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The Great Unificator

by David Vest

After floating the idea that Bill Clinton may have been a KGB agent while studying abroad, charging him with the murder of Vince Foster, hounding him through the swamps of Whitewater, all without result, and impeaching him for lying about sex with an intern, only to see him acquited, the man’s die-hard enemies have still not figured out that hating Clinton for his personal failings is like holding Nero in contempt for his fiddle technique.

Now we are told, by the same crowd who threw the American govenment into deadlock and constitutional crisis while doing everything in their power to cripple his presidency, that Clinton should be investigated yet again for “failing” to stop Bin Laden. He did not, it appears “do enough.”

Did his failure to “do enough,” one wonders, take place by chance on days when the president of the United States was being interrogated for hours by Kenneth Starr? Was it wise to force Clinton to concentrate on cigars and butt-saving and the meaning of “is” during this time? Or was it enough to rely on his much maligned ability to “compartmentalize”?

If Al Gore were now president, does anyone doubt that the same people who impaled themselves repeatedly on Clinton’s cigar, rank on rank, would be making Gore’s life a living hell?

God only knows what they would be doing to President Ralph Nader.

But Clinton is gone to Harlem, Gore has grown a disguise, and apparently the mainstream media cannot locate Ralph Nader. (If they knew how to find him, surely they would have asked his opinion of what to do about September 11. Come to think of it, they haven’t even asked Ross Perot. If they can exhume the corpse of Jeanne Kirkpatrick and put her on Fox, you’d think they could find out what recent presidential candidates are saying.)

Instead, we have George W. Bush, and a country united behind him. The error is to assume that Bush has anything much to do with this. And yet, if you think the country would be just as united behind Clinton, Gore or Nader, you have been into the goofer dust.

That people are willing, however reluctantly, to unite behind a Republican president but not a Democrat (and certainly not a third party candidate, assuming one could get to the White House) is due to one fact: the Republican party is now dominated by people who will no longer unite behind anyone who isn’t one of their own. This is the problem shared by both Democratic and future Third Party candidates.

Lyndon Johnson was the last non-Republican who could unite official Washington. He could do it because he was elected in a landslide and knew how to crack heads. Thus the Congress was still effectively behind him even after the voting public coughed him up in New Hampshire.

The Republican party of today is (in large part) unwilling to participate constructively in any endeavor it does not control. It controls the Supreme Court, and thus Bush is president, even though Gore won the popular vote and would have won a statewide Florida hand recount conducted under any standard. (He would have won it narrowly, but there now appears to be no plausible scenario under which he would have lost.)

Bush “changed the tone” in Washington merely by becoming president. The Republicans now praise themselves because they stopped barking when Clinton left. Meanwhile, Bush’s political instincts are as keen as his intellect is dull. The far right are his core constituency, but he does not need them for the time being, not with an 87% job approval rating.

But he will need them yet again, when the bubble bursts and his approval rating plummets, as it is bound to do if the “war” drags on and the unemployment lines keep getting longer. Therefore he throws them a bone: Oregon.

Oregon’s assisted suicide law irks the far right. Allowing Ashcroft (a “heavy” from central casting) to interfere with it delights the core supporters without really giving them anything and politically speaking hurts nowhere but Oregon, which went for Gore anyway. Since the impact is confined to a single state, more or less, the ruling will not provoke widespread resistance. Even if the ploy doesn’t work (the likely scenario), Bush has already won his points with the far right without alienating too many people who might have voted for him.

A final thought on the polls. Bush’s current job approval ratings are more like the NASDAQ during the tech boom than they are like Enron, whose chairman, Kenneth Lay, gave big bucks to put Bush in the White House. The high-flying energy concern practically disappeared — faster than the value of stock in www.fattechbubble.gulp — before Bush could even finish his first year in office.

“Be careful of anything that’s just what you want it to be,” Waylon Jennings used to sing, for anyone who would listen. CP

David Vest is a writer, poet and piano player for the Cannonballs. A native of Alabama, he now lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit his webpage for samples of the Cannonballs’ brand of take no prisoners rock & roll and other Vest columns:


DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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