Sunday, 30 March 2008

Heads I win, tails you lose

Public relations, or twisting the facts to best suit your case, is a marvelously developed art in this country because the lack of a state monopoly over communications forces the powerful to ever greater heights of acrobatic mendacity. In a dictatorship readers develop a skeptical sixth sense and immediately reinterpret and edit the official output while more or less swallowing it nonetheless.

In our system the same chorus is sung in a different register, a subtler and in the long run more effective one. Witness the official gyrations over the collapse of the surge strategy in Iraq: after a year’s insistence that the increase in troops had brought stability and assured an eventual triumph, suddenly the fact that fighting has broken out throughout the country is trumpeted as evidence that the troops should stay.

This approach, in which all facts, however contradictory, justify current policy, is remarkably consistent, and the echo chamber knows how to pick up on the latest Word from on high to turn on a dime without blinking. For example, Bush sycophants argue that torturing defenseless prisoners is essential because no terrorist acts have occurred in the last six years—proof that it works.

As soon as there is a serious attack, however, the argument will be that the practices have to continue because ruthless enemies may be planning more violence, i.e. because the previous approach (torturing defenseless prisoners) didn’t work.

Dismantling this pretzel-shaped logic requires the attention span of a multi-celled organism, so one can’t be too sanguine about the continued efficacy of the technique for dominating biped existence the world over.

However, there is one historical moment in which all the excuses and re-explanations eventually collapse, sometimes in an avalanche: upon losing a war. As the Bushites continue to raise the stakes and double down again and again to avoid facing their blunder and its consequences, they lay the groundwork for a shudder of national revulsion of unexpected depth and breadth.

Saturday, 29 March 2008


James Carville’s claim that Bill Richardson is a ‘Judas’ for endorsing Obama over Madame H implies that either she or Bill is a modern-day Jesus Christ. Now, would that be because they preach turning the other cheek or because they have no interest in the things of this world?

Perhaps Clinton (B) has forgotten the Judas kisses he handed out right and left whenever any of his appointees irked the reactionaries, like Joycelyn Elders who dared to say that teenagers masturbate. Or his total cave-in on gay and lesbian military service after he rode their support into the White House. That one was right on the lips.

It is curious that when both teams are trying to show how basically decent and nice they are while slamming daggers into the ribs of the adversary that Carville, a long-time Clinton enforcer, stands by his insult and insists it wasn’t a slip. Why? One possible reason is to signal the level of retribution that is being cooked up for those who dare to abandon the Clinton ship as it slowly descends into its own murky waters.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Basra Part II

In my spare time I see if I can unwind the lies and see through the smoke emitted by the government dry-ice machine, and it can be quite a challenge. But now as we head into the fourth day of the intra-Shiite battle erupting in a half-dozen Iraqi cities, there is a credible narrative taking shape in the blogosphere as well as my brain.

Turns out that some crucial elections are coming up in October, and if your ballot-box strength is dependent on having a private army, you don’t allow your people to be disarmed just beforehand. That’s apparently Prime Minister Maliki’s way to get his buddies from one of the pro-Iranian factions re-installed in the southern provinces’ electoral posts, the better to divvy up profits from smuggling the oil produced there.

The adversaries in this case are the other pro-Iranian faction, the Mahdi army, and I mention this because of the patently mendacious line emerging from the U.S. military spokesmen that the mortars falling in the Green Zone are stamped ‘Made in Iran.’ That blatant obfuscation is designed to distract attention from how ignominiously this outbreak smashes to bits the Petraeus/Bush line about the great success of the ‘surge’.

But wait a minute: if Iran is arming its buddies in Baghdad, then the U.S.-backed faction is getting just as much help as the guys in their Iranian-supplied sights. I don’t pretend to have a clue about all this and don’t know a howitzer from a hand grenade. But if there really were Iranian arms coming into Iraq these days, wouldn’t George ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ Bush and Condi ‘Mushroom Cloud’ Rice be having hysterical fits and displaying them for all to see?

The silence about where all these weapons are coming from is highly suggestive. Perhaps none of the groups need Iranian arms because they have plenty left over from the Saddam-era stockpiles. Or maybe they can siphon off weapons from what the Americans keep bringing in (after paying fortunes to well-connected 22-year-old Israeli tricksters).

It’s all so perfectly demented and bipedal. I almost look forward to the depths of illogic and grostesque pandering to the worst in us that will surely emerge during the remainder of this political season in which the Iraq war refuses to take a back seat to comfy whines about gas prices.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Petraeus's bloodbath

I have been trying to piece together what is happening in Iraq from the usual sources without much success. At first glance it doesn’t make sense that the out of all the ad hoc militias roaming around the country, the one that has declared a cease fire and pretty much held to it for over six months should be the target of such an all-out assault.

If al-Sadr were sending suicide bombers into markets or supervising the kidnapping of government ministers with his ‘Mahdi army’, one could understand Maliki and the Green Zone regime going all-out to rip them to shreds. But to attack the one group showing a little restraint? I don’t get it.

This looks like an attempt by a faction within the Iraqi state, such as it is, to exploit the American occupation force and wipe out the competition. All the talk about how bringing the troops home would unleash a civil war in Iraq looks pretty bogus if the civil war is launched precisely because the troops are still there.

As usual, the official American rhetoric on the events is hilarious. The shells now falling inside the Green Zone are not proof of the failure of the ‘surge’, oh no. Instead, we’re supposed to believe they were made in Iran and shipped over specifically for this purpose—even though the government being shelled is led by the most pro-Iranian of all the factions. No doubt an intrepid private first class was sent out to gather up the fragments and read the markings.

Finally, what does it mean to call those shooting at you ‘extremist criminal elements’? In war people use deadly weapons to kill each other, whether you like it or not, and personally I don’t. But those are the rules, especially after Bush took a public dump on the Geneva Convention a while back.

The entire episode looks rather desperate, and once again there seems to be little thought about what might happen if it doesn’t work. I suspect we will soon be reading accounts of the deepening chaos and anarchy and pained questions about why this outcome wasn’t foreseen.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008


When people are attacked, they feel a great temptation to strike back in revenge. States, which are collectivities of people, are hardly immune to this psychic need, and it is the job of statesmen to channel the natural desire to hit back into actions that do not make a bad situation worse.

They often fail to do so, especially when they are led by autocrats or dictators who need answer to no one. It is one of the tragedies of our time that the United States produced leadership that desired to exploit the great opportunities provided them by 9/11 for their own narrow ends at whatever cost and that this occurred with the quiet backing and legitimization of the sovereign people that democratic forms provide.

The PBS/Frontline documentary entitled Bush’s War, Part One of which aired last night, will be the definitive review of the events leading to the conquest of Iraq in 2003 for the foreseeable future. It offered two central conclusions about what happened: that the bureaucratic struggle for power between Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, allied with Vice President Cheney, and the rest of the foreign policy apparatus grouped around Powell at State interfered with the pursuit of bin Laden in Afghanistan. Specifically, the program argues that Rumsfeld held back needed troops and materiel until he could take over the reins of the war, thus allowing bin Laden to escape.

The second conclusion, which no doubt will be fleshed out in Part Two, is an oft-told tale: that to pursue their overwhelming desire to seize Iraq, the Bush Administration created a parallel intelligence operation led by Cheney, which intimidated and browbeat weak bureaucrats like CIA Director Tennet into endorsing phony propaganda and with it led the country into the war from which it now cannot escape.

The aftermath of this disaster will rival or even surpass the debacle of Vietnam and will be with us for as long as I draw breath. I suspect, however, that in the long run this war will generate more national shame.

In Gunter Grass’s memoirs, Peeling the Onion, he recalls how as a teenager he was seduced by German propaganda and eventually volunteered for the front in 1944. He could argue that he was an ignorant child but refuses to do so. He looks back and saw that there were signs, had he chosen to heed them, about what was occurring. Instead, he realizes with unconsolable regret, that he allowed evil men to whisper into his ears and make him an accomplice to criminal deeds.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Violence down—all dead

Sooner or later, all the glib talk about the success of the Iraq ‘surge’ and the drop in violent attacks is going to collapse in the face of reality. Yesterday’s barrage of mortar rounds aimed at the Green Zone gives us a taste of how flimsy that set of fantasies always was.

I loved the official spokesman’s comment that the attacks caused ‘no deaths or major injuries’ in the hyper-protected area, meaning that an unspecified number of ‘minor’ injuries did occur. Those State Department and DoD employees must be filing their combat pay claims at this very moment.

It is all so pathetically reminiscent of the 1980s when the criminals in the Reagan administration argued that since death squad murders and kidnappings were going down, things were really perking up in El Salvador. Of course, there was no one left to kill or torture, but the ever-loyal U.S. news media didn’t linger on that salient point.

Similarly, the American occupying forces in Iraq, who as the conquering power were and are responsible for securing the country and protecting its citizens, could not stop the ferocious outbreaks of sectarian violence that ethnically cleansed virtually all Baghdad neighborhoods. Once that was over, violent incidents naturally dropped off. This is the peace of the cemetery.

I anticipate a Tet Offensive Moment in which all the illusions collapse, and the hold-out supporters of this historic disaster come to their remaining senses. If there’s a God, it will happen while John McCain is running for president.

Meanwhile, isn’t Dick Cheney wonderful? I love the Republicans—they’re so bracingly clear about who they are. People have turned against the war, an interviewer told him. ‘So?’ replied the inimitable V.P. as in, I should give a shit? Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, hides her support for the war party beneath layers of sympathetic b.s. I don’t know which one is more dangerous.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Village Idiot

When George Bush appears on television these days, it’s almost embarrassing how fast the commentators switch over to something more substantial, like the woman who got killed by the 70-pound flying fish.

His sunny comments about big, strong America’s wonderful economy are going to start to sound pretty off-key as the suffering spreads. I’m wondering when the human-interest stories on the news are going to reflect the contrast between reality and Bush’s private world.

His autism has always been apparent in dealing with Iraq, but our loyal news media have cooperated in keeping that debacle in the realm of fantasy and the far-away, except for the dead and wounded soldiers who are somewhat harder to obscure.

But even that has become routine. Since criticism of war-making has been so successfully shunted off into the margins, it’s really only the troops themselves who now can effectively raise the issue of their own purposeless physical destruction. It’s a shame we can’t help out there, but it’s the result of forbidding criticism of the war as equivalent to disloyalty to the troops.

That closed mindset reminds me of the supporters of the military dictatorship under which I lived for several years. There’s something about the atmosphere created by the impunity of authoritarianism that turns average citizens into thought-police. Dinner-table conversations tend to be of the I-talk-you-listen variety, sustained by the ambient sensation that dissenting too loudly can have unpleasant consequences.

That’s the spirit Bush and the neocons brought to the post-9/11 environment. They didn’t simply settle for declaring war on all foreign enemies (despite not knowing Shiites from Sunnis from Baluchi tribeswomen). They also declared war on us. They wanted to strike out at their enemies, and those enemies very quickly included anyone not standing at attention during Fox News.

That all worked for a time and with some people, but I don’t think it’ll fly nearly as well when as those folks slowly sink into the slough of unpayable Visa balances and mortgage delinquencies. Then the us-versus-them rhetoric may not be quite so easy to swallow especially if one is moved to ask, Who’s us?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


We just dumped our governor and don’t lament his departure for more than just his terminal hypocrisy. So it would have been nice to welcome in the new guy without hearing about his extra-marital affairs.

For some reason that goes beyond the peculiarly morbid-puritanical proclivities of our own fifth estate, incoming Gov. David Paterson felt that he needed to fill us in about being estranged from his wife, what he did about it and her solace-seeking measures as well.

Who said we have to know all that? Did he simultaneously denounce people for adultery? Is he campaining on a Home-Hearth-Fatherland ticket? Did he prosecute prostitution rings?

If not, who cares? What does his private sexual behavior have to do with anything? Furthermore, I for one DO NOT WISH TO KNOW. I would like to observe my state governor from afar and remain blissfully ignorant of where he is putting it and why. I yearn to contemplate those making state policy in terms other than those applied to Angeline Jolie or Tom Cruise.

In short, I would like them, in the exercise of their public personae, to keep their clothes on. I promise to do the same.

Monday, 17 March 2008

We have all been here before

If you stay alive long enough, everything comes around a second time or perhaps even a third, and I’m not talking about necktie widths. There is something eerily familiar about the primary season we are living through: does 1968 come to mind?

The shocker in that case was Eugene McCarthy taking 40% of the New Hampshire primary vote against a sitting president. Lyndon Johnson was presiding over an unpopular war killing hundreds of U.S. soldiers every month and meanwhile had alienated the historic Democratic Party base by breaking with its racist heritage and pushing through the Civil Rights Act.

He saw that it was all over and dropped out in March. That May, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, the last major burst of Southern segregationist violence. Riots erupted in major cities.

A voice of innovation and renewal emerged in the person of Robert Kennedy, but he was then cut down in June.The Democrats staggered to their Chicago convention donnybrook, emerging with hawk-hack Hubert Humphrey. Republican hegemony was born in the wreckage and has been with us ever since, notwithstanding the unconvincingly centrist Carter and Clinton interludes.

The parallels are almost too numerous to enumerate, so I won’t except to mention that the Iraq war similarly drags on with no conceivable end in sight or even a plan beyond ‘saving face’, exactly as occurred with the Vietnam debacle, costing the nation its prestige and its economic well-being. Domestically, gunfire is hardly shocking as a way to resolve disputes any more, and one almost wonders when the bullets will fly to decide our political future once again. In an environment this dysfunctional and unstable, anyone is a target.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

A woman’s choice

Governor Spitzer’s wife did the now standard thing and stood loyally by her man as he copped to $5,000 dates with paid floozies, and that’s her decision. But I wonder what people would say if she had had a different reaction.

What if Silda Wall Spitzer had said, Oh great! I’m supposed to go out there while 100 million men check me out and ask themselves why my husband preferred paying for 22-year-old snatch? No thanks, Eliot! You got yourself into this, and my three adult daughters and I aren’t sharing the klieg lights with you.

Would women cheer her as a true feminist, or would they say she wasn’t sticking with her husband through thick and thin?

I wonder about this because of the contradictory messages that the Clinton women accept as they cling to her rickety campaign bus. On the one hand, they insist that Hillary is a ‘strong woman’ (reminiscent of the George ‘Strong Man’ Bush of 2000), just the kind we need to occupy the White House during wartime.

At the same time, she attracts their sympathy because she went through all that humiliating public airing of what should be everybody’s personal business—what goes on in their bedrooms.

Mrs Clinton not only stuck it out but brought Mr Clinton back to help her slug it out on the campaign trail as if nothing important had happened. So is she now a victim or a ‘strong woman’? Is she a gritty survivor or a long-suffering wife? Does she get credit for independence and autonomy, or did she do the traditional thing and take the crap in exchange for the substantial benefits?

I can think of quite a few women who, after hearing on television about how their husband moistened his cigars in his intern’s panties, would have gone for long walk with him: I walk to the right, and my husband walks to the left. Hillary chose not to do that even though she certainly could have had her career without parading him around constantly and probably done just as well, even better. The fact that she chose to run with the team despite that treatment strikes me as understandable but hardly a show of ground-breaking feminism.

Politicians tend to talk as though they both support and oppose every important issue, and that’s how they keep everyone happy enough to get their votes. But life doesn’t work that way. Women have more choices today, but making a choice means you have to give up the alternatives. I don’t presume to judge hers, but we can’t have it both ways, and neither can she.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Who is this prick?

Irritation at the Democrats and other disagreeable fauna has distracted me from observing the truly, awesomely criminal minds at work at the helm of state. Can we imagine just for a moment how the reactionary scream-machine would react if Barack Obama had uttered the following lines to soldiers in Afghanistan:

I must say, I'm a little envious. It must be exciting for you, in some ways romantic, you know, confronting danger.

They would rip him to shreds for treating warfare as a big game, for disrespecting our troops and for looking so juvenile and unpresidential.

Of course, given that George Bush actually uttered those sentences on Thursday, no one even notices. He’s like the town idiot that you try not to hear when he wanders down the main street talking too loudly.

If there is anything more loathesome, more repugnant, more psychotically irresponsible than making a disastrous war into an adolescent beat-off fantasy when you shirked the chance to actually go fight one, I hereby ask anyone reading this to let me know of it.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Just leave. Just go away.

Hillary Clinton represents the war party in U.S. politics, which is much more important than any differences between the Rs and the Ds. This is a supra-party formation that insists that we spend our treasure, our prestige and credibility, and our children in arming for, training for and shipping out for—conquest. Despite the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq that grinds on year after year, this party remains in charge. Hillary is the guarantee that November’s election will not dislodge it.

Clinton’s performance at the state of the union address in January should be proof enough, and I can’t figure why the Obama campaign isn’t using footage of her leaping to her feet and applauding wildly in response to Bush’s stupid lies about the surge to drive a truck between the two of them on the issue.

Perhaps Obama thinks the voters lean towards the Hillary/Bush position, but sometimes one has to take a principled stand even if it costs votes. McCain did, and he’s looking credible or at least consistent on the issue as well as out of his mind.

Meanwhile, many people have pointed out that coverage of the war has dropped precipitously in our newspapers, and the murderous Iraqi gangs can take part of the blame for that as they’ve made it virtually impossible for reporters to generate news from the place. But the lapdog media are guilty too. We’ll have a new spate of stories when the 4,000-American-death barrier is crossed in a couple of weeks, then it’ll fade again in favor of more sad tales of mortgage foreclosures.

The debate Clinton’s stirred up about Obama’s experience misses the point entirely. Nobody seems to have a great plan for dealing with the mess Bush made, but for that very reason no one associated or complicit with that demented decision should be put in charge of it. That seems to me elementary—experience is good when it shows you’re not half simple.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Decline and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Our governor hadn’t been exactly winning the Mr Personality contest up in Albany for a while already when the news that he was a regular customer of high-end hookers crashed over the internet like a trillion gallons of water pouring through a crack in Hoover Dam. I’m writing this before midnight, but I don’t expect him to last past close of business Tuesday. After all, he wasn’t caught torturing defenseless prisoners, this is about SEX for chrissake. No mercy.

I don’t sympathize, though. Here’s a guy who spent his whole professional life chasing the bad guys and throwing the book at them as an official enforcer of the laws of the land. He had a reputation as an arrogant, pushy, in-your-face type, but we figured, Hey, he did good work and a defended the littler guys in the Wall Street firmament against the kinds of quasi-legal looting that seems to be business as usual there.

But keeping a tab with a high-end muff store and arguing with the madam about overcharges on a bugged phone line? Do these guys ever stop to think about the consequences of their self-destructive, narcissistic behavior for the polity they’re supposed to be governing?

Did Clinton, B., stop to think that his wandering weenie not only interrupted the nation’s business but also might shoehorn George W Bush into his catastrophic presidency? As the Democratic Party’s tenure at the White House collapsed ignominiously about his ears, did Clinton think to withdraw to the sidelines rather than sacrifice everything to save his own sorry behind? There really is no excuse for getting such huge opportunities to improve millions of people’s lives and then wreck them over a piece of ass, excuse my French.

In the short term, it’ll be a tabloid heyday here, but Lt Governor David Patterson could be an interesting substitute. He’s a career pol, pretty unknown to most New Yorkers, and legally blind, which is potentially inspiring. No one knows what he’ll be like as an administrator, and yet these accidental figures often occasion pleasant surprises. He’s also black, another first for our state.

All of which confirms my thesis that 2008 is going to be a helluva year and that the surprises are going to keep on coming.

Asthmatic republic struggles for breath

An article in Esquire about the ongoing internal struggle within the Bush Administration over war with Iran is motive for both relief and further nervousness. It’s good that someone is resisting this new wacko plan from the hard-line autistics in the White House, but unfortunately that someone is far too often found in the military upper ranks who are supposed to be subordinated to civilian rule.

A Navy admiral, William Fallon, apparently pissed off the Bushites by meeting with Egyptian president Mubarak last fall and very publicly ruling out a strike against Iran, directly contradicting the drumbeat of threats emanating from Pennsylvania Avenue and environs. One is tempted to say, Good for him, but having lived under military dictatorship, the words stick in my throat.

Yet another war with all its attendant horror and carnage is frightening to contemplate, but it should be we, the sovereign people, who resist this new crime, not some reified centurion class taking over the formulation of state policy. It would certainly be an ironic result of the Bush’s disastrous reign if the armed forces of the United States burst their tenuous remaining political bonds and openly defied civilian leadership, enshrined in our increasingly wobbly constitution 200-plus years ago.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Torture, yet again

Almost unnoticed amidst the noise from the two Democratic campaigns, Bush has once again announced to the world that the United States of America will torture anyone it damn pleases, thank you very much. You’d think that would generate some chit-chat among the talk shows, but maybe it’s news that’s too old and repetitive.

The justification, need we repeat, is that ‘ticking time-bomb’ scenario in which a threat to American life and limb might be staved off if we were permitted to tie someone down and torture the shit out of him (or her). Under that logic, the North Vietnamese were certainly within their rights in torturing John McCain to see if he had any news on the next air sortie being readied to drop more bombs on their civilians.

No doubt debates like that took place in the North Vietnamese ruling circles at the time, and those favoring less brutality were chastized as being softie wimps who didn’t really care about their country and its people.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Defend yourself, defend us

So much electronic ink has been expended on the latest reverse in this zigzagging primary season that I hesitate to add any. But we needed this week for its significance to settle out of the agitated waters stirred up by the Ohio and Texas primaries.

My reading of them is that Obama got a test of his presidential timber—and failed it. He can bounce back, but it won’t do to pretend he can rise above partisanship and avoiding delivering a knuckle sandwich when that’s what’s called for. His speeches appealing to our better selves are just fine, but when he stood there taking the blows from the Hillary camp and failing to send them back, he looked weak.

That, as every Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter can attest, is fatal.

For example, the first glimpse of the new tack from Clinton was her public dressing down of him for some campaign literature that allegely misrepresented a position of hers. No one today can remember what those positions were because that wasn’t the point. Obama responded smoothly and elegantly that it was old news, and he looked puzzled and almost amused by her outburst.

But we needed him to bore in on that opening and knock her off her soapbox. We needed him to say, Get a life, Hillary, and stop yer whining. This is a political fight, and if you’re not man enough for it, you’re in the wrong business.

Instead, that’s the message she gave about him. The Ohio women suddenly were full of admiration for Clinton as a ‘strong woman’. No one in the Obama camp was crowing with satisfaction about Barack being a ‘strong man.’

That’s why the 3:00 a.m. red phone call, despicable as it was, resonated. If he couldn’t bitch-slap someone as unpopular as Hillary when she handed him a giant opportunity, how was he going to take on the country’s adversaries and enemies? Nice-guy rhetoric suddenly looked na├»ve—which was exactly the target Clinton was aiming at.

Clinton also gave Obama another opening that he failed to exploit: she started a process that could lead to a split in the Democratic Party. If there’s one thing Democratic voters are united about, it’s the need to go into the November election with a hurricane-force wind at their backs and blow the Bush gang into the ozone layer. Obama could have sat somberly at a desk and correctly accused her of undermining that unity to feed her personal ambitions, and he would have nailed down an incontrovertible moral advantage.

Instead, he went on the defensive and answered the criticisms one by one. Now if he blasts her back en route to Pennsylvania, it may look like he’s responsible for the deepening division between the two camps.

This electoral cycle has shown repeatedly that candidates can recover from setbacks and rearrange the chessboard. Obama can too, but he’s got to stop looking like John Kerry without losing his anti-politics appeal. Reagan did it, and so did the ridiculous George W Bush. It can’t be that hard.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Go negative

Possible Obama ads:

George Bush in a flight jacket on the navy battleship. “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner in the background. Voice narrator: ‘George Bush took us to war. He wanted to be seen as a strong leader. So he concocted false stories about weapons of mass destruction, then called anyone who didn’t support him weak and unpatriotic.’

Picture of smiling Hillary Clinton: ‘Hillary Clinton went along with him. She didn’t look behind the rhetoric to see if the stories were true.’

Pictures of destruction, bomb blasts, soldiers under fire. ‘Is this strength and experience at work?’ Split screen of Bush and Hillary both smiling and waving.

Picture of Obama campaigning in Illinois. ‘Barack Obama didn’t believe everything he was told. He resisted the rush toward war when it wasn’t easy to do.’

‘That’s leadership.’

Second ad:

George Bush in a huge toy store with a cart. Narrator: ‘George Bush decided that the country should go to war.’

Bush piling tanks, planes, bombs, materiel into his shopping cart. ‘But he didn’t want to pay for it. Instead, he wanted to give away a lot of money in a big tax cut for the rich.’

Bush at the check-out counter. ‘So instead of paying, he put all the war spending on a credit card.’ Bush swiping the card. Shot of the register, with numbers spinning. ‘No one knows what the total bill for Bush’s war will be.’

Cash register stops at $3,000,000,000,000. ‘One estimate is 3 TRILLION dollars.’ Shot of a mountain of $100 bills growing past the Empire State Building up into the heavens. ‘No one can really grasp how much money that is.’

Zoom into Bush’s credit card at the check-out. It reads, ‘U.S. TAXPAYER.’ Narrator: ‘But we do know one thing: it’s on your account.’

Shot of Hillary Clinton signing the receipt. ‘Hillary Clinton backed the war from the beginning. She endorsed Bush’s credit plan and saddled you with the bill.’

‘Is this the kind of experience we need?’


Okay, okay, I’m not a marketing specialist. But to crack the current Karl Rovian meta-narrative that the Clinton camp has constructed, I don’t see any alternative but to tell the painful truth about Democratic complicity with the worst excesses of the Bush regime. That means foregrounding Obama’s underlying critique and shedding the let’s-hold-hands-and-sing discourse that’s being so effectively mocked. If Hillary wants to run as a I-will-make-you-safe quasi-Republican, then let her take the rap for where that posture has led us.

Fair fight.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

War Party Triumphant

So our countrymen and women haven’t yet figured out that their kids are cannon fodder for the rich guys’ wars and that their pocketbooks are being emptied to pay for it. Too bad.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Voters’ cares

Not so many weeks back, the chattering classes intoned delphically that ‘the economy, stupid’, not Iraq, was back on first as the REAL topic of this election, and in fact polls do show voters acutely aware of pocketbook issues. But what does that exactly mean for the fate of our remaining candidates?

It’s curious that as Hillary C throws everything she can at Obama to make something, anything, stick, she keeps getting hoist on the petard of her pro-war vote to authorize the Iraq conquest. They debate and squabble over NAFTA and health care and how to lessen the pain of globalization and the competition from Chinese sweatshops. But the big pitch for Hillary’s seasoned, tested, experienced candidacy—telegraphed through her 3 a.m. mommy ad—was immediately undercut by that fateful vote enabling George Bush to spend $3 trillion to invade a foreign state.

Time and again when it comes down to distinguishing between the platforms of the two Democratic candidates still standing, not much space appears between them in strictly policy terms. But then there’s that politically expedient decision of Hillary Clinton to avoid looking soft when the country was convinced by W’s lies that it needed to go to war.

If she really didn’t know any better as she claims, then she doesn’t deserve to be president. And if she did, even less so. There’s really no getting around the fact that at the key moment in the last decade when we needed our leaders to take a principled stand and swim against the tide, Clinton voted for her ambitions.

Perhaps the voting public isn’t quite as self-absorbed and gullible as the commentators (myself included) insist. Perhaps ever-so-vaguely the collective mind is associating the fact that the country is sinking into the slough of recession and can’t afford to resolve any of its pressing domestic needs, that the job market sucks and 1% of the adult population is in prison, with the pouring of vast treasure down the Iraq sinkhole. Perhaps the tactical shift by congressional Democrats to emphasize the economics of this crazy war is a sign of a broader awakening among the abused masses.

In short, perhaps the war really is the number one issue in this election cycle after all. And perhaps the inspirational candidate, aside from the soaring rhetoric, is the one who best captured something stirring in the hearts of his compatriots: a yearning for common sense, diplomacy, decency and peace.