The Poisoned Chalice

At least when Duffy’s Circus left Youghal there’d be piles of dung from the horses and the elephant. The Kerry campaign leaves nothing of fertilizing potential, not a single creative idea, only grim advisories like not running any nominee from the north-east in 2008, and we all know the probable life-span of that particular piece of useful advice.

How quickly the caravan moves on! The Brookings crowd sadly pull their resumes from the fax machines. John Kerry resumes his ghost-like sojourn in the US Senate, where perhaps he might apply himself to improving his attendance record, the worst in the upper chamber. He missed no less than 76 per cent of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s public hearings over the course of his 8-year tenure on that committee. Teresa returns to full-time work at the Heinz Foundation, dispensing money to neoliberal environmental groups, though alas she has had to dispense with the wise counsel of Ken Lay, formerly of Enron, who adorned her board of advisors until last year.

Pockets of Kerrycrats fight on, like Japanese soldiers on atolls in the Pacific. No doubt there are 527s still nourishing themselves on the money of men like Soros. There’s even been some talk about Kerry keeping his hat in the presidential ring, but we shouldn’t take that too seriously. Over the next few months his horse-like visage will fade in the murk of memory, amid kiss-and-tell memoirs about his indecision and arrogance plus the ultra-high maintenance required for his consort.

The political consultants pocket their retainer fees, their 10 or 15 per cent commissions on hundreds of millions worth of campaign ads and march on to the next electoral rendez-vous . Before the election a Washington Post profile of Kerry’s manager, Bob Shrum, disclosed that he stood to make $5 million out of the 2004 presidential campaign, win or lose.

The truly bad news is the 9/11 nuts have relocated to Stolen Election. My inbox is awash with their ravings. People who have spent the last three years sending me screeds establishing to their own satisfaction that George Bush personally ordered the attacks on the towers and that Dick Cheney vectored the planes in are now pummeling me with data on the time people spent on line waiting to vote in Cuyahoga county, Ohio, and how the Diebold machines are all jimmied. As usual, the conspiracy nuts think that plans of inconceivable complexity worked at 100 per cent efficiency, that Murphy’s law was once again in suspense, and that 10,000 co-conspirators are all going to keep their mouths shut.

Do I think the election was stolen? No more than usual. The Democrats are getting worse at it and the Republicans better. Back in 1960 it was the other way round. The best documented stolen election in history is probably the one that put Lyndon Johnson in the US Senate. Next came the one that gave JFK the White House. So, for sure there’s vote suppression in Ohio and Florida. I don’t think it made the crucial difference.

“Stolen election” is one way to divert attention from the fact that the Democrats had a lousy candidate and gave up on most of the country, investing everything in two or three states. Small wonder they lost the popular vote, not to mention other minor details ,like the US senate.

The months will pass and then, most hideous of hideous thoughts, we’ll have to put up with three solid years of talk about Hillary Clinton. Her in the White House, Bill running the UN. There’ll be nowhere left to run.

Those who argued Bush’s reelection would, by and large, do more to sap the American Empire already detect pleasing omens of enhanced discord among the Allies. Out goes the oiler of troubled waters, Colin Powell. In comes fractious Condoleezza. Would you really have preferred Richard Holbrooke, shuttling between Paris, Bonn, and Madrid amid relieved shouts that here after four dark years was a man who respected Euro-feelings?

And talking of the Euro, down down down goes the US dollar against all the major world currencies. Soon we’ll be getting news footage of US tourists pushing airport trolleys piled high with worthless greenbacks along the rue St Honore and into the Ritz to settle their bills before camping out under the bridges. In the last two years the US dollar has declined 52 per cent against the Euro, which many people used to think had about the same substantive brawn as a UN blue helmet.

Here’s a sign of how bad things are. Speaking honestly, can you remember the name of the Treasury Secretary? Aha! And no, it’s not Evans, who’s quitting the Department of Commerce. It’s John Snow. Now, in the old days everyone knew the name of the Treasury Secretary, the guy who protected the money and strutted the ramparts of Fort Knox. Not any more. These days he’s a harrowed mendicant who spends most of his day on the line to Beijing imploring the Chinese not to join up with the Japanese to ditch the dollar as a global unit of account, heeding Jude Wanniski’s thought that they could join up to fix the yuan and yen to gold in an Asian Bretton Woods.

The neocons? They’re are holding on, probably aware that if they quit government they’ll live like hunted things, fleeing lawsuits down the years. They’ll cling on and then hope Bush will pardon them on his way out of Dodge in 2008, same as his dad did Weinberger and his CIA buddies.

Fallujah has now supposedly been “won”. For how long? Sometimes the parallels drawn between Iraq and Vietnam have seemed a bit theatrical. Not any more. No hearts and minds have been won in Fallujah any more than they were won in the Vietnamese countryside around My Lai. The city has been destroyed in order to save it for democracy. The language of the US military commanders, and of the journalists who relay their press releases echoes with eerie and horrible fidelity those press releases from US military hq in Saigon 35 years ago. LBJ handed the quagmire on to Nixon. It’s Bush’s poisoned chalice bestowed by his first to his second term, the cup he’ll be hoisting on Inauguration Day.


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Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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