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.

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