Post Massacre Mob Confab Revealed

A little over fifty years ago, NY state police broke up a large meeting in the boondocks town of Apalachin, NY, and one of the results of the ensuing publicity was that, despite years of FBI propaganda to the contrary, Americans started to believe that Our Thing, a well organized national syndicate of gangsters, really existed.  After ten years of an attempt to keep the Mafia as a whole out of narcotics, the embargo had started to completely break down.  Albert Anastasia, for one, wanted to keep out of narcotics, particularly since a recent law mandating sentences made buying judges useless.  Vito Genovese, on the other hand, wanted to plug in fully to the massive cash flow that narcotics obviously represented.  Frank Costello, like Anastasia, wanted to maintain the ban, and was almost rubbed out in May of 1957.  Anastasia wanted to hit Genovese in return, but was convinced to hold off, just long enough it turned out to get whacked himself on October 25, 1957.  The image of Albert dead on the barbershop floor is one of the iconic mobster images of the twentieth century.

Amidst the carnage and the potential all-out gang war, a meeting was called at Joseph Barbera’s “estate” in the small town of Apalachin.  It is speculated that the meeting’s purpose was to arrange the relevant truces, including a hit list minimally necessary to settle scores, and to agree a syndicate position on narcotics. Over one hundred made guys attended, from all over the country.  Unfortunately for discretion, a couple of state cops noticed an suspiciously large influx of well-dressed gents in fancy cars descending on the burg, and after making a bunch of them from their license plates, they triggered a police raid that sent scores of besuited borsalino-wearing gents rushing through the cow patties in their Florsheims.

I thought of this event today when I saw an article in the NYT about Palin’s prospects for 2012, and how the Republican party (la Loro Nostra, you might say) was starting to plan for that.

Whether the Republican presidential ticket wins or loses on Tuesday, a group of prominent conservatives are planning to meet the next day to discuss the way forward, and whatever the outcome, Gov. Sarah Palin will be high on the agenda. […]

Her prospects, in or out of government, are the subject of intensive conversations among conservative leaders, including the group that will meet next Wednesday in rural Virginia to weigh social, foreign policy and economic issues, as well as the political landscape and the next presidential election.

Of course, if they thought they were going to win, the meeting would be scheduled for Washington, D.C.  As it is, I wonder if someone in the area can take some plate numbers, and alert the police?  I think these guys are part of a syndicate that has been robbing us all blind for years now.  I know most people don’t believe that this syndicate exists.  If we can bust up this meeting, perhaps people will begin to understand what has been going on…








(Images from Ernie Santa Ana’s blog, reproduced there from an exhibit created by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese.)

Appearing in a privately funded exhibit at the New York Public Library called Line Up are six photos that have stirred political controversy. The exhibit opened November 29, 2007 and runs until January 27, 2008.

Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese are the Brooklyn artists who digitally modified these images. At the library display, videos of each politician accompany the presentation with matching dates and times of the photos.

In the videos, when each politician makes statements about the Iraq War that the artists feel are criminal, camera flashes appear and the politicians’ appear in freeze frames, and jail bars shut in front them.

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For the first time in my life as a voting citizen, I cast my ballot for a presidential candidate for whom I’m truly happy to vote: Barack Hussein Obama.  I voted absentee and early in my town in Massachusetts, as I’ll be out of the country next week.  Since my first vote, against Nixon in the NY primary during his 1972 campaign (I was a registered Republican due to some historical confusion on the part of my Australian immigrant father, which gave me an opportunity to vote against Tricky Dick on my first outing), it has been, at best, the lesser of two mediocrities.

I could consider this is my first vote for a black president.  But I’ve come to realize that it is much more—and much less.  The media constantly call Barack an African-American, but I think this is actually a piece of typical racism.  It embodies the blood rule that anyone with some black African blood is African-American, as if being white were a state of non-pollution.  Besides the basic issue that any “white” in this country has at least a one-in-five chance of having a “black” relation from the not-too-distant past, Barack is not the offspring of two African-Americans, but of a white American woman and an African man. 

This fact makes my vote more than a vote for the first African-American president—in terms of the American racist equation, I’m voting for the first miscengenated president.  Besides being an objectionably racist term, this phrase actually has an electoral origin.  Its first use, according to the OED, was in the title of a pamphlet issued in New York City in December of 1863:

The word was coined in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet published in New York City in December 1863, during the American Civil War. The pamphlet was entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro. It purported to advocate the intermarriage of whites and blacks until they were indistinguishably mixed as a desirable goal, and further asserted that this was the goal of the Republican Party. The pamphlet was in fact a hoax, concocted by Democrats, to discredit the Republicans by imputing to them radical views that offended the racist attitudes common among whites, even those who opposed slavery. In New York in particular there was much opposition to the Federal war effort, such as the Draft Riots that included numerous lynchings.

The pamphlet and variations on it were reprinted widely in both the North and the Confederacy by Democrats and rebels. Only in November 1864 was the pamphlet exposed as a hoax. The hoax pamphlet was written by David Goodman Croly, managing editor of the New York World, a Democratic Party paper, and George Wakeman, a World reporter.

By then, the word miscegenation had entered the common language of the day as a popular buzzword in political and social discourse. The issue of miscegenation, raised by the opponents of Lincoln, featured prominently in the election campaign of 1864. 


Apparently (and a surprise, I’m sure, to all the white rural voters of downstate Illinois whose strong support of a black Chicago politician first caught my attention in the case of Obama) I have also voted for a Marxist, a Socialista hardened ideologue and a charismatic demagogue.  

The latter pair of scare-mongering handles are but a small sample of the veritable encyclopedia of right-wing obsessions on display in Mark Levin’s recent screed at The Corner.  This is actually a minor masterpiece of self-revelation, such as Freud recounts in analyzing the dreams of neurotic patients.  It’s so densely loaded with the arcana of wingnuttery that it’s difficult to unpack.  For example, Levin claims there is a “cult-like atmosphere around Obama”, including

Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama’s name on it, which adorns everything from Obama’s plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama’s name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world.

If I’m not misusing my special handshake and wingnut apron in my effort to pick up this peculiar transmission, I think he’s actually calling Obama a closet Nazi in combining “world” and “Berlin” in that final sentence there.  I am particularly delighted by the daft image of camouflaged teenagers chanting the professions Obama will open to them.  Other than being a bizarre importation of Kim-Il-Jung-speak into US punditry, what would be so strange about teenagers excited by new professional possibilities?…I mean, other than the camo…

But what is worse than any of this?  What does Levin come down to at the end of his confession?

“Obama’s appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the “the proletariat,” as an infamous philosopher once described it”…

Answer: the non-renewal of the Bush tax cuts.  These cuts, which mathematically and demonstrably give back taxes at previous rates to the most wealthy Americans, will not be renewed by Comrade Obama, and the revenue from restoring the upper crust tax rate of the pre-W era will fund middle-class tax cuts (in fact, for 95% of us “middle-class” people earning under $250K a year).   

Obama replied that those making over $250,000 would be taxed more but that money would be returned to the middle-class through tax cuts. “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” Obama said.

The McCain campaign seized on that remark.

“When politicians talk about taking your money and spreading it around, you’d better hold on to your wallet,” McCain told a Miami crowd. “Senator Obama claims that he wants to give a tax break to the middle class, but not only did he vote for higher taxes for the middle class in the Senate, his plan gives away your tax dollars to those who don’t pay taxes. That’s not a tax cut; that’s welfare.”

[AP in Newsday]

Tax cuts for the middle class, unless I’m missing something basic, will mean that more middle class income stays in our pockets.  There’s nothing to redistribute but the tax break that five percent of the richest Americans have received under George W. Bush, that by definition came out of the rest of our hides.  This is a restoration, not a redistribution.

But that’s not really the point of McCain’s essentially mendacious rendering.  It has three key racist evocations: street crime (“hold on to your wallet”), giving tax dollars to “those who don’t pay taxes”, and “welfare”.  McCain’s misinterpretation has been often repeated since then by the ticket under the rubric “spread the wealth around”.  

Despite the superficial dressing, it is not about anti-socialism.  McCain is probably pretty secure in assuming that his Miami audience relates to “their” tax dollars being given away—but they will also get the sub rosa message as well: be afraid, be very afraid, because worse than a socialist, worse than a Marxist, worse than a pal of domestic terrorists, Obama is…Black!  And the purpose of this rhetorical tactic is exactly the same as the purpose of the pamphlet that first introduced the term “miscegenation” in an election 150 years ago, except with the parties reversed: to “discredit the Republicans [Democrats] by imputing to them radical views that offended the racist attitudes common among whites”.  

But appealing to racism presents a surprising problem in the case of Barack Obama.  I’m certain that he would prefer something altogether different at this point for his grandmother than her descent into an apparently life-threatening condition.  Seeing her picture in the news as Obama took two days off from campaigning during the last two weeks of the race to visit the oldest survivor of his mother’s white family brought home again what we are really dealing with here in the candidate’s race.  I would be proud enough to vote for the first black president, but this vote is for something really much less dramatic than that, something more ambiguous and something more inclusive in terms of race in America.  And because of that, I can say I’m even more proud today to vote for someone who is neither black nor white, who is black and white, who is descended from Kenya and from Kansas, and who will help us demonstrate as a first step in healing our body politic that we are capable of political acts without regard to race, creed or color.

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Cursing both houses…

There is an interesting clip from a Real News interview of Howard Zinn up on Al Giordano’s top-quality blog, The Field.  Responding to questions about Nader, a third party, and how to break out of the two-party system in order to drive more radical change, Zinn points out that Nader’s transplantation into the electoral arena has been self-marginalizing.  He asserts more generally that entering the electoral process without dominating impact tends to marginalize the progressive movement as a whole.

Rather than displacing the Democratic party, the idea is to surround it with a progressive movement so coherent and ineluctable that Obama’s administration must manifest his ideas in their most progressive form.  Zinn’s historical analogy, as often with Obama, is to that Hudson Valley grandee Franklin Roosevelt, who in nothing but his expression of his ideas could in 1932 be understood as a progressive.  

This encourages me to point out something I’ve been watching since Howard Dean took over the DNC, and especially since Obama started to get any traction in the primary race against Clinton.  

But first, something now far more obvious but not then necessarily predictable seems more and more likely: a huge rout of the GOP in less than two weeks.  When a black, racially-mixed ex-community organizer with Hussein as his middle name is 4 points up in Indiana, something is seriously going wrong with the Republican Stuka Squadrons.  

One can attribute this turn of the tide to a lot of factors, but on the day, the reality of an Obama victory of the proportions I expect will be purely down to one thing: the ground game.  There is simply nothing in recent US electoral history to compare to the unswerving strategic vision, superb management and organization, and massively effective field organization that David Plouffe and his team have put together for Obama.  This is the organization that will turn today’s polling numbers into countable votes on Election Day, and in pluralities far too large to be bothered by any criminal tampering by the remaining Rovians in the losing party.  

The catastrophe this represents for the Far Right wing that has utterly dominated the GOP since the 1994 election is difficult to understate.  The Senate minority leader himself has his head on the block—a loss you would have to go back to 1932 to match.  The Rockefeller Rump of the party has somehow come out from behind its protective wingnut screen and started to denounce it’s own party’s candidate, and to endorse a Democrat.  And the less mentally balanced of the wingnuts are frantically launching themselves into rhetorical space and electorial oblivion.  

But besides the barely visible protrusion of the witch legs from under the House that’s about to drop on the party of Rove, a few other institutions have been smashed to pieces.  These are the less obvious casualties of the popular juggernaut that Obama has let loose and helped organize.

First, the previous and anaemic public campaign finance system is gone forever.  Obama is the first national candidate to fully deploy the vast and decentralized set of interconnections known as the Internet for his campaign.  Among other things, he has effectively built a new public campaign finance system, bypassing the federally administered one to which McCain’s mavericky ways obliged him, and reaching directly into millions of supporters’ pockets for their change.  Eighty three bucks is not chicken feed for most people, but it is the average donation with which the Obama campaign built September’s 130 million dollar inflow of cash, and far less than the 2300 dollars that maxes out an individual contributor.

Second, and more important for our future, the Democratic party machine, most recently in the possession of the Clinton camorra, has been defenestrated.  The immediate move of DNC headquarters to Chicago the day after the Democratic convention was just a particularly dramatic example of this.  There is now a national organization, wired together via the Internet and cellphone technology (and texting), which will be rolling off the energy of a victorious Presidential campaign, and ready to go to work the day after Inauguration as the New Democratic Party.  This party, in urban areas, is organized down to the block level.  It understands how to raise funds in a way that is unstoppable from any centralized position.  It is decentralized, heterogeneous, and has strong but not exclusively progressive tendencies.  It will not be the party of Barak, but rather troops loyal to his administration to the extent they believe he is carrying out his promises.  And, as we will see, it will be flexing its muscles before too long in the 2010 congressional races, blasting away any lingering wingnuts in reach.  

As for the wingnuts, they have nothing to fear but our fear of nothing.

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That One


That One

That One

Laura Rozen was asking yesterday over at Warandpiece “what does the right want?”  Her almost anguished musings in reaction to the rising hysteria of the right-wing base must be echoing across the normal political universe in one form or another.  After all, Obama has done nothing but be a competent campaigner.  It is the behavior of the Republican ticket which is veering dramatically toward the bizarre.  It would be funny to think that McCain and Palin might have pulled on their Halloween costumes a little early this year, except that there’s nothing particularly amusing about inciting crowds to racial epithets, literal media-bashing, or assassination.

It has been noted that McCain has a history of demonizing his opponents, which is not surprising, given what he’s been through.  Addressing a rally as “my fellow prisoners” is a small but incredibly public window into a personality holding itself together by persona.  The mask of McCain is avuncular (Laura compared his affect in the Nashville debate to a doddering elder relative who has to reach back to the days of Reagan and the occupation of Beirut for relevant facts).  But it seems he’s never stopped standing up to his enemies as if it were a matter of life or death.

Some of us experience our views of politics as a contingent relationship with the world, where we constantly reframe our questions and responses as we move through a series of events so we can derive an understanding of why things happen that is most personally compatible.  I don’t mean we are rational; rather, we can tolerate a contingent relationship, in which our understanding is merely possibly correct.  

For wingnuts, understanding is not personally contingent, but global and eternal—sub specie aeternitatis, as Spinoza says:

We conceive of things as actual in two ways: either in so far as we conceive them as related to a fixed time and place [contingent], or in so far as we conceive them to be contained in God and to follow from the necessity of divine nature.  Now the things that are conceived as true or real in this second way, we conceive under a form of eternity, and their ideas involve the eternal and infinite essence of God.

You could not survive as Ann Coulter, or Michelle Malkin, or Jonah Goldberg, or any of the rest of the Townhall tribe, without believing that what you see is the true world, partaking of the essence of God, as opposed to a personal interpretation of a contingent here and now.  So, bested simply by greater clarity, consistency, common sense, more basic and demonstrable understanding of what people are really worried about, more inclusive concern with where America is going—all that undramatic but fundamental Obama stuff—part of the reason that the wingnuts take leave on flights of obnoxious paranoic effusion is this: when things conceived sub specie aeternitatis appear to shatter, it is God who is deserting them, and the eternal which is collapsing.  In such a case it is no wonder Obama must be the antichrist.

Thus all the dark mutterings about the never yet uncovered corruption of Obama in Chicago, the secret cabal he is part of that will foist a far-left agenda on us all (or worse yet, one built around the “view that black assimilation [is] a form of self-enslavement to an irredeemably racist system…thus has he become “that one”.  I expected McCain to begin the Ritual of Exorcism then and there at the debate (no doubt with  Tom Brokaw’s able assistance).

Laura wants to know who would be the wingnuts’ perfect candidate.  The perfect candidate for them is one that can win, since it is by God’s grace rather than any quality of the candidate that winning comes to pass.  Conversely, when politics fails these believers, they cannot examine themselves and their position in any contingent way, but must blame the false conservatives, the conniving media, the infested immigrants, the Gigantic Left-wing Conspiracy that so inconveniently votes from time to time in the majority, and all the rest of the the stabs-in-the-back.

Laura’s avuncular model for McCain is apt but superficial (and, of course, rhetorical).  It is superficial because he is really a nasty piece of work, far nastier than Bush.  It is deeply fulfilling to watch the Obama campaign slowly but surely crush his ticket flat.  After all, he’s the only major republican candidate who even stood a chance against Obama, since he was the only one who could also conjure up any mavericky outsiderness.  It is looking more and more like the republican party itself, not just its presidential candidate, is getting crushed flat.

They will lose power, and this they fear greatly, not least because some of the most prominent of their number will now be subject to criminal prosecution.  But what we shouldn’t underestimate is the powerless rage of those who have seen their Gods destroyed.

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Tears of rage

John salutes his father's funeral cortege

John salutes his father

Ted Kennedy’s appearance at the Democratic National Convention last night brought tears to my eyes, and I was surprised, until I examined my reactions and understood something about this moment in time and its relation to a moment forty years ago that I had only vaguely felt before.

Caroline introduced him.  We both look a whole lot older since the last time I ran into her—she bummed a cigarette off me in the smoking lounge at Lamont Library, where we were both at Harvard.  Her life was full of fawning professors and trailing wannabes, so I didn’t feel like pursuing acquaintance beyond discussing Ross Terrill’s China course over a smoke.  

Despite the pitifully short time she had him as a father, it’s hard for me and most Americans my age to see her and not think of JFK.  She succinctly explained my feeling by saying last night:

“I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them – but I do now.”

Time will tell if Barack Obama is all he’s presenting himself as.  I will vote for him without a doubt about doing so.  But I’m not naive enough to take him at face value.  As I considered my teary reaction to Teddy last night, I understood a few more levels of the Barack Obama phenomenon, at least as it affects me and perhaps others of my vintage.

First of all, I realized that all the “we can work together” flowing out of Obama and his campaign is just a really elaborate version of what FDR meant when he pointed out in 1932 that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”.  For FDR, pulling together was a necessary minimum for a way out of the economic crisis, and fear was the great solvent of success.  This is an emotionally basic proposition, and perhaps too cute, but it’s worth considering that it came from someone who, far from being a starry-eyed dreamer, was the most consumate political schemer of the 20th century.

For it seems so far to have caused a lot of cognitive dissonance, at least among the chattering political classes, that Barak can talk about everyone coming together to solve our problems, at the same time as he ruthlessly operates the best organized political campaign in anyone’s memory.  This has given rise on the one hand to criticism from his right (both Clintonists in the party and Republicans) that there is no substance to his planning, and on the other (from his left) that he is not committed to his ideals.  Far from being a contradiction, I think this apparent duality is really a result of the corrosion of US politics from the right over the last twenty-five years.  

For example, we are a state with an official policy of kidnapping, imprisonment without habeus, and torture.  We are told by those who regard themselves as the supreme realists of the post-9/11 world (the Cheneys and Addingtons) that this is an absolute necessity for our survival.  We are told by our most senior government officials including the President that we must make war in order to fight terrorism.  If these are the valid bases for policy, how can “coming together” have anything to do with the “real” world?

In fact, these policies are not realism, but a kind of right-wing paranoic opportunism.  It is worth considering calling them Fascism.  They are policies consumed by fear and in fear.  This is the fear that is Roosevelt’s “fear itself”.

Fear does not conduce successful defense.  This is true in all sorts of martial arts;  it is true during interrogation, where torture mainly elicits the results the torturer requires, rather than useful information.  It is true for grand policy and military strategy as well—fear did not drive the survival of the British during the Blitz or the invaders of Normandy, or for that matter the Japanese destroyers of Pearl Harbor.  Fear dissolves critical social bonds which are the only basis for safety and defense.  

So when Barak is talking about “coming together”, he is opposing these policies of fear—for example, in speaking recently to the national VFW convention:

I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain. When I look out at this audience, I see people of different political views. You are Democrats and Republicans and Independents. But you all served together, and fought together, and bled together under the same proud flag. You did not serve a Red America or a Blue America – you served the United States of America.

Furthermore, governing the US together is true realism, because it seeks to place us on a social footing that can actually focus our energies where they need to go—for example, on trying to prevent terrorists from further acts of destruction here or anywhere else, or on bringing home our troops from Iraq—really soon—to prevent further death and destruction on all sides.

Fearlessness is realistic—it is not pie-in-the-sky.  It is not the opposite of pragmatism.  And it is certainly not a tool that Bush or Cheney or Addington have ever sought to use as an instrument of policy.  Fearful leaders, like all fearful people, believe that only through responding out of fear can they gain control of any dangerous situation.  But this is a delusion, propagating more fear, not more safety.  Security does not depend on control, but on cooperation.

If Barak is the true pragmatist in his embrace of fearless cooperation, so also is he correct to fight the political battle with the hard-nosed practicality he and his team are exhibiting.  The choice of Biden over Sibelius is a good example of this practical political calculation—because why should the defense of ideals be sacrificed to some kind of idealized politics?  One assumes that Caroline Kennedy felt as much, as a key player in the vetting process that resulted in Biden’s selection.

And where is the most recent example we can find of this combination of ruthless political skill and clearly articulated, constructive, progressive policy?  I would have to answer, the Kennedy brothers, perhaps Teddie the most, given his long tenure in the Senate, followed by Bobby, who traveled much further down the road that he and his older brother started on in the early 60s.

Seeing Teddy reminded me in a deep, deep way of what has been stolen from us.  Losing JFK, RFK, and MLK was not an accident of nature.  They were crushed because they not only showed no political fear—they showed they could move us all with their constructive fearlessness, and they also showed a grasp of practical politics so acute that the masters of power truly feared their ascendency.  Not only did killing them deprive us of fearless leadership, and set the stage for the criminal theft of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, our environment, our treasure, and so much else we have owned—it defined the cost of basic change in a way that made us all so much more fearful.

Listening to Teddy Kennedy on the podium last night, thinking about all that has been stolen from us since the violent truncation of the Kennedy clan forty years ago, I see Obama and the hope he articulates, not through tears of grief, but tears of rage.

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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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