Monday, February 18, 2008

Their Latest Narrative

The “liberal media” – in other words, the corporate and corporate-friendly media, minus Fox News and (most) talk radio – has had considerable success shaping the “narrative” surrounding the Democratic primaries: after turning Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, the two candidates with the most to say, into objects of ridicule and then into non-beings excluded even from candidates’ debates, they succeeded in marginalizing John Edwards’ campaign and along with it the best chance the United States has had for generations to put a progressive in the White House. Now, on the eve of the Wisconsin and Hawaii primaries -- with primaries in Ohio and Texas and, later, Pennsylvania coming soon -- they’re concocting the narrative the “super delegates” will intervene into if, when the voting is over, they must finally decide the contest.

The chances are better than ever that Obama will knock the Clintons out of the water before that can happen. Even if he can’t get sufficient numbers of “pledged” delegates, it is likely that Obama will end up with more than Clinton will. Then, if they have any sense, the super-delegates will realize the folly of going against the majority. But the Clintons are nothing if not determined when their personal ambitions are at stake, and they are resourceful. Thus it could come down to the super delegates exercising their own judgments after all. How these delegates conceive the framework into which they will intervene affects what they will ultimately decide. That’s one reason – not the only one -- why the narrative the media concoct matters.

According to that narrative, it all comes down to Clinton’s “experience” versus Obama’s charisma and promise of “change.” This was the message, for example, of the Sunday (Feb. 17) New York Times’ lead article, written by Adam Nagourney and Farhanna Hossain. A more “learned” analysis, quoting pop historians and pop sociologists, led off “The Week in Review.” To be sure, all it demonstrated is that Kate Zernike, the author, is more clueless about political philosophy and social theory than the average undergraduate. [This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed her work over the years. For a starter, she should get someone at The Times to explain to her what a “personality cult” is – that is, if anybody over there knows.] But such are the mechanisms through which conventional wisdom comes to be. The general tenor of recent nonsense was encapsulated in the concluding paragraphs of the Nagourney/Hossain piece, where they quote Christine Pelosi, a super delegate from California, “expressing satisfaction with both candidates.” Did she come to this opinion as a chip off the old block? For that matter, how did Nancy Pelosi’s daughter become a super delegate in the first place? In any case, like her mother and the hordes of Democrats who think like her, she’s dead wrong. There’s no reason to be satisfied with either candidate.

What, after all, does Hillary’s experience consist in? She has been a Bush aider and abettor in the Senate since 2000. Thus, like Christine’s mother and nearly every other Democrat in Congress, she is experienced at talking one way and voting another whenever Cheney and Bush succeed, as they invariably do, in framing issues of war and peace in terms of “security” and “supporting the troops.” Before carpet bagging into New York state, Clinton had only one quasi-official mission – to work on health care reform. She got it thanks to her husband’s patronage. Her work on that project permanently marginalized the very idea of single-payer, not for profit health insurance; it also set back the cause of universal health insurance coverage for a generation. Beyond that, she stuck her nose into what was not her business more than, say, Mamie Eisenhower or Pat Nixon did. But her “job” was First Lady; in other words, she was an official wife. In that capacity, she has probably met more “world leaders” than Obama has. But the main thing is that, having lived there for eight years, she knows the nooks and crannies of the White House better than he does. No doubt, Michelle Obama will be able to figure it all out within a week or two; Barack will too, if he can find the time. That’s the only sense in which Clinton is better equipped than Obama to know what to do “from day one.” I defy any super delegate or any Democratic voter to prove me wrong; to tell me, in other words, what relevant experience lying in bed (maybe) next to Bill Clinton provides?

Clinton does have four more years of Senate experience than Obama; that should count for something. But she’s also more likely than he is to oversee a full-fledged Clinton Restoration; and that counts for a great deal. Pelosiite Democrats won’t even impeach Cheney and Bush, let alone bring them to justice. How then can we expect them then to come to terms with the Clinton administration? Bill Clinton and his sorry crew of not-quite-neo-cons are implicated in the deaths of perhaps as many as a million people in Iraq through sanctions, and they undertook military adventures in Yugoslavia and elsewhere every bit as illegal and politically immoral as Cheney’s and Bush’s escapades in Iraq and Afghanistan. [One would think that today of all days, with Kosovo declaring its independence from Serbia, that this would be an issue. But Obama is as mum about it as they both are about Israel’s latest outrages in Gaza and in building yet more settlements in East Jerusalem. With Obama in office, as much as with Hillary, Bill Clinton can be sure that he will be able to continue to enrich himself through speaking fees and similar means, secure in the thought that he has escaped justice!]

The Clinton administration did essentially what the Cheney/Bush administration has done. The difference is that they did it more competently, and that they coopted many of their potential critics – the ones with delicate sensibilities and high minded, liberal thoughts. They did all this while furthering and largely completing longstanding Republican objectives associated nowadays with the administration of the actor (and acting) President Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton did more than any President before George W. Bush to dismantle New Deal and Great Society institutions. He did even more than the Bush boy’s poppy to prepare the way for the criminal enterprises Cheney and Bush and their neo-con advisors would undertake. That’s what Nancy Pelosi’s family and friends and all their prominent liberal co-thinkers would be “satisfied” to restore!

Admittedly, it’s far from clear how much better Obama would be. He could hardly be worse, though, even if the mainstream party has become so thoroughly Clintonized that he’d have to bring back some of the same people Hillary would. Oh, and I almost forgot, Obama is “inspiring” – Kennedyesque. Yippee!

The media’s latest narrative promotes the myth of two “terrific” candidates, differing only on experience and charisma. But it can’t entirely obfuscate the fact that Obama is, in all likelihood, the lesser evil. Because Obama has been turned into a Rorschach Man, in whom people see what they want, there’s no certainty that he actually is the lesser evil. But it’s an excellent bet. In any case, better the devil we don’t know than the devil we do.

* *
If we had a media dedicated to informed and critical thinking rather than to restricting the range of (non-marginalized) political discourse and dumbing down the electorate, it would not be promoting this asinine experience v. charisma narrative. It would be talking about not for profit, single-payer, health insurance; cutting the Pentagon budget; taxing Wall Street speculators; supporting renewable energy programs; reversing U.S. policies in the Middle East; impeaching Cheney and Bush; adopting a carbon tax; cracking down on corporate crime and corporate welfare, achieving genuine labor law reform by repealing the longstanding, anti-union Taft-Hartley law; and about expanding, not narrowing, political discourse (for example, by opening up the Presidential debates). This is hardly an exhaustive list. But it is a noteworthy list because I have taken it, almost verbatim, from a mailing sent out this morning by “the Nader Team,” the group set up to explore the possibility of Ralph Nader running for President again. This would be worth considering if only to piss off the liberals, the ones who are “satisfied” with Clinton and Obama. They certainly deserve it – especially if they make Hillary Clinton their nominee. But a powerful presence to Obama’s left is looking increasingly like a worthwhile endeavor too. However, as I’ve warned, Obama’s charisma may make running a progressive campaign more than usually difficult if he is the nominee. That’s why the latest liberal media concoction is not only shallow and dumb; it’s also pernicious. Ironically, however, it may be helpful too – not for moving the country forward but, by blocking another Clinton presidency, for impeding a total squandering of the historical possibility Cheney’s and Bush’s incompetence has bequeathed to progressives. The Clintons have enormous reserves of clout. To stop them, it is not enough to be better (or less bad) on every conceivable dimension. It takes a little “magic” too. That Obama has it is, in large part, a media concoction; it is the liberal media that have turned the Rorschach Man into the reincarnation of JFK. But however he became charismatic, lets hope he takes full advantage of his powers – in Wisconsin and Hawaii and later in Ohio and Texas, and then in Pennsylvania. If Obama is good for anything, it is for dispatching Clintons. It’s getting close to the Democrats’ Judgment Day. Now is the time for him to show what he’s got!

1 comment:

Bob Feldman 68 said...

One reason the Obama campaign might possibly be able to put Obama in the White House in 2009 may be because the Big Media hasn't publicized much the role that the Obama campaign's national finance chair, Penny Pritzker, played in the Superior Bank S&L Scandal (which cost U.S. taxpayers $440 million, after the bank board upon which the Obama campaign's national finance chair sat engaged in financially reckless subprime mortgage lending and predatory lending), to the same degree that it publicized the Clintons' link to an Arkansas S&L that failed in the 1980s during the 1992 campaign. See Nov. 8, 2002 article in In These Times, titled "Breaking The Rank" for more info about the Pritzkers' role in the Superior Bank S&L Scandal.

Another 2008 alternative to getting involved in the Big Media and the duopoly's rigged electoral process, might be to relate to the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Anti-War Revolt event that's taking place on the Columbia University campus between April 24, 2008 and April 27, 2008.