So many outrageous events, so little time to comment on them all.
Begin with the most outrageous, the move by Israel to cut off power supplies to the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, virtually all of them refugees living in squalid camps in the most densely populated piece of real estate in the world. This has meant suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, suffering of a kind that prompted the United Nations Security Council to attempt to pass a resolution condemning Israel for its “collective punishment.” And once again, predictably, the United States has blocked this condemnation in order to protect its client state, Israel, from universal condemnation. This has in turn led the Gaza government, Hamas, or some of its more militant factions, to blow up the wall erected to keep the people of Gaza in a virtual prison, allowing thousands to rush into Egypt to buy desperately needed supplies.
No doubt the prison will soon be closed again, however. And the people of Gaza will be caged like dogs once again, dependent on their Israelis occupiers for scraps of food and fuel which can be squeezed or opened at will, just to see if the torture can get them to finally, and forever repudiate the duly-elected Hamas leaders who have had the temerity to stand up against their oppressors.
And when the imprisonment is complete once again, who among the candidates vying to be the next President will protest this slow strangulation of an entire people? One thing we can be sure of: it won’t be Hillary Clinton. And it is not only that the Senator from New York is so beholden to the powerful pro-Israel forces in her “home” state. No, there is a disquieting pattern beginning to emerge in the Clintonesque behavior of this election season. And that pattern is this: the Clintons—both of them it seems are cut from the same cloth—are willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. If it means sacrificing the Gazans to the local political winds, so be it. If it means playing up the attacks on Barack Obama to force him to “act black”, so be it. What this brings to mind is not just the sense of a Macbethian pair determined to seek and hold power, but the feeling that this couple shares one other trait: both are tone-deaf when it comes to limits, to noblesse, to a sense of rightness or proportion. It is as if despite the Yale Law School polish, both still act as if they are wearing manure-covered shoes. Or perhaps that is being unfair to farmers. It’s more as if neither has ever learned how to hold a fork, or smile naturally, or make a graceful exit. Indeed, the entire notion of grace seems absent from their repertoire. In the arena in which they choose to fight, anything goes: from taking advantage of insider financial knowledge to shtupping the White House intern in the coat room to playing the race card with a fellow Democratic aspirant to the presidency.
I have begun to think this is at the root of the “high negatives” that Hillary has always garnered. People do not like her, we are told, always with the notion that somehow she’s too “mannish,” i.e. aggressive. But it’s not only that. It’s that we sense something both callow and callous about her. One gets the sense that she would stoop to any depth to get the nomination—vote for the Iraq war, kiss the next baby, weep in public, stifle her natural laughter, minimize the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr—all without any sense of having misstepped.
This is not simply a question of breeding, either. George W. Bush has the same aura. Despite the distinguished dynasty from which he derives, the President is a farting, lying, bullying, Uriah Heep of a man, brooking no apparent restraint on his vengeful instincts and lust for power. This was brought out more forcefully than ever with a recent report, “Key False Statements,” from the Center for Public Integrity. That report noted in chapter and verse the astonishing number of outright lies and distortions the Bush Administration advanced in preparing the American public for war with Iraq. No less than 935 false statements about Iraq’s WMDs and its ties to Al Quaeda were listed in the report, starting as early as August 26, 2002 when Vice President Cheney asserted “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” And George W. Bush led the pack as the Liar-in-Chief with no less than 232 false public statements between 2001 and 2003, and an additional 28 false statements about Iraq’s supposed links to Al-Quaeda. And yet, all along there have been pundits like David Brooks of the NY Times extolling our 43rd President for his candor, his straight talk. He might not be a great intellect, these pooh-bahs of public opinion maintained, but he talks from his gut; he tells it to you straight. Straight indeed. The most accomplished liar ever to sit in the White House, a draft-dodger, torturer, election thief, compiler of the greatest deficits in the nation’s history, enabler of genocide, destroyer of republics, our own King George.
What can one conclude? I don’t know. Perhaps only this: Don’t follow leaders. And watch those parking meters.