Sunday, May 25, 2008

The World I Knew

Like a lot of Americans, I've never considered Al Gore to be a particularly dynamic speaker. Even taking into account the recent and somewhat involuntary injection of pathos he's received via some very favorable conventional wisdom, he's still a bit of a dud. Honestly, when you think of the most inspirational, stirring addresses you've heard in your lifetime -- the kinds of thunderous calls-to-arms that leave audiences weak-kneed and fully prepared to mobilize for that potentially suicidal offensive into the depths of hell -- the guy who used to joke that his version of the Macarena involved standing completely still and who once called Joe Lieberman "passionate" just doesn't immediately come to mind.

That said, I do remember a series of speeches, delivered by then Vice Presidential Candidate Gore and culminating at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, which seemed to hit all the right notes and make for a bold and powerful statement against what at that time were the beginnings of a political dynasty -- one that had clearly lost touch not only with the American people but, quite possibly, with reality. Gore's familiar refrain during the '92 campaign -- those who were ready and willing to usher in a new revolution in U.S. politics will remember it as a sort of battle cry -- was only seven words long, yet spoke volumes: "It is time for them to go."

Ironically, 16 years ago, Al Gore's dismissive declaration -- the reckoning for which he was calling -- was aimed at a Bush administation. And ironically, 16 years ago, the logical cure for such a political and cultural cancer, at least in the opinion of Gore, was a Clinton presidency.

I was only 22 at the time, just starting out in the world, and yet my memories of the Clinton campaign -- the way it made me feel not just about the potentially bright future for my country but about my own importance in the electoral process -- are as vivid as if they were only a few days old. Put simply, Bill Clinton made me believe that I mattered; that the course the nation would take depended on me and those my age; that I indeed had a voice and a responsibility to use it; that there was -- dare I say it now -- hope.

It was time for my generation to stand up, be counted and help take charge. It was time for them to go.

And a Clinton would lead the way.

It's almost incomprehensible to me, 16 years later, that the name which was once so closely associated with faith in the future of this country and in the power of those who haven't yet been thoroughly contaminated by the astringency of the process has now become synonymous with the worst kind of Machiavellian, win-at-all-costs cynicism. To put a finer point on it, I may have wisened over the years and accepted the reality that the Clintons, like most politicians, are opportunists above all else -- but I never thought I'd see the day that Hillary Clinton so absolutely obliterated every last vestige of waning decency attributed to the Clinton name and legacy by invoking an event as horrific as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in an effort to win an election. Over the past several months, it's true that we've occasionally seen the worst the Clintons have to offer the political landscape. We've witnessed innuendo atop gossip atop baseless accusation atop outright lie atop sickening bedfellow atop jaw-dropping proclamation atop unadulterated bullshit. We've watched Hillary Clinton straddle the sometimes razor-thin line separating admirable tenacity from self-obsessed, destructive folly. By this time, we thought we'd seen it all -- that at the very least her expanding army of skeptics would be deprived of any sort of final Hollywood-esque surprise twist.

Then, through either blatant underhandedness or negligent stupidity, she actually insinuated that her opponent for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, just might be felled by an assassin's bullet in the coming month. "Hey, you know, anything can happen -- just sayin'," she seemed to be offering up, during last week's interview with a newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She's since gone on to "apologize" for the galactically ill-advised comment -- something I feel the need to clarify because Clinton didn't, in fact, say she was sorry for even bringing the word "assassination" into the current political discourse as much as she argued semantics, attempting to justify the meaning behind her statement while tossing out an anemically half-assed mea culpa to anyone who may have misconstrued her point. In other words, Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to understand that raising, even for a moment, the specter of that most grisly and epochal of possibilities has zero place within a political campaign, any campaign -- no matter the rationale.

Which is why Hillary Clinton should not be president.

Which is why it is time for her to go.

I've never believed that Clinton should heed the calls of those attempting to hector her into dropping out of the race. True, I haven't been an outspoken fan of Clinton during this campaign, but at no point have I thought that she should simply step aside and let Barack Obama and his supporters roll over her and the historic feat she hopes to accomplish. At no point have I honestly succumbed to the notion that Hillary Clinton would make a bad president.

Until now.

I now believe that Hillary Clinton should withdraw from the race for the White House not because she stands defiantly, some say futilely, in the way of the Obama phenomenon which so many think represents the most noble way forward for the Democratic party. I believe that she should withdraw because no one who even offhandedly implies that the last, best hope for his or her candidacy might involve the ultimate snuffing-out not only of an opponent but of the dream that he represents has no place being the leader of the free world. Not now, especially. Not after all this country has been through over the past eight years. Anyone dumb enough to not understand how invoking the assassination of Bobby Kennedy would be interpreted during this particular campaign -- or barbaric enough to, in fact, understand exactly how it would be interpreted -- is not fit to become the President of the United States.

And so, once again -- it is time for her to go.

The sad irony that in my eyes -- the eyes of someone for whom the Clintons once represented a stand against politics-as-usual -- Hillary Clinton has become the very thing she purported to stand against so many years ago certainly isn't lost on me. The fact that the Clintons' notorious narcissism and sense of entitlement has reached such a level of insurmountability that Mrs. Clinton can assail not simply her opponent but the Kennedy-esque legacy of hope she believes he represents is repugnant in ways I'm not sure I can properly express. I knew Hillary Clinton could be a political monster when she deemed it necessary; I had no idea she could allow herself to become Grendel -- forfeiting her principles so handily that those of us who once believed in her and her husband's future for the country are now left to wonder whether there were ever principles there at all.

It is time for her to go.

Last Tuesday night, during the final showdown on American Idol, David Cook -- a 25-year-old bartender from just outside Kansas City -- sang a stunning version of a song that was released in 1995, coincidentally when I was 25: Collective Soul's The World I Know. As I watched, I was reminded of that time when I had faith in the Clintons and their vision for America. I listened to Cook sing, "Has our conscience shown? Has the sweet breeze blown? Has all kindness gone? Hope still lingers on," and I just shook my head, feeling more than a painful twinge of nostalgia -- remembering the world I used to know, and would very much like to know again.

I honestly can't say whether Barack Obama is the best hope for this country, even though he inspires the new generation the way the Clintons once inspired me. Regardless, I know this: Hillary Clinton absolutely is not. She doesn't even believe in hope anymore.

It is time for her to go.


Girl With Curious Hair said...

When I first returned to the US, the Clintons were campaigning, and I had to admire them. I chuckled at Hillary's response to Barbara Bush's cookie challenge. I liked that she seemed just as smart and capable as her husband. I even admired her for not starting bonfires on the front lawn of the White House with Bill's worldly possessions. I too, remember the hope and potential. I even remember thinking once that she could be a better president than her husband.

I wanted to believe that this was just an insane slip of the tongue and was misconstrued by the media. Except she has said it before in an interview. And she apologized to the Kennedy family--not the man whose possible assassination she was discussing. And she brags about hard working, white Americans trusting her more than they trust Obama. (Does that mean I don't work hard enough for my vote to matter?)

Which just makes Obama seem even more of a gentleman when he says he doesn't want to dwell on it, despite her repeated attacks on his faith, policies, associations and capabilities.

It is time for her to stop self-destructing. It is time for her to go.

berkleebassist said...

Wow. Just an awesome post. Couldn't agree with you more, there's a great deal of terrible things you can say and do in the course of politics, but this just crosses a line that should not even been approached, much less crossed.

libhom said...

One of many reasons why Clinton should withdraw is that Obama already has an absolute majority of the legitimate delegates. Clinton can only steal the nomination with a superdelegate scam.

Dave said...

Thanks for this. You captured my feelings of 1992 and now.

Blade said...

I wish you were a TV talking head, Chez. I'd watch TV for that.

This debacle has almost inspired me to want to get into politics, after I get my finances dealt with. Unfortunatly, that's easier said than done.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, once again, for reading my mind.

Hillary has always left me a bit cold, especially since I felt she made a mistake by publicly brushing off Bill's indiscretions. I would have respected her more had she at least admitted she was pissed off about the whole business(and without any unnecessary Terry McMillan-sized hysterics).

Here now lately with her maniacal campaigning, her rating in my book has gone way down. I'd love to see a female president in my lifetime. Just not her. I don't think she deserves it.

Oh and she's way worse than Grendal. She's Grendal's Momma.

VOTAR said...

You may wind up in a corner hitting your head with a telephone book after reading the next sentence. But believe it or not, I'm on Hillary's side on this one.

When I heard the comment in its full context, I didn't even raise an eyebrow. She was just listing other examples of campaigns that lasted into June.

What's the BFD?

There is not even a hint of a shadow of an iota of a suggestion of an insinuation relating Barack Obama to an imaginary assassination attempt in anything I heard. I don't know where you (or anyone else) got that. It was just a short list of other things that also have happened in the month of June, historically. Things like D-Day and the battle of Midway. And the acquittal of Claus von Bulow.

Do I want to vote for Clinton? Hell no. There are plenty of real reasons to want to avoid having to begrudgingly choose her instead of McCain. But to suggest that she should be smart enough to choose her words more carefully actually legitimizes this sad 21st century culture of "Off With Don Imus's Head" conflated and exaggerated hyper-how-dare-you bullshit we find ourselves in. (Man, I soooo long for the day we get to vote for a politician with the brass balls to step up and say "yeah, I said that, get the fuck over it, you pussies.") Aren't you tired of the retractions and the apologies and the renunciations and the clarifications and the disavowals? I agree she should step aside, if only to arrest the slow bleeding death being suffered by the remnants of the Democratic party, but citing this inconsequential verbal faux pas as a (or, the) reason to disqualify her candidacy sweeps us all handily into the same dumpster as Al Sharpton. Sadly, it fits right into this sound and fury signifying nothing presidential campaign we've been forced to endure all these months. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm numb from how stupid the whole thing has gotten.

Wake me when either candidate says something with actual substance, worth actually considering with such hand wringing pathos. Or November 4th. Whichever comes first.

Anonymous said...

Another reason for no Hillary:

4 years of Bush Sr. 8 Years of Bill. 8 Years of W. 20 years of the same two families. A whole generation, who will be voting for the very first time in a presidential election, who has known no others in the Oval Office.

The last thing we need is the same ol' same ol'.

Time for a change, indeed.

-Dave B.

Anonymous said...

Is Obama a Bonesman? Has he already been "tapped"? Does he stand a chance if he isn't part of this secret society? Or does it matter if he is?

Sheriff Bart said...

I'd totally put it in her.

Stephen said...

When she talks all I hear is the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons: "waah waah waah WAAH waah WAAH WAAAAAAAAAH"

If she's not selected by Obama as a veep, she can turn Libertarian...Barr/Clinton '08.

Felis Femina said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you, Votar. The only "examples" she listed was her husband's campaign and the RFK assassination, and she left the assassination comment dangling at the end of her thought. I was waiting for her next sentence to be, "Ya know, I'm just sayin'."

I think if she really wanted to give good reasons of why she should stay in the race she should have worked a little harder to find better examples. Ya know, I'm just sayin'.

Bill White said...

This might be the one of those times where we agree. Hillary Clinton is evil. This is pure and simple as the soap my mama Hilda Mae used to make by the river where I grew up.

Hillary wishes to poison our culture with a heavy tax burden, a Socialistic health care system, Affirmative Action and the homosexual agenda.

With that said, I'm not a fan of Obama or John McCain. You probably already guessed that I'm a Huckabee fan. I cried when he dropped out. I cried almost as hard as the day Earnhardt senior died. I pray that we will one day have a good, Christ-centered president that is committed to real conservative values.

BTW, I'm writing from the Lowe's Motor Speedway! Woo-hoo! We had a great prayer circle in front of the venue this morning. I was telling everyone about you when I showed this misguided Web site to my buddies. Moe, my buddy from the local garage, said that you reminded him of a kid he met at a Promise Keepers rally in the '90s. Paul turned his life around and became 100 percent committed to Christ.

b80vin said...

I'm with Votar on this one. What difference does it make? Like he/she points out, whining about his is just as bad as whining about a talk radio host. There really is no difference between Don Imus and the president of the United States. Really, when you think about it, Hillary as president, talking to Russia about Russo-American relations, saying, "History is rife with examples of how we got along with people we didn't agree with. We have a wonderful relationship with Japan, post-Hiroshima." How could that possibly be misconstrued as a negative statement by Russia?

Yeah, this is a tempest in a teapot. I WAS an Obama supporter, but now I'm thinking maybe this whole presidential campaign isn't really that important, to ME.

Joyce said...

One example Hillary could have used was Ted Kennedy's run against Jimmy Carter in 1980. That campaign went all the way to the convention floor.

Historically speaking, what we have been seeing in the past few decades of having a candidate decided upon pre-convention is not as common as some people think.

Hillary made a good point but went about it the wrong way, like she usually does.

It's time for her to step down.

Sheriff Bart said...

Seriously. Right up to the third knuckle.
Oh Hillary. You saucy minx.

Deacon Blue said...

I remember the Clinton campaign machine moving through my campus when I was tacking on an extra year to my education with a romp through grad school. Ah, the hope then. Even during much of the eight years of a Clinton presidency. Now, pure disappointment. If it were just Hillary, that would be one thing, but Bill himself seems to have fallen so very far, too.

Jim said...

I'm with Votar on this one...
But then again, I also support Sheriff Bart's proposal...

I think this calls for a public finger blasting.

Bob said...

Thank you Votar, for writing what I was thinking.

I don't give two shits about Hillary Clinton, but the media absolutely blew this out of the water. It's probably not the smartest thing to refer to any assassination during a campaign stop, but damn, she was simply pointing out that RFK was still fighting for the Dem nomination in the month of June.

Chez, you still got a little bit of CNN left in you?

Bartski said...

"Ron Paul in '08!"

...oh wait, he's been running as a Republican, not an independent, so I guess that's not an option either.


"Fist Hilary in '08!"

Heather said...

I, too, agree that it's time for her to go. That being said, I had already been thinking she should not be president the moment she said on live television that she would "wipe out" Iran if they made a move on Israel. Now, while I agree that would be a bad thing and that all options should legitimately be on the table, you don't actually say that on television. As you would think, it got the Iranians all fired up and the religious leaders were going to town about how this proves their point about the West, as well as how they will destroy us. Way to go there, Hillary.

In this day and age, where every word you say has the ability to be spread across the globe in moments, you really do have to choose those words carefully. Think before you speak...isn't that a lesson we all get taught as kids?

jb said...

Dude, you are obsessed with David Cook.

robpo said...

I don't understand how Votar saw it the way he did. H-Rod's comments stunned me the moment they came out of her mouth. It seemed to me to be an obvious reference to "anything can happen", for example, Obama could be assassinated, therefore I could win the nomination...

I don't think her intent was malicious, but it was a very stupid and foolish thing to say and way to say it. Besides, the examples she offered to compare, the circumstances were nowhere near the same as the circumstances today. It was foolish on top of bullshit.

She's been out of it for weeks, its been a near-impossible feat statistically for her to win it for a long time now.

Anyone see Obama's speech in Des Moines last week? I likey a lot. If he brings that to the general election... McCain may as well sit on his wife's face, its the closest he'll get to feeling like "President".

JMW said...

"There really is no difference between Don Imus and the president of the United States."

Wow. What a statement. I won't jump like some Hillary defenders believe the media jumped at interpreting her statement, but this either means:

a) There is, and shouldn't be any difference between Don Imus and the president, or

b) We have gotten to the sad, sad point where there is no difference between them.

Either way, if you're happy with that statement, vote for Hillary!!

Anonymous said...

Zotar, Huff Post has a couple articles pointing out that Bill had the nomination sewed up by March, not June. So even if you let the assassination reference pass, she's still blowing smoke up our ass.


VOTAR said...

Did my evil twin Zotar escape again?

Anonymous said...

While the context of her statements were clearly about a time line, communication is not single layered like that. She chose the symbols to use. She chose the ideas to insert into the national conversation. She's been in this business far too long to play innocent on this one.

It is time for her to go.

b80vin said...

Jmw, you forgot one option:
C) the statement was ironic, used to show that being sensitive about what Don Imus says and what a potential presidential candidate says is a false analogy. What a president says has, as the pithy parody that follows that statement shows, serious consequences. The entire post by moi, was a sarcastic response.

Orion said...

It's almost incomprehensible to me, 16 years later, that the name which was once so closely associated with faith in the future of this country and in the power of those who haven't yet been thoroughly contaminated by the astringency of the process has now become synonymous with the worst kind of Machiavellian, win-at-all-costs cynicism. To put a finer point on it, I may have wisened over the years and accepted the reality that the Clintons, like most politicians, are opportunists above all else

It took you 16 years to realize this? Man, you're slow. I knew it back in '88 when Bubba gave that longwinded dud of a speech at the DNC convention. Factoid: Back in college Bill Clinton lost a student president election to someone who ran as the "change" candidate. That's been the theme of every campaign he's ever run since even, ironically, when he's the incumbent and running on the status quo. To him and Hillary it's always been about winning, by whatever means. At whatever cost to others only, sadly.