Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Is Hillary Running for Vice President?

by Bernie Quigley - for The Free Market News Network - 8/30/06

Every time I rag on Senator Clinton, a benign little voice pops up with some lite commentary, particularly if the blogs pick up my articles. This person is all over the blogs. S/he is what I think bloggers call a sock puppet. Which I think is someone who works for a politician who surfs the web and pretends to be a blogger, but is really inserting policy surreptitiously for some politician or some lobby group. They couldn’t be more obvious.

The major, influential blogs are testosterone driven, and generally the prose is as subtle in composition and delivery as Sid Vicious; a combination of angry expletives scrawled on a bathroom wall, a note passed in the hall and a rock thrown through a window. It is obvious that bloggers are men and women alike bonded by generation. In stark contrast, this other person sounds like HAL, the disembodied voice of the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sometimes the quiet, official HAL voice even tries to sound “edgy” so no one knows he is a sock puppet, but everybody knows. You can always tell because threads on a blog or forum always stop when HAL makes a comment.

Bloggers know who they are and they just walk around them and ignore them with embarrassed curiosity, like they do the 60-year-old, grey-haired ponytailed guys who bring their gig to open-mike night at the teen club. Someone should do a term paper on them. They leave a clear trail, logged and dated on blogs like the Daily Kos, the Democratic Underground and TPM Café. Bits and pieces put together over the last year or so would show clear patterns.

I get a general sense of the willies when they comment on my articles, because I know their response is inauthentic, and I am being used as a policy tool for somebody else. When I wrote an article about John Edwards last week that resonated elsewhere on the web I heard from HAL. His comments were generally fair-minded, which is always suspicious on the web (“Die yuppie scum,” I usually get.). He said Edwards, like Bill Clinton, was a fair-minded character with lasting influence and a steady hand. Which is sort of what I said about Edwards, but it is not what I think about Clinton and I certainly didn’t compare him to Bill Clinton. Indeed, one of the things I like about Edwards is that he could bring the Democrats back to the real people of the world who work for a living, and away from dilettante Nantucket Democrats like the Clintons and Kerry. But HAL’s comments hoped to cast what I had said about Edwards as being a reflection of Bill Clinton’s benevolent and paternal hand over the destiny of the Democrats, which was just the opposite of what I was saying.

Then I recalled that this same official blogger – maybe it is Hillary’s “official” blogger – a real blogger would know – had made lengthy comments on a article I wrote about Senator Clinton awhile ago which was picked up by the Daily Kos. In my article I proposed that if Senator Clinton ran for President she could well destroy the Democratic Party. Facing a candidate like John McCain, the Democrats would carry probably no states, and for the fourth time since World War II, the Republicans would win an all but unanimous victory. Another prospect is the rise of a third party with Libertarian and Independent minded voters if Hillary runs. Several movements are already afoot due specifically to her proposed candidacy, one in particular behind Mike Bloomberg, the competent and popular Mayor of New York, who has said privately that he is willing to throw half a billion bucks into a third party race. At this particular moment I’ll bet that he will. That could well spell destiny for the Democrats, as it did for the Whigs in the 1850s.

I began to put in place after reading a variety of HAL’s comments that the Cajun Cartel, James Carville and his buddy Bill, may be thinking long-term; eight, sixteen years, bringing Hillary forth as a Vice President candidate with some political innocent like John Edwards, who would just be the warm-up act before the main event, and then ending the post-war period with eight years of President Hillary. What HAL said was that the Clintons were not as bad as I said they were, and that the divisions that were caused by the Clinton Presidency and the strident chorus of his wife’s voice, heard regularly today again in the Senate; divisions which sent both the House and the Senate to the Republicans and all but turned the Democratic Party into a Clinton Personality Cult, was because the country just need time to get used to the Clintons. The country needed a little more time now for Bill to “repent” some more, said HAL, and it would all be water under the bridge. Then Hillary can be President. This is a real yearning that won’t go away for a lot of people who are just around 60 years old this year. They have a lot of money and they send it to the Clintons.

So last week when HAL praised my John Edwards article, I could see that in the background, what he might have had in mind was Vice President Hillary. An Edwards Presidency with Hillary as Vice President would give the country time to “get used” to Hillary and for Bill to “repent” (that is what he is doing at all those fundraisers for his wife), so she and Bill could run the show again sometime between 2012 and 2020.

I mean you have got to be kidding. There are two major countervailing forces in this country, and power should be gently nurtured and carefully guided between and within them, lest they fall out of alignment. The one is North/South relations – they are Logos and Eros, Particle and Wave, Yin and Yang. The one cannot dominate the other. Power must flow equitably or dangerous eruptions can occur. Current Red State/Blue State contention brings a taste of it today. And a President who holds Air Force One on the tarmac for two hours while he sits for an LA hairdresser is primarily responsible for the reemergence of those same divisions which 100 years before brought tragedy to our country.

The second countervailing force is a perennial one; the conflict between generations. The Clintons think they represent a young generation. They think they are young. They are not. They are 60. Like their pitiful English aunties, the Rolling Stones, who play at their birthday parties, they are old. And there is nothing so pitiful than old people – like HAL – trying to be young. Young people don’t like that. That could account for why Senator Clinton’s rate of approval at the Daily Kos consistently hovers around zero.

Pushing Hillary forward as Vice President, so the country can “get used to her” (say what?) so she can be President in 2012, is an attempt to dominate and territorialize the new generation coming up and preventing it from coming forward to its natural place in the world. More than anything, the Clintons represent the Generation that Wouldn‘t Go Away. It railed against the previous generation, now it digs in to prevent the new generation from coming forward and expressing itself.

Yet the Clintons somehow hold the Democrats captive. Last week it was reported that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was trying to offer Senator Clinton a major Senatorial post, virtually a bribe, to keep her from running for President. That’s the way they do it on The Sopranos, when a regional capo seeks a favor from Tony. But unlike Tony Soprano’s operation, with the Democrats, it is never really clear who is running the show.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

John Edwards to the Fore

By Bernie Quigley - going out Monday to The Free Market News Network, 8/28/06

It takes more than one person to make a mess as big as Iraq. - Thomas E. Ricks in Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

When Virginia Senator George Allen referred to an American of Indian ethnicity as Macaca, a type of monkey, last week, the entire tide of the political culture may have changed. In calling the student a monkey, Allen has become the goat. This is bad for Bush. The upcoming November primary between Allen and Jim Webb is being watched as a paradigm event. However it works out in Virginia, so it could go in 2008. Allen has apologized so many times now that he is being asked to stop apologizing. But this will continue to weight him down.

It was a fairly stupid move on Allen’s part. The young man, S.R. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, was pointing a camera at him. Within hours, the event was posted on the Daily Kos for everyone to see. And as Allen’s staff presented the most ridiculous excuses – he was trying to say Mohawk – it just made things worse.

What Sidarth did was lift a rock to show the world the real George Allen, the bitter and hostile out-of-town Confederate wannabe that those of us who worked in his bureaucracy knew a dozen years ago when he all but destroyed the state of Virginia by poor management when he was Governor.

He goes into his primary battle with Webb now on the defensive.

Allen was supposed to lead the charge to 2008 as Pathfinder for the conservative wing of the Republican Party, but now a shadow is cast over all their efforts. And this, coming at a time when the Republicans are down almost 20% in the bellwether state of Ohio and a loss of up to 26 seats in the House is expected.

The plates have shifted this week and the downward movement of the Republicans converges with changes in the primary system to send certain Democrats up. The Democrats, under the leadership of Howard Dean, have recommended removing Iowa and New Hampshire from their hallowed perch as first and second of the political season by frontloading the 2008 primary season with other primaries and caucuses in the South and the Southwest. This could dramatically change fortunes for the Democrats.

The New Hampshire primary is a kind of off-Broadway theater production to test new actors and partisans. It has always served well in bringing in new people with new ideas – Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan – and it has often favored the exceptional candidate or the particularly gifted Dark Horse rather than the mainstream candidates.

Under the new rules caucuses and core party people will have a good deal more influence. This tends to orthodoxy rather than innovation and to sustainablity rather than experimentation, and the mainstream candidates, Senator John Kerry, Senator Hillary Clinton and John Edwards will be favored. This is bad for the brilliant and gifted Dark Horses, Wesley Clark and Mark Warner. Warner, who spoke up here in New Hampshire last week, brings a big new idea to the Democrats; a Democratic Party with management values. He will be noticed and appreciated up here in the New Hampshire primary, but the new primary system will send voters to the more traditional and the known in the other primaries. By 2012, his second time around, Warner will have a better chance.

And this week a third element has been added. This week at long last, the President has all but admitted failure in the Middle East. The crisis in government is over. Breakage will continue and still there is no way out, and problems will multiply exponentially if housing tanks the economy, but the first admission has arrived and recovery can begin. It is like the alcoholic who’s first most important step is to admit he has a problem – same with those who are drunk with power.

Of the three mainstream candidates, Kerry, Clinton and Edwards, Edwards stands to gain in this new political environment. It sounds like an oxymoron but even though the war is a disaster, as Gary Hart, Brent Scowcroft and others predicted, voting in favor of it will be to the benefit of these three. More than 80% of Americans initially supported this war, just as Kerry, Clinton and Edwards did. Their support was primarily a sign of good faith in America in the sad days after 9/11 and trust in leadership at this crucial time. They will not want to be reminded that policies were misguided. The people did not fail. Bush and his insidious neocon advisors failed the American people.

Both Clinton and Kerry will now spew venom on Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and already they are doing so. Among these three, Edwards alone seems not to have the Revenge Gene.

Among the young voters at the Daily Kos, the Dark Horses ride high. Warner and Clark have consistently scored highest in this past year, but among the mainstream candidates only John Edwards has strong appeal. Kerry’s approval rating is next to nothing. Senator Clinton’s is zero. Of all the groups bonded for political influence today, the 20 million monthly readers of the Daily Kos is the most important. Most are under 30. They mark a generation and it is the generation which will run this country for the next 30 years. And as the Lieberman primary indicated, their power is beginning to be felt.

By the time the primary season starts, the mainstream caucuses and party activists will realize that Senator Clinton's Presidential hopes and wishes are a fiction, and one that could bring great damage to the country and destroy the Democratic Party. That will leave only Kerry and Edwards.

There is nothing yet to tell us if Kerry will run. Edwards almost certainly will. As of now, he would have most to gain in the new primary system.

There is much to like about him. He knows how to throw a football. He is a great debater and although his debate with Vice President Cheney was overlooked by the press, it was one of the best debates in recent years.

And he is one of us. When the primary season first started, I brought my children to one of his first events at the Coffee Cup in Littleton, NH. As it turned out, we ended up having lunch with Edwards, his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Cate. I compared him then to Tip O’Neil and the old real world politicians in these parts who came from places like Hell’s Kitchen and South Boston.

And finally, he is a Southerner. And there is a certain kind of Yankee who really annoys Southern people and Texans. Not all. I don’t think Mitt Romney would or Mike Bloomberg or even George Pataki, but Clinton does and so does Kerry. There is an arrogance to them; a pedantic, jaw-jutting self-righteousness that seems to hover in the room. And that Nantucket thing; the desire to see and be seen on Nantucket quaffing tall boys with Carly Simon and the Beautiful People . . . .

Edwards has none of these pretensions. And he is a relative newcomer to the political world. And we need new people. Thomas E. Ricks' remarkable new book, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, documents the tragety of Iraq mistep by mistept, with lies, deceit, misdirection and confusion orchestrated by so very, very few. At its core, really only one or two individuals, pledging their time for almost two decades, waiting for the day when an innocent waif like George W. Bush would reach the Presidency. And at that tragic, pivotal moment of 9/11 they cast their net, bringing in the army, the government, the press and 80 percent of the American people. With Edwards, perhaps we can put the war behind us without venom or vindication, and go forth into the world again in faith and good hope.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Letter to Gordon Suber RE his article in the Manchester Union on the New Hampshire primary - Leave New Hampshire Alone:

Thank you Gordon – I think that TV show featuring Martin Sheen as President has it that he is from New Hampshire. What it is is that there is a primal or archetypal sense of what it implies or suggests somehow deep in the innermost layers of consciousness (where the ancestors live) to be American – and that is seen in the hills of New Hampshire – self reliance, independence, hard working, trusting in neighbors and ourselves, no chattering, no whining; get up and go to work - Americans who look to nature to find orientation and not to a shadow of Europe or to a vision of the Academy, but to themselves. As one who builds stone walls and plants trees for a living up here two hours north of Concord, I can assure you that the men and women I work with on a daily basis fit that bill. So when a “unique” candidate appears new on the American scene – General Clark or John McCain, for example, his or her first appeal to a primal cord will ring here – rightfully – and the rest of the country takes a special notice. We don’t really care that much about issues – they change with the times and grow on Central Park West (read Alfred Kazin’s “America” for a puzzling and spooky history of American ideas echoing in tragedy today around the world and how they grew from the hands of so very, very few and where they came from and how divorced from the heartland’s true and human sensibility the fate of the world sadly flows). We care about integrity and character. In a sense, we are so far away from the mainstream of the world and away from the vicissitudes of the world and their astonishing manifestations (the Senator from New York cryptically blocking passage of AIDS/HIV funding for New York City and San Francisco where the vast numbers of sick people live, the Representative from Texas urging religious warfare) – these things are often part of team building, or consensus building or political strategies of opposition and we don’t care about that either. And in the end these things come with the dust and go with the wind, as Woody Gunthrie said, and their life cycle and appeal is usually generational. The Man of Honor, the Woman of Substance, is called forth to save the day when the brittle argument of the apparatchiks shatters and the mischief unravels, and we reach first for her or him because that is all we really care about. We are the canaries in the coal mine sensing danger and calling forth those with the deeper nature and resources. My buddy Burt, whose father and grandfather plowed with horses up here on through the generations has never stepped outside this county except for military service. It was a big dilemma when one of his children recently got married in Philadelphia. I look to him for core values and solid and lasting sensibilities. It is true that the southernmost counties in the state might be considered “northern Massachusetts” because many move across the border to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes. In the last week of the New Hampshire primary this group rose out of nowhere and sent John Kerry up. But for the weeks and months before that that hard-core, old-time gnarly mountain Yankee nature did bring forth a primal American vision, felt most vividly in the coldest and most ornery mountain territory –Dixville Notch, where General Clark took almost all of the votes. It is possible to trust a person who has never milked a cow but it takes longer to know them. We in New Hampshire are not alone in this. West Virginia is like this as well, and it is a common saying up here that New Hampshire is a Southern state. So is Arkansas where I have kin and so are certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn. But every place is not. Thanks for the perspective. We look forward to your early return. Bernie Quigley, Haverhill, NH

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Helter Skelter Turning

by Bernie Quigley - for The Free Market News Network

It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger. - The Dixie Chicks

We are rapidly approaching the Helter Skelter turning point. That place of crisis and relief where the culture flips, and everything good and inspiring that ascended us to this point in the last 20 years or so suddenly spirals downward, and is sent into shadow overnight. And the good of it and the pious intentions of the incompetent and incapable who managed to reach such astonishing heights of high authority in so many places and bring us there with them are forgotten and despised. Only the chaos, the incompetence and the sadness caused are vaguely recalled. History is made of moments like this.

It is a time like that way back when in the Sixties when all things reached a bubbling point and normally predictable English majors from expensive and classy women’s colleges suddenly abandoned the Grand Tour and the normal course of events to help instead a bunch of self-styled local black nationalists rob a bank. A time when a common and ordinary unfortunate who might normally in a good and healthy society find joy in everyday life in simple work and grace and redemption in the church choir, instead would carve a cryptic symbol on his forehead and find a special vision and direction from God sent especially to him in a Beatle’s lyric offhandedly swaged from The Gospel of Thomas, ordering him to mayhem.

It has been building for years. Maybe since they changed the money from a perfect symmetry of circles and squares to something other; a thing out of kilter with bloated and egotistical heads; the center lost in a nihilistic, deconstructivist new dollar. Was then that some of my normally genuine and solid friends and neighbors in the Appalachian hills started carrying Glocks and cross breeding their Rottweilers with Pitt Bulls to fight again. And at the feed store, talking of Jesus and Saddam Hussein and Armageddon, all in the same sentence.

We are getting there again. We are almost there when a drunken Hollywood hack with an anti-Semite bent and a frozen and empty smile takes it upon himself to interpret for us the deepest mysteries of Ezekiel and John. We are almost there when the Lubbock Goddess Incarnate is threatened with murder by a rabid fan.

It is time to open a new ward in the psychobilly prison. Maybe he will find Jesus there like the killer of John Lennon. Maybe not. Anyway, like Charlie Manson or Mark David Chapman, their names and the squalid details of their sad and desperate lives will be half forgotten when the culture flips.

Who was Sirhan Sirhan? What was that Symbionese army thing in San Francisco about? Whatever happened to that best-selling black author who bragged about raping white women to practice for marriage with a black woman? Half forgotten when the mayhem passes: Died from drugs. Hit by a car. Still in jail. Found Jesus. Who?

Henceforth they will ask: Whatever happened to that Texas pesticides salesman who wanted to exterminate Islam? What was the name of that tall and angular blond number on the TV talk shows who dressed like a transvestite? Whatever happened to that guy who wanted to kill the Dixie Chicks?

But history is made of such moments because it is then that Nature calls forth the brave and the essential. Often they had been always here, even hiding in their own shadows until this awakening. What I find remarkable about Oliver Stone is that when he shows strength it is true strength; when he shows art he is a true artist and when he talks in truth, no one can tell truth as he does. He ascends from mayhem to bring us courage, character and honor.

It is a word he has never used to date. Others have used it even about themselves, but there is a Taoist saying: Those who say don’t know – those who know don’t say. Now is a time of honor and we will call it forth from those of whom it flows naturally. I have a friend who lived all 60 of his years so far in one of the lovely townhouses on the boardwalk of Brooklyn Heights which faces southern Manhattan and the empty space where the World Trade Center used to stand. He vacations up here in the mountains, but since 9/11 he has not been back home to Brooklyn Heights because he cannot bear to look across the river. My wife cannot see Stone’s movie, World Trade Center, about two ordinary people who found within themselves courage growing like kudzu, one of whom didn’t know the movie was about him until last week. But those who can should see the movie.

The events of September 11 were a lot to assimilate. Norman Mailer, the greatest writer of his generation and the most representative of New York, said at the time that the events of 9/11 would change our country to a new place. Those feelings may begin to stabilize now and find direction.

I hope not to hold a grudge to anyone in place at the time who acted with inability. The shift in sensibility will prove as great in historical perspective as the shift between the Victorian era and the Eisenhower era. It does not reflect American incompetence that we planned or executed our response badly. We were prepared for a different era; a different century; a different millennium. Our millennium began on 9/11 and Stone’s movie begins to settle us into sobriety. From then to now was prelude: Our century and the way we will perceive things and conduct ourselves in the new century begins to stabilize with Stone’s remarkable requiem, a triumph of survival and the will to live, to act in life and to accept one’s duty in ordinary life and then to return to that ordinary life without hubris or celebration.

No more new ideas. No more ideology. No more rhetoric. No more special interests and agenda. No more novelty or management theory. We need now strength, intelligence, courage, wisdom and a steady hand.

This week on a TV talk show political analyst David Gergen was asked what he thought the Lieberman vote would hold for the Democrats. He said he thought the Democrats would return to an anti-war stance as they did in the Vietnam period and following Ned Lamont’s victory over Joe Lieberman, would chose someone like Al Gore to lead them there.

I think not for several reasons. In the next elections in 2006 and 2008, we will not go back to Gore, Clinton, Dole, Kerry or anybody. We will no longer look back. We will look forward now.

The mainstream press constantly promotes candidates they already know; the Clintons, Gore, Elizabeth Dole. Those are people suited and formed by their formative era – Gore’s new movie on the environment even follows the same path he advanced onto when he published Earth in the Balance in 1992, shortly before he was chosen for Vice President. But they are ignoring the critical moment: 9/11. We will go forward now, not backwards. And only now we are ready to go forward. In a way, the decade before 9/11 was an easy ride so long as someone from Goldman Sachs was guiding the economy. It would, at any rate, keep the economy going to its natural fate in the same direction.

No longer. We require vastly different management now for vastly different conditions and circumstances. We require versatility, intuition and an ability to engage, weather and advance in unknown approaching conditions.

There are many such steady hands among us. Prominent in this regard: Mike Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California and General Wesley Clark among the Democrats.

The important question is, will the political parties face the new world which fate has cast upon us in since 9/11? Will the Republicans send their ideologs packing and chose management instead? Will the Democrats? If not, Mayor Bloomberg has made it clear in private that he is willing to risk a half billion of his own money to take the center in a new Independent party featuring management and competence.

The Democrats have good options – pragmatic and competent Governors like the savvy Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, and Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas. We hear almost nothing about them. Instead we hear about Senator Clinton, Howard Dean and Barack Obama. Their critical moment arrived last week, when the Connecticut electorate became highly motivated and especially brought into the process vast numbers of new citizens under the age of 30.

I think it is unfortunate that so many Democrats saw the Lamont victory as a celebration; an “anti-war” victory in an “anti-Bush” campaign. Only one Democrat stood out, stepped forward and saw the event as the beginning of a new political period. And for the third time this year at a critical juncture, it is the same man who has taken the initiative on behalf of the Democrats.

“Joe Lieberman’s defeat shows that the public is now engaged in politics,” wrote Wesley Clark in The Wall Street Journal the day after the Lieberman defeat.

“The Republicans will suggest that Democrats aren’t up to it. They’ll play the terrorist-threat card, hope for a few more messages of bin Laden, and ask whether an antiwar party can be trusted to keep America safe. But this is just the spin. The truth is the Democratic Party—elected leaders, party regulars and the big-time donors—pretty much agree on the failures of the administration, and even on the policies that need to be adopted, like stronger diplomacy and more reliance on allies and international organizations, coupled with a willingness to fully fund, rearm, strengthen and use America’s armed forces. The Connecticut primary will ensure that the Democrats push their positions—and their differences with the administration—even more forcefully.”

But right now we have a weirdly farcical thing going on in the Democratic party which has accumulated over the decades: The Democrats are like a fanciful confederation of tribes each made up of some particular idea unrelated and indifferent to the other: There is the black-issues tribe, the Israeli-influence tribe, the Taiwan-influence tribe, the Leftover-from-the-Sixties tribe, the abortion tribe, the gay marriage tribe, the anti-war Democrats tribe and a whole bunch of mini-tribes (and personality cults). The Environmentalist tribe now claims Al Gore is as shaman. Lieberman is the shaman of the Bush Democrats tribe. Most strike cords of memory of what used to mean something in the last decades of the millennium before 9/11.

None of these narrow outlooks will carry the Democrats. Many of them seem to be substituting issues in denial or avoidance of the critical problems at hand, and might be called transference issues. And there is only one critical issue today – the crises in the Middle East. A greater one lurks and is latent and will rise across the Pacific, but (to the great benefit of India and China) it cannot be dealt with until this one is responsibly engaged.

And as the Democrats often seem in denial of authentic responsibilities in the Middle East, so the Republicans appear to be substituting a make-believe war of their own in denial of the rising Pacific concerns. Wasn’t that the point of the neocon darlings and Republican guiding lights Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan’s “Project for the New American Century” – Kagan, like Patty Hearst, even dressed up like a guerilla fighter for one of his earlier fantasies.

From the moment of invasion, General Clark has offered lucid analysis and enlightened geopolitical strategies to anyone who would listen.

“Republican strategists could hardly be happier with the outcome of the Connecticut Democratic primary. And Democrats should be deeply concerned in the near term. But if I were a Republican, I’d recognize this as the beginning of the end. Forget about the neocons. This era is over,” wrote Clark.

But only if the Democrats can rise to it.

There’s always Mike Bloomberg with his half billion bucks. And he’s damn good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Lieberman Defeat: Wes Clark’s Party or George McGovern’s?

by Bernie Quigley - for WesPAC, 8/90/06

What a difference a day makes. I think the unfortunate Joe Lieberman of Connecticut fell victim to fate when he lost his primary race yesterday. Had his primary been held tomorrow, or next week, after everyone had seen Oliver Stone’s new movie about two courageous Port Authority officers trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center, things might have been different.

The events of 9/11 continue to define us. Our century began with 9/11. Our millennium will be remembered first by the events of 9/11. New York City will be remembered by 9/11.

For myself, it is an item tucked away in the permanent places of my soul and in the corners of my desk where I keep the sacred things; painted stones and paper birds my kids give over the years; pictures of our first sheep and critters. There is a picture of a Buddhist monk in orange robes, like those I’d encountered in military service in Thailand 40 years ago. I still pleasantly dream about them today for some reason. There is a newspaper clipping of the New England Patriot’s second quarterback, Doug Flutie, drop-kicking his way to retirement, and there is a tattered news photo of a New York City firefighter calmly, resolutely, walking up the stairwell of the World Trade Center, while office workers pour down the same stairwell in smoke and horror. A woman stops and turns to watch him and seems frozen, her eyes wide with disbelief.

It is those two elements which remain: That a man could walk so calmly to his duty and to his death. And that the rest of us would encounter such a person, and would rise ourselves from the rubble a different people because he had done so.

One writer said that New York joined the country on 9/11. As a one time New Yorker, I would say so. A shadow lifted from New York on 9/11; a shadow as long as the buildings themselves. And the rest of the country joined New York as well. Jim Webb, Virginia’s Democratic candidate for Senate, said all his anger fell from him on 9/11.

I’m glad that Joe Lieberman didn’t win. I never liked him as a politician. He was the first or among the first to advise President Bush to respond to 9/11 by going into Baghdad. It is not wrong or unhealthy to have a gut reaction like Stonewall Jackson’s (”Kill them, sir. Kill them all.”) to an event of such towering evil. It is wrong to implement it as public policy. And I am not sure Joe Lieberman understood the difference. I don’t mind that he cozied up to George Bush. There was good reason to do so on many occasions. But the spiraling cycle of incompetence in policy and performance which has characterized this administration first took its initiative from Joe Lieberman.

But something else is troubling here. As far as I know, Ned Lamont, who beat Lieberman in the primary, might well be a fairly competent person because he made a lot of money as a businessman. But all I hear about him is that he is the “anti-war” candidate. He is today exclusively defined by the press as the “anti-war” candidate. And I don’t know exactly what that is. Truthfully, I think it suggests that the Democrats are retreating to the safety of their shadow again, and see the Lamont victory as the ascending front. Will Senator Clinton now flip and be the “anti-war” candidate? Will Kerry?

If public discussion is reduced to such an absurd simplification as “pro war” or “anti war” it will be a disaster for the Democrats. The shadow only makes the strong one stronger. The Democratic Party will be the “anti war” party again, as it became the “anti war” party in 1972 when it lost in a landslide. We in Massachusetts became the only state to vote for the “anti-war” candidate, George McGovern. Massachusetts did so with feelings of pride, righteous indignation, smugness and self-assurance. As one born in that state and reared thereabouts, I felt it was a classic retreat from the collective responsibility of governance and citizenship. And I am feeling that same smugness, which has poisoned both politics and culture in the northeast from then to now, blossoming again up here like a corpse flower.

I do not think it will go that way. Vietnam and the war on Iraq are intrinsically different. The times were different. The wars were different. Americans are different today than we were then and 9/11 contributes vastly to that difference. And if the Democrats do retreat under the mantle of anti-war, this time a third party could well rise in the middle and remove their traditional cloak of responsibility from them once and for all. Political pundit Dick Morris claims that American history has never been so ripe for a third-party challenge as it is today.

It was a relief to read General Clark’s remarks a few weeks ago in the New Jersey Jewish Reporter quoting Colin Powell, who advised the President, “If you break it, you own it.” We broke it and it is still broke. And it is still our responsibility to fix it. That incompetence continues to break it does not change the responsibility of fixing it.

The singular voice which has remained steady in this from the beginning is General Clark’s. When he signed the book in Concord to enter the primary here in New Hampshire, he held a little press conference afterwards in which he presented a plan for the warring regions of the Middle East. The desert sands have shifted considerably since then and the plan is different. But there is always a new plan. That is the hallmark of leadership, management, excellence and competence in policy making. That is the hallmark of adulthood.

Regarding Iraq today, Clark told the New Jersey periodical that it would be virtually impossible to beat a hasty retreat. He said the United States forces should not leave without making sure that there would be at least some kind of stability in the region.

I no longer hear that from any other Democrat who gets her or his name in the daily press. No other Democrat today with a public persona speaks like that. No Democrat in the public eye speaks of responsibilities to the region. None has a plan to put back the broken pieces.

The Lieberman defeat brings the Democrats to a fork in the road. Lieberman was rightfully defeated because his stances were misguided and incompetent, and also as Noam Scheiber, a senior editor of The New Republic, says today in The New York Times, because of the perception that he’s a less than reliable partisan.

But if a Lieberman defeat means the return to McGovernism, the Democrats and the country will face disaster in 2008.

General Clark says the White House hadn't put in place the diplomatic and political strategies necessary to win the war in Iraq and establish peace in the Middle East and he provides new strategies to anyone who will listen.

"It has been over three years of fumbles and mistakes by the White House," he says.

Today, the Democrats could yield to defeatism and relish in its narcotic and malodorous sweetness as it did in 1972. Increasingly, its only other option is Wesley Clark.

But I do not see a place for him in a party of McGovern Democrats.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Waiting for Arnold, Part II (photo by master photographer Annie Leibowitz)

At the end of this cosmic age Vishnu will change into a white horse and create a new world. This refers to Pegasus, who ushers in the Aquarian Age. - Carl Jung

My comments on the Fourth Turning Forum on the Red State Confederacy and Arnold Schwarzenegger:

"The so-called Culture Wars are a Civil War by other strategies - now between red states and blue states; Clinton and Allen are both [ideologs] and warriors in that war. The South rejects "Logos"-based New Englanders & New Yorkers - that is, those who characterise the Enlightenment (intellect, head-based - analysis) tradition in New Engalnd - Kennedys (all), Kerry, etc., & Hillary too. But the South would accept pure management types of the North not exclusively in the tradition like New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (who is Jewish) and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (who is Mormon & campaigns as a Western rancher). Southerners are "Eros" (intuitive, faith, heart-based chakra; empathy) types and will accept Logos leadership, but it has to come from the West - [Eisenhower,] Nixon, Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. My prognosis is that this seculum [the 80-year post-war period Roman historians note as autonomous historical periods] will end somehow with Arnold at the helm."

Alors, but a perceptive reader named Marx and Lennon says Wahhhhh! :

"I see no possibility of a Consitutional Amendment to allow the Terminator to run for President, so a President Ah-nuld is not very likely," says s/he or they.

And I sez, Alors!:

"Two Republican Presidents from the West within this saeculum have carried 49 states (and the only states not voting for Eisenhower in '56 were arch conservative yellow dog Democrat states in the Bible Belt, which are all deeply conservative and Republican today). Both held majorities far beyond that needed for amending & Eisenhower could have easily amended had he needed to. Arnold Schwarzenegger has in the last three weeks taken leadership in opposition to Bush on stem cell and environment. There are now two Republican parties; "Old South" Republicans and "New West" or Independent Republicans (Mike Bloomberg of NY, Arnold in CA). When Blair came to U.S. last week he spent the first morning with Bush and much of the rest of the week with Arnold and his advisor, George Schultz in CA. With Arnold as Secretary of State in a Mike Bloomberg/Mitt Romney cabinet, amending would be a piece of cake and it would insure the "New West" Republicans at least 16 years of governance. Momentum has been going West since Eisenhower (who was a Texan)."