badly at first in the way they handled the affair, after some clever Republicans tried to force a vote that would expose the hypocrisy of the Pelosiite majority within the Democratic Party. However it seems that the incompetence of Republicans in the White House has infected the Republican leadership in Congress, allowing the Pelosiites to out- maneuver them. Thus Democratic duplicity remains more hidden than it might otherwise have been. Needless to say, were the Democrats only slightly less of a (lesser) evil than they now are, there would be no question of impeaching Cheney – and Bush and the others. Were they even remotely dedicated to the rule of law (not just in words, but in fact), they’d now be confronting the question of how and when, not whether, to bring the torturers to justice – for war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity. But, as everyone knows, Pelosiites are dead set against impeachment.

(3) As the Democrats in Congress prattle on about social justice and about reversing the more egregious excesses of our current Gilded Age, they have decided not even to consider a plan to collect billions in tax revenues by fairly taxing the mega-millionaire managers of hedge funds. This time, the main villain is the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. That he has lately been wined and dined – and who knows what else – by hedge fund lobbyists has been widely reported. But this latest “embarrassment” for ostensibly liberal Democrats isn’t just the doing of one powerful miscreant. Michael Franc, writing in The Financial Times (November 5), speculates that part of the explanation is that the Democratic Party has become the party of the rich; and that its leaders – Nancy Pelosi, for example, and Steny Hoyer – represent districts chock full of mega-millionaires. As Franc points out, the leaders of the Congressional Republican Party, in the meantime, represent comparatively poor districts. Evidently, decades of Republican pandering to “values voters” is working its toll; the Republican Party is now run by the folks the corporate board room and country-club set used to consider their harmless but useful idiots. Meanwhile, rich white liberals have taken over the Democratic Party, with predictable results.

Why is Pelosiism so rampant? The problem is not that the Democrats are stupid; that’s unique to the (new) majority wing of the greater evil party. So it must be some combination of the following factors:

1) The POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, is comprised of cowards or, what comes to the same thing, “liberals” – the people Robert Frost said won’t take their own side in an argument.

2) The POP is comprised of bad electoral strategists who think that the way to win elections is to position themselves in such a way that, without losing their “base” (who have nowhere else to go), they can pick up all the votes just to the left of their rivals. If the national polls that put Hillary Clinton in the lead are even remotely correct, they may be right. But they’re not right because their reasoning is sound. They’re right because many Democratic voters “strategize” similarly. In other words, sound strategic thinking has nothing to do with it. The POP is in the thrall of a self-fulfilling prophecy based on a collective illusion.

There is no doubt some truth in (1) and (2) but, as I have written before, the main explanation is something else altogether:

(3) The POP and the GOP, however much they differ at the margins, agree in their fundamental political orientation. Like the GOP, the POP is led by people intent on keeping U.S. corporations in control of the world economy and of the strategic resources, oil especially, on which it depends -- by insuring a pax Americana established through overwhelming military dominance. This is why they cannot willingly accept the appearance of defeat in Iraq, reality notwithstanding; and why they do not categorically oppose the neo-conservative plan to remake the Middle East – by waging endless wars to make the region safe for American corporations and, of course, for America’s favorite “ally,” Israel. The POP is more competent than the GOP under Cheney and Bush; and it is certainly kinder and gentler. It isn’t embarrassing to the rich white liberals the House leadership represents. Also, it isn’t quite as lawless (Bill Clinton’s Yugoslavia wars notwithstanding) or quite as murderous (his Iraq sanctions apart), and it is less inclined always to do Wall Street’s bidding (notwithstanding Bill Clinton’s entire Presidency). Nevertheless, the Pelosiite leadership of the Democratic Party is working for the same interests Cheney and Bush are. Cheney and Bush have made such a mess that the system our wretched party duopoly sustains faces trouble ahead. Indeed, thanks to forces accelerated by Cheney’s and Bush’s military adventures abroad, the empire is on the point of becoming undone -- and the landing may not be at all soft. Now is the time, therefore, for all good neo-liberal imperialists to come to the aid of the regime. This is the main reason for the Pelosiite machinations we’ve witnessed in recent days and for the many others that preceded them and for the ones that will surely follow – for instance when, in the near future, Pelosiite Democrats will give Cheney and Bush the extra $50 billion they want for the Iraq war and occupation.

Kucinich’s impeachment resolution would have garnered more than a few Democratic votes because there genuinely are progressive Democrats out there (notwithstanding the shabby performance of the party’s so-called Progressive Caucus). There is even a chance, a slight one, that in the coming Presidential primaries they can take over the party and, at least partly, change its direction. But for that to happen, it will be necessary first to dispatch the prospect of a Clintonite restoration, especially one led by Bill Clinton’s (marginally) better half. For good or ill, it is looking increasingly like John Edwards is the only candidate not too tainted by Clintonism with even a remote chance of defeating the Clintons. If he fails, it will again become time to rethink the lesser evil question; not the principle perhaps (our not very democratic institutions put that out of the question for now), but whether the lesser evil party really is less evil enough.