Hurricane Bush has done a 180, and is circling back on Washington with an angry vengeance, building up a furious force as it nears land, hunting for anything and everything that moves and has an ‘R’ following its name. The GOP and their regressive agenda will be the second casualty of Election 2008, and it’s going to be a blowout the likes of which we’ve not seen since 1932.
But, even before that happens, the first casualty will be the enablers par excellence of that regressive movement all these years, the Clinton Family. Indeed, they’re already finished, and all that remains is for them to further humiliate and ostracize themselves by refusing to let go, a project they seem only too willing to pursue to their own destruction.
I like 2008.
People like me get a lot of grief from other folks for being supposed Clinton-bashers. But, then, some of us also got a lot of grief (sometimes from a few of the same people) for being Bush-bashers in 2001 and 2002. I would submit that the reason is the same in both cases. We refused to buy into the mythology of the post-9/11 presidency, or of the wonderfully empathetic one which preceded it, and we were right not to. We just got there a little earlier than other folks. By 2007, just about everybody had figured out what a disaster George W. Bush was. Now they’re finally starting to grok the Clintons as well.
Some people also accuse those of us who despise Hillary of being biased, or worse, against a female candidate, and Mrs. Clinton (the former Ms. Rodham, mind you – some feminist she) has more than once hinted at playing that convenient card. Talk about hiding behind a skirt. I resent that presumption, especially as a feminist (though I never particularly liked that appellation, for the same reason that I wouldn’t want to be labeled a ‘blackist’ because of my support of racial equality), and as a progressive who is anxious to broaden the ranks of those participating in American politics well beyond the class of straight, white, rich males who’ve been mucking it up for over two centuries now. For the record, I loathe Hill, but I also loathe Bill at least as much. Thatcher disgusted me, but no more or less than Reagan. I admire Eleanor Roosevelt deeply, rather much like I feel toward what’s-his-name?, that guy she was married to. In short, when it comes to politics, I don’t really care what you’re packin’ in your undies, but rather what you stand for and how willing you are to fight for it.
Watching Hillary in action lately, I am reminded of nothing so much as her husband’s disorientation during his White House years, when everything came a cropper. You could see that Billbo assumed all along that he, like his hero JFK, would be getting laid two and three times a day during his presidency, without anyone knowing. That just seemed like one of the built-in perks of the job! You know, Air Force One, Secret Service, tons of babes. Like that. He seemed completely unprepared for the concept that neither the Republicans (themselves even more promiscuous) nor the media would wink and nod and keep his dalliances secret, as they’d done for every other American president.
Similarly, Hillary now seems startled to have played by all the traditional rules of presidential politics, only to be denied that to which she most surely is entitled. She’s like Prince Charles. Or maybe Gordon Brown. It’s so freakin’ unfair. She played the hyperpower nationalist card, voting for a war that she knew was a total lie, because you had to do that to become president. Who gives a sh*t if a million Iraqis are dead? Who even cares if 4,000 Americans are in the same state and countless lives in this country have been shattered? Of course (and unlike where the Iraqis are concerned), you do have to pretend to care about these fallen soldiers. But let’s not lose sight of our priorities here, people. They gave their lives selflessly for a higher cause – namely, so that Hillary Clinton (or John Kerry or John Edwards) could experience the personal joyride of the presidency.
Since then, Hillary The Inevitable has pandered to voters in every way imaginable, quaffing beers and knocking on doors, faking tears and pretending to care about the poor. Oh, and don’t forget the gas tax relief plan. You know, the one that demonstrates how much more in touch with the common people she is than her opponent.
And then, of course, there’s race. We expect it when Karl Rove or Lee Atwater or their candidate marionettes play the race card in American politics, though there seems to be decreasing tolerance for that kind of disgusting garbage, especially where newly mobilized young voters are concerned. When a Democrat does it, or even a Potemkin Democrat like the Clintons or GOP-Joe Lieberman, it’s shocking to see. But the Clintons have in fact been doing it all year now, in a desperate attempt to salvage the fast-disappearing presidency to which only they have legitimate claim.
In a recent interview, Hillary made reference to an AP survey and noted that it "found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me." "There’s a pattern emerging here", she added.
Let’s leave aside for the moment (but more on this below) why you would ever want to brag about having locked up the uneducated racist vote in this country. That’s something to be proud of? That’s your argument for why everyone should break all the rules and give you the nomination?
But, even apart from that idiocy, it must be noted that these are the most outrageous and shameful remarks from the most outrageous and shameful campaign. They show, at last, for even the most naive, what the Clintons are truly all about. But, what they really reveal, above all, is her frustration at having done all the things you’re supposed to do in order to fool stupid little people into electing you president. All the tedious meet-and-greets, all the endless handshakes, all the bogus smiles until you feel like your jaw is about to freeze forever in that position (and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it did), all the whoring for contributions from people you can’t stand, and all the lying. Okay, well, maybe the lying isn’t so tough. But you get the picture.
So there’s poor Hillary this week, still trying to make the case for a lost cause. She might as well be trying to convince Catholic women not to use birth control. The old magic just isn’t working anymore, and she seems like nothing so much as a women who has stumbled into a parallel universe, where all the rules have changed. What she was really saying when she made those remarks this week was, "Look, I sucked up to stupid low-rent voters, the kind of people you’ll never see me within a thousand yards of other than when I have to go through this horrible prostrating ritual every four or six years. I gave them the war they love, the flag waving that makes them feel good about themselves, and the ubiquitous tax breaks so we can all pretend I’m a friend of the middle class. I even stooped so low as to feed them the racist rhetoric that allows them to momentarily forget their place in the social hierarchy. I did everything you’re supposed to do, okay? Now give me my goddamned presidency!"
What I never understood is why anybody ever saw this pair (and now Chelsea, as well) in any other light. When you think of the principles and people they’ve thrown overboard in a relentless pursuit of their self-interest, it’s astonishing that anybody ever considers them in any other way. Think about it for a second. Let’s just leave aside all the damage done for the time being, and ask ourselves what they did right with eight years of the presidency. I personally tend to doubt the capacity presidents have to influence the economy – though they are nevertheless always judged on that basis by voters – and I think this is especially true in Clinton’s case, where he happened to be in the right place when the dot-com gusher went off. But, okay, let’s give Wild Bill a little bit of credit anyhow for presiding over a solid economy that even helped the middle class a bit for once. What else is on the list, after that? Seriously, I can’t think of anything. Advances in healthcare? Civil rights? Foreign policy successes? Great Supreme Court appointments? Environmental leadership? Moral leadership (and, no, I’m not talking about jive GOP sexual morality, which Vito Fosella proved yet again this week is simply a euphemism for complete hypocrisy)? Eight years wasted. Eight years, and there’s no there there.
Except sell-outs and failures. You wanna understand the Clinton presidency? What is perhaps its greatest crime is also a walking metaphor for the whole enchilada of that administration. Remember how after the Holocaust everyone said "Never again!"? Turns out that that ‘again’ came in Rwanda while Bodacious Bill was in the White House. This one’s classic Clinton. While 800,000 people were getting hacked to death with machetes, he refused to come to their rescue. That would be bad enough, but it gets worse. He also made sure that the UN couldn’t come to their rescue either, presumably to protect his presidency from a potential Somalia-style quagmire if those forces had to be bailed out. That too would be worse, but still it gets worse yet. He had the sheer gall to go to Rwanda afterwards, and apologize for ‘not doing enough’. As if that was what happened. As if he had tried, but got waylaid by some other urgent problems elsewhere, like maybe failing to protect gays from discrimination, or doing Wall Street’s business by jamming through trade agreements that undercut workers and trash the environment.
If you understand this, you understand everything about these people. I spoke at a conference on the Clinton presidency once, where sundry notables, pundits and former administration types were all a-agitating and a-cogitating, trying to figure out the mystery of Clinton’s ideology, given that when he was president he had tacked right, feinted left, then tacked right again, for eight years or more. As I noted then, it’s simple if you stop looking for real ideological commitments to ideas and policies, as those commitments are traditionally understood. Rather, the ideology of the Clintons is the Clintons. Once you get that, it all makes sense.