Feb 4, 2008

January 31, 2008: So Long Frank Lloyd Wright, Record of Futility, 'Tale' That Wagged the Dog

“Architects may come
And Architects may go
And never change your point of view” –Paul Simon, “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright”

January has come and gone and the first phase of the campaign season is behind us. The field is strewn with the fallen, with only 5 now left standing. So before we proceed, let us bid a fond farewell to those who have done their best to make a difference.

On the Democratic side there was Dennis Kucinich, arguably the most courageous of the lot. My first recollection of the Congressman was when as mayor of Cleveland he fought to keep municipal ownership of the city’s power plants. It was back in the 1970s and Kucinich was a young up and coming star in the Ohio political constellation and Cleveland was, like New York and many other major metropolitan areas, in a financial crisis. The major banks in Cleveland, with large holdings in private utilities, moved to try to force the city to divest itself of the municipal utility. Kucinich balked, whereupon the banks refused to roll over the city’s loans throwing Cleveland into a financial crisis. Kucinich held his ground, marshaled public opinion and forced the banks to yield. It was a rare instance, in the last thirty years, of government refusing to yield to the pressures for privatization, an act that should have earned him a ‘profiles in courage’ award. Instead the moneyed interests moved to defeat him in the ensuing election. Cleveland kept community control over energy, but lost a champion. Years later, after the heat of the conflict had subsided; Dennis won a seat in Congress and has been there ever since.

Kucinich has been a voice of reason on the national stage. An early opponent of the war in Iraq, he has also given voice to those who understand that this administration has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Accordingly, he has introduced a bill in Congress calling for the impeachment of Dick Cheney. This week he withdrew from the race, returning home to Ohio where he faces three challengers for his seat.

Joe Biden, Senator from Delaware was former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Joe is a good man, an early critic of the war who has had the courage to ask the tough questions and think about alternatives. He has a mastery of foreign affairs that brought experience and understanding to the political discourse.

Chris Dodd, Connecticut’s other Senator, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a voice for the middle class. And, of course, John Edwards. All of these men would have made a far superior president than ‘Ol Two-Cows’, such is the strength of the Democratic field or perhaps the paucity of national leadership as it is presently constituted.

On the Republican side we say goodbye to Rudy Giuliani. Rudy’s candidacy never made any sense, not only because his public positions are at odds with the base of the Republican Party, but because in the history of this republic no one has gone from being a mayor of a city—no matter how large the metropolis or how demanding the challenges—to become President of the United States. Not Mayor LaGuardia, not Mayor Lindsay, nor either of the Mayors Daley. In fact, no one has gone from being a Congressman to President since 1860, and Lincoln won that election because he was in a four-man race. Even Barack Obama, as charismatic as he is, has had to check into the United States Senate for a few months in order to be taken seriously. Rudy missed his chance at the White House long ago when he withdrew from the Senate race against Hillary. Rudy cited a bout with prostate cancer but, given his behavior in the early primaries, it may be that it was a contest he knew he couldn’t win and rather than fight the good fight, chose instead to quit. So the man who for over a year led all Republican contenders in the national polls, who early set the pace in fundraising had, by the middle of January, retreated to make his stand in the marshes of Florida. It was an inhospitable environment for a New Yorker and he promptly shriveled and faded like a dead gator in the hot tropical sun. By the middle of the month his campaign was running out of money, and his staff was working without pay. The Giuliani campaign will now be remembered only for setting a new record of futility. He raised 50 million dollars and spent 50 million dollars winning just one delegate to the Republican National Convention; thereby superseding the record of John Connolly who, albeit thirty years ago, got his single delegate at a cost of a modest 11 million dollars. Fifty million dollars reduced to mere road kill by Marshall McCain’s “Straight-Talking Express”.

We also say goodbye to Fred Thomson, whose lackadaisical effort demonstrated convincingly that being a thespian does not give one a lock on the Republican Presidential nomination. The nation has watched, for the last eight years, a man pretend to be President. Perhaps we have finally had our fill of those who would have us suspend disbelief. In any case Fred Thompson quickly demonstrated that he was, in fact, no Ronald Reagan.

And finally last, but certainly not least, the Christian Coalition. Divided amongst them, the dogs of war the Reverends Robertson and Falwell had loosed upon the land, the old ‘moral majority’ alas could rally around no single candidate. Robertson in an act of guile and expediency endorsed Giuliani, who promptly quailed before the mightier guns of the party and expired in the hot southern sun. Others cried for Thompson, but Fred slept through the campaign and got no heat. Finally they fell upon Huckleberry who quickly embroiled himself in America’s racial quagmire, and has been of late more interested in relieving the tax burden of Bill Gates than addressing the conservative Christian social agenda.

The returns have demonstrated in any case the true strength of the ‘Christian Right’ (read Christian Wrong). It has been—like the old Soviet military threat—grossly exaggerated. Rudy, Fred and Huck could between them garner only about 15% of the Florida vote. It seems that they had come to believe their own press releases, some openly saying that the Christian Right was strong enough to elect a President on its own. And so with much ballyhoo the candidacies of Giuliani, Thompson and Huckleberry each expected to ride that elephant straight to the White House. Falwell is gone; Robertson has beshit himself in crass political expediency. In any case, the strength of the movement has been revealed for what it is: blue smoke and mirrors; a lie that has held hostage American political life; a tale that wagged the dog.

If only Rudy had courage; if only Freddy had a heart; if only Huck had a brain.

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