What the hell is going on? Has anybody been listening to the news? Why is everything so wierd? The news anchors keep talking about the problem. What problem? Down by the Student Union there was a platoon of U.S. Marines. They blocked off the street with a huge USMC tractor trailer and were handing out gas masks to everyone. Gas masks! Mine came with a glossy pamphlet talking about biological and chemical warefare preparedness drills. I feel like I'm living in the 1950's. Are we about to pick another fight with the United Islamic Kaliphate? Or did President Simpson finally decide to take sides in the Chinese Civil War? It's not like American TV news to beat around the bush.

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

— The Chiffons, Lesley Gore, and others. Music and Lyrics by John Gluck Jr., Wally Gold and Herbert Weiner.

Barack Obama's victory in the Iowa primary restored my confidence in the American voting public (perhaps I shouldn't speak so fast; at the very least my confidence has been restored so far as the Democrats in Iowa). I pay little, if any, attention to polls. But when the results came in and the Democrats in Iowa had favored the charismatic, genuine-to-a-fault Senator Obama over Senator Clinton, I was astounded and pleased.

Having watched my share of brave women run for President, each one too far ahead of their time, I can't help but have deep admiration for a person of color who chooses to throw his hat into the ring, ahead of his time, but not as far ahead of his time as did Rev. Jackson. (Pardon me, Shirley Chisholm, but sweetie you weren't just ahead of your time you were out of your ever-loving mind; but God bless you just the same.) Now, it is my belief that it's not too soon for a woman to run for President. Part of what appeals to me about Senator Clinton is that even if she veers to the left of her husband's moderate principles, she's no far-left Socialist by any stretch of the imagination. Sadly, part and parcel with her long experience come the strategies of a seasoned politician of the "same shit, different day" kind. In fact, the muckraking, mud-slinging and doublespeak reek of some of the worst tricks we're more used to seeing Republican candidates for President employ over the years.

To qualify, I'm a registered Republican, but with a social conscience. My Dem friends call me a "closet Democrat." I call myself a Lincolnian Republican, (small government; low taxes; freedom at all costs; employers and neighborhoods taking care of their less-fortunate on a local basis). Reagan's brand of Republicanism stuck very much to that ideal, but sadly, was poisoned by the early emergence of the religious right. The current administration has managed to double-talk its way around issues in an attempt to keep everybody happy. They're spending more in a month on military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq than Reagan had budgeted for his entire (kinda silly but cool idea) "Star Wars" defense plan. Reagan had deep conviction and an admirable, if not naive, trust that the Republican Ideal would work for America. The problem is, in more ways than one it left the foxes watching the henhouses. Worse, in the name of appealing to the masses the one-time Hollywood star (and one-time Democrat) turned his back on AIDS sufferers, because in his time they were predominately homosexual, and God forbid someone of the stature of President of the United States pays attention to a reviled minority. I refuse to believe that it didn't eat away at his conscience later on; for after all, in his Hollywood days Reagan rubbed elbows with plenty of homosexuals.
 

How Dare You Compare Yourself To Another Young Man With A Great Vision?

Now back to the matter at hand. Senator Clinton recently asked rhetorically in a speech "how dare" Senator Obama "compare himself" to John F. Kennedy. She went on to play the experience card, citing Kennedy's wartime heroism, and term in the Senate. What she forgot was that Kennedy was one of the youngest men, if not the youngest, to become elected President. Without mentioning Obama by name, she repeatedly used the word "experience" over and over until it became a cliche. Well, I've heard some of Senator Obama's well-chosen, positive words of wisdom, and I'm quite impressed. Can Barack Obama use his charisma to get a majority of this nation's voters together and unify them? Can Barack Obama give us words equal to or greater than "ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country?" On the same note, when I think about this comparison having been made, I must wonder whether or not President Obama will pay the ultimate price, as Jack Kennedy did, for being so surprisingly progressive (whether at the hands of a well-planned conspiracy or a single sick individual).

The candidates themselves admit that America is divided and broken. It took the horrible terrorism committed on September 11, 2001 to bring the nation together in a way not seen since World War II. Without regard to religion, race, nor politics America "held hands" and displayed their patriotism, became kinder and gentler, and focused on just how fortunate we are and yet how fragile we are, as well. How quickly we've forgotten.

The Republican gaggle of contestants disgusts me. All the viable ones have decided that the only people who go out to vote regularly are the ones who go to church every Sunday, so they're tossing in platform planks that involve the government intervening in places where the writers of the Constitution never intended the government to intervene. Separation of church and State have been tossed right out the window. I was rather entertained, as I've written here before, by Governor Thompson's refusal to be a good little schoolboy and either raise his hand or keep it down during the infamous debate. His quick wit reminded me of Reagan's — but Thompson's wit was driven by his gigantic ego, not by his sense of humor. It says something about the Republican party that either nobody watched the debate or nobody bothered to remember how very much like roses Governor Thompson came out smelling after that very debate.
 

...And The Winner Is...

This morning, another great performance was put on. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will create a special category in this year's Oscar Award lineup: best dramatic performance by a candidate for President. Aw, heck, it was on TV; it'd have to be a lowly Emmy. To my amusement, the same woman who stood up and screamed at the top of her lungs in a militant-sounding voice that only by questioning and criticizing the President can we effect change pulled a 180-degree change of character. She sat in a diner in New Hampshire, looking tired, kinda like a working mother, speaking to a small group of "undecided" women Democrats who were going to the polls later in the day. The lawyerly, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" voice dropped into a much more feminine, "read me a story, mommy" kind of tone. "I just don't want to see us fall backward as a nation," she choked, "I mean, this is very personal for me. Not just political. I see what's happening. We have to reverse it." Her eyes were reddened and welled with tears, one of which dripped onto the formica table she leaned upon. "It's about our country. It's about our kids' future. It's about all of us together. Some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some difficult odds." It was so dramatic, so surreal. She'd suddenly become "Mrs. William J. Clinton" and was having a heart-to-heart chat with some of the gals. In the presence of more than 100 reporters, cameramen, sound technicians and aides.

Perhaps the "Lifetime" "Television for Women" channel will get the rights to just repeat the sound bite over and over for an hour (not unlike the independent television channel in New York which used to broadcast a burning fireplace all night on Christmas Eve). Just think of the advertising revenue they could bring in. Seeing that it's world-weary, angst-ridden high drama such a program would no doubt be very appealing to the drug companies. They've already given more money to Mrs. Clinton than any of the other candidates, Democrat or Republican. But I'm certain they've got more in their coffers to place a few 60-second spots for Paxil or Zoloft or whatever other happy pills they're peddling these days.

Now given the fact that everything else about Senator Clinton's run has been very carefully planned by some of the best names in the "let's get elected" business, it's really, really hard for me to swallow the idea that she was so moved by her own refreshingly patriotic words that she let a little weakness show despite her every effort to keep a straight, even face. Maureen Dowd compared Senator Clinton's tears to Senator Edmund Muskie's 1972 sobs whilst defending his wife. In 1972, guys didn't cry (at least not Presidential candidate-guys) of course, Muskie was immediately out of the running.

In 1988, Pat Schroeder, another female contender for President, wept when she lost the nomination. The press, to an extent, but even more so members of the right-wing Establishment ridiculed her, some going as lowdown as saying "okay, she's in the Oval Office and we have another Cuban Missile Crisis; look at what'd have happened." Oh, boy, they had a field day.
 

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

In 1974, we saw a stoic, soberingly serious Richard Nixon read a brief speech from the Oval Office on the television. He announced that he would resign the office of the President the following day. He, too, said that it was for the good of the country to end the Watergate saga and proceed with the process of healing and unification. He said that he was "not a quitter" and that it ran against every fiber of his being not to fulfill his oath to serve out the term of office he'd promised to carry out when he took his second Inaugural Oath. He apologized to the people of the U.S. that he could no longer carry out the duties of his office effectively. President Nixon was tearless and delivered his speech without hesitation. Arguably the most humiliating thing a human being can be called upon to do: resign the job as "leader of the free world."

If we are to believe Senator Clinton's grave concern for the good of the country and her hopes for unification of a divided public, I say that indeed, we must then take as honesty everything Richard Nixon said to the people of this Country during his last address to them. This is where I'm torn.

The day after Nixon's public address, he walked around the basement of the White House, thanking the chefs, the maids, the help. He then went up to a room in the White House large enough to accommodate all the White House personnel and a press pool camera. He delivered a brief talk to his faithful staff, without notes but for a quote from Teddy Roosevelt which he'd scribbled on a piece of plain paper. At the beginning of that talk, he hesitated, and even choked for a moment when he discussed his mother, calling her a "saint." He choked, hesitated and was given a pat on the back by Tricia during the first T.R. quote which was a writing on the loss of Roosevelt's beautiful wife in the prime of her youth to disease. Roosevelt went on to lead this great nation. But when he finished, he used yet another quote from the first President Roosevelt, one of gratitude and wonder: "not until one has experienced the deepest valley can one realize how magnificent it is to be atop the highest mountain."

I thought about this peculiar juxtaposition, Nixon, the consummate politician, who indeed looked the other way when people acting on his behalf resorted to the most despicably desperate measures to help get him elected. People acting on Senator Clinton's behalf ("Oh, but it wasn't 'my people,' oh, no, not me!" she cried) went as far as snooping around Senator Obama's kindergarten records to see if they could find some dirt. They did their best to exploit Senator Obama's candid writings on his drug use in his youth. And Senator Obama inhaled, by his own admission, again and again before his life got on track.
 

I Can't Have My Cake And Eat It Too

I sat down and began typing this with the full intention of calling Senator Clinton's bluff and denouncing her words and the powerful emotion with which they were delivered as a great response to the directions of experts by a great actress. But I can't do that if I'm to claim Richard Nixon's words to be true, as well.

You see, I don't like Senator Clinton much. She has sadly misconstrued the words of Abraham Lincoln and ostensibly seriously believes you can fool all of the people all of the time.

So that brings me to yet another issue to ponder. My goodness, if Senator Clinton can't take the heat and we've not even gotten to Super Tuesday yet, how will she endure? How will she become the President who, like her husband, balances the budget and returns America to prosperity, safety and a wellspring of opportunity?

Dr. Henry Kissinger admitted to an interviewer on National Public Radio that he wept when he found out that his good friend Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated. Dr. Kissinger, in another N.P.R. broadcast from a speech given at Wesleyan University in Connecticut spoke the praises also of Anwar Sadat, and admitted to shedding tears at the loss of a great man and a great friend.

But it was not Dr. Kissinger who wept at Richard Nixon's funeral. He was obviously moved and his words exquisitely chosen, but he did not lose his composure. It was Senator Bob Dole, an admirable man, an honorable man (who should've become President) who spoke of his very close friend in a delightful fashion and held it together until his final two sentences, during which he coughed and wiped away tears of grief.
 

Who's Gonna Cry In November?

In 2004, the Democrats and the Republicans were both in the same situation the Republicans are in now. Their candidates were as appealing and charismatic as a door-to-door Electrolux vacuum cleaner salesman. Perhaps less so. Poor Al was too far to the left, and (Heaven forbid!) his running-mate, from my neck of the woods, Senator Lieberman, would've driven the help crazy having the first Seder over at Blair House, and insisting that he get the Kosher plate at State dinners. And, of course, the Shrub was just then starting to learn how to talk but still pronounced what was inside missiles and sophisticated power plants "nuculer." Sadly, after he won the second election I think he dropped out of his evening courses in "How Not To Look Like A Deer In The Headlights."

The day after election day my bar was filled with Democrats who were drowning their sorrows (some of them crying far more intensely than did Senator Clinton in the diner in New Hampshire). These people were genuinely feeling the anxiety and fear about where the country had been for the preceding four years, and where it would go. It's now up to Senator Clinton to prove that her grief and concern for the condition of this country is as genuine as what I saw in the eyes of her potential supporters that night a little over three years ago.

SOURCES:

"Crying if He Wants To" by Anne Taylor Fleming, Online Newshour, July 10, 1996 (Transcript) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/essays/fleming_7-10.html (Accessed January 9, 2008)

"Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?" by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, January 9, 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/opinion/08dowd.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp (Accessed January 9, 2008)

"Hillary Tears Up: A Muskie moment, or a helpful glimpse of 'the real Hillary'?" by Karen Breslau, Newsweek Web Exclusive, January 7, 2008 http://www.newsweek.com/id/85609 (Accessed January 9, 2008)

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