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The Bonnie and Clyde of American Politics

“We rob banks!” said Clyde Barrow.

“We rob you of your political initiative … ” Hillary Clinton might have said when she and her husband, the President of the United States, managed to kill the chances for Universal Health Care for all Americans by, deliberately or otherwise, playing into the hands of the Insurance Industry and their HMO backers. They set the movement for a single payer plan back a generation.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is now in a close horse race with Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. She seems to have learned her lesson. She is now espousing a so-called “universal” health plan that doesn’t offend the drug companies or the private health insurance industry.

After Super Tuesday, we are currently in that murky area where the candidates are cantering in the open field, trying to pick up a few more primary wins and fighting for super delegates before galloping to the convention in June. Bill is sort of riding side-saddle with Hillary.

Bill Clinton may not have robbed banks, but he robbed gay and lesbian citizens of their civil rights with his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the armed forces:

“Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct … , or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender,”

It’s still a part of “The Pentagon’s Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military.”

The policy has continued under the Bush Administration unofficially, stretched to include gays and lesbians in the general population when it ran up against issues of gay marriage.

Before the end of his second term, Clinton was fighting impeachment in the House and the threat of being ousted by the Senate charged with perjury–lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. His Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was urging him to wag the dog. That bit of advice came in handy. How else do you rob your constituents of their political initiative? Start a war. We know from historical experience that it does the job.

While members of the US Congress were whooping it up with shouts of “Ethnic Cleansing”, Bill was getting his bombers ready. The issue somehow got mixed up with the Holocaust and genocide. The mainstream media picked up the chant and CNN led the charge with woman warrior, Christiane Amanpour, the Amazon of the network, married to Mme Albright’s pet assistant, James Rubin (conflict of interest?) when she covered the exodus from Kosovo.

So we bombed a country back to the Stone Age. It was only Serbia. Maybe its leader, Slobodan Milo┬░evic┬┤, deserved it. But the Serbian people didn’t.

The Democratic Party has always been known as the party of the big tent, room for everybody–let many flowers bloom–left-labor-progressives, blacks, other minorities, immigrants, radicals, students and even conservationists. It has also been known as the “war party”.

In the 1996 Presidential election, the Barrow gang, I mean the Clinton gang, brought in one of their big guns–Devious Dick Morris–the Karl Rove of his time.

“Don’t worry about those losers on the left,” Devious Dick must have told his pal, Bill, “they’re only your base. They have nowhere to go. You’ll get their votes. It’s those weak-kneed Republican compassionate conservatives, on the right, you have to go after.” And Dick knew what he was talking about. Move to the right and call it the center. The Democratic Leadership Council was formed and they eased in on the Republicans and captured a big enough chunk of their votes to win the election.

Our two-party system became one party with two faces–neither of them very pretty. Whatever happened to the “loyal opposition”? It still is nowhere to be found. The big tent must have collapsed on it.

So we now have an “oligarchy”–dictionary definition: from the Greek for “rule of the few”–a form of government in which power is centralized in the hands of an organized elite. Its power is maintained by shaping the law to restrict the people and remove any need to consult them or be accountable to them. And the oligarchy has now selected its man–I mean, women–for the Presidency of the United States.

“We rob banks!” said Clyde Barrow, “not people.”

Where are you, Dick Morris, now that Hillary really needs you? Getting ready for that triangulation-strangulation strategy you used so successfully for Bill in the 1990s?

Lesser-evilism is alive and well in the 21st Century.

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, television writer-director-producer, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC, starting in 1953. In 1959, he participated in the formation of the renowned Murrow-Friendly “CBS Reports” series. In 1983, Fleischman won the prestigious Columbia University-DuPont Television Journalism Award. In 2004, he wrote his memoir. See: http://www.ARedintheHouse.com/, E-mail: stevefl@ca.rr.com