(After All, He Did Win South Carolina)


Suddenly the field of battle is littered with the dead and the dying.

Senator Joe Lieberman had pinned his hopes on Delaware, the state of ten thousand corporations whose motto, “nihil a me alienum puto”, translates as “We don’t care if they make Zyklon B, so long as they file their articles of incorporation in Wilmington.” Lieberman barely broke 10 per cent and finally quit.

Dennis Kucinich had seen light in New Mexico, where his presidential ambitions flowered under the aegis of the New Age goddesses, but fell to earth with a meager 5 per cent. We cannot officially bury his campaign because a sepulchral silence has fallen over Camp Kucinich, but it surely cannot be long before his campaign gets carried out in a box.

Each time we offer some deprecating comments on Kucinich our counterpunch mail box overflows with furious abuse of the “Kucitizens,” as they term themselves. Now, don’t get us wrong. We like Dennis Kucinich, and have known him for over quarter of a century. We admire him greatly. But he has run a pathetic and inept campaign. He turned his back on his working class roots and allied himself with a band of rich New ASgers, who have a lot of money and a lot of advice (mostly misguided) but know nothing about organizing or getting people to vote. Kucinich failed miserably in a state he should have done well in…Iowa, which has a strong peace movement that has always given establishment Democrats problems. He made a stupid alliance with John Edwards, which seriously undermined his credibility. He performed even worse in New Hampshire, which has in the past been kind to quirky candidates…see Tsongas.

The real question for us is what lies ahead. If Kucinich is truly against the war will he continue to challenge the front-runners through the spring and perhaps bolt the party and run as a Green (which he should have done to begin with). Or will he be a team player and endorse the centrist? If the later, it will confirm our suspicion that Kucinich’s objective function has been, and is, as a kind of lure to bring the Naderites back into the party.

Much had been expected of the Rev Al Sharpton in South Carolina. There was a point several months ago when it looked as Sharpton had a shot at winning the state where moree than 50 per cent of the registered Democrats are black. He ended up with 10 per cent, coming in third even among black voters, a far cry for Jesse Jackson’s victory in 1988.

Sharpton’s campaign was a shambles from the start. Experienced local organizers in South Carolina were treated rudely, and in their stead he allied himself with, of all people Roger Stone, a Republican political operator, the man the Bush crowd called up to organize the Miami Cuban riot during the 2000 Florida recount. Stone’s wife is a Miami Cuban.

Howard Dean went AWOL during the week and finally surfaced in Seattle, affixing his wan hopes on a decent showing in that state’s primary this coming Saturday, which also is primary day in Michigan, with Maine on Sunday. In his public appearance in Seattle Dean looked as though his new campaign manager had put him on downers. There was no fire in the man, and it’s understandable why. There hasn’t been so fast a collapse by a highly rated challenger since Liston took that dive in the second fight with Cassius Clay, as he was named at the time. Even the replays don’t show the punch that felled Dean.

It’s true Dean took a beating in the press, and from the Clinton crowd running the Democratic National Committee. But a more adept campaigner could have handled that. He made some expensive miscalculations, like concentrating his fire on Gephardt in Iowa, and running a negative ad he had to pull. One big factor is the one that was touted as being his strongest card: the internet. Internet campaigns can be like pouring white gas on concrete and lighting a match. There’s a big flare up, then nothing. Another parallel would be like many internet stocks. All boost, no bang. In the end, where were the Deaniacs? Not out organizing, but stuck in front of their computers, tapping out their blogs.

Fact is, aside from innovative fund raising, Dean ran an utterly orthodox campaign in Iowa. A friend of CounterPunch reading Dean blogs predicted in advance of the Iowa caucus that Dean would fare badly. He said the Dean’s campaign ads, done by his campaign manager Trippi’s firm, were terrible disasters, costing Dean support each time they aired.

Dean could still provide some exciting friction in a primary season that’s threatening to become deadly dull unless Kerry and Edwards start throwing mud at each other. But it seems unlikely that the doctor from Vermont will come out of the corner in any kind of combative shape.

On Tuesday morning Wesley Clark Jr, son of the general, and the man who got him into the campaign and coaxed endorsements from Madonna and Mary Steenbergen, moaned aloud that it was all over. Why? Wes Jr revealed exit polls were showing Clark to be doing poorly in Oklahoma, the state he was expected to win. Actually Wes Jr was wrong. Clark won by 500 votes over Edwards (who had soared in the state after receiving the endorsement of former Sooner football coach Barry Switzer) and as he said later, he beat Edwards in four out seven contest on February, even as the press hailed Edwards as the man now challenging Kerry.

Clark has a point. As yet Edwards has won only his native state. By doing so he stayed alive but he has to fight it out with Clark across the rest of the south. Both men claim to be economic populists and sensitive to the concerns of blacks. Between a general, a mad one at that, and a trial lawyer, we’d favor the trial lawyer on the simple grounds that trial lawyers are almost the only force corporations have to worry about these days. It’s why the Wall Street Journal hates trial lawyers more than any other group in America. Besides, Edwards’s dad worked in a textile mill; Clark’s dad was a prosecutor.

The Marijuana Policy Project points out that four states that have passed medical marijuana initiatives, Washington, Maine, Nevada and Oregon, are all swing states in a presidential election, and so Friends of the Bud could have huge clout. So where do the candidates stand? Clark and Kerry have both pledged that they would end federal raids on providers and consumers of medical marijuana. Dean blocked a Vermont version of the medical marijuana bill in 2002, as one would expect of a guy who, so his wife recalls, wore khaki drill slacks and carried a brief case when he was in college. Anyway, Dean’s a doctor and by and large doctors don’t like rivals, as the homeopathic crowd discovered a hundred years ago when the Rockefeller-financed campaign for allopathic medicine got under way.

Edwards is cited by the MPP as having said to a pro-pot group in New Hampshire that it would be “irresponsible” to stop DEA raids on marijuana patients and providers. It’s a bit more complicated than that. On August 21 Edwards was asked in New Hampshire whether he would end the DEA raids in California. He answered, “I don’t think you can say to people working for you, ‘no, ignore violations of the law.’ I think that’s irresponsible for the President to do.” The logical follow up question to Edwards would have been, Well, as president would you seek to change the law?” Here at CounterPunch at least we don’t know what Edwards’ position on the matter is. He has admitted to smoking dope, and no, we don’t know whether anyone asked him if he inhaled.

In New Hampshire the Edwards campaign got very testy with Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, going so far as to get the cops to eject one activist passing out leaflets during an Edwards meeting. After the primary the GSMM exulted that ” Medical marijuana patients were the clear winners…a solid majority of Granite Staters voted for candidates who have pledged to end the Bush administration’s raids on medical marijuana patients and providers.” GSMM had given Kerry an A grade in their voters’ guide, Clark a B+. Dean pulled a D and Edwards a low rating.

Medical marijuana is a potent issue. An August 2003 Zogby International poll disclosed that voters were told that Dean had acted to block a medical marijuana bill in Vermont, 28 percent said they would be less likely to vote for him in the Democratic presidential primary, while only 10 percent said they would be more likely to support Dean.

So far as we can see, aside from medical marijuana, the big issues dividing Kerry and Edwards, are Botox and Nafta. Kerry has been asked Are you now, or have you ever been a recipient of a Botox treatment? Kerry said he’d never heard of Botox, which could be an illuminating comment about the state of his marriage since his wife Teresa, the ketchup queen, has publicly discussed her close and admiring relationship with Botox, the brow freezing bacteria dose. So this could be the big lie that sinks Kerry’s cred, the Botox trap. Edward has a pretty boy look, unusual in a 50-year old trial lawyer. We look forward to fierce exchanges on the matter in the next debate, like the arguments in 1976 as to whether Ronald Reagan dyed his hair. Reagan offered to let reporters look at his hair close up, and even pull it. Will Kerry allow the newshounds to scan him with a magnifying glasss?

Kerry voted for NAFTA. Edwards hails from one of the states hit hardest by the trade agreement, and has called for NAFTA’s repeal. Get anywhere near high office as an opponent of NAFTA or the WTO and you can expect ferocious treatment in the press. If Edwards is going to make any headway on trade, he has go beyond steer easy rhetorical flourishes about trade protections.

As we wrote here last November in a discussion of Robert Pollin’s Contours of Descent: “If we are to move towards a world in which families don’t have to line up outside churches in Ohio to stay alive and teenagers don’t have to work for 20 cents a day in Third World sweatshops, we have to have policies here that promote full employment and income security. Such policies would have to include a strengthening of workers’ legal rights to organize, to form unions, and to fight on a level playing field when it comes time to go on strike.

“To get a measure of fairness and stability in the financial system financial institutions would have to obey asset-based reserve stipulations, of which one example would be the margin requirements Greenspan failed to impose in September, 1996. This same policy instrument could be used to channel credit to socially beneficial projects such as low-income housing. Despite the best efforts of our doctrinal leaders, the moral sentiments of the people are not entirely corrupted. Consumers, for example, are prepared to pay a premium if they can be assured they are buying products not made in sweatshops. And third-world countries need not survive only under the sweatshop regimen…Third world countries have to return to the somewhat protected conditions encouraged in the development policies of an earlier era, without agencies of the US government decreeing that their reformers and their union organizers be murdered by death squads.”

But that would mean a serious campaign about serious issues, and there hasn’t been any of that thus far in the Democratic primaries, and we can’t imagine Terry McAuliffe and the DNC powerbrokers permitting anyone in their party to edge onto such terrain.

Outside the two-party system?

Well, we haven’t heard from Ralph Nader ever since the Nation urged him not to run, but yes, there is a lot of oxygen out there for any third party candidate, though we hope any such candidate looking to attract the Deaniacs won’t put too much trust in the powers of the Internet.


Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink co-written with Joshua Frank. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.