The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr by Ken Gormley

Am currently reading The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr by Ken Gormley. It’s a book I picked up in the vast Serious Poo-Poo Institute of Technology Library.

It’s an excellent read, an I think fair-minded account of this insane chapter in America’s history.

I can try to read it and not reflect my own biases all over it. I can try. And even trying as hard as I can to do that, this book tells me what I already knew long ago, that the Whitewater – Lewinsky hubub was pretty much a bunch of politically motivated bullshit.

A few things have surprised me in reading it (bear in mind, I have yet to even get to the stuff about Lewinsky).

It is amazing how much happenstance and insanity (mostly the insanity of Jim McDougal, but there were plenty of other crazies involved here) played into the mix, what a mix of serendipity and straight up politics went into the decision on the part of a three judge panel to replace Robert Fiske with Kenneth Starr (no relation to Brenda) and how vital that change actually was to what unfolded later. It is amazing to read how many wide-eyed missteps were made on the part of the Clinton White House in trying to defend itself against this nonsense. It is amazing to me anyways, how tinny it sounds when the book tries to explain how Starr was not a partisan maniac (even though the effort he led was entirely partisan and motivated by the glowing rusty jagged suppositories).

Mostly, it’s just a damned shame.

President of the World

If you watch the same general news programming nightly that we do here at the imaginary think-tank Crack Whores for Good Government, you’ve seen the promos for the latest Chris Matthews joint, “President of the World,” a piece that looks like it’s going to be a flattering portrait of one William “J.J.” Jefferson Clinton.

It looks as if the special will tack toward focusing on Clinton’s post-presidency, which has, one must admit, elevated the art. Clinton works on global causes and strives to rise above meager politics on the ground, raising billions of dollars among NGOs annually.

As the current president might say, now, look. I adored the Clinton presidency, but I know that Clinton didn’t always do the right thing. And I’m not talking about the BJ; I could give a rat’s ass about that. I’m talking about “THE ERA OF BIG GOVERNMENT IS OVER.” I’m talking about signing DOMA. I’m talking about free trade agreements. And so on, and so on, and so forth.

You can argue all you like about the policies perpetrated by that administration. But. There is one thing with which you cannot argue: Bill Clinton Is Awesome.

I’ve shaken the man’s hand. True story. He spoke at an event I attended for my day job a few years ago. I got to sit in the front row. It was awesome. When our executives were up on stage yentering it up, you can bet that every word was prompted on a screen. When Clinton spoke, friends, the prompter went dark. He spoke off the top of his head. And it was genuinely extemporaneous. He spoke specifically to our industry. Specifically. With numbers and examples as to how it fit in to the grander scheme of things. He was not just brilliant. He was brilliance. And only the most jaded, un-objective partisan would have thought otherwise.

Of course, immediately after, one of the most outspoken Republigoats on our staff spoke up and suggested otherwise. Said Clinton didn’t really have anything new to say. Said it was a pretty mediocre speech.

It was as if we were in different cities.

We have just suffered through yet another salvo in the considerable effort being made to to deify, rehabilitate, and appropriate the history of one Ronald Reagan. A hell of a fuck of a lot of work has gone into that effort. And it’s been quite necessary. Reagan was certainly not nearly this beloved when he exited his post.

Bill Clinton’s story has not required such an effort. It doesn’t need it. Clinton is as awesome as they would like Reagan to have been. He doesn’t need the whitewashing. We don’t need to chant his name throughout presidential debates, and we do not need to attempt to name every building, street, mountain and light pole after him. He is just is that damned good.

And right wangers, like my friend there, they hate that. They despise it. They hate it so much that it makes their teeth clench and the hockey-dad vein in their foreheads bulge purple. Bill Clinton is awesome. And right wangers despise this fact.

And that makes me very happy.

“President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon” airs on MSNBC at 10 p.m. Monday, February 21.

George W. Bush and I Are Very Different People

Former President George W. Bush signaled on Thursday that he sees not reforming Social Security as his greatest failure from the eight years he served in the White House, the Chicago Tribune reports. In 2005, the president unsuccessfully tried to partially privatize Social Security.

So in 2008, having our Social Security money in the stock market would have been a good idea? Really?

Wonder what he thinks his greatest success was?

In terms of accomplishments, my biggest accomplishment is that I kept the country safe amidst a real danger.

Oh, yeah, George, that would be great. IF YOU HAD ACTUALLY DONE THAT.

This weird common wisdom that George W. Bush “kept us safe” has got to stop. He in fact did the exact opposite of that. But because America was collectively shitting its pants in terror, America gave George W. Bush a pass on the fact that he allowed 9/11 to occur; that he ignored Richard Clarke, that he ignored Sandy Berger, that he ignored the PDB, that he spent way the hell much too time in Tejas while these 19 assholes were making aeroplane reservations, and that on September Eleventh, his national security advisor was poised to give a speech about missile defense. George W. Bush did not “keep us safe.” He did the exact opposite of that.

In fact, I was reflecting recently about the Bush legacy. A stunning realization came down on me like a ton o’ bricks.

Even if you go well out of your way to be kind to Bush, there’s still no way around the fact in the following sentence: The presidential administration of George W. Bush was in office during a time when THREE “apocalyptic” events occurred.

Tragedy strikes during every presidency, certainly. President Carter was at the helm when students in Iran took Americans hostage for 444 days. President Reagan had Beirut. President Clinton had Oklahoma City and blow jobs.

But I don’t think you can say that any president in recent memory has presided over events as vividly apocalyptic as were the attacks of Sept. 11, the willful neglect of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, and the tailspin of the 2008 economic crisis.

That, to me, is the true Bush legacy. And that, mis amigos, is what exposes grandly any notion that George W. Bush “kept us safe.” He did no such thing.

(Hell, he couldn’t even keep Harry Whittington safe from his own VP.)

Now, you want to see a President with a shiny pretty legacy, check out that of the aforementioned BJ guy:

If there was any doubt that Clinton remains the Democratic Party’s North Star, it has been erased over the past few weeks as he has packed legions of supporters into basketball arenas, college quads and airport hangars. He is the Democrats’ most in-demand messenger and, unlike Obama, he is summoned everywhere – no matter how hostile the territory.

(Thanks to PB for the link. Yoink!)

Jernolizm and the Great Sunday Assholes of the Washington Post

Papa Bonk and I have been recently wondering how all of this “town hall” nonsense would be covered in the “mainstream media.” Would they faithfully report that these “activists” are backed by gobs of corporate munny from groups who have lascivious interests in this particular issue?

No. A bumper from the MSNBC newsbot this morning:

Still ahead: Politicians feeling more heat at town hall meetings. Will it have any affect on what the White House does next?

The piece that followed, an interview with talking head Bob Franken, doesn’t mention corporate backing but instead treats this as an actual grassroots event.

I am not certain when this started on TV news; when, exactly, an acceptable way to “cover” a news story was to conduct a canned interview with a talking bobble-head. I also wonder when most TV news abdicated its responsibility to call a bullshitter a bullshitter.

Dan Rather in today’s The Washington Post addresses the issue of media. He calls for some sort of Presidential inquiry. Sure, Dan. That would go over really well. He bemoans the nation’s mass collapse of newspapers. He is right on this point, that newspapers are the backbone of a good news infrastructure. My own experience in the newspaper industry is that these newspapers do it to themselves. They cave to their advertisers. They tear down the Berlin Wall what used to be between editorial and advertising. I can’t tell you how many times an ad rep would ask me to do a “business feature” on a company BECAUSE THEY HAD BOUGHT A FRIGGIN’ AD. They call that “community journalism.” If your newspaper runs a double-truck of photographs from your local prom night, you can bet that 90 percent of its editorial content is driven directly by your ad department.

If a person or a company doesn’t do its job, it may fail. A newspaper that doesn’t put news first isn’t doing its job. Therefore…

Anyway, there is a much better article in today’s Outlook section to help explain why newspapers are failing. Headlined: “Schools Need Teachers Like Me. I Just Can’t Stay.” Newspapers are failing because schools are shitting on teachers and turning out morons. If you’re not teaching civics, you’re not creating readers of newspapers. Duh.

Anyway. By way of “opinions are like assholes…”

  • Lindsay Graham, in an opinion piece called “Outspoken,” speaks out against a public option for health care, but then somehow makes its case a few grafs later:

    Third-party payment is unique to health care. It makes the consumer two or three steps removed from their purchase. Cost containment to me is trying to tie the consumer to the service. When I go to get a car, I can walk out of the dealership. But if I have a pulmonary embolism and am on a gurney, it’s hard to comparison shop.

    You know a good way to shove the consumer closer to the process, Lindsay? SINGLE PAYER.

  • Henry A. Kissinger outlines the political cost of having sent President Clinton to North Korea. In light of all this weird criticism regarding Clinton’s mission, one has to ask: What would have been the political cost of letting two young women go off to 12 years of hard labor? What, traditionally, is the political cost in America of failing to resolve a high-profile hostage crisis? Can you think of any presidents in recent U.S. history who failed to resolve a high-profile hostage crisis who stumbled politically as a result? Would Obama be in a better or worse position to deal with North Korea if a failure to resolve that crisis weakened him politically here at home? WHY DO WE STILL LISTEN TO KISSINGER?

What He Did There

Frank Caliendo does a mean Bill Clinton impression. He says that Bill Clinton is so good, he can convince you of anything. He can stand right in front of you, says Caliendo, and say, “I am not here.” And you will suddenly no longer be able to see Bill Clinton in front of you. He’s just. That. Good.

His speech last night was damned masterful. If anyone give a darn, I’d like to show you why. Let’s go through some of it together, shall we?

What a year we Democrats have had. The primary began with an all-star line up. And it came down to two remarkable Americans locked in a hard-fought contest right to the very end. That campaign generated so much heat, it increased global warming. Now, in the end, my candidate didn’t win. But I’m really proud of the campaign she ran.

I’m not sure how that’s possible, but all right.

Now. Watch him set up for the ol’ one-two.

I am proud that she never quit on the people she stood up for, on the changes she pushed for, on the future she wanted for all our children. And I’m grateful for the chance Chelsea and I had to go all over America to tell people about the person we know and love. Now, I am not so grateful for the chance to speak in the wake of Hillary’s magnificent speech last night. But I’ll do the best I can.

Here it comes.

Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us. Actually, that makes 18 million of us…because, like Hillary, I want all of you who supported her to vote for Barack Obama in November.

This was such a graceful, sure way to establish his thesis. But now, for the master stroke that makes Bill Clinton him and us just, well, us.

And here’s why. And I have the privilege of speaking here, thanks to you, from a perspective that no other American Democrat, except President Carter, can offer. Our nation is in trouble on two fronts. The American dream is under siege at home, and America’s leadership in the world has been weakened. Middle-class and low-income Americans are hurting, with incomes declining, job losses, poverty, and inequality rising, mortgage foreclosures and credit card debt increasing, health care coverage disappearing, and a very big spike in the cost of food, utilities, and gasoline.

And our position in the world has been weakened by too much unilateralism and too little cooperation…by a perilous dependence on imported oil, by a refusal to lead on global warming, by a growing indebtedness and a dependence on foreign lenders, by a severely burdened military, by a backsliding on global nonproliferation and arms control agreements, and by a failure to consistently use the power of diplomacy, from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America to Central and Eastern Europe.

Clearly, the job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream and to restore American leadership in the world.

Clinton has now supported his thesis with two simple reasons that he will further support in the rest of his speech, rebuild the American dream, restore American leadership in the world. This is not just good speech-givin’, everybody. This is good speech WRITING. This is such a solid speech because it is built on a solid expository model. The rest of the speech, all of it pretty much calls back to these two simple pillars he’s started with, which lends his speech a clarity that most speakers are not able to achieve. It is mind-blowing.

Notice later in the speech how he will call back to these pillars:

The choice is clear. The Republicans in a few days will nominate a good man who has served our country heroically and who suffered terribly in a Vietnamese prison camp. He loves his country every bit as much as we do. As a senator, he has shown his independence of right-wing orthodoxy on some very important issues.

But on the two great questions of this election—how to rebuild the American dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world—he still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years.

Say what you want about Bill Clinton. Call him a triangulator, a DLC Democrat, spray on him for the Telecommunications Act or for the DOMA. But Bill still knows what time it is and worked it into a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Barack Obama should carry a transcript of this speech in his vest pocket, and that copy should have highlights and notes in the margins. He should make his campaign staff watch it once a week through Nov. 4. This speech should be a guiding manifesto of the Obama campaign. It was a brilliant speech and should provide many effective messages to propel our man to the White House.

We Have A Nominee!

I was walking off the subway to my garage and managed to tune in The Rachel Maddow Show just in time to hear live sound of the roll call. I was so utterly pleased to have gotten to witness it live in some capacity. I have to cop to some lump-throatedness.

My housemate is an African-American guy, and he’s all about Obama. He says “it’s a long time comin’,” and I agree, though maybe perhaps possibly not for the same reason.

I just happen to think it’s about time we elect a smart guy to be the President. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Now. I’m not usually a Melissa Etheridge fan, but she is givin’ me some chills here. And. Speaking of chills. I have to give Hillary Clinton her props. She did it. She did it. Now let’s see if Mr. Clinton still has the mojo.

If he does, I may even take back the “poop-washed the legacy” comment.

By the way. If you’re not watching on C-SPAN, and if you’re not reading WTF Is It Now?? then you are not getting the full convention and election coverage.


Hillary Clinton is not my favorite Democratic candidate. In fact, I recently wrote in a somewhat shrill e-mail to Father of KIAV that, if she wins the nomination, I might have to consider what to do with my vote.

Of course, that is bullshit. I will not pledge to do so, but I will most likely support the nominee whoever she is. And I’ll probably even be glad to do it for the mere reason that putting the Clintons back in the White House is likely to sound The Brown Note for many “conservatives.” But I will still wish she hadn’t voted wrong in 2002.

One thing to consider between Clinton and Obama is skill sets. And, after last evening’s “debate,” I have to say, I think Clinton holds perhaps the more useful skill set. Obama destroys behind a podium. But Clinton decimates on the debate stage. There is no question, she absolutely womped Obama and Edwards last night. See her turn a basic “job interview” question about weaknesses and strenghts into an unfavorable comparison of Obama and the current president. See her offer to cosponsor legislation with Obama to stop the current president from negotiating our way into a hundred more years of occupying Iraq. She was good. And it occurs to me that, during the primary, debates are where these things can be won or lost.

My basic position is that our slate of candidates has been so awesome that whoever gets the nomination will be an excellent warrior for the general. Last night’s debate made me think better of Hillary Clinton.