My god, I loathe the Clintons.
The idea of Clinton redux gives me acid reflux. The idea of Clinton duplex gives me Clinton reflux. Look out - I really feel the need to hurl.
And (almost) never more than during the last weeks. Since the days just preceding the New Hampshire primary these two have been insufferable. Nothing brings out their worst behavior than having their little personal joyride at the national expense threatened by the rest of us trying to grab back the keys to the battered car.
Wanna know how much these two sicken me? They've gotten me to stop thinking lately about how much the little punk in the White House sickens me. That's how much.
It's hard to know who is worse. Bush is as immoral as it gets, at least this side of the Third Reich. The Clintons are as amoral as it gets, this side of any bank in Switzerland. You want us to pretend to be liberals? Fine, we'll do that. You want us to play conservative? No problem. We'll do whatever it takes, just give us the White House. We have no more policy principles than did our cat, Socks. We have no other politics than ourselves. The ideology of the Clintons is the Clintons.
There's one hell of a lot of clean-up that needs to be done in America, and that includes some serious payback to the criminals (read Republicans) and their enablers (read Democrats) who have looted the country blind. That's hardly news, but it was altogether too much to hope - after a quarter century of utter darkness in the country formerly known as the United States - that it could all come together in the 2008 election. One could imagine that the present perfect storm of perfect storms could finally wrest the White House out of the hands of the Republican Party, though history teaches us that even that would be foolish to assume. Democrats never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And, besides, even if they could finally prevail, what would it mean? Last time they held the White House it was full-on corporate rape, just at a slightly slower pace than when the GOP unzips.
Only in a hallucination fueled by the finest collection of controlled substances - and plenty of them - could the mind imagine not only the demise of the worst criminals of our time, but also some tasty payback to all their accomplices who've facilitated the plundering of America these last years, starting with Hillary Clinton being denied the nomination for the presidency she obviously feels entitled to, and the scourge of Clintonism being purged forever from American politics, right along with Bushism.
Now, all of a sudden, all of this looks like a possibility. This week, Hillary got absolutely shellacked in South Carolina, losing to Obama by more than two to one. And this, crucially, after the desperate HillBillies had made a trip to the outhouse to fetch their most vile weapons for purposes of derailing the Obama freight train. But when the dust had cleared, Obama had stomped them, and they were left standing there, stinking of racism, deceit, hypocrisy, desperation and cheap Rovian politics. And all for naught. At least when Rove or Lee Atwater did it, they won. Poor Bill Clinton. Now even his faux 'legacy' is toast. Not that there was ever anything to it, anyhow. As far as history is concerned, the best thing that ever happened to Wild Bill's presidency was to have a Bush before it and a Bush after it.
I like - if that's the right word - seeing Democrats show that they can get down in the gutter and throw a political punch or two. That's been all too necessary these last decades, and all too absent. But what Hillary seems to have forgotten is that such behavior is only admirable on the defensive. The invasion and destruction of Germany last century was a good thing only because Germany had already invaded and destroyed everybody else. That's not a small distinction. If you do it first, you're a scumbag. And the Clinton's are scumbags. From The Cry That Saved New Hampshire, to the uncontrolled rage of Bill's "fairytale" fairytale about Obama being inconsistent on the Iraq war (and even if he was, could anyone possibly have been more so than Hillary?), to suing in Nevada to block voting at casinos in order to disenfranchise black and union voters, to twisting into absurdity Obama's Ronald Reagan comment, to using a complete non-sequitur in response to a reporter's question as a vehicle for morphing Obama into Jesse Jackson - in all these ways, the Clintons have shown their willingness to do nearly anything to win the presidency again. Spell it with me now: s-c-u-m-b-a-g-s.
This should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Just ask Ricky Ray Rector. He'll tell you. Or he would if he wasn't dead. He's the poor SOB whom Clinton Bill flew home to execute during the 1992 campaign in order to show frightened Americans that Republicans aren't the only viciously ambitious politicians who can pander to their fears, by golly. So what if poor Ricky Ray was so mentally impaired that he asked to have the dessert from his last meal saved so he could eat it later? What did one less retarded kid matter when there were so many electoral votes at stake?
Anybody paying the remotest bit of attention could have figured out a long time ago what William Jefferson Clinton was all about. And you have to laugh at all those nice ladies six long years later clucking about how could Hillary stay with a guy who betrayed her by messing around with other women? Were they joking? My question is how do you sleep with a guy who fries somebody with the IQ of a gifted tuber in order to get into the White House? How do you stay with a guy who turns millions of welfare mothers out onto the street in order to pick up a second term that he already had in the bag anyhow?
No, man, make no mistake - this is nothing new for the Clintons. But the thing is, it isn't working so well anymore. Indeed, there is good evidence to suggest that it is backfiring. People really do seem to want something new and something better than this dreck. I used to have some small measure of sympathy for the Clintons, for the way they were incessantly hammered by the right clear across the length of their presidency. Not a lot, mind you - because they were fundamentally putzes, and because they were dumb enough not to fight back all through that time - but some. But watching Bill go all Rove on Obama, including the race-baiting, in order jam Hillary (oh, and a certain other individual) back into the White House was the complete end of the line for me. Seeing her now claiming Florida as a victory and vowing to fight to seat those delegates after previously trashing the state for scheduling its primary early back when she was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire was just more of the same. This is just nauseating.
But what to do now? I suspect Clintonism may be a spent force, and not a moment too soon. It's bad enough that she's the one hope that Republicans have of winning the White House for yet another term. (What a great idea to nominate that candidate, eh?!) But it's worse the degree to which they degrade American politics and taint progressivism, even by their remotest proximity to it (being a Democrat doesn't make any or all of your policies liberal - just ask the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese babies Lyndon Johnson napalmed). I really don't know what cards they can play now, other than their money. Bill being Bill not only didn't help, but hurt their campaign in South Carolina and nationally. What else can they do? Have Hill be Hill? Is there even any such thing inside the robot? And, besides, she already pulled out her hanky and tried that one in New Hampshire. How many times can you do that? It feels a lot like the presidential ship might have sailed for 2008 and they're left standing on the dock. Bummer, eh?
At the same time that the last shard of non-antagonism that I ever felt toward the Clintons has disappeared, I must admit that I've warmed up to Barack Obama a bit over the last week. I very much appreciate that he fought back against the Clintons. He'll never get my endorsement unless he shows that he can, because he'll most assuredly need to should he win the nomination. I'm about as interested in having another Kerry or Dukakis as the Democratic nominee as I am in contracting a nasty dose of the clap. Thanks, but no - I'll pass.
I'm also liking Obama better the more I see him because I think he is pretty authentic, at the end of the day. That ain't hard to pull off when you're standing next to John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, mind you, the latter of whom is the Mitt Romney of the Democratic Party. (I try not to envision the concept of the two of them having sex - fortunately, I can't imagine it wouldn't last long - but I can't help thinking that their love child would look an awful lot like a stick of margarine. And would be about as yummy.) But Obama has a non-pandering seriousness of purpose that I do find authentic and therefore attractive. Watch him on stage before and during the delivery of a speech. He doesn't do that plastic smile bit that other candidates do, or - worse - the ubiquitous and dreaded pointing gleefully at some member of the audience trick and mouthing some faux insider message. And his speeches are serious, not rah-rah. I still find them a bit airy, though on closer inspection he really does say a lot of the right things. I just wish he'd emphasize more the fight we're in, and the depravity of the enemy, d.b.a. the Republican Party. This country and this world are in disastrous condition. It's crucial now to name names, if for no other reason than to make sure we don't come back this way again.
The other wild thing is that a lot of Republicans actually like Obama, from what I can tell. That totally spooks me, and makes me wonder what I'm missing. But, truthfully, I don't think he's that much different than Hillary ideologically, and I do think he'd make a much stronger candidate against anyone they tossed up there, so I suspect it may be a genuine affection. Maybe Obama really could drag the country back together again. And I do think they'd have to be very careful how they went after candidate or president Obama, otherwise risking a boomerang of sympathy, the phenomenon henceforth to be known after last week as the "Bill Clinton effect".
Anyhow, there's a party in deep trouble if ever you've seen one. Their only candidate who can win is hated by the kleptocratic establishment for only being willing to rip off three-fourths of the national wealth on behalf of the ruling class, rather than all of it. It's truly delightful to see the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter foaming at the mouth when considering the prospect of McCain getting the nomination. The guy loves Clarence Thomas, loves the war, wants more of both, is down for making the tax cuts permanent, and opposes abortion across the board. But he is, alas, not conservative enough for this lot. Can you imagine? If you were ever inclined not to be afraid, very afraid, about the right in America, that notion ought to reorient your head just a bit.
Their other choice is the real deal - Morphing Mitt himself - the true conservative, the man who never met a voter whom he couldn't find a way to slobber all over. This guy's a one-man pander-fest. Even Republicans hate him (but the money people, of course, never let sentiment get in the way of a healthy profit margin). What a looney, too. Did you see him riffing in his speech after losing (again) in Florida? About all the things America asked their government in Washington to do, and it didn't. No doubt that's because we've had a Democrat in the White House for 20 of the last 28 years! Right?! Er, wait a minute - did I get that backwards...?
What a week it's been in presidential politics. Hillary has become unglued. Obama is now imbued. McCain is back from the dead, while Giuliani and Edwards have gone off life-support. Even Kucinich is no more. And the only thing more frightening than the prospect of a Mitt Romney presidency - the actual current president - gave his state of the onion address this week, a pathetic yawner notable only for its sheer lack of ambition and a recounting of the distance we've fallen. All that remains now is the petulance. At least that hasn't changed. Just the same, what the hell is with the Democrats giving this guy the warm treatment in the halls of Congress? This is not just some president who should be respected because of his office. This is a home-wrecker. This is a destroyer of the same Constitution that created the very Congress hosting him. This is a guy who has spent seven years turning Congress (with a lot of their own help) into the equivalent of the human appendix. You might as well give standing ovations to George III, you know? Both are equally anathema to American constitutional democracy.
But now we're down to four, and perhaps even less after Super-Duper Tuesday right around the corner. The bad news is that it looks a lot like McCain for the GOP. He is clearly their best chance at the White House. If the Dems are stupid enough to go with Hillary, I have a hard time seeing McCain losing. Only Democrats could find a way to fumble in 2008, when everything imaginable is going their way (everything except that they're Democrats, of course). Maybe if George Washington himself came back and stumped for the Democratic nominee they could possibly have more going for them than they do now. Maybe. Maybe if Jesus showed up and ID'd Cheney as the anti-Christ might the Democrats have slightly better conditions for winning this year. Not necessarily, though. And yet still there's something of a chance that they would blow it, and probably every chance they would if they pick Clinton as their standard-bearer.
Progressives can hope that Romney pulls it out and buys his party's nomination, which is still the best bet for Democrats locking it up. Short of that, it's time to start thinking about the shape of these potential White Houses. Hillary is the most predictable of the three. She'll be the epitome of safeness, moderation and poll-driven nickel-and-dime politics. Four years later, not a damn thing would have changed. McCain, on the other hand, could actually be a bit interesting as president. I see him as far less the captain of his party than its long-suffering captive. Given that he could put together a fat popular and governing coalition of independents and Democrats whilst taming elements of his own party, he could actually achieve some unexpected results, and he'd be in a hurry to do so, too. He'd be Unchained McCain, to be sure, and the DeLays and Limbaughs of this world would be crushed when they got in his way. No doubt he would make some horrendous choices for the federal courts, but otherwise - even on Iraq - I don't think we know exactly what McCain would actually do, other than not sit still. Some of it could even be quite progressive. This could be an 'only Nixon could go to China' moment, times three or four.
That leaves Obama, the obvious choice - though, unfortunately, for me still as much by default as the lesser of evils than on his own merits. I'm afraid my expectations for what he might do would be for something well less than bold initiatives, progressive or otherwise. The constant comparison to JFK may be more instructive than people realize or intend. The 35th American president to this day - especially today - was a lot longer on symbolism than real substance, especially of the progressive kind. My guess is that Obama would likely be the same, in both respects: Lots of aren't-we-all-together-now rhetoric, little substantive change.
It sure is true that we could do a lot better than that. But we also know that we could do one heck of a lot worse.
Because we are.
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.