Friday, May 28, 2010

Say, Bill Clinton, is there anything that embarrasses a "centrist" Democrat?


Bill 'n' Blanche: You mean being a 
corporate whore is, like, a bad thing?

by Ken

Over the weekend I found myself in extended conversation of the sort I usually try to avoid -- with a fellow citizen of strongly held opinions backed by broad but in many areas exceedingly sketchy knowledge. It was a social occasion, and for once I didn't want to appear antisocial, or at least not excessively antisocial, and the citizen was the husband of someone whose feelings I truly didn't want to bruise. And of course once I got into it, the old need . . . well, not to be right, but not to be steamrolled by blatant sophistry, kicked in.

The citizen wasn't so much conservative as contrarian, although it struck me as interesting that his contrariness rarely seemed to apply to areas of the conventional wisdom that I find most deserving of contradicting. And so, for example, he offered up the Obama administration's difficulty in closing the prison at Guantanamo as a demonstration of its awakening to the reality that governing is more difficult than the campaign's attacks on the Bush administration suggested.

Now of course as a DWT reader you probably know that my response was, "What attacks?" And I pointed out what a wasted opportunity both the campaign and the administration-to-date had been in the matter of frontally attacking the criminally misguided ideology and policies of the Right. In the matter of Guantanamo, I agreed that yes, closing the prison involves difficulties, but difficulties are what you surmount if you want to get something done, and in this administration's case, on a whole range of Bush regime policies it's hard to find much trace of a wish to seriously change course. It's not only difficult but pretty much impossible to, say, shut down the Guantanamo internment camp if you're not really trying.

We see it all over the place, as Obama's people wage even more relentless campaigns against immigrants and whistle-blowers and any other would-be disturbers of the conventional right-wing order. (As many commentators have pointed out, the president's famous desire to look forward rather than backward applies only to the organized-crime wave that was the Bush regime.

Just the other day, for example, Glenn Greenwald, who's been doing a bang-up job tracking the continuity between Bush and Obama administration policies, in writing about the shocking and fundamentally un-American proviso that popped out of the Defense Department budget bill opening lawyers who defend terror detainees to possible recriminations just for doing their job, noted:
This is yet another example of repellent, fear-based policies that could not be (or at least were not) enacted during the Bush years yet are finding new life under Democratic Party rule.  Recall that Bush Pentagon official Cully Stimson was actually forced to apologize for suggesting that lawyers who represented Guantanamo detainees were engaged in disloyal and improper acts.  Yet with the Democrats in control of Washington, a provision grounded in exactly that rotted premise has now been unanimously reported out of a major House Committee.

When you can get the attention of someone in the administration or the congressional leadership to address such points, what you usually get, mixed in with fibbing about the facts, is excuses -- we don't have the votes, we have to be careful, the country isn't with us, etc. Rarely do they have the honesty to say, Well, we just don't wanna.

It is, of course, the standard excuse for all those Republican-style candidates the Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress have been trying so hard to stuff their caucuses with. For a while you can accept the excuse that they need people who are "electable" in those districts and states. But as Howie has had such frequent occasion to point out, their right-wing "centrists" aren't necessarily more electable than authentic Democrats they routinely muscle out of the nominating process, candidates who might actually give troubled voters something to vote for.

In this election cycle even the pretense of an "electability" factor has more and more been dropped, as the official party organs increasingly find themselves stumping for candidates who (probably fortunately) couldn't beat any candidate unencumbered by a sex scandal. It becomes increasingly clear that the party hacks support right-wing "Democrats" because they're the people they're most comfortable with -- people who will fit right into the Beltway's kabuki politics, where "order" requires giving highest consideration to the people who pay for it.

Which brings me to Bill Clinton. Now I don't imagine there are many progressives who still nurture illusions about our Bill's politics, though I think there are still a lot of people who haven't yet figured out that Hillary isn't much more progressive. But it's Bill who's suddenly in the news, and you have to wonder if he has the sense to be embarrassed.

I still say that, as a matter of law, the story of what inducement the White House may have offered Joe Sestak to clear Arlen Specter's path to reelection is a nonstory. It was a legitimate political issue in the Democratic primary, because Pennsylvania Democratic voters have a right to know and consider how their elected officials are attempting to manipulate the selection of candidates. But there's no issue of a crime here; that's just a demented fabrication of right-wing doodybrains who haven't told their day's quotient of lies.

If this were the worst thing that had been done by the Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II administrations, that would represent an ethical standard about a trillion times higher than reality. In American politics, and I suspect everybody else's, finding a nice job for somebody you want out of the way of your preferred candidate is a more or less daily occurrence.

As an issue of governance, however, it is an issue. And by gosh, now that the actual story has come out, there's Bill Clinton "carrying the water" (as Fat Rush would say) for none other than his old attack dog Master Rahm Emanuel.

Meanwhile where was our Bill today? In Arkansas, addressing the question, "Can Bill Clinton Save Blanche Lincoln?" I'm assuming he said something like: "Now a lot of people are saying our Blanche is just a corporate whore. But they say it like that's a bad thing."

Say good night, Bill.


Digby had a great post, "The Scandal Monster's Deadly Toxin," taking off from the earnest proffers from hither and yon as to what Joe Sestak and the White House may have to do "in order to put a stop to this non-scandal once and for all." She acknowledges that "they may be right" --
But here's the thing. None of that will do any good. There is no winning with these noise machine pseudo-scandals. They have an alternate media structure that is designed to stoke scandal fever . . .

There's a wonderfully Digbyesque description of the process of issuing outraged demands that can't ever be met, leading to the next set of outraged demands, and the next.
With every impossible requirement that isn't met, the press will become more convinced that the person must be hiding something, is too hot to handle and will eventually agree that he has to step down or quit the race because "the scandal" is devouring him.

Although eventually "an article or a book will be written explaining that there was never anything to the charges, that the whole thing turned into a feeding frenzy," it will still be the pol's fault for not getting "out front," or simply "for failing to be a stronger, better politician." It takes the impenetrable hide of a Bill Clinton, Digby suggests, "to recognize that they are not going to leave you alone, give yourself up to it and greet each day with the knowledge that this is going to dominate until it either passes or kills you."

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At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

I believe Bill Clinton WAS embarrassed when his DNA was typed on a young brunette's sweater, and the resulting testimony was blasted into the internet FOREVER. The legacy of a good president becoming forever litigated and conflicted.

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Actually I would hope that Clinton is embarrassed by the almost 1 million people killed in Rowanda on his watch. It might be true that the US wouldn't have had any stomache for US casualties after Somalia, but I would be embarrassed to not have tried more.
More embarrassing than getting caught with teh brunette on personal time? I don't know that cigar detail was pretty embarrassing...

How about his wife's vote to give The Decider more power to abuse. They HAD to know that was a mistake in their heart of hearts but went with the political decision. Eat it Hillary. Embarrassing.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The only scandal is that the Democratic party's main opposition target is their own base. This faux progressive legislative kabuki shit ain't gonna fly anymore and the sooner Rahm, Obama, Clinton, etc... realize they should be more afraid of their voters than their corporate contributors the better they avoid electoral annihilation.


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