It’s a Dull Race by Recent Standards

Barack Obama’s team worries that a politically significant slice of the American people think he’s not really a devout Christian as he claims, but a closet Muslim plotting to haul the green crescent up the White House flagpole. But what else have the American people got to chew on in this lull before the big party conventions a month and a half away, with the Olympics looming up? Now that Hillary Clinton is out of the race the campaign has gone flat. You can measure the tedium by the fatuous articles claiming that Obama, a mainstream corporate Democrat if ever I saw one, has somehow betrayed the heritage of Robespierre or at least the British Fabians and “lunged to the right”.

This time in the presidential race four years ago, the press was stuffed with rich fare about John Kerry’s love affairs and the ample millions of his tiresome Portuguese wife Teresa, formerly married to the Heinz ketchup fortune. Eight years ago there was an equally nutritious menu featuring George Bush’s taste for cocaine, his drunk driving rap and his de facto desertion from the National Guard. There were even, in an earlier time, orgies with Mexican hookers alleged in the “Bush suite” in the downtown Hilton in Midland, TX, while Laura smoked and read back home.

For those eager to detect conspiracy in high places (c. 98 per cent of all adult Americans) there was the membership of Bush Sr and Jr and also Kerry in Yales’ Skull and Bones club, where novices endured abominable rites, excitingly related on various Christian sites. Sample: “After this the initiate is brought before a picture of Judas Iscariot, whose name the group screams three times, and then he is led to the heart of the rite: the initiate is pushed to his knees before a human skull filled with blood placed at the foot of a human skeleton called Madame Pompadour. The crowd implores him to ‘Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!’ and he does. Then he is hurried to a man dressed as the Pope. But not before the D whips him in the face with his tail.”

And before that there was Clinton time, ripe with scandal for eight delightful years.

By such high standards, the Obama-McCain face-off is dull stuff thus far. The nastiest financial scandal in John McCain’s life –- his efforts to protect Arizona banker Charles Keating – exploded 18 long years ago. His caddish behavior to the first Mrs McCain when he dumped her for the younger and very rich beer heiress Cindy Hensley was given a though workout in the Los Angeles Times last week. The Times reported that Nancy Reagan has never forgiven McCain for his foul conduct, hence her tepid endorsement of McCain. But since many Americans are divorced and stand accused by the betrayed partner as utter swine, McCain’s not going to face too much trouble on this one.

Stories swirl around McCain’s famously terrible temper and whether this has led to physical abuse of Cindy, prompting her to seek solace from gentler hands. But nothing credible by way of hard detail has surfaced this far. Her majestic credit card debt – as much as half a million owed to American Express –excites only envy.

John McCain’s conduct as a POW in North Vietnam has prompted fairly detailed accusations, many of them on this site that he collaborated with his captors and gave them significant details of US Navy flights plans. But these have not yet displayed any traction that might have dented his “war hero” status. Efforts by the New York Times some months ago to link him to an attractive young lobbyist == Vicki Iseman — also failed to stick.

Obama weathered efforts to tie him to the Chicago real estate tycoon Tony Rezko, now convicted by a federal jury in Chicago on counts of fraud. Sillier attempts to turn Obama into a fan of the Weather Underground – a violent Sixties antiwar group – have failed, at least thus far. His married life with Michele seems beyond reproach. His career in the Illinois legislature and then the U.S. senate have not produced charges of direct corruption, though he has been a dutiful serf to large corporate interests, as has every member of the US congress with the possible exception of Ron Paul.

So, bleary Americans – well aware that neither candidate will do anything to improve their material condition — have nothing much else to brood upon beyond the fact that Obama is half black, has “Hussain” as a middle name, spent formative years in his childhood in places like Indonesia surrounded by Muslims and is married to an attractive black woman who said earlier this year that she’d been ashamed of America till her husband ran for the presidency.

The New Yorker is creating a stir by running its cover of Obama in ethnic dress bumping fists with Michele sporting an Afro and a gun, with Osama bin Laden’s portrait on the wall behind him and an American flag burning in the grate. Obama says it doesn’t bother him, though it’s a slur on Muslims. Liberals whine that it fans the flames of prejudice. The editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick, claims to be stunned and upset that satire has been confused with reality. This is the magazine that has never apologized for running a very influential though entirely fake story by Jeffrey Goldberg before the Iraq war claiming seriously that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bumping fists, while the American flag burned in the grate. Either Remnick is being disingenuous or he’s really stupid. Anyone familiar with editing material for the internet knows that satire is always taken as literal truth.

The latest New York Times-CBS poll shows that whites esteem Obama less than blacks and many of them don’t care for Michele. But the same poll shows that Obama leads McCain among Hispanic voters by 62 to 23 percent and that he’s leading McCain overall by 6 points.

The best thing, almost the only thing, that the Republicans have going for them is the race card, always a useful ace in the American political deck. Thus far, because McCain is playing a very weak game, it has not brought them significant advantage.

Oil and Bush: They’re Close

Sometimes reality is just the way you think it ought to be. Thus it is with the Bush family and oil. The relationship between the family and the commodity should be used as instructional material in schools, so that when it comes to appreciation of the coarse realities of political economy, No Child Will Be Left Behind.

Our latest CounterPunch newsletter has a marvelously concise article by the economist Michael Hudson which lays out the relationship between Bush, the oil lobby and the current high price of gasoline and diesel. Being unmarred by expletives or other vulgarities, beyond the essential crude saga, it may be read by adults and children alike. I urge you to seize this opportunity to subscribe to our newsletter where Huson’s piece is currently featured.

You will also have the bonus of yet another monstrous parable of corporate greed, this time involving that hardy standby-by, the Congo, in dirty business since King Leopold of the Belgians. And there’s also an unsparing assessment by me of that energetic toady to power, Fareed Zakaria. Click here and enjoy!

Footnote: a slightly shorter version of the first item currently runs in










Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.