James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, March 07, 2008

Piece 3: Here comes the right wing filth

The engines of the radical right's slime machines are just beginning to cough into life.

Their operators and funders, shadowy at best, with identities often completely hidden beneath layer over layer of organizational fictions, have just begun the tune-ups and tinkering that precede an all-out campaign effort.

There are indications, however, that the lies, distortions, libels and slanders that characterized right wing attacks on John Kerry four years ago were just a warmup for the filth spreaders.

It's possible that the one true and also relevant claim made by Hillary Clinton on her own behalf is that she is better prepared than Barak Obama to withstand the onslaught. Obama never has faced a serious Republican opponent, let alone the kind of immoral, vicious, sometimes illegal attacks that are going to hit the Democratic presidential nominee this year.

Not that the presidential candidate will be the only victim, of course.

The extreme right is clearing its throat right now with nasty attacks on about 15 congressional Democrats around the country, mostly freshmen, some of whom unseated Republicans in marginal districts in 2006.

One of the early targets is first-term Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota's first district, in the southern part of the state. It's generally prosperous farm country, a district that frequently elects dim-bulb Republicans who thoughtlessly spout conservative cliches about cutting taxes, reducing big government and the evils of bureaucrats.

Just within the past couple of days, similar television ads have begun running in the Twin Cities, where freshman liberal Congressman Keith Ellison – who is the only Muslim in Congress – represents Minneapolis and portions of some close-in suburbs.

Walz, a former teacher and veteran of 20-plus years in the National Guard, is hardly a flaming liberal. He can think for himself, however, and he's not easily cowed. When the attack ad appeared in his district a week or so ago, he immediately stood up, called the shadowy group behind it “reckless with our national security,” liars and worse and saw to it that his response got prominent treatment in local news outlets.

Unlike John Kerry four years ago, he didn't leave the ground to the attackers for weeks before responding, nor was his response as feeble as Kerry's.

I don't know how well the other victims of this particular ad are responding; I hope it's with equal vigor. I haven't seen anything from Ellison yet, but I can't swear I haven't missed something.

The ad in question has ominous background music. It has photos of high-tech security equipment and in some venues juxtaposes photos of Osama bin Laden with photos of whichever Democrat is the local target.

All of the subject Democrats voted against George Bush's plan to continue illegal wiretapping of American citizens and to grant retroactive immunity to telecoms that illegally assisted the administration in that program.

The ad message is that in upholding the U.S. Constitution, the Democrats are essentially traitors who have given a green light to terrorists to attack us in our homes.

(It doesn't note that several of the country's intelligence officials publicly stated that shutting down the illegal wiretapping – which apparently continues – would pose no threat whatever to the country's security.)

An excellent exposition on Walz's situation can be found in a piece by former Star Tribune columnist at http://www.jimklobucharwrites.com

A story run Feb. 24 by the Owatonna (Minn.) People's Press is available at http://www.owatonna.com

The attack was created by, and television time paid for by, one of those shadowy right wing jinjaweed organizations. This one calls itself “Defense of Democracies.”

SourceWatch, an arm of the Center for Media and Democracy, identifies Defense of Democracies as an affiliate of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. That nonprofit “foundation” says it's purpose is “research and education on international terrorism – the most serious security threat to the United States and other free, democratic nations.”

Uh huh.

It claims to be nonpartisan, and, sadly, it's directors and “fellows” include some right-bent Democrats as well as a bunch of well-known hard-right names such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Newt Gingrich, Gary Bauer, several former (under Reagan and the Bushes) FBI and CIA executives and – gee, what a surprise – former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

I point that out to make it clear that the people behind the filth-spewing machines often are people who are widely regarded as respectable and who certainly are treated with the greatest respect by news organizations. They rarely are outed except by impolite bloggers and, very occasionally, by liberal organizations such as TruthOut and MoveOn.

In any case, as indicated at the start of this, the attack on some relatively new Democratic members of Congress is just a warmup.

A number of news organizations have done stories recently to the effect that this year's excretions, mainly from the right, will be even more sickening than in the past.

The Nation did a story on the character-assassination campaigns of one of the Republicans' favorite hatchet men, Scott Howell, who never shrinks from encouraging racism, gender prejudices or any other rotten human trait that can be exploited on behalf of his clients.

CNN.com recently carried an article predicting a flood of “sucker punches and below-the-belts,” with heavy use of the Internet this year to convey the nastiest messages.

The CNN piece is useful as a lesson on what to look for when reading or watching commentary or what passes for news in corporate outlets: Networks, CNN, newspapers and many general-circulation magazines feel compelled to present what they claim is “balanced” coverage.

That produces very badly unbalanced coverage, in fact.

CNN quoted a Republican throat cutter, Mark McKinnon, who's working for John McCain this year. McKinnon said this year will produce an “especially ugly ad season” and he should know, given that he's a major player.

But having done that, the CNN writer felt obligated to warn readers that MoveOn.Org intends to spend as much as $45 million this year on political advertising “much of it on negative ads.”

The writer made no mention of the demonstrable fact that McKinnon's history and that of other official Republican operatives – let alone the slimy “unaffiliated” organizations such as the swift boat crowd – frequently use distortion and sometimes outrageous lies to benefit their candidates. MoveOn and other liberal organizations, sometimes play with the balance of facts, but so far as I can discover they've never been caught using outright lies and fiction in their ads, position papers or public statements.

Yet almost all news organizations, if they do expose a demonstrable lie and call it that, will “balance” the story by devoting equal space to some attack statement from the other side (generally the Democrat or left side), without making clear that the Democrat's negative claim has the benefit of being true.

Not that some exaggerations and occasional lies don't also come from the left, of course, but the balance of dishonesty is very much on the Republican side.

We must get mentally ready for what is to come. It will be ugly, and there isn't a thing most of us can do except to doubt all attacks, and to seek out the truth, which generally isn't terribly difficult to find, and spread the word among the lazy and the gullible.

Did you really think Karl Rove went home to Texas to be with his family and that's he's spent his time since leaving the White House nuzzling his wife and playing with the kiddies and the dog?

The ugly master of ugly went home, friends, to plan the dirty tricks and lies of the 2008 campaign.

Be prepared.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Piece 4: The real reason Nader shouldn't run

It is a bit of a shame that Ralph Nader has declared again for the presidency of the United States.

That is true, I think, not for any of the reasons corporate liberals and reliable members and backers of the Democratic National Committee are bleating about, but for another reason that I've yet to see anyone else mention:

In the event that the Democrats turn what was a huge, almost natural, advantage this year into electoral defeat – a distinct possibility -- Nader again supplies them with an excuse and a way to avoid facing up to their own incompetence and lack of solid moral or practical grounds for holding office.

Personally, I don't want them to have any ready excuses – none that might seem plausible to the befuddled public, at any rate.

The kingmakers, or in this case queenmakers, of the Democratic Party determined many moons ago that it was Hillary Clinton's turn to run for president. Hey, she's a Clinton, Bill is a great campaigner (they thought) and she absolutely will not disturb the organization or distribution of power.

If forced by the perhaps not fully subjugate Democratic electorate, the entrenched leadership will, somewhat reluctantly, accept Barak Obama as their candidate, operating on the reasonable assumption that he is pretty much their sort anyway and can quickly be brought to heel. It probably would have been his turn sooner or later anyway.

But what if their nominee, be it Clinton or Obama, loses in November?

That, I repeat, is a very real possibility, moving toward probability as Clinton gets nastier and ever more arrogant.

The vicious attack machine of the country's far right is only beginning to rumble in its hole, and the Democrats evidently are as ill prepared as ever to deal with that machine once it is fully operational. And -- gender and color aside -- neither Democratic candidate chosen by the media barons and the party hacks looks all that much different from the empty suits the Democrats have paraded past us in election after election for more than a decade.

Obama can speak effectively, actually fire up a crowd, which, I grant, is a marvelous change from Gore, Kerry and, yes, Hillary. But eventually, if he's nominated, his words are going to need the kind of content that makes the growing army of disaffected liberals believe he's worth spending a vote on or he's going down.

He's not likely to come up with that content.

It would lose him any real support from the party organization and, because it comes late in the game, confuse all those deluded voters who believe we can compromise our way to some sort of livable accommodation with corporate powers and the far right.

So, having again forced upon us a candidate with no real positions to bring back the long-ignored liberals and readers and thinkers, with no real story to tell, the DLC, DSCC, DCCC and all the rest of those people who long ago earned their grade of D, will have to have their excuses ready.

Nothing easier than blaming Nader again. And the excuse probably will be believed again, at least by enough of the great army of the muddled, to keep all those D people and their over-priced consultants in business for another four years.

That is not a happy prospect.

(Nader will not cost the Democratic nominee the election by the way. He didn't take away their “victory” in either of the two previous presidential elections either. They lost it themselves through the usual combination of general ineptness, intellectual dishonesty and lack of spine.)

Let's face a heretical truth: The best possible outcome of the November 2008 presidential election, for this country and its people, may be the election of John McCain. And, yes, if elected he will be a horrible president, probably something close to as bad as George W. Bush.

The thing is, a McCain win could give us one -- undoubtedly final -- shot at creating a Democratic Party, or some other-named party, that can both win elections and govern honorably and effectively.

A Clinton win won't do that. It's highly unlikely that an Obama victory will do it. And successful use of the Nader excuse might keep the old party hacks in charge of the Democratic Party, leaving them free to choose another bad candidate and lose again in four years.

If Clinton or Obama gains the White House – which assumes that George Bush doesn't use the power he granted himself last year to take control of all branches of government for as long as he deems necessary – all of the corporation loving, billionaire snuggling, empire-approving hacks of all of those D organizations stay in their plush offices, seeing to it that no essential changes are made.

They'll allow a little cosmetic change in health care but, hey, donations from pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies and all of that crowd pay a lot of Democratic Party bills. This year, in fact, Hillary Clinton is by a considerable margin the top political recipient of their largesse.

Iraq? Lotta campaign money from all those arms industry giants and we don't want to deal with accusations of being “soft on terrorism.”

Constitution? Well, geez, we gotta hold the White House for the good of the people, which means we won't be stepping on any communications corporation toes, nor offending any of those dangerous guys from the mercenary army organizations nor feeding the right wing think tankers any ammunition by shutting down Guantanamo or getting really serious about stopping “special rendition” and torture because that would make us seem “weak on defense,” etc., etc. endlessly.

In fact, maybe we should lay a few bombs on Iran just to prove how tough we are.

That's your prospect. That's the likelihood. And which of the Democrats is likely to give up all those juicy virtually dictatorial powers that Bush has declared for the presidency?

Neither? Right.

What we'll get is a few new shades of lipstick and eyeshadow for the White House pig.

On the other hand, if McCain gets in, he's going to feel compelled to show that he's even leaner and meaner than G.W., and his vile temper is bound to become more apparent. The meanness will become too obvious for the press barons to successfully cover up. The wars will go on, the festering of the Middle East will continue according to the Bush plan, McCain is bound to cross swords dangerously with Vladimir Putin....

We're talking really ugly, folks.

And that's probably what it will take for Democrats and their natural constituency to, finally, throw out the self-serving fools who have turned the party into a branch of the Corporate Party.

Well, at least there is some chance that could happen, and there is no chance with Clinton or Obama.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Piece 5: Bush bungling in Pakistan

It is an established fact that George W. Bush makes instantaneous decisions about individuals he meets on “gut feelings” and rarely thereafter allows fact to alter his opinion.

He fell immediately in love with Vladimir Putin, said good ol' Vlad was “my kinda guy,” and has yet to deny his first impression despite Putin's open contempt and conflicting stances on a growing list of major situations, from Iran to Kosovo.

But can anyone explain to a reasonably rational human being the Bush/neocon continued embrace of Pakistan's isolated and despised President Pervez Musharraf?

The White House is practically sticking its tongue down Musharraf's throat and feeling up his backside on the streets of Islamabad while the entire populace of Pakistan is searching for good jagged stones to throw at the pair of them.

The behavior is obscene, and the start of the stoning can't be far off.

Yet I find no record of Bush have declared his undying love of the Pakistani ex-general. The public comments of Bush & Co. have been dutiful but hardly doting.

So what the hell is going on here?

Only one explanation presents itself to me, and it is so feeble that, as criminally inept as the neocons/Bush are in foreign affairs, it seems hardly believable. That is, simply, that having embraced Musharraf as an ally –- in the face of overwhelming evidence that Pakistani president paid only lip service to American goals while giving physical comfort to the Bush administration's enemies –- they don't know what else to do.

Having chosen their “friend” in Pakistan, they have sought no alternatives, have considered no other possibilities than to prop him up even as his country rises against him. It has become “the American way.”

Is that really it? The only thing clear is that the White House's continued full-bore support of Musharraf is guaranteed to provide the United States with yet another implacable enemy in the Middle East in the near future.

On Friday, Feb. 29, The New York Times carried a front page story that pulled together facts that had been filtering in from many sources in recent weeks. Reporter David Rohde noted that Pakistani voters had overwhelming rejected Musharraf's party at the polls earlier in the month.

Bush's continued unquestioning support of the Pakistani president “is fueling a new level of frustration in Pakistan with the United States,” Rohde reported.

That, according to other reports, is putting it mildly.

Yessirree, George W. Bush and his band of merry neocons are the champions of democracy all over the world –- except where it doesn't suit them. And democracy in Pakistan apparently doesn't suit them any more than it does in, say, Venezuela, though the reasons aren't as clear as they are in the land of Hugo Chavez, where American corporations have lost money and power.

Well. Rohde of the Times went on to note that the Bush support of Musharraf after the latter's rejection by his own people “has rankled the public, politicians and journalists here, inciting deep anger at what is perceived as American meddling and the refusal of Washington to embrace the new, democratically elected government.”

The Times report also said that Pakistanis agree that Bush & Co. “is grossly misjudging the political mood in Pakistan and squandering an opportunity to win support from the Pakistani public for its fight against terrorism.”

There is more detail, but that about sums it up: The Bush administration shows contempt for the democratic choices of the people of Pakistan, has alienated virtually the entire Pakistani public, including its intellectual elites, and is, in fact, undermining its own loudly proclaimed policy of fighting terrorism in the region.

As I said, the Times report is confirmed by others, notably the foreign press.

Generally, it is possible without much effort to spot the motivations of the Bush administration in any of its deeds and misdeeds. Sometimes the actions are peculiar enough, or so against the stated aims of the administration, that one has to dig a little deeper, but this one truly is a puzzler.

If it is not simple and utter incompetence –- and that may prove to be the answer –- then what is the buffoonery in Pakistan about?