Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nixon when we need him

I’ve been thinking about what purpose this current interminable campaign for president serves. No other nation in the world holds such a protracted, financially bloated circus for the right to lead. Are the 24 hour news networks so desperate for programming that every candidate’s move and whether they fart after they dine becomes the next line of scrolling text below the latest disaster or mass murder on the screen?

What purpose does it serve to hold debates with eight candidates on both the Democrat and Republican sides, when anyone with any experience following politics knows that at best, two, or maybe three candidates on either side, have a legitimate chance to win. I’m not sure that most casual voters could name more than one, or maybe, two candidates on either side. If pressed, they even might have a hard time knowing, for instance that Hillary Clinton is a Democrat and that Rudy Giuliani is a Republican.

In our recent political past, campaigns traditionally ramped up just after Labor Day, the year prior to November’s presidential vote. This year, candidates have been battling it out and visiting the key primary and caucus states since early 2007.

Personally, I think some of the most interesting candidates, are the ones towards the back of the pack. On the Democrat side, Dennis Kucinich is the most outspoken about bringing our troops home from Iraq. To those on the right, he’s just a “kook,” and he might be viewed by some on the left similarly. In reality, Kucinich is a principled candidate that in person is charismatic and very persuasive. Unfortunately, he’s short and has big ears, so he comes across less than telegenic. Actually, that theory is somewhat dubious when you consider Hillary, who is shrill and often comes across terribly on TV, or Giuliani, who is just plan “ghoulish” looking.

Speaking of television, Barack Obama has fully embraced the reality that politics is nothing more than entertainment on crack. The candidate that charges for access, has enlisted Oprah to wipe his ass and push his candidacy forward with all the brain-addled mothers and Wal-Mart shoppers of America.

Oprah is the personification of today’s entertainment-saturated culture. An African-American drama queen, no minority entertainer has so captivated white America like she has. All a book, movie, or new pop psychology theory needs to break it nationally, is an endorsement from the maven of mothers everywhere. It will be interesting if the candidate that charges for access gets the same bump politically, from Oprah's stamp of approval.

I can’t think of anyone that personifies our cult of celebrity and entertainment better than Oprah. Corporate America has no better shill for their products than the queen of afternoon programming. In our current cultural milieu; apparently all it takes is savvy marketing and pulling at women’s heartstrings to build an entertainment empire. Oprah’s kingdom is worth in excess of $1 billion.

Recently, I read an old Rolling Stone article written by the late Hunter S. Thompson, penned during the nightmarish 2004 campaign for emperor.

Few saw politics in quite the way that Thompson did. Thompson’s ability to write about the candidates, with irreverence, yet still accurately capturing the hubris, lust for power and blood sport that is the race for the American presidency, always made Thompson essential reading.

His article made me reflect back on Richard Nixon, a candidate that few on the left ever lionize.

Thompson wrote that, Nixon “looks like a flaming liberal today, compared to a golem like George Bush. Indeed. Where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?

If Nixon were running for president today, he would be seen as a "liberal" candidate, and he would probably win. He was a crook and a bungler, but what the hell? Nixon was a barrel of laughs compared to this gang of thugs from the Halliburton petroleum organization who are running the White House today -- and who will be running it this time next year, if we (the once-proud, once-loved and widely respected "American people") don't rise up like wounded warriors and whack those lying petroleum pimps out of the White House on November 2nd.

Nixon hated running for president during football season, but he did it anyway. Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for -- but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him.

You bet. Richard Nixon would be my Man. He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with. He would wear a silk sweat suit and pull a stocking down over his face so nobody could recognize him. Then we would get in a cab and cruise down to the Watergate Hotel, just for laughs.”

It’s a sad day in American politics when our current slate of hacks and wannabes makes one wax nostalgic for “ole” Nixon. But, I think that’s where we’re at.

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