FROM THE ARCHIVES
Endorsement for President, 1992
by William Johnney
October 13, 2008. The endorsement reprinted below was scribed in May 1992 for that summer's issue of The New Combat.
It was both unplanned and, in light of our limited readership, a bit preposterous to opine as to whom the Democrats should nominate. But a nagging fear and trembling had begun to prick that winter, as the primaries got underway, and then the riots of April in Los Angeles had set the world afire anew.
Democrats sixteen years ago, as today, were desperate to boot the GOP from the White House. Reagan in the end hadn't been much of a Reaganite, but his goons had behaved badly in other people's countries, and playing with matches had singed the Constitution. Moreover, the shocking collapse of the Soviet Union was still news and had visions of Peace Dividends dancing in people's heads. The Realpolitik of papa George Bush and the class war of Reaganomics, on autopilot, had to go.
But who would bell the cat? Polls in 1991, as primary filings were due, had Bush riding high on declared victory in the Gulf War -- so high as to discourage the leading Donkeys from
entering the race.
Into that vacuum flowed former California governor Jerry Brown, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, Iowa senator Tom Harkin, Nebraska senator Robert Kerrey, Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas, and Virginia governor Douglas Wilder.
As the New York primary of April 7 drew near, the field had narrowed to the natty and witty Brown with his bag of business- like New Age ideas, and Clinton, whose Democratic Leadership Council had taken hold of the party's reins from a hapless motley of old guard Universalists, still loyal to the Kennedys and FDR, and angry young Identity-Politickers, led by post-60s neo-feminists targeting the white male hegemony.
The DLC notion was to pour the oil of Southern Moderation upon these troubled waters, in an effort to launch a ticket that might navigate the Electoral College without running aground. Surely, after twelve years of Reaganite idiocy and abuse, with the war-weary world on fire anew, surely this time the Donkeys could not lose ...
AS WE GO to press, George Bush is strolling through the ruins of south-central Los Angeles.
Where the death and destruction began is difficult to say. On Foothill and Osborne? In a liquor store on Normandie Avenue? Or a windowless jury room forty miles north? In police academies across the country? In the ghetto?
Does it mean anything that six days before the incredible verdicts came down, igniting the worst riots in California since 1965, an act of capital punishment was committed in California for the first time since 1967? Or that six days later the Supreme Court blithely shat upon the great writ of habeus corpus?
Does it mean anything when George Bush, the "wimp" carried through election on Willie Horton's back, sweeps his outstretched arm over Los Angeles and promises to "keep on working to create an environment of understanding and tolerance"? Or when the man who as Vice President helped lead an illegal war shakes his fist at the fallen angels of L.A. and cries, "I make no apology for the rule of law or the requirement to live by it"?
What does "rule of law" mean when the convictions of North
and Poindexter are overruled by a Reaganite judge, and when the beating of Rodney King is not a crime?
These are simple-minded, perhaps stupefied, but not rhetorical questions. For it is difficult as Los Angeles smolders to say if anything means much at all. It is difficult to look out the window
and make any distinctions at all. The country seems a wide,
swiftly flowing sewer, from Washington D.C. to Simi Valley.
We are up to our necks in it.
Outside the street's on fire in a real death waltz
Between what's flesh and what's fantasy
And the poets down here don't write nothin' at all
They just stand back and let it all be
A LOCAL POET, Eileen Myles, is running for president. During
the frenzy of the New York primary, as the major candidates were stretching around Manhattan giving speeches and ducking eggs,
Ms Myles boldly proposed the abolition of the income tax, in favor
of a tax on wealth itself:
"If you were to tax holdings -- you can also call it assets, a capital assets tax -- if you taxed assets at one percent, that's all, then you would pay off the national debt in a year and a half."
Brava, it remains to work out the details. But is Eileen really serious? She signed her latest mailing with the slogan Stay Outside.
Jerry Brown's Flat 13% plus VAT 13% tax idea was front page news during the frenzy. Inspired by a Stanford economist named Hall, it relied, like Reaganomics, on trickle-down and patriotic capitalists to grow the economy and avoid national bankruptcy. Professor Hall rejected the idea as "more regressive" than his own.
Yet The Village Voice, an organ of correct progress, encouraged its readers to vote for Mr Brown. The Voice? Singing "Feed the Rich, there'll be plenty of leftovers?"
Ah, but perhaps the editors weren't taking Jerry seriously. They endorsed him with the slogan Shock the System!
As Primary Day grew near, posters appeared on the streets of the Lower East Side, pasted up by the local anarchist/squatter coalition. This group had gained attention in 1988, when it tweaked the Police Department's nose, provoking New York's Finest to a six-hour nocturnal rampage through the neighborhood: the Tompkins Square police riot.
For a time the anarchists basked in a fine notoriety, but then became caricatures, useful for discrediting the idea and practice of alternative housing. No one except the police, the FBI, real estate professionals and the Times takes them seriously.
The slogan on their latest posters: Don't Vote -- Revolt!
AS THE MILLENNIUM turned a thousand years ago, nearly everyone was a farmer or a farmer's helper, residing within a certainty so certain that he probably never formulated it: the civilization was good, in this basic respect: it seemed perpetual.
As long as the earth itself lasted, with rain cycles, seasons, birds and bees, the civilization would endure. Evil resided in particular persons, maybe peoples, or in devilish gods. Bad people could be stopped, or at least opposed, and even Satan could be distinguished as Other and thus opposed. The goodness of the way of life was unquestionable. Like the soil underfoot, it was there to work with
and to worship -- and the word civilization did not come to haunt English until the late 18th century.
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap
It's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
Most of us now realize as children that our world along the way lost its basic goodness. The Scientific Civilization looks nothing like
a perpetual motion machine. It is designed to consume rather than preserve itself, it is consuming itself, and Consumerism is the religion shouted harshly from every telescreen, which we blas- pheme, as individuals, upon pain of ignominy, poverty, despair, sickness, waste, death, and embarassment.
The most important generation gap ever may be the one that today separates people who as children imagined themselves to be
part of a perpetual cosmos from people who felt early in life that
their world was not only illogical and mass murderous, but suicidal.
Reactions to this grim apprehension are many: the splendor of pathological types that populate our society and imaginations.
Faustians participate religiously in the consuming self- consumption, with the nihilist's faith that endings are beginnings and destruction creative. Damn the torpedoes and evidence to the contrary -- Business as Usual!
Today's Faustians challenge the heavens by building skyscrapers that will never have tenants. They burn the midnight oil and bust their humps, devoted to the task of vivisecting companies in which people actually labor and produce wealth and provide for their families.
Consumers go along rather blamelessly for the ride. Propelled
by Nationalism and Familyism, drawn by bread and circuses, they love to stroll and shop at the mall, and in time of riot they will loot the mall -- otherwise the goods go up in flames. At bottom: a religious devotion to goods.
Outsiders silently stay outside. Brought to the terrace on the insistent whispers and slender arm of Truth, but there abandoned, listening in distraction as the Death Waltz plays, depressed and
guilt-ridden, they mutter, "Where is she?"
THE MESSIAH COMPLEX is a harder nut to crack than it used
to be. For decades it was treated as the plaything of neurosis, a convenience adopted by the patient's subterranean self to distract him from a smaller and more excruciating personal problem.
As the civilization becomes more poisoned and poisonous, however, the apocalyptic prognostication driving the young savior becomes less and less implausible. Therapists can no longer simply draw back the curtain and invite the patient to laugh away a grandiose and doomed ambition. In fact the world is at risk. It's consuming itself. And people must do something. Foundational spiritual needs -- to belong, to worship, to be responsible, to obey -- begin to work against adjustment.
The fact remains that world-saving is doomstruck work. But that it can no longer be dismissed as sheer nonsense reshapes the clinical prognosis: Typically runs a chronic course. As chronic as the course of the civilization itself. Hence the silent Outsider.
We pathological spirits! If able neither to get beyond good and evil, nor to alienate the latter as our ancestors once did -- if the death of God meant, disastrously, the death of the Devil too -- what then?
What happens to the Good Man in the Bad City? Does he put out his eyes and poke holes in his ears? Are fantasy and repression the only cure? Curtains! More curtains!
This is what the world does to you: We who cannot repair or disassemble the destructive self-destructive civilization are left with no decent choice but the faustian: to destroy it.
Or at least to destroy our neighborhoods.
Or, at rock bottom, to destroy ourselves.
The splendor of pathological types.
In the tunnels uptown
The Rat's own dream guns him down
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY's desultory odyssey since the murder of John F. Kennedy in 1963 might be understood as a mass descent into the maelstrom of Outsiderness.
It is, after all, the party that looks forward. It has made abnegation and self-destruction a point of honor and a movement.
George Mitchell, the leader of the Senate, demonstrated this progressive Outsiderness last fall when he declared the vote on Clarence Thomas a matter for each member's conscience. There would be none of the usual nastiness over this one -- no twisting
of arms, no bending of minds, no bluffing, no horse trading, no Indian Poker. This, Mr Mitchell declared, was too important for politics. And Thomas slipped by on two votes.
What Mikhail Gorbachev willy nilly achieved -- the mostly peaceful disassembly of the most powerful police state to date -- will be regarded as one of the century's greatest political works. His grimy toil made possible that electric moment last August when Boris Yeltsin clambered onto a tank, shuffled papers nervously while the camera crews plugged in, then recited his declaration of resistance and beat it back inside the Russian White House.
It was a realist treatment of the same theme enacted with abstract beauty by a young Chinese man three years ago, as he stood before a moving tank, which stopped, and like a gas-bloated dinosaur tried to waddle around him, but failed, and which then gave up.
IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE how Americans would react to the sudden appearance of tanks in their streets -- not as they appeared in Detroit in 1967 (on black folks' streets), but as they might have twenty years later if Ollie North's plans for "suspending the Constitution" to suppress complaints about the Contra war /drug ring had ever been initialed by the Great Communicator.
In 1973, President Richard Nixon was ordered by Judge John Sirica to hand over his Oval Office tape recordings. Nixon refused, citing presidential immunity and executive privilege. Yet it was already clear he was a crook of some sort.
When the Court of Appeals upheld Sirica's order, the President's men proffered a compromise to the Watergate prosecutor,
Archiibald Cox: A single senator would be permitted to hear the tapes, and Cox would agree to tack no more subpoenas on the White House door.
Cox rejected the compromise. Nixon then ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused, and instead resigned.
Then his deputy, William Ruckleshaus, likewise refused and resigned.
Finally, the Solicitor General -- today's Judge Robert Bork, of all people -- obeyed his liege and typed up a pink slip, then signed it as
a supposed "Acting Attorney General."
Cox might have ignored the pose. Instead he walked out and told the press, "It is now for the Congress and the people to decide."
As Cox retells it, "a firestorm of public outrage overwhelmed the White House." Some 30,000 telegrams arrived each day and -- approaching our fantasy of steel dinosaurs in the street:
"Cars streamed by the White House,
honking for impeachment."
Tuesday after the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon relented and handed over the tapes. Nine months later he resigned.
How beautiful the river flows
and the birds they sing
You and I, we're messier things
Ain't no one leavin' this world, buddy
without their shirttail dirty
and their hands a little bloody
HAVING CONSUMED the carniverous frenzy of the local primary, we conclude that Bill Clinton is a better man than us. He is head and shoulders above George Bush, who by rights should be in jail with officers North, Poindexter, Powell, Wind and Koon. The character question pursued by carnivorous journalists is absurd.
Jerry Brown should be the next director of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the President and Congress should pass effective, radical campaign finance reform early next spring. These would turn what is right about Mr Brown's campaign into lasting gain, and along with a youngblood Congress help diversify Mr Clinton's policy portfolio.
Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
Ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go
BORN IN THE Scientific Civilization, it is our responsibility to push and guide it through its troubled, self-destructive adolescence toward a maturity against consonant with the perpetuality of nature. In theory, at least, such a life is possible. Fusion energy, hydrogen cars, are possible. The sun and wind are real. In any case, it is not possible to go back.
There is something sad in the sight of Eastern Europe bending
its weary heart and mind to the heroic task of creating ... Free Markets. Playing catch-up in a race to somewhere less than good. History has done this to them, held them back, while we went forward to the edge.
We know more about the future than any people on earth.
We know that free market policies have us eating at one another in the street, as Jefferson prophesied of the Federalist central banking program. We know that busines is the engine of this irrevocable
civilization, but also that business can be a mad dog. We know that the business of the American government is to regulate business.
"Because the people did rise up morally
and politically, the rule of law prevailed."
In such style does Archibald Cox evaluate the effect of people circling the White House in their automobiles, honking a crook out of office.
History demands much less of tomorrow's heroes. To rise up!
And vote George Bush down the garbage chute. This would be enough for 1992, a small, necessary step. Don't shock the system
with ideas that won't fly and empty slogans. Don't revolt -- Vote
Clinton. We cannot live up to our responsibilities by staying
BILL CLINTON WOULD GO ON in 1992, despite Jerry Brown's energy and smarts, to win the lion's share of the caucuses and primaries, and then, in November, 370 electoral votes. More than Jimmy Carter and JFK. (Bush: 168)
And yet Clinton garnered only 43% of the popular vote. Billionaire businessman Ross Perot of Texas, an odd but genuine Reform Party candidate, had taken home an astounding 20% of the pie. Perot's aim seems to have been to unhorse Bush -- a tinhorn "Texan" during election years with very dirty hands. If Perot had folded to pressure to withdrawal from the race, Clinton would likely have lost.
However that may be, two years thence the GOP would take the House, led by a vile bile-master, Newt Gingrich, and the Clinton mandate, such as it was, was history.
Nevertheless, the working class that Thanksgiving of 1992 heaved a sigh of relief. Reaganomics and militarism had been buried with the Soviet Union. Surely the first Peace Dividend checks would soon be in the mail.
So it seemed.
JUST AS RICHARD NIXON and cronies began to take on quaint color during the Reagantime, so today the high crimes, misdemeanors and class warfare of Reagan and papa Bush seem pale in light of what's transpired since the installation of Bush-Cheney.
Is it merely the passage of time, or have the times been changing, and trending for the worse, since, say, 1947,
when the CIA and the Cold War were born?
Or is it merely that the monsters have now come out of the closet, confident the door may no longer be locked? If so, it seems that we failed -- the press and the Congress, the people's house, failed -- when opportunities presented themselves in the 70s and 80s to safely parade the monsters to the gallows.
Or was it already too late? Was November 1963 the point of no return -- certainly for the monsters, but also the Republic?
Or 1947? Or 1898?
Or, as many have it, did the Republic never stand a chance? Was the Constitution ratified in 1789 an instrument of covert enslavement? Are the Illuminati and the Money Trustees all-powerful and all-present through time and space and dedicated to the labor of global domination? Do we subsist
on a diet of blue pills in the Matrix?
So opines an Outsider in Ireland who used to work in Silicon Valley or thereabouts:
As for the Presidency, that is actually a PR job, an advertising job. Both as a candidate and as a President, the job description is to make speeches and to present US policy with an appropriate spin. That's one of the reasons we sometimes have actors like Reagan or Schwartzneger for politicians -- actors are experts at playing roles, learning lines, and projecting personas on cue.
In Bush's case, it is intentional that he talk like a fool, because then people assume his personal idiocy is responsible for disastrous policy. Anything to keep you from looking behind the curtain, to see who's really at the controls. Anything to make you think the next election offers hope.
If Obama wins, he'll put a liberal spin on policy, just as Clinton did. Interventions will be 'humanitarian', and policies will be to 'help the little people'. If McCain wins, he'll put a conservative spin on policy, like a Bush or Reagan would do. Interventions will be a show of 'US strength', and policies will be to 'make America strong'. The underlying policies themselves will be decided for other reasons and by other people.
A change of Presidents is like a change of advertising campaigns for a soft drink; the product itself still tastes the same, but it now has a new 'image'.
Elections are one example of a media circus. The OJ Simpson Trial was another example, as was the Monica Lewinsky affair, neither of which was an event of any real significance or interest. There's usually one useless media circus or another underway at any given time, designed to capture the public imagination and attention, while the real business of empire and politics goes on outside the circus tent. Television is our version of the Roman Colosseum.
At this particular time, on the verge of economic collapse and martial law, we cannot afford to be distracted by this or any other circus.
So: Is anything worth talking about ever really at stake in these presidential elections?
THE GIST OF JFK's murder is now sufficiently clear that one can only respond to apologists of the official story by insisting, with hero Mark Lane, that, Vinnie, the world is round.
And Watergate? One might have guessed there was a joker in the woodpile within days of the break-in, having noted that six of the seven burglars were CIA officers or contract agents: Hunt, McCord, Sturgis, Barker, Gonzalez and Martinez. The odd man out was Liddy, who seems to have been played like a violin.
If indeed both Kennedy and Nixon were undone by monsters, so to speak, it would seem that the monsters of the day considered the presidency worth considerable expense of spirit, time and treasure. But perhaps that was then ...
After Watergate came Ford and Carter, executing acts of contrition as the Congress tried to get a grip on the crimes of the CIA et al. since Castro's revolution. The monsters for the most part hid under the bed.
Reagan and Nixon, all ears
at Bohemian Grove, 1967
It seems that in 1980 a Secret Team including papa Bush negotiated with Iran to forestall the release of American hostages until after the 1980 elections. That would be treason. The aim was to secure the installation of Reagan, who would prove a wonderful if sometimes stubborn stooge.
Clearly a Secret Team then ran a good deal of Reagan's foreign policy (everything but Gorbachev), with Vice President Bush quietly among the few in charge. Aside from the familiar tentacles of the Iran-Contra octopus, there are reasons (CIA employees Richard Brenneke, Irbahim Razin and Chip Tatum) to think that Vice President Bush managed the assassination in 1986 of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme.
All this we saw, but then blinked and Looked Away From ("repressed") the sight.
(Most memorably, Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana once found the nerve to explain to PBS cameras that the Congressional investigation of Iran-Contra had to be shut down because the people couldn't bear the truth. "There are monsters in the closet after all -- shut the door." Hamilton, of course, had been a leading voice on the House Watergate committee, and would go on to serve as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commision.)
Meanwhile in the '80s, the owner-operators of the US -- intent on cutting ties to the working class having realized that globalization was the ticket, and displeased to have had their laundry aired before the Church committee and the House Select Committee on Asassinations, and having gone to school on the Lessons of Vietnam -- consolidated the major media into a few conglomerates.
Henceforth labor unions and the Congress were blackguards in the public eye, and the Pentagon and corporate execs lionized -- while so-called "pension reform" was passed, and support of higher education slashed, with hardly a wire story let alone debate. The midwest became the Rust Belt and family farmers an endangered species. MTV overnight destroyed the foundational rock movement that since the early 60s had been a medium of nationwide resistance. Material Girls and boys were led to think that "self improvement" meant going to the gym, not the library.
Bill Clinton did manage to make the economy, stupid, an issue in '92, promising those Peace Dividends. Certain owner-operators never forgave the indiscretion, and proceeded, from year one, to publicly disembowel his presidency.
By 2000 both Clinton and the Congress had been well digested. The Pentagon was the only healthy institution left in Washington. Out came the monsters. They ate the White House. Then again in 2004. There is no reason to think the upcoming presidential election will be any more legitimate than the preceding two.
A short answer, then, to our question: The presidency, despite the steady degradation since 1963, is still worth worrying about. If not, the monsters wouldn't bother to engineer elections and discomfit or depose uncooperative presidents.
UNTIL THIS PAST LABOR DAY, the urgency to depose Bush-Cheney in 2004 seemed incomparably more "fierce" than the present need to keep John McCain out of the White House.
(That is: McCain, despite the sordid final leg of his presidential campaign, is indeed enough of a maverick and a patriot to have alienated the entrenched monsters in D.C. across the years. The campaign finance reform he has long advocated would hobble them by resuscitating the Congress; something like democracy in Washington might revive. In any case, nothing the public government in D.C. might do would more effectively address its basic problem.)
McCain recast the current calculus, however, and betrayed his career in the Senate and the country he professes to love more than himself, by choosing Sarah Palin, that perfect creature, the perfect puppet, superior in all respects to baby Bush -- a Stepford amalgam of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
(And now that the new model has been introduced to the presidential market ... Enter the Palindrones.)
Barack Obama, then, may prove to have been right after
all about "the fierce urgency of now."
Nevertheless, his nomination this past season, and the torturous way it was accomplished, all fall into line as an all too familiar and goosebumpy crap shot, cavalier and amateurish, by the Party that Couldn't Shoot Straight.
But dog speed his victory, eyes on the prize. Hopes for a sea change on the order of 1932 are no longer out of bounds, given the breathtaking decline of all things American since the primary campaigns kicked off 20 months ago. With great danger and fear comes great hope and opportunity. Change of such scale was not in the stars with the surer bet of Hillary Clinton.
Team Obama lost the VP derby. Embracing Hillary then and there would have ended the contest -- and perhaps even forechecked the Palin move. McCain was allowed to fight another day and, regardless of his fortunes, the Palindrone genie is out of the bottle.
With the dice now cast, and the stakes doubled down by the Advent of Sarah, curiously we must thank our lucky stars that in the weeks since her Resurrection the global financial system has blown itself to bits.
Surely this time the Donkeys cannot lose ...
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