Friday, July 30, 2004

Meanwhile, Back Home…

Now that the Democrats have finished celebrating the Vietnam war, they may want to catch up with what’s been going on at home. For example, New York’s Governor Pataki just vetoed a minimum wage of $7.15. That is the same as the pittance promised by Kerry and Edwards. But New York is supposed to be a blue-blue state, with a margin for the Democrats in the double digits. If they can’t deliver even those pennies, how would they deliver on the goodies that Kerry tagged onto his acceptance speech?

Indeed, how come we have a Republican governor, a Republican state senate and a Republican mayor? Why can’t a Democratic assembly and a Democratic city council override them, on life and death issues? And if they can’t, how will they turn out the majorities they will need in November?

Yes, Kerry cleared up one problem. He proved he could deliver a rousing speech -- that he could “look presidential,” also likable, brave, clean and reverent, like his boy scout den-mother -- just as belligerent as Bush but honest and intelligent as well. The pundits were carried away -- even David Brooks called it a good Republican speech. The Bushes will be fighting back -- and they fight dirty. Two weeks ago, it was reported that they had tracked down a big terrorist in Pakistan -- and sure enough, they timed the announcement for Kerry’s day yesterday. There will be more -- there are scary times ahead. And work to be done.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Roll Call

 When the roll was called, a score of delegates refused to make it unanimous. They voted for Kucinich, though Kucinich himself pleaded with them to give in. They reminded him that they were all pledged to end this illegal war. That notion was erased from the platform and forbidden on stage, but whenever the ban was broken, the applause meter showed that it was the real view of the majority.

Kerry himself arrived with two boatloads of warriors to relive the glory of combat in Vietnam. Nominating him, Edwards said “John and I have this messge for Al Queda and the terrorists: You cannot run, you cannot hide, we will destroy you.  Guess who that sounds like -- is meant to sound like. In an Op-Ed in the Times today, Barbara Ehrenreich calls for a feminist machismo -- for the U.S. to challenge discrimination against women all over the world.

Which reminds us that we are far from having achieved gender equality here. The pundits went gushy over the line in the keynote address about there being only one America. Edwards repeated that there are two: the rich and the rest of us. Jesse Jackson reminded us that there are many Americas, in that rhyming patter that once rallied millions to the polls. Then Al Sharpton turned loose. To the argument that blacks need to offer some votes to the other side, he said their votes had been dipped in the blood of martyrs, and were not to be traded. Speaking of the five-to-four division on the Supreme Court, he said, if this crowd had controlled the court 50 years ago, Clarence Thomas would never have got to college. And after emancipation, slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule. They didn’t get that 40 acres, they didn’t get the mule, so he reckoned they’d have to ride this Democratic donkey for as far it would go.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Infomercial

Dan Rather explained why the ratings were low -- the convention was a four-day infomercial. Every minute was scripted - every line vetted to peddle the product. So there would be no division, no contest. The only surprise was how disciplined the performance would turn out. There was Howard Dean, declaring that the whole party was now one Democratic wing -- a strange bird indeed. There was the party platform, calling for guns and SUV’s and war without end. There was the keynote speaker -- no, the real keynote speaker was Bill Clinton, who directed the show. There was the designated keynoter, denying that he was an African-American, saying there were no Afro or Latino or Asian Americans any more - only Americans. That of course is an argument against affirmative action. Barack Obama came close to making that argument -- calling on poor mothers to bring their kids up right. He’s an attractive figure, already being talked of as a rising star, which reminds me of Colin Powell -- no overriding passion for peace and justice.

The infomercial was heavily infused with tributes to our brave warriors, beginning with Kerry himself. Again and again we were reminded of their heroism -- never about the crimes of even a few bad apples. The word torture was never heard -- nor did anybody count the Iraqi dead. But the real war continued to make the evening news, if not the convention.

It should be said that there was one departure from the Clinton script. That was by Ted Kennedy,  reminding us that the New Deal gave us minimum wage, overtime pay, Social Security, the right to organize, public housing and much more -- all things now under fire -- all things that people will continue to fight for.

Whose Party?

It was such a winning day for the Democrats that the Bush squad on Fox TV practically conceded the election. So did David Brooks on NPR. But the media saluted, not the next president but the last one. The Post sums it up with Bill Clinton shouting ”IT’S MY PARTY.” There’s enough truth there for me to play party pooper. 

Look, the seizure of power by Bush has brought so much grief that we simply have to defeat him. But let’s not glorify what went before. Clinton and Gore came to New York 12 years ago as New Democrats, pledged to end welfare as we knew it and cut out that taxing and spending, and to be tough on crime. On the way, the governor stopped in Little Rock to execute a man with half a brain, who asked a keeper to save his pie for breakfast. Clinton also found a pretext to insult Jesse Jackson on his home turf. The myth says he won by pitching to the Reagan Democrats, but in truth he ran quite badly -- worse in fact than Michael Dukakis. He squeaked through only because late in the campaign he picked up the cause of universal health care. Then he turned it over to Hillary, and it was goodbye care, hello HMO’s. The Democrats promptly lost Congress, and state houses and city halls across the land.

New Yorkers have special reason to remember the Clinton years: We are still breathing illegal fumes from that coal plant in Ohio that he swore would never open. Jobs? He exported jobs, through Nafta. He achieved the repeal of Aid to Families With Dependent Childreni, and at the end he was toying with privatizing Social Security. There is more -- much more - but enough. It had to be said, to clear up our undersstanding of the hard road ahead. But let it not spoil our enjoyment at the prospect of getting rid of George Dubya. 

Monday, July 26, 2004

Global Warming

 Now for the good news -- great news. A year ago, we detected signs of a climate shift. The likes of Ann Coulter were fading off the best-seller list, and being replaced by the likes of Michael Moore. Today, we’ve reached a new level -- people are saying out loud, hey, this Bush gang can be beat -- WILL be beat, in November. And the media pack have begun to believe it -- you can tell. USA Today just scrapped a column sent them by Coulter from Boston -- said it wasn’t funny,  just too stupid to print. She said they must not have been reading her stuff before.

The first wire dispatch from the convention led off with a complaint that there were not enough toilets for all the media there. They’ll have to flush it somewhere -- and we’ll be getting all of it. This is the home of the New York Times. It has assured us that nothing significant would happen at the convention, but no paper will tell us so at greater length. In an editorial Sunday, it expressed pleasure that the peace avocates had, as it says, thrown in the towel. The party platform will say, "People of goodwill disagree about whether America should have gone to war." Even the Times winced at this: "We support the American people’s freedom to choose whatever cars, SUV’s, minivans and trucks they choose." Talk about Bush Lite -- this is Bush heavy.

It is also a triumph for the Clinton crowd. They came in 12 years ago as Reagan Lite and did more harm than Reagan in a number of ways . But the second Bush turned out to be worse than any of us could imagine. Now the Democrats have chosen, in Kerry and Edwards, a pair of candidates far better looking than Bush and Cheney -- how could they not be? -- and offering hardly any target at all for the Bushwackers. It’s not the choice we ought to have -- but the likelihood that Bush is headed for defeat should brighten our day.