Monthly Archives: May 2008

McCain’s voting record

As a West Wing junkie (at least for the first three or four seasons, via DVD!) I’m really tickled by the fiction-meets-reality of the current kerfuffle about whether McLame voted for Bush in 2000, as reported by the NYT.  Arianna made the charge on Monday:

On her Huffington Post Web site on Monday, Ms. Huffington, the liberal blogger, said she had heard Mr. McCain say at a Los Angeles dinner party shortly after the 2000 election that he had not voted for the president he has now publicly embraced in his own quest for the White House.

The McLame campaign begged to differ:

“She’s a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva,” Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest aides, told The Washington Post.

So far, so usual.  We’re starting to see the little cracks in the McCain facade, most of which are distinctly fishier than not voting for Bush.  The land deals, the secret family tax returns, the manifest contradictions between the talk and the walk on everything from mortage-crisis aid to education for GIs.  The McCain krew are starting to adjust to the fact that they have lost an ideal democratic opponent, despite the O’Reillyites best efforts to reverse the democratic verdict in Indiana (which appears to have succeeded—the final margin was a bit over 11,000 votes, well within the extrapolation from the number of self-professed republican Clinton voters who claimed in exit polling that will not vote democrat in November).  What they don’t understand quite yet is the unflashy but extraordinarily durable power of a candidate who sticks to his truth.

In the case of the immediate issue, a few experts have been stepping forward to back up her story.  Brad Whitford and Richard Schiff, better known as Josh Lyman and Toby Zeigler, deputy White House Chief of Staff and Communications Director, respectively, for President Martin Sheen (the best president we’ve had in a long time), both remember McCain saying he didn’t vote for Bush in 2000.  Brad was sitting at the same table:

Mr. Whitford, who played Josh Lyman, the deputy White House chief of staff on the NBC series, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he was sitting across from Mr. McCain and next to Ms. Huffington at the small dinner and that he was startled to hear the senator sharply criticize Mr. Bush. The senator has long blamed the Bush campaign for smear tactics against his family in the 2000 South Carolina primary, but by the end of the campaign Mr. McCain was publicly supporting his rival.

“McCain was just sort of going off on how much he disliked Bush and the horrible things that the Bush campaign had done to his family in South Carolina, and his exasperation with Bush about his ridiculous tax cuts and he really wanted to talk to him about it, but he said the guy doesn’t have the concentration, and you talk for 10 minutes and then the guy wants to talk about baseball,” Mr. Whitford said.

Another guest then asked Mr. McCain, Mr. Whitford recalled, whether he had voted for Mr. Bush. “And he put his finger in front of his mouth and mouthed, ‘No way,’ ” Mr. Whitford said.

Toby, I mean Richard, was sitting at the next table, so we can discount his supporting evidence, plus everyone knows he’s always very preoccupied with evolving speeches and with his complicated personal life. 

Unfortuntately, Whitford’s testimony sounds too much like the sane opinion of a normal non-candidate, not to mention a guy who’s adoptive family, which is not lily-white, had been made into primary campaign fodder by George W in that very receptive state of South Carolina.

All we need now is for CJ (Allison Janney) to plant a question at the daily gaggle about whether President Bartlet has anything to say about McCain’s apparent inconsistency. 

What’s actually not quite so funny is his instinct to lie about it.  We’ve had quite enough of that over the last couple of terms…

 

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Depart, I say!

You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing.  Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.  In the name of God, go!

—MP Leo Amery, using the works of Oliver Cromwell to berate Neville Chamberlain, 9 May 1940

No one can accuse Hillary Clinton of sitting around, but large numbers of us heartily wish she would depart.

As with her partner, she has no one to blame but herself.  She never trusted her own instincts, perhaps because she couldn’t hear them over the static of image management and positioning that has gone on since she arrived in the Senate.  Lots of people come to New York state to run for higher office, but few have been as effective as Senators, at least to judge by the breadth of her support there.  You might say her original campaign for the Senate was a 62-county strategy, no mean feat especially for someone not naturally at home in the rural burgs and depressed ex-factory towns of upstate and the west.

She never needed to get stuck with her husband’s political inheritance, and she could have managed some distance from it without at all appearing to be disloyal.  After all, she endured the worst kind of public private humiliation and stuck with him.  She didn’t need to belittle her primary opponent’s rhetoric about coming together to get problems solved—her record of bipartisan management in the Senate, even as a rank freshman, has been impressive.  She didn’t need to put on the tank-helmet of sniper fire in Kosovo—she has built a credible enough history on the Armed Services committee to withstand the sniping of misogynist Republican warmongers.  And she particularly didn’t need all the pretzel logic around her Iraq vote, when like many of the rest of us, she believed that the Bushrovers could never be so ultimately and criminally mendacious as to completely stack the intelligence deck about WMDs and hang Colin Powell out to dry, live, in front of a world-wide audience.

All she had to do was say she was wrong.

She might have had a good run from Barak Obama, who as we have since seen in abundance, would have conducted a campaign in no way detrimental to the greater interests of the popular Democratic Party.  She had the brand, the organization, the early money (and a lot of it), the personal fortune (as we have since come to understand), the cadres of field ops, managers, advisors, and in-place pols at every level of government.  Regardless of Obama’s obvious qualities, it’s been Hillary’s to lose all along.

And the fallout from the initial shock of not just walking away with the prize has been ugly and depressing to watch.  How long have some of us waited for a truly viable female Presidential candidate?  How ridiculous is it that this has not happened yet in the US?  And yet, the kind of mandate of democratic heaven that Hillary Clinton started with seemed to bemuse her with a sense of personal inevitability that is almost always a fatal condition in US politics.  The historical rectitude of a woman president somehow converted to a far-too-obvious sense of personal entitlement, which in the context of dynastic family presidential politics of late should have been the last sensation to exhibit to the voters, sick to death, some literally, of the Bushes and all their works.

Now, in the latter days of her grimly smiling impersonation of indomitability, she has produced a truly terrifying display of posturing and pandering to deeply suspect tendencies.  Interviewer: “Is Obama a Muslim?”  Hillary: “No, of course not, not to my knowledge”.  That sneaky little phrase, with its outrageous but deniable innuendo, has been followed by any number of essentially right-wing republican maneuvers, of which the gas-tax holiday is only the latest.  The charges of elitism are so manifestly more accurate when reversed.  The idea that she is valuable because she has a lock on the white man redneck vote, which is just a veiled piece of racism—these guys are never gonna vote democrat anyway.  The escalating tendency to lump the black vote into a pro-Obama block, as if her own race-baiting didn’t make it so.  (Certainly her’s is a subtler species of racial polarization than, say, George Wallace’s, but no less toxic.)  

And now, soldiering on in the face of any kind of populist mathematics, the bottom line of all her current rationales cannot be other than inciting the super-delegates to overturn a pledged delegate and popular vote plurality.  If it were to come to pass, the Democratic party in one blow would sever its future life in a country that is increasingly of color and, as politicians are always the last to understand, inherited by our children.  She would be crushed by the republican machine in a race of unequaled vitriol, fueled by over a decade of monomaniacal opposition research, unable to effectively counter McLame on the war, or on most other aspects of a disastrous Republican foreign policy which has destroyed our credibility abroad and our credit at home.    

It is very difficult to see how Hillary can understand the value of continuing to fight the battle at this point.  It is not as if she will be seen as a weakling by bowing out.  I think she has burned up a huge amount of good will all over her party, and with independents, but she cannot even at this moment be seen as other than a formidable politician.  

But she doesn’t seem to know how to stop.  That’s really the veridical resonance of Samantha Power’s offhand remark to The Scotsman: “She’s a monster.”  Of course, she isn’t—she’s a first class politician who could have been the first female president of the United States.  That’s a painful prize to surrender.  But it’s even more painful to watch her frantically twisting to outrace her self-induced defeat.

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Out with the “new”

An interesting synchronicity is presenting itself on either side of the anglophone Atlantic—New is looking pretty Old.  In the UK, Gordon Brown’s New Labour (well, Blair’s New Labour and Gordon’s inheritance) has taken a blasting in local council elections.  The highlight of this disaster has been the replacement of Red Ken as London’s mayor by Boris Johnson, an Etonian friend of the Tory leader and poster boy David Cameron.  London is obviously highly visible politically, but also is hosting the 2012 Olympics, so Boris will be getting his hands on some lush greenery with which to ease the financial way of backers and constituents alike as London dolls up for the show.  

The BBC’s analysis projects the local council results to a national vote share model, showing a result of 44% Conservative, 25% Liberal Democrat, and a paltry 24% Labour.  While the relative balance of Conservative and Labour are reversed compared to the 1995 results, which presaged the 1997 rout that brought Blair and New Labour to power, the Conservative percentage lead over Labour where they do indeed lead is about a third of that of Labour over Tory in 1995.  Still, it’s a huge blow for Brown.

It’s also a huge blow for New Labour.  The party seems to have been deserted by its left and left/center base, not least over the Iraq War disaster and its concomitant lies.  This despite the fact that Blair has been unquestionably the most telegenic and rhetorically adept PM in recent history.  Desertion by the base is never an inevitable result of running to the center in the short term, but (I submit) it always is in the long.

And what’s up over here, in the US, with the New Democrats?  The Democratic Leadership Council, or DLC, was founded in 1985 as a way of repositioning the Democratic party to somehow metabolize the apparent lessons of Ronald Reagan’s success.  Bill Clinton left its chairmanship while the governor of Arkansas to run for president in the 1992 elections.  At first he was just one of the so-called Seven Dwarves, a phrase which captured the esteem that year’s candidates were held in by the then-traditional-leadership of the party.  But of course Bill broke away from the pack, and two terms and one impeachment later, his vice president lost in an election stolen by the Bushrovers with help from the Supremes.

This year, in synch with Gordon’s travails in the Motherland, the DLC is again running a candidate named Clinton.  On the surface, she seems to be doing a bit better than Gordon, given the near impossibility of a Democrat losing after eight years of the worst president in modern history, and considering the current spin that she’s fighting back from a delegate deficit versus Obama.  But really, this is just a fantasy narrative concocted by news reporters in order to stay with the campaign as a story, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Hillary is toast, and she hasn’t gone about getting toasted in a very constructive way, either.  In fact, the comparison to Brown breaks down a bit because we really can’t say he’s pandered to traditional Tory postures the way Hillary has to Republican (even down to an Iran policy by that bomber extraordinaire, Curtis LeMay).  

Looking underneath her supposed support, we can see that a new set of constituencies is forming within the Democratic party, out of disgust with the performance not only of the dominant Republican governments of the last decade or so, but also of the more recently bare majorities of Democrats as well.  The kind of centrist trimming that has gone on for years now amongst Democrats in opposition, trying to keep the New Democrat/DLC formula alive, has fatally sapped the Democratic congressional party (just as it is the Parliamentary Labour Party).  Only Obama can revive the Democrats for the future, and by building a new coalition that is unafraid to move left but is also determined to build a majority.  We will see how Gordon attempts to do the same—there does not seem to be an Obama in the Labour Party.

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