SWAMPOODLE REPORT: NIGHTMARES & HANGOVERS
Our long national nightmare is over. . . . at least until tonight.
The RBCB (Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush) era is apparently finished, although with this crowd you can never be sure. It was a time when
There are no signs that any of these will soon be restored, but at least, for the moment, the disintegration may have been halted.
The Clintons went out like they came in, to a chorus of media enablers, assuring America that they were something they weren't, that Hillary Clinton, for example, was the voice of the working class or that ordinary women's lives would dramatically improve if she had been elected.
"If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, we'd take it right now and walk away winners . . . Thank you very much and tell Mrs. Clinton we respect her and we're pulling for her." -- Dan Rather, talking with the
"Roger Clinton's life is in some ways the story of any younger sibling clobbered by the spectacular success of the one who came before . . . If your brother is Christ, you have a choice: become a disciple, or become an anti-Christ, or find yourself caught somewhere between the two" -- Laura Blumenfeld, Washington Post
"In the midst of redesigning
"The most interesting part of the story will come when the media have to acknowledge that there is nothing there . . . Shall we write on our various blackboard 1000 times, 'The Clintons did nothing wrong?'" -- Columnist Molly Ivins
"Ridiculous" -- NPR's Diana Rehm on suggested similarities between Whitewater and Watergate
For balance, let's recall a few objective press comments at the same time about
"Annoying" -Ted Koppel
"Weird" - Cokie Roberts, NPR
"A pain in the you-know-what"- Bemard Shaw
"Flailing about, spewing out charges like sparks from a Fourth of July pinwheel" - JW Apple, New York Times
"He's a chameleon, a character assassin and a first-class cynic" - Jonathan Alter, Newsweek
"Brilliant, self-absorbed, friendless, idealistic, erratic, opportunistic, cold, hypocritical" - New York Times
"Jerry Brown's more corrupt than the system" - Eleanor Clift, Newsweek
Said FAIR, the media watchdog, "There is so much of this kind of writing about Brown that it is difficult to remember that journalists don't usually refer to candidates this way. Can anyone imagine Newsweek's senior political editor talking about George Bush's 'typical hype' or his 'unfitness' -- and getting away with it?
Those of us who had looked even slightly closer at the
"I have detested the
I stumbled upon the story, the way you do a lot of stories, partly by accident. I was prepared by having just read Sally Denton's remarkable book, The Bluegrass Conspiracy, about how the drug trade corrupted
I had followed political corruption my whole life. My first campaign - stuffing envelopes as a pre-teen - helped to end 69 years of Republican rule in
I helped Marion Barry with public relations when he was head of SNCC, boosted him for school board and mayor and then distanced myself as he distanced himself from the cause that had gotten him where he was. Later I would compared him with
I also read avariciously about every corrupt politician I could find from George Washington Plunkett of Tammany Hall to the Daley machine, the Longs of Louisiana and
As I studied these stories, one thing stood out, which I discussed in what was the first critical book about Clinton, a whole two year after he had been elected:
"It was, to be sure, a mixture of the good and the bad, but you at least knew whom to thank and whom to blame. As late as the 1970s the tradition was still alive in
"'I ain't got no axes to grind. You can take all your news media and all the do-gooders in town and move them into my 25th Ward, and do you know what would happen? On election day we'd beat you fifteen to one. The mayor don't run the 25th Ward, Neither does the news media or the do-gooders. Me, Vito Marzullo. that's who runs the 25th Ward, and on election day everybody does what Vito Marzullo tells them. . .My home is open 24 hours a day. I want people to come in. As long as I have a breathing spell, I'll got to a wake, a wedding, whatever. I never ask for anything in return. On election day, I tell my people, 'Let your conscience be your guide.'"
"In the world of Plunkitt and Marzullo, politics was not something handed down to the people through such intermediaries as Larry King. It was not the product of spin doctors, campaign hired guns or phony town meetings. It welled up from the bottom, starting with one loyal follower, one ambitious ballplayer, twelve unhappy pushcart peddlers. What defined politics was an unbroken chain of human experience, memory and gratitude.
"Sure, it was corrupt. But we don't have much to be priggish about. The corruption of
"In fact, we didn't really do away with machines, we just replaced them. As Tammany Hall and the Crump and
"The curious, and ultimately destructive, quality of some of these new machines -- particularly the media and the political pros -- was that they had such little interest in policies or democracy; rather they were concerned with professional achievement or television ratings or making a buck. When one of the most skilled of the new pros, James Carville, was asked whether he would take a post in the
I had been a student of corruption and yet was really impressed by the
And so I became part of a miniscule leftwing conspiracy that preceded the vast rightwing alternative. I wasn't out to get the
In February 1992, I wrote: "The media's protection of
By May 1992 I had come up with a list of about two dozen individuals and organizations that raised serious questions about Bill Clinton. It wasn't hard to do and most of these names would become familiar when they became intertwined with what would be known as Whitewater. The information was there for any reporter who wanted it, but most just didn't want to spoil the fairy tale they were in. And the closeness to power it brought.
A few did and some of them lost their jobs or were transferred as a result. I was banned from a local NPR talk show and, according to sources, from CSPAN and the Washington Post. The media treated those of us who wouldn't play the game with the opprobrium designed for them by presidential spinsters: conspiracy theories and
But there were good moments, too. Like when I was introduced to a black White House staffer and she said, "I know who you are" and with a big smile added, "You're b-a-a-d!"
By this time I had been in journalism for nearly forty years and had never run into anything like it. But the story wouldn't stop and so I kept on the case.
It was the story of an unprincipled couple rising to power in a mini narco-republic, which had once been the western boundary of the northern mobs, where Al Capone had a permanently reserved room in a hotel in
It was a story of a governor overseeing drug-driven political corruption, being the local facilitator for the Regan-Bush Iran Contra operations, and where the local state development agency sent tens of millions to a
It was a story about a state where a drug pilot brought a Cessna 210 full of cocaine into eastern
It was a story where I got an email from Billy Bear Bottoms, the former pilot for Barry Seal, one of the nation's most notorious drug runners, complaining about something I had written.
It was a story in which Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker comes to Washington to see his old boss sworn in, leaving his state under the control of the president pro tem of the senate, Little Rock dentist Jerry Jewell. Jewell uses his power as acting governor to issue a number of pardons, one of them for a convicted drug dealer, Tommy McIntosh. It seems that the elder McIntosh had worked for Clinton in his last state campaign and, according to McIntosh in a 1991 lawsuit, had agreed not only to pay him $25,000 but to help him market his recipe for sweet potato pie and to pardon his son.
It was state in which a tractor trailer is stopped and police find millions in drug cash stowed in the cab.
And on and on. . . .
By the standards by which I was raised, any reporter who turned their back on such a tale should lose their press pass. But it didn't work like that.
Instead, those who tried to tell the truth became the pariahs.
It was my introduction to a new journalism. And to a new politics because, with
The Democratic Party would lose more seats at the state and local level under
But none of it mattered because liberals, especially the politically active upscale ones, had essentially abandoned what was once their essential business: helping those being screwed by the system. Their interest, driven by their own place in the economy, had turned to glass ceilings instead of hard floors and locked factory doors. And eventually they would replace it all with the simple expediency of a black Jesus, never mind that Barack Obama reached his magic delegate count the same week that the number of other black males, those in prison, hit a record level.
It's really not that surprising. The same mythological approach that created the
Check it out. Try to discuss with liberals the effect of Obama's
Come to think of it, don't try it. I have and have largely given up. Because to many of his supporters, as with the supporters of Clinton and the Iraq War, facts just don't matter anymore. Faith is what counts. Anything else is heresy.
And the same media that didn't fairly report the rise of the
Still, arguing with evangelicals - whether Christian, media or liberal - is a waste of time. Consider anything immutable and argument becomes irrelevant.
You just have to save it for the agnostics, free thinkers and those who understand the difference between a press pass and a bathroom pass, which is that the former allows you to disseminate information while the latter is for those who just need to dump shit. It's a distinction much of the media has forgotten.
So, once again, we'll just have to wait for reality to intrude on faith and hope and spin.
Meanwhile, one long national nightmare is over, so party on.
Just don't be surprised if you wake up with a hangover.