Friday, April 18, 2008

Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon

by Norman Markowitz

In the U.S., mass media pundits from the CNN crowd to New York Times house "conservative" David Brooks, have always reminded me of the old Jewish atheist's critique of the Jewish Rabbinical clergy, "they talk to themselves, answer themselves, and agree with their own answers" (as the Pope travels around the U.S., one might say that that viewpoint holds true for religious leaders generally).

The media is talking to themselves about the "decline" of Barack Obama, the coming "fall" of Barack Obama, and agreeing with their own answers. In their role as political bookmakers, they know that Obama remains clearly ahead of Clinton and that Clinton must somehow register big victories that will enable her to take the heat of the "Super delegates" and give her the nomination. If they are conscious they know that that is what their bosses want, and that their role in continuing this barrage before the Pennsylvania primary is to create what scholars call a "self-fulfilling prophecy" that will encourage centrist voters to either vote for Clinton or not vote at all. The professional pollsters at this point don't seem to be showing any major shift in the vote, but anything of course can happen.

I titled this article "Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon" because I saw the debate this week in which Hillary Clinton acted "presidential" in the tradition of Richard Nixon. With the help of media people and "questioners" who looked like they were from an old Nixon infomercial from the 1968 campaign, she in effect "red-baited " Obama in the old fashioned Nixon tradition, that of "guilt by association" which Nixon and his alcoholic and cruder buddy Joe McCarthy became famous for in the high cold war era.

Reverend Wright was once more dragged out for saying things that Obama should have condemned or left his church for the way Nixon's people compared Helen Gahagan Douglas, his Democratic opponent for the Senate in 1950, with Vito Marcantonio (perhaps the most courageous and militant left member of the House of Representatives in the twentieth century) on their voting record, and support for progressive policies. Nixon's people called Douglas in both red-baiting and "sexist" terms "Pink Lady" and won the election while the Democrats, Republicans and Liberal Party of New York ran a single candidate to drive Marcantonio from the House.

Obama was also asked about his "relationship" to some weather underground characters(well to do people who, like some Russian anarchist and nihilist radicals of the late 19th century,played into the hands of the Nixon administration and marginalized themselves by becoming a self-proclaimed underground and engaging in some failed violent acts).

These people were never "Reds" and never had any support from the Communist Party USA or any serious group committed to socialism in the U.S. (socialism wasn't exactly what they were about in what Lenin would call their "infantile leftist" activities).

But the "red-baiting" principle of course remains the same. The Weather Underground came into existence when Senator Obama was about eight years old and pretty much went out of existence before he reached high school, but that wasn't the point of the questioners or Clinton either, as it wasn't of the HUAC witch hunters who asked "unfriendly witnesses" "are you now or have you ever been."

Obama frankly looked pained and the media, which is about appearances and rewards for phoniness, saw this as an example of his failing. I saw it as an example of his intelligence and decency. As I looked at him I could hear him saying in his mind, "what country and on what planet are these people living in. We have a deepening economic crisis and this is what they are talking about. We have a disastrous occupation in Iraq and the possibility of new wars and this is what they are talking about. We have deepening inequality and injustice in our society and this is what they are talking about. We have a more than ten trillion dollar federal deficit and 'proposal' from John McCain for new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that will add trillions more and this is what these people are talking about."

Obama kept his cool and the debate finally after a long time got to issues where he once more showed that he was better than Clinton for progressive voters and realistic ones who realize that major changes must be made in national policy.

Hopefully, the voters who have supported Obama over the much of the conservative establishment inside and outside the Democratic party will redouble their efforts for him. If not the Republican right will be in a position to escape the defeat that their policies have earned. The Clinton campaign's aping of their "McCarthyite" tactics have already helped them, even though Hillary Clinton is having other people do the dirty work for her, just like the man whom Adlai Stevenson called a "white collar McCarthy, Richard Nixon."

I guess it could have been worse. Clinton might have tried to win sympathy by talking about herlittle dog, Chess (her advisors would tell her not to name the dog Checkers).


the Jaded Prole said...

Obama might have pointed out Clinton's right-wing and republican evangelical associations in the process of moving the subject back to issues but that would take more guts than Dems are expected to have.

Overall, I believe that Clinton's attempt to race and left bait Obama are backfiring on her and exposing her for the Repug-lite unprincipled opportunist she is.

Anonymous said...

I really hope Jaded Prole is right and I think that there is a good chance that he is. Obama kept on the high road, which so far has been successful for his campaign. He understands that broad unity is necessary to defeat the Republicans and the rightwing generally. Based on what she has done and what she is doing, Clinton really doesn't seem to care, no more than her husband did when he made NAFTA his first priority and crippled his party, or when, after the right-Republican victory in 1994, he joined them in destroying Aid to Familie with Dependant Children(AFDC) and in the process made life far worse for millions of poor women and their children.
Norman Markowitz