Monthly Archives: May 2008

The Scott McClellan Treatment

Here are where things are in 2008, a guy reports the sky is falling and the media reaction is not to look at to the sky but to ask about this guy’s motivations.

Scott McClellan’s new book, “What Happened” is getting treated to a tag team wink an nod  by the Bush Administration and Press.  The Bush Administration is rolling out the usual talking heads to tsk, tsk, poor ole Scott who left a disgruntled employee and, “gosh, something happened to the poor guy because he seems angry and disgruntled, and we treated him so well… sort of thing”  

And the MSM is interviewing ari dan bartlett, and dana and feeding them the question, “what happened…” but not to the Bush administration, which would be news, but to poor Scott McClellan, which isn’t.

Hey folks, how ’bout some news about what Bush did to the country?  about what Karl Rove and Scooter Libby did in the Valerie Plame leak fiasco, or the permanent PR campaign apparatus.  

A few years ago, Frank Ricj wrote a book, “The Greatest Story Ever Sold.” McClellan’s account supports Rich tooth and nail. How about a story on that, on the permanent commodification of public information?  

What a sorry state of news coverage, and thank goodness there are only 235 days 18 hours left of the Bush Administration.



Blackwaterization of the Border continues under Radar

On March 8, I wrote a post that said that although Blackwater was being pushed out of Potrero, California, by concerned residents, that the Blackwaterization of the border would continue. I didn’t know at the time that Blackwater was already in the process of securing a permit for a training site in Otay Mesa, San Diego County.  The Otay Mesa facility is to be an indoor training center, housed in an industrial park right near the border. It will train about 48 students at a time, as opposed to the 300 in Potrero, which suggests to me that several other secretive sites are probably en route. I say secretive because the process in Otay Mesa was just that.  Blackwater was granted the permit in lieu of public hearings, and the name on the permit application was for a Blackwater subcontractor, Raven Development Group.  San Diego City Council President Scott Peters opposes the permit, saying, “Residents deserve to know when a facility like this is approved.” 

The problems with having Blackwater at the border are legion. Blackwater is the symbol for the privatized component of the war in iraq. Blackwater symbolizes lawlessness and utter contempt for anyone who questions its mission.


For more on Blackwater, see this excellent video w/ Jeremy Scahill interview :

Blackwater in Potrero

The last thing immigration control policy needs at the moment is more lawlessness.


Waiting for Barack… A Question for Progressives

Recently, a spate of news articles and books about the bankruptcy of the conservative republican revolution brought to light the specter of a new 21st century brand of progressive politics.  This brand both celebrates the netroots and harkens back to Bobby Kennedy (in a non Clintonian way) and the anti war movement of 1968.  In terms of leading figures, Barack Obama is the 2008 version of Bobby Kennedy (in a non Clintonian way).

Perhaps, but here are 3 potential counter-factuals, coalescing around the proposition that progressives simply may be waiting for Obama ( the idea of a transformative leader), who may never come, and if he elected, this “great man” approach to political history may not suffice… 

1) The anti war movement in 2008 looks nothing like the anti war movement in 1968. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to point to much of a real anti war movement at all outside the progressive blogosphere, and even there it has been overrun by pro-obama coverage.  By contrast, in ’68, Eugene McCarthy and then RFK rode the crest of the anti-war wave to incredible popular support; in 2008 there has been little wave to ride.

Consider the fact that last week was the 40th anniversary of the Catonsville 9.  Back in May, 1968, Dan and Phil Berrigan (and 7 several notable others) stormed into the Catonsville, MD., draft office, walked behind the counter, took draft records, walked out back and set them ablaze in the parking lot.  The ensuing case caught the public’s attention like few symbolic acts have since.  Simply unfathomable to imagine a similar spectacle in 2008.  The Camp Casey protest in Crawford Texas dissipated for want of public attention; the public seems uninterested in the amazing story Pat Tillman’s mom is telling about the cover-up of his friendly fire death, and the public is simply turning away from Iraq war stories conveyed in books, news articles and even movies.  In ’68 anger turned to social mobilization. In ’08 it turns to discrete blogging parties.

This ennui towards the war is hardly the stuff of a successful progressive movement.  Progressives seem to be saying, let’s hold our breath for Obama, and all will be well…

2) George W Bush has committed multiple offenses against the US Constitution and the American people, and yet, hardly a whimper.  Calls for impeachment and with it the archiving of evidence for the historical record have long ago been quieted by the MSM and Democratic leadership, but few on the left are insistently protesting this administration’s blatant abuses of power.   Wait for Obama, the left seems to be saying, and all will be well…

3) Barack Obama is in a statistical dead heat, more or less, against John McCain.  Progressives have certainly conributed money to his campaign, and have helped with pro-Barack voter registration around the country, but the question remains… what happens to progressives, if Obama loses?

what happens to the anti-war movement then?

what about mitigating the blatant abuses of executive power, then?

what if the left is simply waiting for Obama, and he never comes, or he comes, and it is not enuf?

Clinton Paranoia Revealed in RFK Assassination Memory Interview

The thing that bothers me the most about Hillary Clinton’s interview with the South Dakota Sioux Falls Argus Leader was not so much the reference to RFK’s assassination, which strikes me as yet one more desperate attempt to rationalize her doomed candidacy.  Clinton’s aren’t dumb, and since she made a similar reference before, of course she meant to stir up concerns about Obama. 

The thing that bugs me most is that the broader tone of this interview makes me want to rethink the Clinton presidency from a new perspective, regrettably one which has the Clinton’s seeing their opponents through a very paranoid lens.   The epiphany has to do with the subtext of the Argus Leader interview.  Clinton’s paranoia was quite obvious in this interview, that her candidacy was somehow doomed from the start because she has been singled out unjustly and done in by some wily press/ right wing conspiracy.  The Kennedy reference was just an example of her lashing out in this broader context.


Facts and accurate historical references had very little to do with Clinton’s comments. In fact the historical reference to Bill’s ’92 campaign was incorrect (Clinton was the only democrat running a nationally organized campaign in ’92; his opposition was scattered (Tsongas, Harkin, Kerry were never real threats) and he had the nomination sewn up by June), and the Kennedy reference failed to contend with the fact that Robert Kennedy didn’t get into the race until March and that Humphrey’s subsequent nomination was the result of decisions made in smoke filled rooms by party hacks, not primary victories (ie., different rules then).

And now, days after this interview, she is blaming Obama for making hay over it.  The problem here is that Clinton’s victimhood has a sadly nostalgic tone to it, to a time when her enemies really were enemies. Richard Mellon Scaife was a real enemy of the Clinton’s, as was Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch and all the guys at Fox Noise.  The problem is this “woe is me” narrative doesn’t stick against Obama or even Keith Olbermann.  Rather, her accusations, and Bill’s, raise questions and invite some serious revisionist scrutiny of an awful lot of shinanigans back during the 90’s in which democrats and progressives bent over backwards to give the clinton’s the benefit of the doubt, much of which she is placing back in doubt.  It is important to reexamine Clinton’s “reinventing government” initiative, NAFTA, welfare and immigration reforms, which all triggered sharp right ward ticks in the populace.  It is important (perhaps) to reexamine the Mark Rich pardon, the sudden appearance of Rose law firm records, an so forth, from a principled position of appropriate ethics in government,  as opposed to a Rush/Matt Drudge right wing pile on.

The sad thing here for me is that in these desperate days of her candidacy Hillary is revealing a seedier side to both Clinton’s that also existed no doubt during the Clinton heyday. 





Tide of Political Conservatism not (yet) Reversed

Contrary to the implication in George Packer’s article in the current issue of the New Yorker, Conservatism is alive and well in America, and America remains all the poorer for it.  At least this is the side of the debate I ascribe to. The other side, as Packer suggests, is that conservatism might be the wane, its ideas bankrupt (I agree), its influence over cultural and political life subsiding (I disagree). 

First, it appears from nearly every slice of the political pie, this is going to be a strong democratic year. Democratic Party voter registration and contributions to democratic candidates at unprecedented levels. Democrats just won three special elections in very conservative congressional districts (Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi). 

The current conservative republican president is at an all time low in popular opinion for sitting presidents (worse than Nixon during Watergate); more than 2/3 of the country oppose the president’s war in iraq; oppose the way he is handling the economy, and believe the country is on the wrong track.

All these pro-democratic tidings could be reversed, however, were John McCain to win the presidency, and the polls have McCain and Obama in near statistical dead heats.  Given the fact that Obama is running a superior political campaign in terms of strategy and organization, the reason for this deadheat is one of three things:

1) the democrats have yet to officially settle on a nominee.  If this is the reason for the dead-heat, then perhaps a change in tide is indeed coming. But, unless you ascribe to a great man theory of politics/history, and i don’t, the election of a liberal president would not undermine the existing right wing hegemony of the political system.

2)  voters are not keen on Obama’s liberal politics.  This speaks for itself. if Obama loses because of hs politics, then it is impossible to hold that conservatism is dead.

3) Americans are not ready to elect a President of color.  sort of explains itself, to this country’s great shame.

The more crucial argument, I believe, has to do with the sort recently raised in books by Naomi Klein and Sheldon Wolin.   And this argument suggests the conservative tide will not be reversed by an Obama Presidency.  The argument goes to policy infrastructure which the right has been working on since the early 1970s, economic and market structures which the right has been undermining since Reagan, and political structures which the Bush administration has violently attacked since 911; These structures have etched deeply worn patterns in the political culture that are not easily erased by current voter registration trends, campaign contributions–which could well me anomalous– and short term special elections.

First, democrats and political progressives have yet to develop a progressive infrastructure of think tanks and policy centers that might in some future administration, extend a set of beliefs beyond discrete executive orders and policy initiatives. (It remains to be seen if the blogosphere will help fulfill this function). The progressive community cannot even support the likes of the Rockridge Institute which endeavored to contribute to the process of countering the 1971 “Powell Memo,” with progressive tanks and institutes.  Recall the Powell Memo launched the conservative hegemony in this country.  More important than this initial rallying cry was work of Richard Mellon Scaife to almost single handedly build institutions that would take anti-democratic ideas, like Milton Friedman’s free market neo-liberalism, and make them appear as if they were universally accepted as inevitable in the development of american democracy.  The fact that the Clinton’s who held the democratic throne during the 1990s, control almost 1/2 the dem. party now, and would like to hold the throne again, have been endorsed by Mellon Scaife and are sitting down and conducting business with the likes of Rupert Murdoch/Fox and Rush Limbaugh, does not bode well for a progressive revolution.  The Clinton’s Nixonian politics of personal destruction adds additional fuel to anti-progressive forces, regardless of who wins the dem nomination and the general election in November.

Finally, and most important, is the destruction that Friedmanesque neoliberalism has already wreaked on this country’s democratic institutions. The mark of privatization, begun in earnestness, by the way, with Clinton’s reinventing Government initiatives of the mid 1990s, is a black mark on democratic institutions, and might well prove to be permanent, or at least take decades to undo. Once corporations have come to control vital government services, it becomes extremely difficult for government to reassert its constitutional controls. Once presidents violate fundamental principles of separation of powers, and are not held to account, it becomes increasingly difficult for subsequent administrations to reassert such delicate constitutional balances.






McCain’s VEEP Choice: Sanity/Mental Health a Must Consideration

John McCain’s search for a Veep candidate has several unarticulated challenges. 

The biggest one has to do with this week’s news that McCain released his medical records. No sign of cancer (cancer would be for the fourth time).  But McCain said he would not release his psychological medical records, which is problematic.  Cliff Schecter and others have documented the real achilles heel in McCain’s campaign: his questionable mental status.  

The problem isn’t that he has had skin cancer, nor is it his age. hey his mother seems in fine shape; he likely comes from solid genetic stock.

The real question, aside from his policy positions has to do with the fact that he was a POW for five years an in solitary confinement in the hanoi Hilton for 2 years.  No shame here. Quite the opposite. McCain has been heralded for his valor, which seems the defining issue to his candidacy. The problem is that anyone who has been locked in a box for 2 years is likely to have suffered mental damage. No cuts. No sarcasm. But yes, some judgment here.  I would like to know more about this guy’s mental condition before even imagining his hand near the button, let alone in the same room with foreign leaders that he might deign to meet. 

So, while the MSM reports or not on his failure to release mental records, it is exceedingly important that any potential VEEP candidate for John McCain be vetted as to his/her sanity.  This isn’t a matter of political correctness; it has everything to do potentially with securing the well being of the planet.

Along the way, the debate over McCain’s and his potential Veep’s mental health might have the benefit of opening a long closed door about mental health.  Such teachable moments are rare in presidential campaigns, but when they occur, they usually help advance the dialogue.  Were this to occur and were McCain to open his own post Hanoi Hilton case study for public scrutiny, the act would be deserving of praise and commendation.


John McCain’s Character Problem: The Hagee Rejection

You can almost see John McCain raising his eyebrows and rolling his eyes at the instructions his campaign undoubtedly gave him to reject John Hagee’s endorsement.  Of course he knows of Hagee’s comments, (the alternative is he is hopelessly out of touch). The real issue, I think, is he really doesn’t care.  McCain’s alliance with christian evangelicals is much more superficial than is Bush’s relationship with them. Bush’s relationship with the christian right may well prove to have been yet another act of extreme cynicism, but with McCain, it is more an act of short term political expediency. I don’t think he cares one whit about Hagee. I do think he solicited the Hagee endorsement because he needed the votes of religious conservatives, and thought it would help. 

Still, since McCain obviously knew about Hagee’s comments while at the same time suggesting today was the first he had heard of Hagee’s anti semitic, anti gay rhetoric, McCain once again has lied about another important association in his campaign.  

Again, the alternative to having lied is that McCain simply doesn’t pay attention (not a good sign) and nobody in his campaign bothered to inform him about Hagee’s irrationally nutty comments about Hitler and Jews (Hitler a prophet?), and hurricanes and gays (another foreboding sign of incompetence, of import now b/c general election aides often become WH aides).

Further, McCain’s rejection of Hagee is accompanied by a cheap comparison to Obama and Jeremiah Wright, “i’m not comparing this to Obama and Wright, but…”  Sort of high schoolish, and hypocritical. It matters not the level of attachment between these candidates and these religious figures, for McCain, the import comes down to the fact that he criticizes Obama for denying he knew about comments that, he says, Obama most likely knew full well about. (On this narrow count, McCain might well be right; but I would add the caveat that Obama’s relationship with Wright is real–unlike McCain’s with Hagee– and complex — unlike McCain’s superficial act of expediency–).  McCain loses any leverage on this issue because he just made the same mistake– 

The point here is that McCain’s comments today continue to harden a rhetorical pattern of denying things he knows about or, in the alternative he is again so out of the loop as to raise pressing questions about his fitness to serve as president.  Either way,  the MSM would do well to notice.