“People Try To Put Us D-D-Down...”
It verges on a Brooksian/Friedman-ic “man-on-the-street run-in”-slash-epiphany, but I'll be damned if a chance encounter with an old friend on a Brooklyn street one recent morning didn't clear up a riddle that I'd desperately been trying to get a handle on.
I've been stewing—no...BOILING ACTUALLY over Senator Clinton's super-Isoceles triangulating of late in her...let's be real about it...de-facto endorsement of the dangerously flawed John McCain as a wedge to pump herself up against Barack Obama in terms of foreign policy/emergency readiness.
You can spin it until you screw yourself into the ground like a lead fencepost, but her condescending, haughty little bit of tough rhetoric is a rare to the level of never-before-seen little piece of intra-party knee-capping. She has sidled up to a pitchfork-clutching McCain and effectively posed for some sort of twisted “American Gothic” image of red, white, and blue readiness.
It's ugly. Say what you want, Senator Clinton about your experience in terms of Senate tenure, or your eight years of close proximity to the mightiest, Frankenstein's lab-grade “lever of power” and how that may have rubbed off on you positively, but for you to sing a hosanna of the GOP standard-bearer and pair yourself with him against a fellow Dem running for President isn't tough politics.
It's a mercenary mind-fuck manipulation that would make Machiavelli moan.
To slot the “I-will-do-anything-and-say-anything-and-cozy-up-to-the-arrow-tailed-devil-himself-to-gain-the-approval-of-whoever-matters” McCain ahead of her fellow (and leading) Democrat Senator Obama in terms of ability to lead?
Well...I was frankly left dumbfounded by that tack. I'm sure that however things turn out, this incident will be downplayed with a hearty laugh in a post-campaign interview, along with a knowing “Well, you know how things get during the campaign season...” on her part.
But it took my friend S.M. who I ran into on Utica Avenue while getting coffee to break it down—the crux of this supremely odd bed-fellowing —as only a hard-ass Brooklynite can...
We stood there in the chill air exchanging pleasantries and noting the Obama posters still up all over the neighborhood when the discussion turned to politics. S.M. works in New York radio as I do on occasion and has a pretty keen political ear, so when he laid things out about the key flash-point between the Clinton and Obama camps and their supporters, it hit me like a bolt from the blue. He started out on his own disgust about the McCain play—admittedly a canny one by Sen. Clinton when you strip away it's disingenuousness, and then went into depth on a theory that has been laid out in more general form in other places.
“See, McCain's an old man. He's Bob Dole minus the Grecian Formula. You've gotta remember though—Dole is from almost 20 years ago. He's the last one of those World War II / Korean Conflict generation guys to run for president and the last one who ever will. Bush's daddy is the last one to serve from that crew. Staring with Truman, then Ike, almost MacArthur, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and finally Bush the First—all those guys were from that certain generation where the wars were what you call 'just' and idealized. Dole's run ended that generation's day in the sun.
The next generation's turn in the chair—the Vietnam crew—kicked off with Bill Clinton, and dead-to-rights shoulda gone on with Gore. But instead, that generation's time was picked up with Dubya. Two terms.
And here's where the conflict comes...
Here we are at the end of Bush's run in 2008, and he's fucked things up so bad along with his party that the Dems should take this easily. It should be a piece of cake. But if you look at the two Dems—Clinton and Obama, there's a big difference between the two of 'em. She's a continuation of that Vietnam-age kid who was either down with the war like Tom Cruise in the first half of “Born On The Fourth Of July” or stickin' flowers in gun barrels listenin' to Country Joe & The Fish. Either way, when that bunch got older, they became part of the 'establishment' that runs so much of the government. Obama though, is a skip-over of that generation. He's 46. 15-20 years younger than that crowd. He couldn't serve in Vietnam—he was too young. If he wins, he'd end a really, really brief run of her people—that Vietnam-age crowd—being in charge. And if he did well in office, he could prematurely “Bob Dole” that whole generation of leaders. People'd keep lookin' to his generation and beyond for presidents, leaving her crew to the bureaucracy.
You think that sits well with her? With them? They only get two bites at the apple and then its AARP time? Shit, they don't think they've had enough time in the captain's chair. And they'll be damned if some 'kid' is gonna come along and 'cheat' 'em outta their rightful time of runnin' things. So of course she's gonna pair off with the other guy from that time—and that guy ain't Barack.”
S.M.'s little rundown brought things into stark relief for me. He's absolutely right. The Vietnam generation's had a comparatively brief time with its hand on the reins when you look at their WWII/Korea predecessors. They traded in the tie-dye, fringe, body paint and patchouli for J. Press and Donna Karan suits, pearls and sensible shoes. They grew up. They had babies, bought homes, took their degrees and went into business and politics. The world's success curve had accelerated drastically. Power came quicker as the generation of Nazi-fighters and cold-warriors increasingly became seen as anachronisms—as relics of a 33 1/3 RPM world now laser-scanning zeroes and ones to play power's tune.
The Clinton/Vietnam-age crew looked at their forebears and probably envisioned a near-equal time at the top. That entire bunch, crossing party lines and encompassing the Bidens, Richardsons, McCains and all the rest of those now-familiar faces that seemed so fresh in the Alex P. Keaton eighties grew comfortable and confident in their tenure at the top—but unfortunately forgot one thing...
“The world's success curve had accelerated drastically.”
The more languid pace of the political world's turning, the patrician Beltway of the Nazi-fighters and cold-warriors was no more. And when you add the eight abysmal years of the Bush un-presidency that brought us Iraq, a juilienned constitution and a gut-shot economy, we have the spectacle of the American people running 180º degrees away, fast and hard towards the something else. The something different.
The something new.
Thus, the infuriating—for that Vietnam generation—spectre of presidential power slipping away from them and relegating their sphere of influence to the less-glamorous backwaters of congress and policy wonkery.
It wasn't supposed to go like this. It short-circuits a grand plan—throws the lights on at the party way before “last call”.
And it has touched off what amounts to a full-scale generational war within the Democratic party. A Democratic party so desperate for a grab at the brass ring that its long-time keepers will do whatever it takes to be the ones who sip the first post-Bush nectar of presidential power.
Whatever it takes.
Even if it means the ultimate triangulation/two-cushion trick shot—where the lines are drawn generationally first, and then party-wise to get at the highest office in the land. “Whatever it takes...” to hold off those damned, “meddling kids”
Thus the McCain “play”. A bare-knuckled gambit deigned to keep power in the hands of a group of people who feel they've more than paid their dues and are absolutely, positively not ready for the next folks in line to take over. And God forbid those next folks actually do take over, govern well and manage to rally a younger voter base for more than one election cycle. An entire decade could go by with the new-jacks acquiring seasoning and the ex-hippies growing ever more “Dole”-ish in voters eyes.
It comes down to legacy—What did you leave in your wake? If your legacy is light because you either didn't do anything great, or you feel you didn't have enough time to do anything great, you're going to fight like hell, even if it means scorching the earth and calling that next leadership wave a bunch of grasping, unready fools—to enable your getting back into the saddle and riding that horse until you either get where you need to go—or until that horse fucking drops.
“What're you doing here? You're early. Wait your turn. We've got this.”
Then consider the rich irony of the Clinton generation's ascendancy being triggered in large part by their youthful disgust at the previous generation's gross mishandling of the Vietnam War. A war where their contemporaries were shipped and ripped to shreds physically and mentally.
And weigh that against today's tail-end and post-boomer wave's potential ascendancy being trggered in large part by the Bush/Vietnam generation's gross mishandling of the war in Iraq. A war where their contemporaries were also shipped and ripped to shreds—physically and mentally.
My, how the worm turns. And then, in a surreal moment...it begins to eat its own tail. Does it just draw a bit of blood and stop—or does it keep on chewing and die—or stranger yet, does it blindly...stupidly chomp along until it simply disappears into itself?
Ether way, it's a pretty grisly scenario. But it's just a matter of degree, really. Common sense and knowing when to stop. Wounded, crippled or dead. The destinies are all controllable ones. I'd like to think sanity would prevail here...but hubris and ego are powerful drugs. They bend the mind and grind the aforementioned “common sense” to coarse dust. Which means I guess, that we're not done with this insanity. Not just yet. We asked the question about John McCain recently—“What Price The Quest?”...and here we sit a heartbeat later, forced to ask the same damn question of a Democratic candidate who should know better—who does know better. What Price The Quest, indeed.
I guess it's toe-tappingly fitting that the call from the one-time flower children to the Obama camp is actually the refrain from an old “Summer Of Love” jam.
“Are You Experienced?”
Catchy damned tune, that.
But you know how the radio is. One minute they're playing “your” song...
And the next thing you know, well...