Friday, April 18, 2008

Some News From the Democratic Race

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The Clintons and the 'War on Obama'
By Robert Parry
May 4, 2008
Last December, when I first learned via Clinton insiders that their “oppo” package would include Barack Obama’s associations with fiery black preacher Jeremiah Wright and Vietnam War-era radical William Ayers, I shrugged at what sounded to me like sub-standard fare from the dark side of American politics.
So what if someone’s minister said some stupid things or that an aging one-time student radical had lent some support to a politician’s campaign, I thought.
Besides those two themes, Clinton insiders were plotting how to exploit Obama’s past political ties to indicted real-estate developer Tony Rezko, and they even were hashing over how they might slip in suggestions that Obama’s dead mother had been a leftist. (When I heard the “oppo” about the dead mother, I really couldn’t believe my ears.)
Even then – in December before the first votes had been cast – the Clintons were so caught up in their ambition to return to the White House that they were veering toward the worst aspects of politics, what is generally associated with the American Right and the most ruthless Republican operatives – guilt-by-association, red-baiting, McCarthyism and racial messaging.
The rationale that I heard from the Clinton operatives was that these Obama vulnerabilities would be exploited by the Republicans in the general election, so it was necessary to destroy Obama when there was still time for another Democrat (i.e. Hillary Clinton) to be nominated.
But part of me didn’t believe the Clintons would go through with this War on Obama. I had trouble envisioning people who had been victimized by similar tactics – indeed whom I had defended when they were on the receiving end – resorting to such acts against a fellow Democrat, who by all accounts is a decent fellow and a good family man.
It is now clear, however, that the Clintons did decide to go through with it, “throwing the kitchen sink” at Obama, as one Clinton aide explained to the New York Times.
Plus, in doing so, the Clinton camp struck an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend alliance with some of the same pro-Republican media outlets that Sen. Clinton had dubbed in the 1990s the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
This alliance of convenience made Hillary Clinton an odd bedfellow with right-wing media mogul Richard Mellon Scaife, Fox News and even Rush Limbaugh, who has been urging Republicans to vote for Sen. Clinton in the Democratic primaries as a way to block Sen. Obama’s nomination.
And, with the right-wing media onboard, the mainstream news commentators could be counted on to tag along – which many did.
For instance, when Obama appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on May 4, Tim Russert's first 12 questions were about Rev. Wright, followed by additional questions about wearing a flag pin and how would Obama "defend or define his patriotism." The first question about a substantive issue -- gas prices -- wasn't asked until halfway through the hour-long program.
The Clintons also got special help from one of their old advisers, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, who reprised many of the anti-Obama “oppo” themes during a key prime-time debate before the Pennsylvania primary. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Are the Clintons Playing Joe McCarthy?’]
Clinton’s Comeback
Thanks to these combined forces – and some unforced errors by Obama – some Clinton backers now believe they have a good chance of beating Obama in most of the remaining primaries and snatching the nomination from him.
In this determination to win, the Clintons seem not to care that their “oppo” is jabbing at some of America’s most sensitive sores. For one, obviously, there’s the touchy issue of race that Obama tried to play down as he presented himself as a post-racial candidate.
The Clintons – with their background in the racially charged politics of Arkansas – intuitively understand the complexities and subtleties of race-baiting politics, although to their credit, they historically have been on the anti-racist side.
In this case, however, the Clintons appear to have devised a strategy of branding Obama the “black candidate” and then building animosity toward him by fanning white unease about this little-known black with the exotic name.
Clinton supporters have dropped comments about his acknowledged drug use as a young man, sent around photos of him in African garb, and referenced his family ties to Muslims.
Most memorably, Bill Clinton likened Obama’s electoral victory in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s, and more recently, the former President played the role of white victim to reverse discrimination by accusing Obama’s people of playing the race card on him.
Initially, Democratic polls indicated that the coy racial references had limited effect in “ghetto-izing” Obama, who continued to do well with many white demographic groups (except white middle-aged women, but they were rallying around Hillary Clinton more because of her gender, not against his race).
However, the cumulative effect of what the Clinton campaign started calling the “Obama scandals” gradually drove a wedge between Obama and many whites, especially working-class Catholics, the so-called “Reagan Democrats.”
The Clinton campaign also hit other sore points of American public life, such as the post-9/11 resistance to view the United States as at fault for anything.
Rev. Wright represented something of a two-fer. As an angry black man, he helped further “ghetto-ize” Obama, but he also reinforced questions about Obama’s patriotism with comments about “chickens coming home to roost” on 9/11 and incendiary rhetoric about “God-damn America.”
After the 9/11 attacks, the last thing many Americans wanted to hear was any suggestion that U.S. foreign policy may have played a role in provoking the attacks. That was why George W. Bush presented the ludicrous motive for the al-Qaeda suicide attacks as simply that the Islamists “hate our freedoms.”
The truth was that al-Qaeda – and many far more rational Middle Easterners – have long resented U.S. interference in their political affairs and U.S. exploitation of their oil resources, with the wealth going disproportionately to a corrupt Arab elite protected by U.S. military and security forces.
But such an analysis was largely off the table as Bush used the post-9/11 surge in patriotism to lead the American people into a war in Iraq, though that country had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
Wright’s Rantings
In decrying brutal American policies – from the history of Indian genocide and African slavery to more recent cases like Hiroshima, Vietnam and Iraq – Rev. Wright was making the argument that a just God would not “bless” these sorts of actions, but would condemn or “damn” them.
Wright also appeared to view himself in the context of an Old Testament prophet, like his namesake Jeremiah who was known for confronting the Israelites with dire warnings about God’s wrath and impending disasters.
Though it’s understandable why many Americans would recoil at Rev. Wright’s harsh language, it is true that the Bush administration took advantage of their patriotic sentiments to justify a whole range of aggressive acts.
Behind all the flag-waving and the “freedom fries,” Bush authorized the torture of prisoners, the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a sustained assault on the U.S. Constitution, and a massive raid on the U.S. Treasury.
Many Democrats inside Clinton’s campaign, such as author Sidney Blumenthal, are well aware of how President Bush exploited this patriotism of 9/11 to achieve his extraordinary assertion of Executive power.
In the past, many of these Clinton Democrats also expressed a profound disgust when Bush and his subordinates insinuated that Americans who opposed him were un-American. Nevertheless, the Clinton campaign sanctioned similar lines of attack on Obama.
Besides the touchy issues of race and 9/11, the Clinton campaign also saw an opening in the old wound of the Vietnam War.
During that long conflict, U.S. politicians injected massive American firepower into the midst of an anti-colonial war that had evolved into a civil war between rival Vietnamese factions. Millions of Indochinese and some 58,000 American soldiers died in the conflict.
The historical evidence now shows that President Lyndon Johnson’s decisions were driven, in part, by fear that he would be blamed for “losing Indochina” much as Sen. Joe McCarthy blamed an earlier generation of Democrats for “losing China.”
In the 1960s, the U.S. government also viewed communism as a monolith, failing to appreciate the coming Sino-Soviet split or the nationalism that inspired much of the Vietnamese resistance to French and then American domination.
As President Johnson pushed forward into the bloody Vietnam quagmire, the American people also splintered into angry factions, some backing the war and some doing what they could to end it. In 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. threw his moral weight on the anti-war side, calling the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”
Honest Doubts
Few Americans who lived through that difficult era (if they are being honest with themselves) would say that their reactions to the war were perfect.
Some soldiers returned angry at what their government had made them do; many parents whose sons died questioned whether the sacrifice was worth it; anti-war protesters engaged in excesses both in language and in deed; politicians faulted their lack of courage and foresight.
Some young people reacted to the violence in Vietnam – and the refusal of the U.S. government to stop the war – by turning to anarchy or trying to “bring the war home” through violent acts within the United States. William Ayers was such a person, joining the Weather Underground and backing its domestic bombing campaign.
When I first heard about the Clinton campaign’s “oppo” plans last December, the “Ayers theme” was already in the mix (along with Rev. Wright and Obama’s mother), all supposedly raising doubts about Obama’s patriotism.
To this day, Ayers, now an aging college professor living in Chicago, remains unrepentant about his overall Vietnam-era stand, although he admits regretting some of his actions and acknowledges errors in his thinking.
Clearly, however, Obama had nothing to do with Ayers’s behavior during the Vietnam War when Obama was still a child. Ayers did support Obama’s early candidacy for the state senate and did serve with Obama on the Woods Fund of Chicago, a philanthropy that supports anti-poverty efforts.
But it was stretch to suggest that a tenuous connection to Ayers implicated Obama in Ayers’s actions during the Vietnam War or his lack of remorse. Nevertheless, the Clinton operatives did their best to push this theme.
When the Ayers theme failed to catch on with the major news media at the start of the primary season, Clinton surrogates didn’t give up. They took the attack line to right-wing talk radio and the Internet where it was kept alive. Among others, Fox News’ Sean Hannity demanded that Obama be pressed on questions about Ayers.
Debate Payoff
The Clinton campaign’s doggedness paid off on at the April 16 debate in Philadelphia when ABC News moderator George Stephanopoulos framed the Ayers question much as the Clinton campaign and the right-wing media have, suggesting some dangerous association between Obama and a mad bomber.
Stephanopoulos even depicted Ayers as someone who had taken pleasure in the 9/11 attacks, saying: “In fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in the New York Times saying, ‘I don’t regret setting bombs; I feel we didn’t do enough.’”
Obama was left protesting how the ABC moderators were conducting a debate largely devoid of policy substance and focused on silly distractions.
“The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense, George,” Obama responded.
“So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow – somehow their ideas could be attributed to me – I think the American people are smarter than that. They’re not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn’t.”
At this point, Sen. Clinton could have demurred, but instead chose to pile on. (After all, her campaign has been flogging this theme for months behind the scenes.) She also couldn’t resist pushing the 9/11 hot button.
“If I’m not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this [Woods Fund of Chicago] board continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to every American, because they were published on 9/11 and he said he was just sorry they hadn’t done more. And what they did was set bombs and in some instances people died,” Clinton said.
In their comments, both Clinton and Stephanopoulos led viewers to believe that Ayers had either hailed the 9/11 attacks or used the 9/11 tragedy as a ghoulish opportunity to suggest that more bombings were desirable.
But that wasn’t true. The offensive comment that Clinton and Stephanopoulos referred to was from an interview about a memoir that Ayers published earlier in 2001. The comment was included in a New York Times article that appeared in the newspaper’s Sept. 11, 2001, edition.
As Sen. Clinton and Stephanopoulos surely knew, that edition went to press on Sept. 10, hours before the 9/11 attacks. In other words, the Ayers comment had no relationship to the 9/11 attacks.
What Clinton and Stephanopoulos did was what lawyers refer to as “prejudicial” – they introduced an emotional component, 9/11, in a deceptive way to elicit a visceral reaction from those listening.
After the debate, the New York Times published a fact-checking article that noted the time discrepancy between Ayers’s comment and 9/11:
“Mr. Ayers did not make the remarks after the attacks on the World Trade Center that day. The interview had been conducted earlier, in connection with a memoir that he had published, Fugitive Days, and he was referring to his experience in the Weather Underground.” [New York Times, April 17, 2008]
During the debate, in response to Sen. Clinton’s piling on, Obama pointed out that her husband had done more for ex-members of the Weather Underground than he had.
“By Sen. Clinton’s own vetting standards, I don’t think she would make it, since President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act,” Obama said.
But Sen. Clinton clearly had gotten the better of Obama at the debate. With Obama reeling under the negative attacks, Clinton rolled to a near 10-percentage point win in Pennsylvania and polls began to show that more voters had poor opinions of Obama.
Ties to Radicals
Ironically, however, the Clintons appear to have much closer ties to Vietnam War-era radicals and old-time leftists than Obama does, even as they press this line of attack against him.
Journalist Carl Bernstein – who wrote a biography of Sen. Clinton entitled A Woman in Charge – noted in an article at HuffingtonPost.com that some political observers have criticized the Clinton campaign’s use of Ayers against Obama as “McCarthyism” and “guilt by association.” Bernstein then added:
“Whatever name it is called, Hillary Clinton, perhaps better than any contemporary political figure of our time, knows the insidious nature of this kind of guilt by association, for she (like Bill Clinton) has been a victim of it herself over a political lifetime.”Precisely because she knows the destructive power of such assertions and how unfair they can be, she has sought for a quarter-century to hide and minimize her own activities, associations, student fascination, and personal history with the radical Left. Those associations -- logical, explicable, and (her acolytes have always maintained) even character-building in the context of the times -- are far more extensive than any radical past that has come to be known about Barack Obama.”Which raises the question: Is the Clinton campaign's emphasis on the Ayers-Obama connection significantly different or less spurious than the familiar (McCarthyite?) smears against Hillary, particularly those promulgated and disseminated by the forces she labeled ‘the vast right-wing conspiracy’ in the 1990s?”
However one answers Bernstein’s question, it remains an extraordinary fact that Hillary Clinton’s ambition to be President has overwhelmed any qualms about the hypocrisy of her campaign using McCarthy-like tactics against Barack Obama.
For a political couple criticized in the past for “doing or saying anything to get elected,” the Clintons seem determined to prove their critics right.
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Are the Clintons Playing Joe McCarthy?
By Robert Parry

April 18, 2008
http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/041708a.html
In the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, with Sen. Joe McCarthy near the peak of his guilt-by-association bullying, he famously attacked the patriotism of a young Boston lawyer who worked for Joseph Welch, the Army’s chief legal representative.
“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” Welch responded. “Have you left no sense of decency?”
Now, as Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to sink into a mud pile of guilt-by-association smears against Barack Obama, Welch’s famous question could be posed to the Clintons and their supporters: How far are they prepared to go – and have they “left no sense of decency?”
In the April 16 debate in Philadelphia, Sen. Clinton pounced when her husband’s former adviser, George Stephanopoulos, finally asked one of her campaign’s long-plotted attack lines – raising a tenuous association between Obama and an aging Vietnam-era radical William Ayers.
Acting as an ABC News debate moderator, Stephanopoulos -- and Clinton -- also injected a false suggestion that Ayers had either hailed the 9/11 attacks or had used the occasion as a grotesque opportunity to call for more bombings.
(In reality, an earlier interview about his memoir was coincidently published by the New York Times in its Sept. 11, 2001, edition, which went to press on Sept. 10, before the attacks. But Stephanopoulos and Clinton left the impression with the public that Ayers's comments represented a ghoulish reaction to the 9/11 attacks.)
In another guilt-by-association moment, Clinton linked Obama, via his former church pastor Jeremiah Wright, to Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan and a Hamas representative who had been allowed to publish an essay in the church’s newsletter.
“You know, these are problems, and they raise questions in people’s minds,” Clinton said. “And so this is a legitimate area, as everything is when we run for office, for people to be exploring and trying to find answers.”
So, Sen. Clinton believes it is now justified to question Sen. Obama’s patriotism by delving into the opinions of people who have played even minor roles in his political and personal life – or even people who associated with those people.
Flag Pins
Clinton’s campaign also has tried to engender doubts about Obama’s patriotism by questioning why he often doesn’t wear a flag lapel pin – although Sen. Clinton and John McCain also appear in public without flag lapel pins.
The other ABC News moderator, Charles Gibson, made Obama’s frequent lack of a flag lapel pin one of the lead questions in the debate.
“It comes up again and again when we talk to voters,” Gibson said. “And as you may know, it is all over the Internet. And it’s something of a theme that Senators Clinton and McCain’s advisers agree could give you a major vulnerability if you’re the candidate in November. How do you convince Democrats that this would not be a vulnerability?”
So, because some smear against Sen. Obama’s patriotism is circulated on the Internet – and was pushed by neoconservative columnist William Kristol – it suddenly becomes a legitimate issue for a prime-time debate.
(Besides the fact that McCain and Clinton also frequently go without flag lapel pins, there are many demeaning comments about McCain and Clinton “all over the Internet” that don’t merit discussion in a major debate or anyplace else for that matter.)
The Clintons had a different perspective, too, when the insinuations about a person’s lack of patriotism were about Bill Clinton in fall 1992. As that campaign heated up, President George H.W. Bush unleashed his subordinates to dig up whatever dirt they could to impugn Clinton’s loyalty to his country.
Some of Bush’s political appointees rifled through Clinton’s passport file looking for an apocryphal letter from his student days in which Clinton supposedly sought to renounce his citizenship.
Though no such a letter was ever found, Bush exploited the mystery around Clinton’s passport files to raise questions about Clinton’s 1970 student trips to the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, where he allegedly stayed with Communist friends.
With his patriotism challenged, Clinton saw his once-formidable lead shrink. Panic spread through the Clinton campaign. Ironically, one of the nervous Clinton’s aides who contacted congressional Democrats seeking their help in countering the Republican smears was George Stephanopoulos.
Bush's allies also put out another suspicion, that Clinton might have been a KGB “agent of influence.” Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times headlined that allegation on Oct. 5, 1992, a story that attracted President Bush’s personal interest.
“Now there are stories that Clinton … may have gone to Moscow as [a] guest of the KGB,” Bush wrote in his diary that day. [For the fullest account of the 1992 Passportgate case, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Pressing the Case
Sensing that the loyalty theme was hurting Clinton, President Bush kept stoking the fire. On CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Oct. 7, 1992, Bush suggested anew that there was something sinister about a possible Clinton friend maybe removing the apocryphal renunciation letter from Clinton’s passport file.
“Why in the world would anybody want to tamper with his files, you know, to support the man?” Bush wondered before a national TV audience. “I mean, I don’t understand that. What would exonerate him – put it that way – in the files?"
The next day, in his diary, Bush ruminated suspiciously about Clinton’s Moscow trip: “All kinds of rumors as to who his hosts were in Russia, something he can’t remember anything about.”
On Oct. 9, the FBI complicated Bush’s attack strategy by concluding that there was no evidence that anyone had removed anything from Clinton’s passport file. Some Democrats also accused the President of behaving like Joe McCarthy, impugning someone’s patriotism without credible evidence.
At that point, Bush began backpedaling: “If he’s told all there is to tell on Moscow, fine,” Bush said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I’m not suggesting that there’s anything unpatriotic about that. A lot of people went to Moscow, and so that’s the end of that one.”
But documents that I found years later at the National Archives revealed that privately Bush was not ready to surrender the disloyalty theme. The day before the first presidential debate on Oct. 11, Bush prepped himself with one-liners designed to spotlight doubts about Clinton’s loyalty if an opening presented itself.
“It’s hard to visit foreign countries with a torn-up passport,” read one of the scripted lines. Another zinger read: “Contrary to what the Governor’s been saying, most young men his age did not try to duck the draft. … A few did go to Canada. A couple went to England. Only one I know went to Russia.”
If Clinton had criticized Bush’s use of a Houston hotel room as a legal residence, Bush was ready to hit back with another Russian reference: “Where is your legal residence, Little Rock or Leningrad?”
But the Oct. 11 presidential debate – which also involved Reform Party candidate Ross Perot – did not go as Bush had hoped. Bush did raise the loyalty issue in response to an early question about character, but the incumbent’s message was lost in a cascade of inarticulate sentence fragments.
“I said something the other day where I was accused of being like Joe McCarthy because I question – I’ll put it this way, I think it’s wrong to demonstrate against your own country or organize demonstrations against your own country in foreign soil,” Bush said.
“I just think it’s wrong. I – that – maybe – they say, ‘well, it was a youthful indiscretion.’ I was 19 or 20 flying off an aircraft carrier and that shaped me to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and – I’m sorry but demonstrating – it’s not a question of patriotism, it’s a question of character and judgment.”
Clinton countered by challenging Bush directly.
“You have questioned my patriotism,” the Democrat shot back. Clinton then unloaded his own zinger: “When Joe McCarthy went around this country attacking people’s patriotism, he was wrong. He was wrong, and a senator from Connecticut stood up to him, named Prescott Bush. Your father was right to stand up to Joe McCarthy. You were wrong to attack my patriotism.”
Many observers rated Clinton’s negative comparison of Bush to his father as Bush’s worst moment in the debate. An unsettled Bush didn’t regain the initiative for the remainder of the evening.
Czech-ing on Bill
Still, the Republicans didn’t give up on the idea of smearing Clinton by highlighting his association with college friends in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, both communist countries in 1970.
Another pre-election ploy was to have Czech newspapers run stories about the Communist affiliations of Clinton’s hosts – and then try to blow back those stories to the U.S. news media. Three Czech papers carried such stories on Oct. 24, 1992. The headline in the Cesky Denik newspaper read: “Bill Was With Communists.”
However, without today’s Internet to spread the word and with the right-wing U.S. news media not nearly as large as it is now, the Czech stories didn’t get the attention that some in the Bush campaign had hoped.
In January 1994, the Czech news media reported that the Czech secret police, the Federal Security and Information Service (FBIS), had collaborated with the Bush reelection campaign to dig up dirt on Clinton’s student trip to Prague. The centrist newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes reported that during the 1992 campaign, FBIS gave the Republicans internal data about Clinton’s Moscow-Prague trips and supplied background material about Clinton’s “connections” inside Czechoslovakia.
But that was then, and this is now.
Rather than demonstrating moral consistency by rejecting Joe McCarthy-like tactics, the Clintons have embraced them, tarring Obama with guilt by association, even when it’s a Kevin Bacon-style two or three people removed.
Now, it’s okay to question Obama’s patriotism because he served on a Chicago philanthropic board with William Ayers, a graying college English professor, or because Obama attended a church where Rev. Wright preached – and because Rev. Wright had some dealing with Louis Farrakhan.
Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s debate comments suggest that the exploration of Obama’s associations has only just begun. As Joseph Welch might have said, “Have you left no sense of decency?”

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The Myth of Ronald Reagan Lured the Working Class Into Economic Destruction: Obama Gets It, But the Jilted Middle Class Doesn't.
Submitted by Mark on Tue, 04/15/2008
BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG
by Mark Karlin
Editor and Publisher
April 15, 2008
Dateline: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
Before you open a door and enter into the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, a large bronze sculpture of a strapping cowboy greets you, with the wide-eyed optimisim of the mythic west, a handkerchief dangling from the back pocket of a pair of jeans, and cowboy hat in hand.
It's called "After the Ride" and it is a tribute to Ronald Reagan.
Or make that the myth of Ronald Reagan. Reagan, as the fawning exhibition area that paints a flattering, blemish free portrait of his life unintentionally reveals, went from a childhood and small college upbringing in Illinois to a Hollywood "B" film career, to spokesperson for the GE corporation, to Death Valley Days, to the political life that led him to the White House.
The key transition, not noted as such by the library narrative, is when Reagan became the hired front man for GE, hosting a program for them but also going around the country selling the concept that the corporation is a benevolent and positive force in our lives, without any downsides.
Reagan went from a "B" movie career to an "A" career as a political salesman for corporate wealth and control of the government. In the turbulent social climate of the '60s, his wealthy backers (who regarded him as a prize race horse for a right-wing coup for the super rich and corporate welfare) watched as Reagan won the governorship and masterfully was guided in the use of wedge issues such as "Guns and God" to lure the emerging displaced middle class into voting Republican.
Aside from the "October Surprise," when Reagan negotiators allegedly convinced the Iranian mullahs to hold onto our hostages until Reagan's inauguration day (they were literally released after he was sworn in), the GOP had perfected the selling of a myth about America -- and they had the hale and hearty actor to sell the product.
The myth of "morning in America" obscured the emerging theft of jobs from the middle class by creating emotional hot buttons for rural and working class voters to gravitate toward: Their values were under attack by liberal extremists, they were repeatedly told. Only the Republicans could save the nation from further moral degradation, the myth went -- and only the GOP could guarantee victory in foreign conflicts (even if the conflicts were often unnecessary and the GOP failed to achieve "victory," however it might be defined).
Because our perceptions today are so dependent upon television as a source, how one acts as president or senator has superseded, in large part, what one does.
Ronald Reagan made many working class and rural voters proud to be Americans again, but meanwhile, behind the scenes, corporate lobbyists and Reagan's aides (who were really running the show) went about dismantling factories in places like central Pennsylvania and moving them overseas, sometimes -- literally -- in the dark of night.
It was the Republican version of "Let them eat cake." Only, in this case, it was: "Let them eat God, Guns, and Patriotism."
This process that began with Reagan's election continued through Bush I -- and to a degree in the Bill Clinton Administration, as he aggressively pursued NAFTA and followed the neo-liberal economic agenda of opening up the gates of exporting jobs in return for larger corporate profits -- and it rocketed ahead in the administration of Bush II into a juggernaut of betrayal of the middle class.
Hunting and faith are important to many people in rural America and small towns -- as faith is throughout America -- but there has and will be no threat to those core "values." There is no gun control measure with any remote possibility of passing in any state that would affect hunters -- and Democrats and civil libertarians are ardent supporters of the right to follow one's religious beliefs without government interference.
So, Barack Obama's remarks in San Francisco, as borne out by a true understanding of the Ronald Reagan myth, are ultimately true. His mistake was that he said what he said in a way that allowed the twin corporate D.C. insiders -- McCain and Clinton -- to once again demagogue the issue into one of emotion, rather than fact.
And that is what the attack on Obama is about: demagoguery.
I can't save workers from voting against their own economic interests when they vote to defend values that no one is going to take away from them. And I understand that Clinton and McCain are playing on the pride of such displaced members of the middle class. No one wants to be told that they have been duped for nearly 30 years by the wealthy backers of the Republicrats. Rural and small town Pennsylvanians want to feel proud about America and themselves -- and the uproar from the McCain and Clinton camps once again presses the hot button of dignity, while privately believing in (whatever Clinton is saying on the campaign trail today) policies that will continue to erode the earnings and standard of living of the very people that they claim to be championing.
The media owned by corporate elites has a role in this, too. Last month, the conventional wisdom of the media, for the most part, was that the deteriorating rust belt of Western Pennsylvania had left many former decently paid workers angry and bitter. But, on a dime, the new conventional wisdom, after Obama's remarks, was that it was insulting to say that these same people are angry and bitter. Nothing says more about the non-factual based reporting of the mainstream press than that sudden conversion, because the mainstream media represents the global corporate interests of its multinational parent companies who reap the profits of moving jobs overseas.
What Obama said was shorthand for this grim reality: no one is really threatening the traditions of hunting, or anyone's faith, or heterosexual marriage. But there are plenty of politicians among the Republicrats -- usually the Republicans, but Hillary Clinton has joined with them on this one -- who exploit the fear that conspiratorial "leftist" forces are conspiring to end hunting and religious belief in America. This is the heart of being a demagogue, because it is an appeal to emotion that has no basis in fact. It is how Republicans have won many an election, and how Senator Clinton is now trying, in a last gasp, to obtain the office she has compromised so much of her life pursuing.
As someone who was born and raised in Illinois, and having lived here my adult life, I was always surprised by how little connection Reagan appeared as an adult to have with home state. During his presidency, he rarely returned here, and his persona was tied to the myth of the cowboy, the triumphant rugged conqueror of the West. Illinois was just part of his early biography. He seemed to have no strong emotional attachment to the very Midwest roots that he so championed. It just didn't fit in with the mythic figure that came out of his films, Western ranch (which was the inspiration for Rove getting Bush to buy his Crawford spread and do a Reagan "cut the brush" imitation), and heroic GI movie roles during WW II (which he never actually fought in.)
So we understand that some of the working class who buy clothes at Wal-Mart that they used to make -- because the price is right -- only the blouses and shirts are made in China now -- we understand that they feel insulted by some politician telling them that they've been taken for a ride, that no one is going to stop them from hunting or going to their church, but that the people who peddle that nonsense to them are allowing corporations to steal their jobs and wallets from right in front of their noses. That's a tough pill to swallow, that you've been swindled for 30 years.
But McCain and Clinton are once again pulling the same Republicrat tricks of playing on emotional vulnerabilities while ignoring the truth surrounding the job heist that is occurring in places like Pennsylvania.
Yes, it is bad political practice to ever say anything that makes a group of potential voters feel that they are being insulted because you're making the claim that they've been had.
But if you want to help those same people out to create a positive future for employment and their standard of living, you can't keep hiding the truth under a rock.
Obama's statement could have been said more fully, and not so elliptically, and that would have explained the difference between respect for traditions and beliefs, and exploitation of those very same characteristics for political gain by those who are exploiting the working class.
But, in the end, as he did with race, Obama is touching upon a third rail of truth that neither party wants to discuss much. The "K Street Lobbyists" are very pleased with the masquerade and demagoguery that achieved, and now accelerates, the slide of the middle class towards a lower class fate.
The working class will have its faith, hunting, and small town "values," but it can't have them if they don't have jobs.
And after Obama's remarks, they can't say that they weren't warned by an honest politician.
BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG

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Hillary Clinton's Strategically Delayed Gratification
Submitted by pmcarpenter on Tue, 04/15/2008
THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter
http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/carpenter/044
Some folks in this increasingly cartoonish democracy are, fittingly, like the 'Peanuts' character with his blanket. They demand change and truth with a capital "t" from a political class that's oppressively top-heavy from status-quo prevaricators, but when a candid pol does amble by to say, OK, change is possible, but only after the country's raft of falsely reassuring securities is stripped bare, they cower in apoplectic fits of shock, disillusionment and emotional deprivation.
Then they race out and vote for yesterday.
John McCain discovered this axiomatic pitfall of democracy as recently as Michigan, when he -- I thought courageously -- told Republican primary voters that those old-line manufacturing jobs weren't ever coming back. He has since revised reality and his marks are beginning to beam with delusional comfort once again.
And Barack Obama? Oh my, how we know about Obama, and all those "bitter" Pennsylvanians. He made enduring headline news by observing that too many Americans fail to vote their economic self-interest -- yep, that's headline news -- and in doing so he opened the disapproving gates of hell owned and bombastically operated by the status-quo crowd.
Americans, or so we're told, were shocked. It has been nothing short of absolute fascination to read and watch the nonstop, wall-to-wall, day-upon-day coverage of a politician's potential Waterloo, all because he uttered a socioeconomic fact of everyday political life.
I stress: That's what we're told. The polling gurus and bitter Pennsylvanians themselves have yet to confirm or deny it, so we're left with network instructions to stand by and stay tuned -- this is big; really, really big -- to find if Americans actually do have their head as far up their posterior part as Hillary Clinton insists they do. And just to be safe, in the meantime she's urging them to push harder.
Until we have that confirmation or denial we are also left to idle away the hours with America's other pastime question: What, pray tell, is Hillary's game? Her rules and conduct make less sense every day. None of this Pennsylvania donnybrook alters the national delegate count and thus the overall odds of her securing the nomination. So, in a nutshell, what's the point of all her bombast and unremitting attacks on her own party's presumptive nominee?
The Politico's John Harris and Jim VandeHei think they know, based on interviews from Hillary's friends, who of course would never try to mislead the media. And I must say, the reporters' speculation is even more amusing than the media's farcical coverage of Obama's reflections on electoral bitterness. Because their speculation is this: Hillary is sincere.
Not only that, she has been, for reasons left unexplained, pulling her punches.
I told you it's amusing. Don't believe it? Read it yourself:
She and Bill Clinton both devoutly believe that Obama’s likely victory is a disaster-in-waiting. Naive Democrats just don’t see it. And a timid, pro-Obama press corps, in their view, won’t tell the story. But Hillary Clinton won’t tell it, either.... Our conversations with Democrats who speak to the Clintons make plain that their public comments are only the palest version of what they really believe: that if Obama is the nominee, a likely Democratic victory would turn to a near-certain defeat.... Republicans will ... ruthlessly exploit openings that Clinton — in the genteel confines of an intraparty contest — never could. Top targets: Obama’s radioactive personal associations, his liberal ideology, his exotic life story, his coolly academic and elitist style.... That is why some friends describe Clinton as seeing herself on a mission to save Democrats from themselves.
There is so much that is not only counterintuitive but strikingly dunderheaded with that analysis, little remedial analysis is needed. It's that evident, starting with the last sentence of Hillary "sav[ing] Democrats from themselves" by going into a general election with the highest, virtually unyielding negatives ever registered by a presidential candidate. Some salvation.
We could work backward from there, point by point, from the "elitist style" of a megamillion-dollar income being out of touch with common humanity and other self-evident vulnerabilities that "Republicans [would] ruthlessly exploit," and wind up at the peculiar opening of the Clintons "devoutly believ[ing]" in anything other than their own tactical abilities and political advancement.
But, enough of that. The Clintons know all that. And they know and accept that only an absolute miracle could still hand Hillary the nomination -- and even if she were to achieve the nomination now, she has sufficiently destroyed party unity to ever achieve lift-off and general-election victory. So the process of elimination bumps the Politico's speculation out of the way and leaves us with only one other answer to the question: What, pray tell, is Hillary's game?
And that, too, by now, seems self-evident: Try to destroy the chance of some other Democratic administration of eight long years, lick her wounds for four and reenter the presidential arena with image, by then, somehow repolished and party reunified.
And all she asks of her marks is another four years of another George W. Bush -- a small price to pay for their ultimate salvation: the Clintons
Please respond to the commentary by leaving comments below and sharing them with the BuzzFlash community. For personal questions or comments you can contact P.M. at fifthcolumnistmail@gmail.com
THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter
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