Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is Ms. Clinton Crazy?

Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News, who has been writing a series of rather hysterical anti-Hillary columns, today published responses from readers who agree with his take that Clinton, in her remarks about the 1968 Robert Kennedy assassination, was really talking about a possible Obama hit.
Interesting, several doctors weighed in:

"This was an encoded/unconscious death wish toward Obama. It was not even thinly disguised."
Joseph Reppen, Ph.D., ABPP
"It seems best explained as a Freudian slip."
Tom Schossau, M.D.
"It's hard to know in this campaign whether Hillary's death wish is for Obama, or herself. Whether she has a deep down self-destructive tendency, like the late President [Richard] Nixon, is hard to know, but there are similarities."
William Hogg, M.D.

I had to laugh when I read this. We are apparently now at the stage of a presidential campaign where the good doctors are tossing in "unconscious death wishes" and "Freudian slips." It used to be, before Freud was nearly completely discredited, that somberly tut-tutting shrinks like these were brought in to comment on presidential candidates whose opponents considered them beyond the pale. In the 1964 Goldwater/LBJ slugfest, a nationwide survey of American psychiatrists found that a sizeable percentage of them thought Goldwater was unfit to serve as President because he suffered from clinical paranoia. Going ever further back, in 1896, the august New York Times hired a bunch of alienists (i.e, shrinks) to comment on William Jennings Bryan's psyche. In September of that year, just as the election heated up to fever pitch, the McKinley-supporting Times published an interesting little article entitled “Is Mr. Bryan Crazy?” which looked at any number of the Democratic candidate’s utterances and claimed that they were not the workings of a rational mind. The Times editors also included a letter from a distinguished alienist stating that if Bryan won the election “there would be a madman in the White House.”
Not content with this, the Times interviewed several more alienists and published the results two days later. These eminent medical geniuses said Bryan suffered from megalomania, paranoia querulent (complaining too much), and querulent logorrhea (talking about complaining too much). One other “expert” simply said, “I don’t think Bryan is ordinarily crazy…But I should like to examine him as a degenerate.”
Perhaps Goodwin and the Daily News will enlighten us further about the dark recesses of Hillary's psyche by calling for a round table shrink discussion like this....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Enough is Enough

Some people have asked me why I seem to take such great delight in the good old days of American presidential dirty tricks--bagmen delivering satchels full of dough in the 1880s, Al Smith being roundly dismissed as a druken papist, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon bugging their opponents campaigns.
I guess it's because these seem like real, old-fashioned, in-your-face-red-blooded-American dirty tricks, as opposed to the game of "gotcha" we've been playing lately. The whole brouhaha about Hillary's comments in South Dakota is the straw that finally broke this camel's back. To claim that she actually meant to refer to the assassination of Robert Kennedy as a way of saying that Barack Obama might be assassinated is simply idiotic and the people who believe it are either idiots or they have a political agenda. The report first came through the New York Post, which wrote that Hillary said ‘Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June,’ making an odd comparison between the dead candidate and Barack Obama.”
This is not the comparison she was making. She was simply referencing--as she has done before, and as others (including myself) have done before--that certain primaries have run well into the summer, including that of 1968. She was not talking about the possibility that Barack Obama might be assassinated. My irritation with people who believe this goes back to the Barack Obama supporters who have "pre-martyred" him, walking around speaking in hushed tones abut the possibility that he might be killed. This tactic makes it seems as if Obama is some holy figure, rather that the very flawed and inexperienced, although inspirational, candidate he is.
This entire Democratic primary began with Hillary and her husband being considered the smartest politicians in the universe. Now we are led to believe they are the dumbest. Somewhere in between lies the truth. In the meantime, I'll take a good bagman anytime....

Friday, May 16, 2008

At Long Last....

Well, the first real salvo of the 2008 general election has been fired and I, for one, am frankly glad to see it. Like a lot of people I have gotten extremely bored with the infighting among the Democrats and even though Hillary is all but gone, I had assumed it would be some time before we got to the donkeys and the elephants going at it trunk and tail.
But our president can always be counted on, can't he? His calling Barack Obama the Neville Chamberlain of the Mideast is the beginning of a long, hot, and hopefully fun summer. In doing so, he was merely following my "Ten Top Smears" through history playbook, specifically Number 10: "You're Not Tough Enough!" which is classically used by Republicans against Democrats, sometimes to devastating effect. John McCain immediately chimed in agreeing with W., and so it seems we have a tactic going here.
Probably not a very good one, though, since Bush's policies in the Mideast have been so roundly discredited, but, still, its nice to see us heading back in the direction of good old-fashioned smears. What with the California Supreme Court overturning the ban on gay marriage, I have to say, I am rubbing my hands and chuckling....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Now THAT was a primary

Although Hillary is soldiering on, it seems the end of this extended Democratic primary season is nearly upon us. Many have decried the nasty politics waged, especially by the Hillary camp, but, by comparison with past primary seasons, it was almost nothing. Some underhanded electioneering by Hillary supporters in North Carolina, where they pretended to register black voters, a few attack ads by both sides, nasty comments during debates--really, how bad was that?
It was certainly nothing compared to one of the nastiest primary campaign battles of all, which took place in 1972, an election most people remember for the Watergate bugging in June, but the winter and spring of that year were filled with trickery and vicious attacks launched by Republican dirty tricksters attempting to influence the outcome of the Democrat primary. If you think what has happened in the last three months was really dirty, keep reading...

Early in 1972, President Nixon, whose approval ratings hovered at only about 48 percent, felt that he was vulnerable to a challenge from a strong Democratic candidate.
So it became the goal of his dirty tricks managers like Special Assistant to the President Dwight Chapin to “foster a split between Democratic hopefuls” in the primaries. Teddy Kennedy was not a problem—the last surviving Kennedy brother had pretty much blown his presidential chances by driving a car off a bridge in 1969 and drowning the young girl with him.
Going into the New Hampshire primary in February, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 running mate, was predicted to be the big winner—in fact, most journalists had already anointed him the Democratic presidential nominee. And Richard Nixon viewed Muskie as a formidable candidate. But then strange things began happening. Suddenly, New Hampshire voters began receiving phone calls from rude black people—phone calls that came in late at night or very early in the morning—saying that they had been bused in from Harlem to work for Muskie. And then conservative editor of the Manchester Union Leader, William Loeb, published a letter purportedly written by an ordinary citizen which accused Muskie of using the word “Canuck” to refer to French-Canadians. In defending himself against this and other slurs on his wife, Muskie, standing outdoors before microphones and cameras, began to cry. Or, since it was snowing, perhaps a snowflake had landed in his eye—it’s impossible to tell from tapes of the incident.
But Muskie did lose his cool, and the rap on him now was that he was unable to handle pressure. He won New Hampshire, but by a much smaller margin than predicted. Only later was it discovered that the “Canuck” letter was written by White House aide Kenneth Clawson.
Things just got worse when Muskie headed for the Florida primary. There, many voters received a letter written on Muskie campaign stationary, which said (falsely) that Hubert Humphrey had been arrested for drunk driving in 1967. Other letters under the Muskie letterhead claimed that prominent Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Henry “Scoop” Jackson had fathered a child with a 17-year-old girl.
No detail was too small. Posters appeared on Florida highways which read “Help Muskie in Busing More Children Now.” Ads were placed in tiny free shopper’s newsletters saying: “Muskie: Would you accept a black running mate?” And, at a Muskie press conference in Miami, someone let go a handful of white mice with tags attached to them which read: “Muskie is a rat fink.”
The person behind all this Florida mayhem was Donald Segretti, prince of dirty tricks. Segretti, whose name means “secret” in Italian, was a California lawyer who had been law school pals with several students who later became Nixon staffers—in particular, Dwight Chapin, the man who hired him and paid him $16,000, plus expenses, to wreak havoc in the primaries.
Muskie came in fourth in Florida and was finished as a candidate. Segretti’s role was discovered in the investigations after the Watergate break-in and he served four and a half months in prison for misdemeanors associated with illegal campaign activities.
After Florida, Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern were the main Democratic candidates, and Nixon’s men rose to combat this. Setting up a phony “Democrats for Nixon” group (shades of Tricky Dick’s California gubernatorial run) they produced leaflets describing Humphrey as a man who, as Johnson’s Vice-President, had helped escalate the war in Vietnam. Some of the leaflets had a picture of a fish over Humphrey’s face, with the caption: “There’s Something Fishy About Hubert Humphrey.”
Partly as a result of the ill feelings caused by these fake ads, Humphrey and McGovern were unable to present a united front when McGovern became the nominee and the time came to go after Richard Nixon.

Friday, May 9, 2008

No Coronation

Many of us who thought Hillary had the momentum to pull yet another surprise this past Tuesday are perhaps as surprised as the candidate herself that she was finally unable to. It is interesting that once again, as in 2004, as in 1948, poll (in this case, the ones which showed the race narrowing drastically in North Carolina) were so wrong. It appears, however, that even Hillary believed them.
There are numerous opinions on what went wrong for her --some say her support of the suspending the gasoline tax (truly a bit clod-footed for such an adept campaigner) did her in, others that the Jeremiah Wright thing had simply played itself out.
In any event, striding and beaming his way through Capitol Hill the other day, Obama now looks like the candidate, for the first time. Hillary needs to make an exit within the next few weeks, and most people think that right now she should be negotiating for a consolation prize. Vice-president? (Obama does not seem to be dismissing it outright, but a bad idea). Paying off her debts? Lots of opposition there. Making her Secretary of State? Maybe. Or maybe she can just go back to being an effective Senator from New York. Her disappointment must be great, but unlike many, I don't think "the Clinton legacy" will be smeared, either for her or Bill. Their main problem, I think, was an assumption that Hillary was going to be the certain victor. As pasts presidential candidates like Thomas E. Dewey and Richard Nixon (in 1960) could tell her, that is a big mistake.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Do or Die-- Again

In this most fascinating and lengthy of Democratic primary races, it is that time again for Hillary--should she lose both Indiana and North Carolina today, she will find herself in a position where she probably needs to get out of the race. Or even if she splits close contests. It's unlikely, but possible, that she may also win both states, if Jeremiah Wright has hurt Obama as badly as many polls suggest he has.
The race has definitely been getting dirtier. There has been some scandal among Obama supporters about Hillary's pushpolling techniques in North Carolina, although they haven't yet stooped to the level of those used against John McCain by Karl Rove in 2000 in South Carolina. What is a little scarier is that a pro-Hillary group called Women's Voices Women's Votes has supposedly been robocalling black North Carolina voters and telling them their registration packets are in the mail, thus confusing many who have already registered.
In my opinion, at this point in time, despite or because of these (historically-speaking) rather tame dirty tricks, Hillary is making a strong case that she will be the better candidate against John McCain this fall. This is simply because she responds to aggression far better than Obama does. This is not about who would make the better president--a point I make over and over again is that you can do a lot of nasty things during presidential campaigns and still become a very good chief executive-- but simply about which Democratic candidate would have the best chance of winning in the fall. Of late, anyway, that would be Hillary.

Friday, May 2, 2008

"C--T is a beautiful thing!"

The other day, a Baptist minister rose at a John McCain "town hall" event to ask the Republican presidential candidate if he had called his wife a "c--t" (Read and view it here at the Huffington Post). This caused McCain to stutteringly ("now, now..uh") tell the guy that such language was not allowed and the Secret Service then escorted him off the premises. The questioner's name is Marty Parrish and he claims to be genuinely concerned about McCain's temper. The alleged "c--t" incident occurred during McCain's 1992 run for Senate reelection, according to a book called The Real McCain by Democrat Cliff Schecter, the cover of which shows McCain fervently embracing another "c--t" (well, by some standards) George Bush. My study of presidential election campaigns shows this to be the first time the "c--t" word has been used in a public forum (although privately, no doubt, there have been numerous "c--ts" thrown at Hillary, and Hillary herself probably directed one or two at Gennifer Flowers in 1992). And, no doubt, Parrish, a Biden supporter, had political motivations. What disturbs me more is that there was a need to escort Parrish from the house. After all, he was not carrying a loaded gun, although I guess the c-word is considered akin to that by polite society, left or right wing. Using it should not, of course, disqualify McCain from the presidency, but it is quite amusing in that the report is probably true, given Cindy McCain's truly "c--t"-ish aspect. Not that there's anything wrong with it, of course. As my wife's friend Elizabeth is prone to sing out at odd moments, "C--t is a beautiful thing!" But I guess we still have to pretend it is not....