By Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch
Ever since she realized back in early March that Obama was going to take the nomination Hillary Clinton’s long-term strategy has been to do her best to ensure McCain will win this November so she can become the Democratic nominee in 2012. But she had a short term strategy too and on Friday she deliberately made it explicit in a newspaper office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There she suggested that some is likely to step up to the plate and assassinate Barack Obama in the waning moments of the California primary, just as Bobby Kennedy was forty years go almost to the day. The wish is mother to the deed. If anything does happen to Obama in California Mrs Clinton should surely be indicted as a co-conspirator.
How to else construe her grotesque remarks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the editorial offices of the Argus Leader newspaper. Here she told the editors, "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out.
There is no other way to construe these sentences, not thrown over her shoulder on a campaign walk, but delivered in measured tones to the Argus-Leader editorial board, but to interpret them as Mrs Clinton’s more or less explicit statement that she is spending a million a day just to keep her hat in the ring because Obama might well get killed. Then, just like the scenario at the end of the Manchurian candidate, Hillary will straddle Obama’s bleeding body, make the speech of her life and become the assured nominee. In fact, right now she’s probably sitting down with some numbed vet and whispering coyly in her best Angela Lansbury mode to the Lawrence Harvey stand-in, “How about passing the time by playing a little solitaire?" I pass on whether Hillary reprises Angela Lansbury’s famous incestuous kiss on her son’s lips. Perhaps Sid Blumenthal is the stand-in, though I doubt he’s a very good shot.
To get added insight into what a truly nasty woman Hillary Clinton is, remember that her remarks on Friday came a couple of days after Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Next thing you know, his fellow senator is saying that California might well be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of his borther’s murder by killing the candidate he has endorsed for the nomination.
Now Hillary Clinton is dutifully saying that she was misunderstood, that she had no intention, no thought, that she might be taking about SOMEONE KILLING OBAMA, SOMEONE SHOOTING THE BLACK MAN DEAD, JUST LIKE SOMEONE SHOT BOBBY KENNEDY DEAD IN CALIFORNIA, IN CALIFORNIA, DEAD, REALLY DEAD. Oh my heavens no, the thought never crossed my mind.
Recall too that as Jeffrey pointed out in his Wednesday piece here, Mrs Clinton and her mouthpieces have been steadily raising the volume on their verbal-lynching. In South Dakota Mrs Clinton lit the fuse.
The Death of American Liberalism
Now a word about the wider picture: There’s certainly no effective liberal, let alone left presence in mainstream American politics any more. The political primary season, now in its final throes, has resoundingly buttressed this fact, albeit disguising the process by the crafty expedient of making a black man the all-but-certain Democratic nominee.
Take the scene in Portland, Oregon last Monday, on the eve of a vote in that north-western state which sent Barack Obama one step further in formally clinching the Democratic nomination. CounterPunch coeditor Jeffrey St Clair gave a most amusing and enlightening account of it this last Wednesday. How did Hillary Clinton try to remind Oregonians of her claims to be the authentic rep of white working-class America, without whose votes no Democrat can ever win the White House?
She held a press conference in the upscale Portland suburb of Beaverton, in a subdivision where $500,000 homes have gone unsold for the past year. She spoke movingly of the pain being experienced by the developer. A few miles north, homeless Oregonians were besieging the offices of Portland’s mayor, Tom Potter.
As noted above, almost exactly forty years ago John F. Kennedy’s younger brother Bobby was making a similar last-throw bid in California to win the state and seize the Democratic nomination, by dint of a populist campaign. Bobby reached out to California’s poor. There’s no way Bobby would have hunkered down with a property developer. He’d have been heading the homeless in a march to the mayor’s office to demand they be given rent-free accommodation in the unsold mansions.
As a reminder that some things don’t change, Bobby’s second strategy in California was to court the affluent Jewish vote on the West Side of Los Angeles. Just like Hilary he implied that his opponents were all too eager to parley with the sworn enemies of Israel. He demanded that the US government release F-4 Phantom jets to Israel. A young Palestinian called Sirhan Sirhan read of this demand in an article in the New York Review of Books by my dear friend, the late Andrew D. Kopkind. Thus edified by Andy, Sirhan promptly scrawled “RFK Must Die!” in his diary and headed to the Ambassador Hotel. There, shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, he shot Kennnedy dead with a .22 Iver-Johnson revolver in the hotel kitchen, just as Bobby was shaking hands with a dishwasher. Bobby’s Israel and populist strategies had fatally collided.*
Bobby Kennedy’s younger brother Ted tried to sell the same populism as Bobby in his run for the nomination against Carter in 1978. Ten years later Jesse Jackson, the first black American to take a serious tilt at the Democratic nomination, led many a poor people’s march to City Halls across America.
Not any more. Hilary’s populism has been skin-deep in the literal sense of the term. It’s not been about rich developers, or predatory sub-prime loans. It’s only about the color of Obama’s skin, which Mrs Clinton opines is unsuitable in tint. You want irony? Try tracing the thread that runs from Fanny Lou Hamer and her comrades’ efforts to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democrats at the 1964 convention in Atlanta to Hillary Clinton’s claim that in trying to get Florida’s Democrats seated in the convention in Denver she’s taking us back to the most glorious struggles of the abolitionists against slavery.
The old truism about primary season used to be that Democratic candidates have to run left to capture crucial support from the sort of politically active progressives who vote in Democratic primaries and caucuses. Then, with the nomination secured, the nominee spends the rest of the year running right, to win over middle America.
But Obama has achieved the amazing feat of being the almost-certain nominee without barely a phrase on the record with which John McCain can belabor him for “loony-leftism” or even “outdated liberalism” in the months to come.
Bloated Pentagon budgets? This favored target in past primary seasons has flourished unscathed this year, even though the arms-spending to which Bush’s former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, committed the US government promises certain budgetary catastrophe across the next fifteen years. Obama’s subservience to the US military has been evinced numerous times, most recently when he confided last week to David Brooks, one of the New York Times’s profuse stable of neo-con columnists, that “The [U.S.] generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”
What about Wall Street, whose leading bankers have devastated middle-income America with the sub-prime scams? Obama has been tactful, meanwhile hauling in hefty campaign contributions from these same bankers as Pam Martens has described on this website. Health care? No relief for America’s 45 million uninsured from Obama, who offers “reforms” unreservedly deferential to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. What about labor and the right to form a union – something virtually impossible to do in America today, where it’s (barely) legal to go on strike but almost entirely illegal to win one. Seldom has a Democrat won the nomination with less IOUs to organized labor than Obama.
But, you say, surely Obama prevailed over Hillary in large part because she voted for the war in Iraq and he didn’t. This year Obama’s statements on the war have been carefully hedged. McCain will have a tough time painting him into a corner as a peacenik without himself sounding like a crazed warmonger, (which he frequently does). The war in Iraq is not popular in America, but the antiwar movement is effectively dead.
As a presidential candidate the only politically unorthodox item on Obama’s record is that he has a black skin. As he runs against an elderly, unstable Republican candidate whose own mottled epidermis raises constant uneasy questions about possible battles with cancer Obama should thank Bush 1 for making a black man chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and putting Clarence Thomas on the US Supreme Court, and Bush 2 for making Condoleezza Rice secretary of state. See? Blacks can be trusted! And Obama should thank the Republican Party for nominating a candidate weaker by far than any he might have dreamed of only six months ago. As a member of the Chaos Party I’m none to keen on the man. If McCain choses a real dunderhead as his running mate, I must just go for the Republican ticket.
To save conspiracists the trouble of writing to me, I should say that Kennedy had just passed the dishwasher, then twisted back and to his left to shake hands, which explains why the entry wound in his head seemed to indicate a shot from a quarter other than where Sirhan was standing.
Who Killed Colonel Sabow?
There was a time, I tell the younger crowd, when the first Arab-American to win a seat in the US Senate failed by only three votes to get a bill through the US senate breaking up the oil companies. This was Jim Abourezk, of South Dakota, who held one of South Dakota’s senate seats through most of the 1970s, and achieved much in his single term. In the latest issue of our newsletter Jim lays out in absorbing and convincing detail the evidence that a colonel in the USMC was murdered on base just before he was going to testify about clandestine arms-for-drugs slights to South America. Subscribe now. You’ll also get Alexander Cockburn on the Amazon. . . Hey, come back, y’all. I said, subscribe, dammit.