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Treats From the Trickster By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 24, 2003


"WE CAN’T WIN IF PEOPLE THINK WE’RE TOO LIBERAL,” said former President Bill Clinton. “But we can’t get our own folks out if people think we have no convictions. So the trick is to get them both.”

The Old Trickster was speaking more-or-less confidentially to core Democrats in a just-published interview in the November issue of the democratic socialist magazine The American Prospect, a publication run by Robert Kuttner, Paul Starr and Clinton’s former Labor Commissar – er, Secretary – Robert B. Reich.

Mr. Clinton’s delphic advice to Democrats is augured by Donald Lambro of the Washington Times as a warning to Democratic candidates against overtly liberal stands and by TAP interviewer Michael Tomasky as recommending that Democratic candidates should cunningly invoke “class warfare” rhetoric.

Even today Bill Clinton retains his wizard-like powers of ambiguity – the “power to cloud men’s minds,” his own included. 

Clinton will, I foresee, eventually be remembered by history as a Great President, despite his immoral foreign policy and predatory immorality. What will be forgotten 100 years from now is whether he was a Democrat or a Republican. He achieved Republican goals that even President Ronald Reagan could not attain.  President Clinton ended welfare as an entitlement, signed NAFTA into law to help multinational trade, and politically made possible the Republican ascendancy in both houses of Congress, where it now appears the GOP will remain the majority for at least a generation.

Such things happen when a Democrat wins by camouflaging himself in the elephant clothes he stole from Republicans skinny-dipping in the Potomac.  But as Clinton and his comrades in the Democratic Leadership Council recognized, if it did not at least appear to be moving to the Right the Democratic Party would be doomed.  

Following George McGovern’s disastrous defeat, and the Jimmy Carter-Walter Mondale regime’s theft through inflation of half the life savings of every American, and the reptilian apparatchik cold-bloodedness of  1988 loser Michael Dukakis, the party of the donkey seemed to be drifting towards oblivion off the Leftward edge of the political spectrum.

Clinton at least for a time jerked the Democratic Party back towards the political Center. But in the process he exposed a deep, psychopathological schizophrenia in his party. That schizoid quality is now manifest in several visible symptoms – ranging from the mental confusion of Senator John Kerry (D.-Mass.) to the demented rantings of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who has declared that “even my own party has simply moved too far to the right.” 

Proclaimed the violently anti-war Gov. Dean solipsistically: “I am in the center… There’s nothing that’s not centrist about me.” 

It’s all those so-called Democratic candidates, Dean implies, who are really no more than Republican Lite and are really right-wingers. By contrast, boasts Dean plagiaristically, “I’m from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.”

“I think it is highly counterproductive,” advised Clinton, the only Democrat elected to two terms as President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “to spend a great deal of time trying to identify the wings of the party and [having] each wing criticize the other.”

Fact is, among those in the base of the Democratic Party – the Loony Left fraction most likely to come out for the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary – the red meat being thrown by Howard Dean is very much their favorite political color.

A year ago Senator Kerry was preening to be the liberal Democrat in the 2004 race. Dean flanked him, seizing the anti-war ground to Kerry’s Left and capturing the foot soldiers whose loyalty the French-looking Kerry had expected to command and control.

As an indicator of how far Leftward the Democratic Party has shifted under Dean’s gravitational pull, Kerry is now struggling to stay in the race as a moderate one step to the left of Senator Joseph Lieberman (D.-Conn.). 

Days ago on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” interviewer Chris Matthews spent 10 minutes repeatedly trying to pin down Senator Kerry’s answer to a simple question: would he or wouldn’t he, if President, have gone into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein?

“Not the way President Bush did,” waffled Kerry. But, pressed Matthews, would he have gone at all, or would he have left Saddam in power?  Kerry kept ducking and dancing away like a cowardly boxer until his evasive lack of forthrightness left both Matthews and the surrounding university student audience disgusted and close to booing. 

As President Teddy Roosevelt said, it is easy to criticize the man in the arena, the leader who makes difficult real-world decisions of the kind President George W. Bush has made.  By refusing even to answer the war question, Senator Kerry showed himself unfit ever to be President of the United States.

That cowardice was shown that same week in the Senate vote to fund American troops and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Kerry and fellow Democratic presidential contender Senator John Edwards (D.-S.C.) both voted approval for President Bush to go into the war in Iraq so that they could stand alongside him in victory. Now, with our troops committed in the field, both voted to strip support out from under our soldiers as a way of winning Leftist anti-war voters.

(Among “non-candidates” voting Yes to this funding was Senator Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.).  She will be the featured speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s upcoming Jefferson-Jackson dinner, and she will ignore the Politically Incorrect naming of this annual banquet after two slave owners who happened to be founders of the Democratic Party.)

Senator Lieberman, too, has found himself pulled to the Left.  Months ago he preached morality and a de-emphasis on new, big government social programs. Today he proposes giving citizenship to illegal aliens and, like all his fellow class-warfare Democrats, massive new taxes on “the rich.”  (His home state Connecticut has the highest proportion of “rich” people in America, along with a new special tax on “millionaires.” He wants heavier taxes that will hit his own state hardest.)

Both Lieberman and General Wesley Clark days ago declared that they would not even participate in the Iowa caucases. Neither has strong support or organization in this agri-welfare state, and both are bound to lose. By not running, both hope to minimize the effect of the loss in a battleground where either Dean and his zealots or the candidate from Missouri next door, former House Majority/Minority Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt will likely emerge victorious.

Iowa is a “must win” for Gephardt, most pundits say, just as New Hampshire is for Kerry.  If Dean wins both, his momentum going into primaries such as South Carolina could prove unstoppable. 

Thus far the scheme of the White Master overseers of the Democratic Party Plantation has been to stop Rev. Al Sharpton from running strong in South Carolina, the first primary with a sizable African-American vote.  Their pawn to do this by siphoning away his votes is former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, a black woman. This divide-and-conquer tactic to minimize African-American clout has worked, polls showing Sharpton with 6 percent support, Moseley-Braun with 5 percent.  If coalesced, this would add up to 11 percent support, roughly the same support for Lieberman or Kerry.  Why do African-Americans continue to support a party that exploits, betrays and backstabs them again and again?

South Carolina is where the relatively-conservative Lieberman has chosen to make his do-or-die stand, to bet his chips.  It is therefore for him, as for Senator Edwards from neighboring North Carolina, a “must win” state. But why should this matter, since Republicans are certain to carry South Carolina in November 2004, where retiring Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings will also be replaced by a Republican?

In 2000 the Democratic ticket failed to carry a single Southern state, even though the “solid South” was the pillar upon which FDR’s New Deal was built (and which explains why this ultra-liberal President had so little bad to say about the racial segregation his fellow Democrats imposed).  Al Gore in 2000 failed even to carry Bill Clinton’s Arkansas or his own home state of Tennessee, where those who knew Gore best voted solidly against him.

Another retiring Southern Democrat, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, this week pointed to a shrinking Democratic base – now only 32 percent of voters – and blamed his party’s decline on its drift farther and farther to the Left.

It is easy to understand the raging anger, frustration and hatred felt by Leftist Democrats. They see their party spiraling down the garbage disposal of history, and the more they turn Leftward the faster it sinks. They see the rapid economic recovery that will deprive them of this pocketbook issue against Bush in 2004.  They see support for the Iraq intervention holding steady and President Bush rising again in popularity polls.

Democrats must know, too, that their candidates take a near-suicidal risk by turning against the war.  What if Saddam Hussein is caught or killed?  What if weapons of mass destruction are found there?  What if troops die in a Tet-like attack after Democrats are on record voting to withdraw their support?  Even if you are on the “right” side, what will Americans think of any Democratic candidate who bets against the United States – who can become a winner on this issue only if his own country and its soldiers lose?

And this loss of Democratic power may be permanent.  Old folks may still vote Democratic, although those who remember FDR are now dying off at more than 1,000 per day. But young people are politically to the right of their Left-wing professors. A Harvard University Institute of Politics poll published this week reveals Bush approval of 61 percent among college students, approval higher than he has in the general population. The best and brightest of the upcoming generation tend to be Republican or Libertarian, not socialists nor Democrats.  The future is moving both forward and rightward.

In a nation where congressional representation follows population, it must also terrify Democrats to see states they control in contraction, losing population and seats in Congress.  States that tend to vote Republican, by contrast, are among those with the fastest population growth as people have voted with their feet to flee, e.g., socialist California for freer Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

And imagine the fear inside Democrats to see the people of Democrat-controlled California rise up in a recall vote and throw out Democratic Governor Gray Davis, with more than 61 percent of voters casting their votes for Republicans. A third of registered Democrats voted to oust their Democratic governor, and roughly a third of Hispanic voters rejected Democratic Hispanic Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante in favor of the winner Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“The public is operationally progressive and rhetorically conservative,” said Bill Clinton in the TAP interview.  “The more they believe that you’re careful with tax money and responsible in the way you run the programs and require responsibility from citizens, the more the public in general is willing to be liberal in the expenditure of tax money.”

But neither Gray Davis nor Democrats holding power in other states have been careful with tax money.  They have spent, in the poetic phrase of Los Angeles radio talk host Bill Handel, “like drunken whores.”  They have created huge deficits and now want heavy new taxes to eat up every penny returned to taxpayers through cuts by the Federal Government. 

In California, during Davis’s stewardship the population rose a bit more than 20 percent while Democrats boosted government spending by 40 percent.  When companies and the prosperous fled the state to escape confiscatory taxation, and when the Silicon Valley high tech boom went bust, government dependence on disproportionately taxing the rich led to empty government coffers and a deficit exceeding $38 billion.  Democrats papered over this gigantic hole in the budget by issuing illegal bonds and bookkeeping gimmicks. They are now preparing to blame the new Republican governor for the chaos about to come.

Clinton, truth be told, was scarcely better. The “Clinton Prosperity,” it is now clear, was a delusion generated almost entirely by a combination of two things.  One was lunacy and malfeasance, a bubble of paper wealth conjured by high tech tulip-frenzy-like speculation (which for a time gave Amazon.com twice the stock value of Sears!) and Democrat-connected corporations such as Enron (of whose political largesse Gray Davis was the single biggest recipient of either political party) and their deceptive bookkeeping. 

The other key to the “Clinton Prosperity” was the wild and rapid squandering of the “peace dividend” earned by Republican Presidents’ (Ronald Reagan and George Bush) victories in the Cold War. Clinton gutted the military, throwing a lavish 7-year-long orgy of spending with the proceeds. This not only depleted America’s wealth and security, and opened the way for 9-11, but Clinton’s sudden defense spending cuts also devastated regions with heavy defense-related industries such as Southern California. Today’s deficits are almost entirely the fault of President Clinton’s and the Democratic Party’s profligacy, not the relatively meager tax cuts of President Bush.

“The more the public believes the Democrats can be trusted with the national security of America, to protect and defend the country against terror and weapons of mass destruction,” Clinton told TAP, “the more free they are emotionally to think about the other issues.”

Thus spoke the man who as president at least twice turned down offers by African nations to turn Osama bin Laden over to the United States.  Thus spoke the same President William Jefferson Clinton whose limp-wristed response to attacks – including the Mogadishu massacre of American peacekeepers and the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center – persuaded bin Laden and others that America was a “paper tiger” that would collapse if relentlessly attacked.

But imagine the frustration of Leftist Democrats who see Bill Clinton as a giant compared to the nine dwarves from whom they must now pick a presidential candidate for 2004.

Sharpton and Braun?  One is a megalomaniacal demagogue, the other a potentially corrupt incompetent.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who wants to replace the Department of Defense with a Department of Peace?  He is a joke and a toupe-wearing troll.  Senator Lieberman? This 2000 Vice Presidential candidate is intelligent, competent, but a virtual Republican and a supporter of Israel….and you know how much the Left now hates Israel….ever since it turned from a socialist Laborite country into a religious country. 

Senator Edwards? He’s a pretty boy owned lock-stock-and-barrel by the trial lawyers. Congressman Gephardt? He’s an over-the-hill boy who looks like a love child of Howdy Doody, and he’s totally in the pocket of organized labor.  Senator Kerry? He’s become a pompous, indecisive weenie who now waffles on the war and almost everything else, and his millionairess wife is squeezing his pursestrings.

How about General Wesley Clark, for whom The American Prospect claims many Republicans have warm feelings? Republicans should, because until 2002 Clark was giving videotaped pro-Bush speeches in praise of the current Administration. If he is on the 2004 Democratic ticket, you will see lots of his statements in TV ads saying how much America “needs” George Bush.  This will give voters a choice – to decide whether Clark is a lying opportunist with no sincere beliefs or values, or is so changeable that he might turncoat and become a Republican (the party that was his first love) again if elected President.  On the Democratic ticket Clark could become the strongest unwilling ad spokesman for re-electing President Bush.

Howard Dean, in the eyes of Lefties, at least bet against the Iraq War from the get-go. He is fashionably anti-Israel (or as he put it, “even-handed” between Israel and the Palestinians – but “many” Israeli settlements must be torn down immediately). He does have quirks, such as support for gun rights like other Vermonters….but, hey, the gun issue is now sub rosa, having killed Al Gore in West Virginia in 2000 and cost him the election. And he is passionate, albeit in a nasty, pugilistic way.

Dean also this week defended partial birth abortions and has in the past fought to let 12-year-olds get abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent, but Medical Doctor Howard Dean has refused to say whether he ever performed abortions himself.

Dean is a new McGovern, a new Dukakis, who by dragging the Democratic Party to the Left is pulling it to its doom.  He has already gone too far Left in seeking the nomination to be able to find his way credibly back to the Center.  President Bush has deftly tiptoed left to occupy the center ground Democrats have abandoned, and they will not now be able to push him off it.  Yes, it is easy to understand their hatred and frustration at being outsmarted by this beloved leader they see as a dim-witted cowboy.

But Bill and Hillary Clinton are not particularly mad or sad.  They need a Democratic loss in 2004 if Hillary is to have an open shot against a non-incumbent in 2008. The election next year will defeat and discredit virtually all of her potential rivals five years from now. It will be her party and she can cry – or laugh – if she wants to. She will become sole owner of a fixer-upper, broken down Democratic Party that she can rebuild to her exact specifications.  She learned how to do this from the Old Trickster himself, her husband, but this is a secret Bill did not share with The American Prospect.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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