Who Do We Vote For This Time Around?
A new year has begun. And before we've had a chance to break our New Year's resolutions, we find ourselves with a little more than 24 hours before the good people of Iowa tell us whom they would like to replace the man who now occupies three countries and a white house.
Twice before, we have begun the process to stop this man, and twice we have failed. Eight years of our lives as Americans will have been lost, the world left in upheaval against us... and yet now, today, we hope against hope that our moment has finally arrived, that the amazingly powerful force of the Republican Party will somehow be halted. But we know that the Democrats are experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and if there's a way to blow this election, they will find it and do it with gusto.
Do you feel the same as me? That the Democratic front-runners are a less-than-stellar group of candidates, and that none of them are the "slam dunk" we wish they were? Of course, there are wonderful things about each of them. Any one of them would be infinitely better than what we have now. Personally, Congressman Kucinich, more than any other candidate, shares the same positions that I have on the issues (although the UFO that picked ME up would only take me as far as Kalamazoo). But let's not waste time talking about Dennis. Even he is resigned to losing, with statements like the one he made yesterday to his supporters in Iowa to throw their support to Senator Obama as their "second choice."
So, it's Hillary, Obama, Edwards -- now what do we do?
Two months ago, Rolling Stone magazine asked me to do a cover story where I would ask the hard questions that no one was asking in one-on-one interviews with Senators Clinton, Obama and Edwards. "The Top Democrats Face Off with Michael Moore." The deal was that all three candidates had to agree to let me interview them or there was no story. Obama and Edwards agreed. Mrs. Clinton said no, and the cover story was thus killed.
Why would the love of my life, Hillary Clinton, not sit down to talk with me? What was she afraid of?
Those of you who are longtime readers of mine may remember that 11 years ago I wrote a chapter (in my first book) entitled, "My Forbidden Love for Hillary." I was fed up with the treatment she was getting, most of it boringly sexist, and I thought somebody should stand up for her. I later met her and she thanked me for referring to her as "one hot s***kicking feminist babe." I supported and contributed to her run for the U.S. Senate. I think she is a decent and smart person who loves this country, cares deeply about kids, and has put up with more crap than anyone I know of (other than me) from the Crazy Right. Her inauguration would be a thrilling sight, ending 218 years of white male rule in a country where 51% of its citizens are female and 64% are either female or people of color.
And yet, I am sad to say, nothing has disappointed me more than the disastrous, premeditated vote by Senator Hillary Clinton to send us to war in Iraq. I'm not only talking about her first vote that gave Mr. Bush his "authorization" to invade -- I'm talking about every single OTHER vote she then cast for the next four years, backing and funding Bush's illegal war, and doing so with verve. She never met a request from the White House for war authorization that she didn't like. Unlike the Kerrys and the Bidens who initially voted for authorization but later came to realize the folly of their decision, Mrs. Clinton continued to cast numerous votes for the war until last March -- four long years of pro-war votes, even after 70% of the American public had turned against the war. She has steadfastly refused to say that she was wrong about any of this, and she will not apologize for her culpability in America's worst-ever foreign policy disaster. All she can bring herself to say is that she was "misled" by "faulty intelligence."
Let's assume that's true. Do you want a President who is so easily misled? I wasn't "misled," and millions of others who took to the streets in February of 2003 weren't "misled" either. It was simply amazing that we knew the war was wrong when none of us had been briefed by the CIA, none of us were national security experts, and none of us had gone on a weapons inspection tour of Iraq. And yet... we knew we were being lied to! Let me ask those of you reading this letter: Were YOU "misled" -- or did you figure it out sometime between October of 2002 and March of 2007 that George W. Bush was up to something rotten? Twenty-three other senators were smart enough to figure it out and vote against the war from the get-go. Why wasn't Senator Clinton?
I have a theory: Hillary knows the sexist country we still live in and that one of the reasons the public, in the past, would never consider a woman as president is because she would also be commander in chief. The majority of Americans were concerned that a woman would not be as likely to go to war as a man (horror of horrors!). So, in order to placate that mindset, perhaps she believed she had to be as "tough" as a man, she had to be willing to push The Button if necessary, and give the generals whatever they wanted. If this is, in fact, what has motivated her pro-war votes, then this would truly make her a scary first-term president. If the U.S. is faced with some unforeseen threat in her first years, she knows that in order to get re-elected she'd better be ready to go all Maggie Thatcher on whoever sneezes in our direction. Do we want to risk this, hoping the world makes it in one piece to her second term?
I have not even touched on her other numerous -- and horrendous -- votes in the Senate, especially those that have made the middle class suffer even more (she voted for Bush's first bankruptcy bill, and she is now the leading recipient of payoff money -- I mean campaign contributions -- from the health care industry). I know a lot of you want to see her elected, and there is a very good chance that will happen. There will be plenty of time to vote for her in the general election if all the pollsters are correct. But in the primaries and caucuses, isn't this the time to vote for the person who most reflects the values and politics you hold dear? Can you, in good conscience, vote for someone who so energetically voted over and over and over again for the war in Iraq? Please give this serious consideration.
Now, on to the two candidates who did agree to do the interview with me...
Barack Obama is a good and inspiring man. What a breath of fresh air! There's no doubting his sincerity or his commitment to trying to straighten things out in this country. But who is he? I mean, other than a guy who gives a great speech? How much do any of us really know about him? I know he was against the war. How do I know that? He gave a speech before the war started. But since he joined the senate, he has voted for the funds for the war, while at the same time saying we should get out. He says he's for the little guy, but then he votes for a corporate-backed bill to make it harder for the little guy to file a class action suit when his kid swallows lead paint from a Chinese-made toy. In fact, Obama doesn't think Wall Street is a bad place. He wants the insurance companies to help us develop a new health care plan -- the same companies who have created the mess in the first place. He's such a feel-good kinda guy, I get the sense that, if elected, the Republicans will eat him for breakfast. He won't even have time to make a good speech about it.
But this may be a bit harsh. Senator Obama has a big heart, and that heart is in the right place. Is he electable? Will more than 50% of America vote for him? We'd like to believe they would. We'd like to believe America has changed, wouldn't we? Obama lets us feel better about ourselves -- and as we look out the window at the guy snowplowing his driveway across the street, we want to believe he's changed, too. But are we dreaming?
And then there's John Edwards.
It's hard to get past the hair, isn't it? But once you do -- and recently I have chosen to try -- you find a man who is out to take on the wealthy and powerful who have made life so miserable for so many. A candidate who says things like this: "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy." Whoa. We haven't heard anyone talk like that in a while, at least not anyone who is near the top of the polls. I suspect this is why Edwards is doing so well in Iowa, even though he has nowhere near the stash of cash the other two have. He won't take the big checks from the corporate PACs, and he is alone among the top three candidates in agreeing to limit his spending and be publicly funded. He has said, point-blank, that he's going after the drug companies and the oil companies and anyone else who is messing with the American worker. The media clearly find him to be a threat, probably because he will go after their monopolistic power, too. This is Roosevelt/Truman kind of talk. That's why it's resonating with people in Iowa, even though he doesn't get the attention Obama and Hillary get -- and that lack of coverage may cost him the first place spot tomorrow night. After all, he is one of those white guys who's been running things for far too long.
And he voted for the war. But unlike Senator Clinton, he has stated quite forcefully that he was wrong. And he has remorse. Should he be forgiven? Did he learn his lesson? Like Hillary and Obama, he refused to promise in a September debate that there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of his first term in 2013. But this week in Iowa, he changed his mind. He went further than Clinton and Obama and said he'd have all the troops home in less than a year.
Edwards is the only one of the three front-runners who has a universal health care plan that will lead to the single-payer kind all other civilized countries have. His plan doesn't go as fast as I would like, but he is the only one who has correctly pointed out that the health insurance companies are the enemy and should not have a seat at the table.
I am not endorsing anyone at this point. This is simply how I feel in the first week of the process to replace George W. Bush. For months I've been wanting to ask the question, "Where are you, Al Gore?" You can only polish that Oscar for so long. And the Nobel was decided by Scandinavians! I don't blame you for not wanting to enter the viper pit again after you already won. But getting us to change out our incandescent light bulbs for some irritating fluorescent ones isn't going to save the world. All it's going to do is make us more agitated and jumpy and feeling like once we get home we haven't really left the office.
On second thought, would you even be willing to utter the words, "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy?" 'Cause the candidate who understands that, and who sees it as the root of all evil -- including the root of global warming -- is the President who may lead us to a place of sanity, justice and peace.