Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sniper Fire

Previously, I had suggested that Sen. Obama might need divine intervention to overcome the Reverend Wright hysteria. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and it seems He sent an Easter miracle in the person of Gov. Bill Richardson. Richardson's endorsement was important on several levels, including his influence with Latinos as a border state governor and his high level of regard as a statesman. But most importantly, as he presented a memorable image with the Senator at a packed Oregon campaign rally, was his personal political courage, something that Sen. Obama seems to inspire a lot of these days. Richardson owes his career to the Clintons and served in two positions in the Clinton cabinet, but it's one thing to owe your loyalty to Bill, and another to owe it to Hill, and Richardson chose to do what he felt was best for the country and endure the wrath of the Clintons. He spoke of the anguish that went into the decision, but claimed Obama to be a "Once-in-a-lifetime leader."

Like Richardson, I was more than moved by Obama's speech on racial reconciliation. I was shocked that a leading presidential candidate would speak up to me instead of down about a matter of great importance; something to which I am unaccustomed. I disagree with some of the pundits that it was another Gettysburg Address, but it was a thoughtful and challenging statement that rebuked his pastor's divisive words and called the nation to a higher purpose in confronting racial resentments on all sides. This is what caused Bill Richardson to cut his vacation short and, as the old saw goes, come to the aide of his party. His belief in Obama's leadership outweighed his loyalty to the Clintons, and his endorsement came during the Obama campaign's darkest hour. The fact that Richardson resembles Horatio Sans only ads to the endearing candor of his remarks.

At first, the oily Clinton strategist Mark Penn tried to air off the Richardson endorsement as ineffective, but the old reliable Clinton Yakuza, James "Snakehead" Carville, soon offered up the real and nasty resentment. By saying Richarson was a "Judas who sold out for thirty pieces of silver," Carville put the proper Easter spin on it, and managed to imply that Richardson was somehow on the take at the same time. Bill was out on the stump looking less like an admired former president and more like Spiro Agnew. And when it appeared as if the pastor controversy, after a week of endless reruns, was on the front burner only on Fox News, did Hillary decide to weigh in on the matter. Just when you believe she might do the decent thing, she re-inflames the conflict about her Democratic opponent to detract from her own embarrassing gaffe.

Hillary's battle stories about her tour of war-torn Bosnia show that it's not enough for her to be the next Maggie Thatcher; she sees herself as Douglas MacArthur. But then Ronald Reagan always wanted to be the Duke, too. Her memories of corkscrew landings under sniper fire and running for armored vehicles didn't look as dramatic in the actual footage where Hillary and Chelsea accepted kisses and poems from an eight year old girl greeting them on the tarmac. How lame must your story be to be refuted by Sheryl Crow and Sinbad? At least Sheryl Crow once had the guts to stand up to Karl Rove. Down here in the South, when someone embellishes a story with a straight face and then is caught in a gross exaggeration, we have a name for them; liars. Hillary blamed sleep deprivation on causing her to "misspeak," but she looked bright-eyed in her St. Patricks' Day shamrock scarf when she related her war story like a Vietnam vet with the Thousand Yard Stare. Was she also sleep deprived on the other two occasions when she mis-remembered? You can almost measure the size of Hillary's lies by the number of times she says, "you know," in the explanation. "It was, you know, a long day."

This exaggeration over Bosnia, or her role in the Irish Peace Accord, or her consistent "opposition" over NAFTA, would all be forgivable as election tactics were it not for the unyielding ugliness of her campaign. Clinton's supporters say she is receiving tougher press scrutiny because she is a woman. I maintain that the media has allowed this unwinnable, disintegrating campaign to continue exactly because Hillary is the first viable woman candidate for president and it is too good a story to extinguish with reality. The math says that Clinton cannot catch Obama in elected delegates and her last hope is to paint him as one of the south side Chicago Blackstone Rangers and a danger to civilization. Then, with a series of primary victories, the superdelegates will turn to her, Hill of Arc, to deliver the Democrats from this wild radical.

Four weeks until the Pennsylvania primary is a long time for Obama to endure the death by a thousand cuts, and recent events show there is no depth so low that the Clintons will not go. Even the hapless Lanny Davis, so eloquent in defense of President Clinton while he was under siege, is sent out to shill for Hill and trash Barack. It has become embarrassing to watch people you once admired debase themselves in the name of loyalty to a political faction. While Obama's campaign seems to elevate people, Clinton's diminishes them. And even though there are not enough delegates left for her to win the nomination, Hillary will keep clawing forward, like Jason Voorhees or Freddie Krueger, until someone puts the metaphorical wooden stake in the heart of her campaign, if there, in fact, is one. Is there not a Democrat with the influence to face down Bill Clinton, or a group of senior party officials who can step in and declare "enough?" If not, Hillary will continue this kamikaze campaign, sending shrapnel in every direction, right up until the election of President McCain.

Many thanks to Wintermute of The Daily Docket for the improvements and upgrades to this blog. Because I had inadvertently enabled a comment monitoring system, several comments were omitted from the last post. I apologise and hope I have corrected the problem. RJH

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barack, We Hardly Knew Ye

"I gave them a sword."
Richard M. Nixon

The first election in which I was age eligible to vote was the Nixon-McGovern contest of 1972, and I'll own up to being a McGovernite. Nixon, after saying he had a "secret plan to end the (Vietnam) war" in 1968, instead added 20,000 more American fatalities, carpet bombed the North, and invaded Cambodia in his first term. George McGovern seemed the serious and sober anti-war candidate, capable of inspiring young people back into the fold after the death of Bobby Kennedy, and bringing the war to a quick conclusion. After the excitement of the Democratic convention, compared to the Nixonian, obnoxious, "Four More Years!" balloon drop spectacular, the polls gave McGovern a decent chance to win the election. I recall the morning I picked up the newspaper and saw the headline, "Eagleton Admits Shock Treatments," and I knew it was over. Although Sargent Shriver was hustled in to try to add some Camelot pixie dust as a second Vice Presidential choice, the damage was done. In George McGovern's first major decision as his party's nominee, he had chosen Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri as his running mate before discovering that Eagleton had undergone electric shock therapy, and that error in judgement proved politically fatal. After seeing the televised portions of the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright last night, I had that same heart-sinking feeling about the campaign of Barack Obama.

I've heard more than my share of black preaching for a white boy, because I like it. I've heard preachers reach peaks of hysteria where you're sure their next stop must be the emergency room. But Rev. Wright's expurgated sermons are so inflammatory, they include something to offend nearly everyone, and regardless of Obama's denunciation of the words but not the man, he should have distanced himself from his pastor long ago. This reflects poorly on his judgement. Did Obama not see this coming? It wasn't as if these sermons were surreptitiously taped and leaked to the media. They were for sale to the general public, and the Rev's words "God damn America," regardless of the context, will be ringing in voter's ears right up until the election. I am an unabashed liberal, but I'm also a realist who has lived his entire life in the South, and I believe the words of Rev. Wright have just blown up the Barack Obama campaign.

Obama was quick to appear with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and Anderson Cooper on CNN to denounce his pastor's incendiary remarks, but his reference to Wright as "an old Uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with," stumbles on two fronts. For whites who are blind to the anger in the black community that Rev. Wright expresses, but who are considering a first time vote for a black candidate, Obama's remarks at this date may seem too little, too late. For black voters, the word "uncle" has negative connotations of its own. As in the case of George McGovern, this goes to the heart of the issue about Obama to undecided voters, his judgement. He can distance himself from Rev. Wright to the earth's end, but he has given his political enemies enough ammunition to torpedo his chances. I can see Fox News, or any swift-boat type ad now: regardless of what Obama says, they will show his minister saying, "Goddamn America," along with the photo of Obama embracing him. Some will argue that John McCain has accepted the endorsements of John Hagee and Pat Robertson, but it's one thing to accept the backing of a controversial preacher and another to be his congregant.

And it's not as if Rev. Wright was unaware of the impact of his words. His post 9/11 sermon about "Chickens coming home to roost," triggered a memory of the exact same expression being used by Malcolm X following the assassination of John Kennedy. He was referring to the CIA attempts to kill Castro, but his words were interpreted by the public as showing Malcolm X as unsympathetic to the Kennedy family and a nation in mourning, and won him the enmity of all. Rev. Wright did not choose those words carelessly in reference to 9/11. His opinions regarding this country's conduct in past wars are validly debatable, but most folks will hear his comments as meaning, "We had it coming," and that's the one statement that 3,000 innocent lives refute in the public mind. In light of the uplifting campaign Obama has run so far, this is worse than blood in the water. This is like throwing giant buckets of chum to the circling sharks.

These pronouncements, along with the Rev's conjecture that "We started the AIDS virus...We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty," are going to make white Christians lose their minds. The whiplash over this is still simmering, lost momentarily in the basketball playoffs, but come next week, and the week after, Obama will be able to speak of nothing else, and engage in nothing other than damage control for a damage that may be beyond controlling. Hillary won't have to do a thing but sympathize because Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Coulter, and O'Reilly will do all the necessary butchering for her. I watched Obama at a rally in Plainfield, Indiana today, and though he was relaxed and seemed non-plussed, and the crowds stood and cheered as always, there was something amiss in the room, as if the electricity had been displaced by anxiety. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think Obama needs divine intervention to recover from this. And I wouldn't be asking Rev. Jeremiah Wright to perform the intercession.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You Might Be A Racist, If..

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." Geraldine Ferraro

Is it too late to rescind my vote for Geraldine Ferraro for Vice President in '84? I believed she had some damn sense at the time, and I voted for her because she was a woman trying to make history, running against the "Cinemascope" Reagan production. But her latest comments on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign are so repugnant, that as a person of color, I find them to be ghastly offensive. Never mind that my color these days is a translucent, pinkish tan. Hillary managed to call the statements "regrettable," but did not totally repudiate them, just as she said that Obama was not a Muslim, "As far as I know."

When confronted about her remarks concerning Obama and asked to apologize, Ferraro said she not only "stands by her statement," but added this:

"I have to tell you that what I find is offensive is that every time somebody says something about the campaign, you're accused of being racist."

Examine Ms. Ferraro initial words carefully. When you opine that a person has accomplished his achievements only because of race, and he could not have reached that high place but for his race, if you're not speaking of the President of the NAACP or Clarence Thomas, then you might be a racist. And,in Maureen Dowd's words, the "shoulder pad feminists," including Gloria Steinem, have rallied to her defense.
These are not idle words, and if the Clinton campaign is in control of their message, as they say, someone should wrest control of the attack machine before they start a gender war and elect John McCain by default. Hillary's bloodletting and ruthless march through the primaries may well allow the criminal presidency of Dubya to enter its' third term, with a geriatric fighter pilot at the switch.

I am continually baffled by Hillary Clinton's sway over women past 60. I know it's the truth, because after my vocal support for Obama, neither my mother nor my sister would tell me who they voted for in the Tennessee primary. And there's a growing trend that says if you dislike Clinton, you're anti-feminist. Here's some breaking news: Hillary Clinton is no feminist. Her hawkish war views and the enabling of President Zero to threaten Iran, along with her co-sponsorship of a constitutional amendment about flag burning, were all political calculations designed to appeal to the most machismo quasi-patriot and characterize her as another Maggie Thatcher. But after seven years of the Moronic Chucklehead, people are tired of militarism, fear, distortions, and lies and Hillary finds herself, like so many other sucker Democrats, with her faulty judgement that followed the false drumbeat of the Bush regime into an immoral war, on full display.

Bill Clinton's presidential campaign was remarkable because he usurped all the Republican party's election tactics. He raised more money, took more contributions from PACS, infatuated Hollywood to part with enormous sums, and co-opted the GOP's pet whipping boys; welfare, rap music, free trade, and law and order, until he could present himself as a "New" Democrat and get elected. But that was then and this is now, and after this last food fight of a presidency, I want an "Old" Democrat, not Joe Lieberman lite. Clinton's slash and burn politics are of the past and are beginning to smell of rot. It's not that Clinton is opposed because she is the first woman to run for the nations' highest office, it's because she's a lousy candidate, worse than John "Lurch" Kerry, pandering and pontificating, desperate and derisive.

Bill's hatchet job on Obama in South Carolina, comparing his candidacy to Jesse Jackson's, and the recent Ferraro outburst, are intentionally designed to marginalize and diminish the Senator in the eyes of the electorate. Ferraro's indignant defense that it is "she" being attacked, demonstrates the mentality of otherwise "good" people encapsulated in their own privileged worlds. To paraphrase the comedian Kat Williams, "She needs to get her some Negro friends." No one appears more ridiculous than someone making an overt racist statement and then trying to explain how some of their best friends are black. Ask Don Imus.

The complete implosion of Governor Eliot Spitzer is, to me, mainly a New York story that proves that hypocrisy knows no party and arrogance has no gender. But I am sure there are others, like me, who are reminded by the Spitzer episode of exactly why they don't want Bill Clinton back in the White House. Spitzer proved he is just another Jimmy Swaggart in a starched shirt and should have nothing to do with the election. Only these New Yorkers; Spitzer, Clinton, Ferraro, Giuliani, Bloomberg, Kerik, have collectively lowered the national discourse to such a gutter level, that Barack Obama seems like St. Jude in comparison. And, let's face it, the despicable tacticians behind the Clinton campaign, Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson, are an embarrassment to the Jews. Spitzer, however, might really be a stealth civil rights pioneer, who's blatant stupidity made way for the first black governor of New York.

Hillary's staunchest supporters don't get it, or don't want to get it. Like Clinton, they believe it is her turn and her time. But that time has past while she was pandering to the right. She had the money, the organization, and the media ready to coronate her as the candidate, but from DAY ONE, when she entered the Senate, every vote and every speech was designed to advance her political career, regardless of her personal principles. She figured that if she positioned herself as a "new" Democrat, which means demonstrating all the false patriotism and jingoism of the GOP, she would be palatable to Republican voters and merely assume all the Democratic votes were hers for the asking. But she figured wrong. Time and tide wait for no woman either, and Hillary Clinton has landed on the wrong side of history. In fact, without any further election shenanigans or manipulation of "Super Delegates," Hillary, herself, is history, and, hopefully, the era of blood sport politics along with her.