May 13, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Plausible End Game

Today I would imagine we will be witness to the demoralizing spectacle of a racist uprising in West Virginia orchestrated by the former First Lady and wife of America's "first black president." So be it. If for no other reason (and I have other good reasons), I favor the nomination of Barack Obama because it will hold a mirror up to American society and force it to confront the issue of racism in an inescapable way. Win or lose, the analysis of his run for the Presidency will tell us a lot about who we are, how far we have actually come from the era of slavery, how much we really believe in this concept of equal protection under the law. If Americans are voting against Barack Obama because and only because his father was African-American, then let's get that out in the open so it will be visible from orbiting satellites. Let's just frigging face it. No more crap about Reverend Wright and other irrelevancies, this idea of "guilt by association" which has been applied in a systematic way for the first and and only time in American electoral history. It is racist McCarthyism and we know it.

Apologists for a racist vote will talk about Barack's "inexperience," which is a neat and ironic dodge under the circumstances. Everyone seems to recognize that the longer a politician spends in Washington, the more corrupt and compromised, the more estranged from the concerns of ordinary Americans, that politician becomes. John McCain and Hillary Clinton are two absolutely prime examples of this degenerative process. They have been so pretzeled by their years in D.C. that they can't tell if they really believe in anything at all anymore, so that, for example, they can simultaneously bemoan the lack of responsiveness of the federal government to global warming and yet propose a gas tax holiday to promote greater CO2 emissions.

"Saturday Night Live" did a completely hilarious send-up of Hillary Clinton's campaign a few nights ago. Amy Poehler's impersonation hit every essential point: her base is racist and she appeals directly to the racism of "white working class voters" (formerly known as the Nixon Southern Strategy); she'll do and say anything; and she has no ethical standards.

When the Clintons left the White House, they took a lot of property with them which had been donated to the National Park Service as part of its refurbishing of the White House in 1993. Eventually, they reimbursed the government about $86,000 (the Georgetown- and Yale-educated lawyers mistakenly thought all this stuff represented "personal gifts" and not donations to the national treasury) and returned the government's furnishings -- lamps, sofas, area rugs, chairs, dining table, all of which had been shipped to their new home in New York, where Hillary was setting up camp in order to become an authentic New Yorker. In a sense, they were lucky it was handled this way -- as a civil matter, I mean. Since we all own the White House, another way of looking at the situation would be to say that tenants to whom we leased the place took all our stuff when they left. You know, -- burglary. This is an insight into the essential venality of these two. It didn't surprise me at all that Bill Clinton made as much money as he did in those years after the White House, nor that he was always strangely accommodating of George W. Bush's systematic destruction of the U.S. Constitution. When did you ever hear Bill go into one of his red-faced tirades about any of that? Quite the contrary, he became George Sr. and Jr.'s new best friend, because that's where the power was, and whither the power goeth, the money followeth.

So here's the deal. Sec. 441, subsection (j) of the Federal Election Laws, as amended in 2002. "Limitation on Repayment of Personal Loans. Any candidate who incurs personal loans after the effective date of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 in connection with the candidate's campaign for election shall not repay (directly or indirectly), to the extent such loans exceed $250,000, such loans from any contributions made to such candidate or any authorized committee of such candidate after the date of such election."

You can see Hillary's delicate dance here. She's got $11 million in the pot. If she folds her hand now, that's it. Her campaign is already $20 million down; I don't know exactly what the rules are on preferential payments to Hillary versus vendor/creditors (if she can pay herself first, she will, of course), but this is a very dicey situation. She's unlikely to get any of that $11 mil back. However, if she gives the appearance of campaigning all the way to the convention (the "election," in the above subsection), she might be able to raise more than she spends. She could buy some token ads, cut her staff to the bone, stay at the Holiday Inn instead of the Four Seasons, and build a surplus she can use to repay herself from the campaign. I think she counted on a big win in Indiana and maybe a surprise in North Carolina to resuscitate her run, but that didn't happen and she doubled down on an already bad bet.

Ah, if only those goodhearted Appalachian folks in West Virginia could surprise us today. Confound the prognosticators. Drive a stake through this invidious Clinton campaign. It would be, I don't know -- Almost Heaven.

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