Some Things I've Had to Accept (Or: Today I Agreed with Peggy Noonan)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

It's a bitter pill, but I have to admit that Nooner has offered some pretty stunning insight into the psyche and motivations of one Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.

. . .

What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)

She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.

So what is it that I am struggling to accept? (Sigh) That the Clintons are a lot more like George W. Bush than I am comfortable considering.

Recently, I read a piece by Andrew Sullivan, that felt a little like a blast from the past; the Clinton years, I mean. But, his over-the-top comparison of the Clintons to a horror movie seems less like vicious hyperbole to me now. Well no more than the average lefty rant about Bushco.

The Clintons have always had a touch of the zombies about them: unkillable, they move relentlessly forward, propelled by a bloodlust for Republicans or uppity Democrats who dare to question their supremacy. You can't escape; you can't hide; and you can't win. And these days, in the kinetic pace of the YouTube campaign, they are like the new 28 Days Later zombies. They come at you really quickly, like bats out of hell. Or Ohio, anyway.

Now all this may seem a little melodramatic. Perhaps it is. Objectively, an accomplished senator won a couple of races - one by a mere 3% - against another senator in a presidential campaign. One senator is still mathematically unbeatable. But that will never capture the emotional toll that the Clintons continue to take on some of us. I'm not kidding. I woke up in a cold sweat early last Wednesday. There have been moments this past week when I have felt physically ill at the thought of that pair returning to power.

And, I kid you not: So have I. My colleague in blogtopia,* Arthur Gilroy, no doubt counts me among the "kneejerk Hillary bashers," but there was nothing kneejerk about it. My loathing of Hillary took years to develop and was cultivated by one assault on small "d" democracy, and any semblance of good taste, after another. Even her odious vote to authorize war in Iraq was not enough. She was, after all, in the good company of most of the Democrats in Congress. Sure it made me leave the party, but it did not make me single out our Hillary for special contempt. No, that was the death of a thousand cuts. So how did this two-time voter for President Clinton and one time "Hillary for Senate" enthusiast come to find common ground with the "vast right wing conspiracy," in unabashed loathing for this potential first woman President of these United States? As Arthur would say, read on, if you dare.

My first inkling that there was something distinctly "wrong" with Hillary, above and beyond the rank and file Dem sell-out, came when I learned of a nasty maneuver in her Senate re-election bid.

If you doubt that the US is devolving into an oligarchy where powerful corporations and other moneyed interests control the political process, look no further than New York state. There, an unholy alliance between Hillary Clinton and TimeWarner has seized control of the electoral process by taking away the microphone of her opposition.

. . .
Because at another outpost of the Time Warner empire, decisions have been made that help ensure Sen. Clinton will have "virtually nonexistent opposition." Time Warner's NY1 TV news channel ("the CNN of New York")adamantly refuses to host a Democratic New York Senate debate. Despite protests over its decision, NY1 says it is giving incumbent Clinton a no-debate free pass because her antiwar challenger, union leader Jonathan Tasini, has not raised enough money; the channel arbitrarily set the bar at a half-million dollars. This despite the fact that Tasini has reached 13% in polls.
. . .

And there you have it. Hillary is the TimeWarner candidate, not the people's. And, in a bout of unintentional honesty, TimeWarner has admitted what it thinks elections are about: Money.

Yes, it was a stomach-turningly Rovian maneuver; one of Hillary's major donors cutting the mic on her only competition.

So, I was less than surprised when she moved to silence other presidential candidates this election season. And today, I find myself unable to gaff off Peggy Noonan's assertion that the Clintons bully the press, in a manner that must surely do the micro-managing press-Nazi Karen Hughes proud.

Over the last couple of years, I have written more than a little on Hillary's image-by-committee, her palpable disingenuousness, her bullying; cataloging my growing dislike. But her tactics in what has turned out to be a very competitive primary have pushed me over the edge into vehement disgust.

Even more disheartening I am being forced to reassess a former President I quite liked; her husband Bill. I always thought Bill was treated unfairly by the press... and by the vast right wing conspiracy. I stand by that assessment. If I had been forced to endure one more special news report on the President's penis, during his term in office, I probably would have stroked out. A witch hunt it was. But as "the first black President" has lapsed into subtle race-baiting and McCarthyesque insinuations about Obama's patriotism, I have had to consider the possibility that he did a little more than indulge sexual compulsions to earn the extreme ire of some of his detractors.

While I have never had any illusions about the wages of triangulation, and other tilts to the right, we endured during the Clinton years, I always gave him props for ameliorating some of the damage that could have been caused by the Gingrich Revolution. (Goodness knows, we have had a good, hard look at how bad free market fundamentalism run amok is for the country, under the current misadministration.) So even if Clinton's domestic policy was somewhere to the right of Nixon, he was to the left of Bush... and that's not nothin.' Bottom line: I found him likable; thought him earnest; considered him, overall, a good President. But his adventures in slime politics during his wife's run, have soured me but good. I've had a glimpse, seen a tiny glimmer, of the man the right wing hated with such passion. Good googly moogly, there really is "a character issue." Whoda thunk it?

I can simply no longer consider the Clintons the hapless victims of a cabal of right wing loons. Loons, though they may be, I now understand a bit of the disgust and frustration that arises from witnessing their relentless battle against reality. I must even consider the possibility that Sully is not blowing smoke when he says that the Clintons dragged out the Whitewater investigation by being secretive and evasive. I say this not because I had then or have now the stomach to rifle through the arcane details of a land deal gone awry, but because I've witnessed, in her run for the presidency, the stunning contortions Hillary goes through to avoid acknowledging error and telling simple truths. I've had a little glimpse of the woman behind the curtain, and a bungling, but affable wizard, she is not.

Hence, I was not surprised, though I was aghast, at the most recent eruptions of ugliness from the Hillary campaign. I speak of the Sopranosesque threat from her donors to Nancy Pelosi and her blatant lying about her adventures in Bosnia. Yes, Bosnia; a fish tale told by yet another chicken-hawk wannabe whose lack of military cred she tried to parlay into feats of daring do. Can a flight suit and "Mission Accomplished" banner be far behind? And even faced with incontrovertible, videotape evidence, she refuses to shrink that fish back down to its actual size.

So, yes, Ms. Noonan, I get it. The Clintons are almost as polarizing as the Bush regime that followed them into the White House. I have now spent seven plus years on the other side of that funhouse mirror. Not for the first time, I've had to address the curious parallel between my rabid disgust for an Administration trafficking in epic distortions of reality and my counterparts on the right side of the aisle, who experienced similar angst during the previous eight. There is far greater symmetry than I ever wanted to admit. As a matter of degree, the Bush years have been far worse. The toll on the economy, the military, the country as a whole, has been far greater than those endured by the worst Clintonian excesses. But, I admit to my chagrin, the Clinton presidency also greased the wheels but good.

As I look forward, the thought of enduring still more Bush Republican-lite, is almost as unbearable of the 4 more years of Bush reign a McCain presidency would almost certainly ensure. That politicians lie is not news. That they disappoint is a near certainty. But what we have endured for nearly 16 years borders on the surreal. Not one, but two, administrations fraught with the worst kind of lies and vitriol, volleying back and forth across a political and ideological divide. And as Hillary marshals on, against the blatant reality of delegate math, threatening to upend the will of the voter, if need be, to ensure her ambition, the déjà vu is simply more than I can stand.

* Yes, skippy coined the phrase.