Obama's appeal

I just realized that we have had twenty years of the Bushes and the Clintons. It has been a mediocre time in our nation's history, those twenty years.

Some look back with nostalgia to George Bush I. He seemed like a decent, humble, prudent man. At least he seems that way now, in the light of what has happened since: the tawdry Clinton scandals, then the dishonorable years of George Bush II.

Old man Bush sure looks good now, but in 1988 I vowed I would never forget the sleaze campaign he ran against Michael Dukakis. Although Dukakis was completely ineffectual and probably would have make a poor president, to win the election George Bush I turned into a monster, raising the spectre of the ACLU running our country, bringing up the foolish flag burning amendment just to get votes (the whole idea disappeared after the election), running the racist Willie Horton ads, and so on. I was appalled. I felt like Bush Sr. was selling his soul. But of course, he was from Texas where they play for keeps.

Then in 1992, along came Bill Clinton who also plays for keeps. I had decided early that year that if I was going to complain about these awful politicians, I had better get involved in the process of selecting them. I chose to go to the Democratic caucus, not so much out of long-term loyalty––I was raised in a Republican household––but because I was a bit closer to the Democrats on the issues.

I went from the caucus to the county convention, from the county convention to the congressional district convention, and from there on to the state convention in Duluth the first weekend in June. At the state convention, there were no statewide endorsements to make. We simply had to select delegates for the national convention.

Well, the Minnesota DFL party is an interesting animal. Its rules are written so that any little special interest group can get a cluster of delegates. In fact, if you aren't part of a special interest group, you have no chance. The highlight for me was when a Native American lesbian in a wheelchair was elected as a delegate to the national convention without so much as saying a word. Of course! She filled no fewer than four minority categories!

Then came time for the delegate selection. Bill Clinton's people came in the side doors. They looked like mobsters. While a stupid video played on the screen of Bill playing sax, they tried to browbeat us into roaring in approval. We sat and stared. The contrived demonstration fell flat. Minnesota's DFL party split their delegates about a dozen ways, mostly allocating them to wacko dark-horse single issue candidates nobody has heard of.

I didn't like Clinton in 1992, even though I was a Democrat, and I didn't like him all those years he was in office. Just seeing him on television made my skin crawl. I couldn't comprehend how people could fall for somebody so obviously slippery and calculating.

He was a competent president, I guess, and, probably thanks to the threat from Perot and maybe some pressure from Congress Republicans (who cared about deficits at the time), he did pay attention to the debt. But oh, those years of investigation and impeachment. Horrible. Gripping, but horrible.

What topped it off for me was Clinton's midnight pardons, especially that of Marc Rich, a true criminal. What gall. It was clear payback for campaign donations, which the Clintons love more than anything else.

Then we had Bush II, who really perfected his father's art of sleaze election tactics, muddying up John McCain in South Carolina, then dragging out the gay marriage issue and the flag issue and whatever old chestnuts he could dig up that he really didn't care about, issues that went away quicky after the election.

Aiding in the two decades of rule of the Bush and the Clintons were mediocre opponents. Whatever else you might think of them, Dukakis, Dole, Kerry and Gore were really poor presidential candidates.

So now, the Clinton sleaze machine is attempting to make it 24 years of Bush/Clinton rule by using the same tactic that the Bush's and the Clintons have used to maintain power for the past 20 years. Their strategy? If we don't win, what good are we? So, we do what it takes to win. If that means splitting off the blacks and the Hispanics in the primaries, we do it. They'll come back later. If it means distorting, if it means playing to the lowest possible instincts of the voters, if it means scaring the voters half to death, if it means deliberately suppressing turnout, whatever it takes, we'll do it. That just shows how tough and thorough we are, how able we are to govern. In fact, they thought that they deserved admiration for playing the game in a completely hardball way.

My observation when I saw George Bush I slice up Dukakis in nasty ways was, "he's not a gentleman," at least not any after that sorry performance. I have never thought of his son as a gentleman. That's an easy call. But what has been made especially evident in the past weeks is that Bill Clinton isn't a gentleman, and Hillary ain't a lady.

Meanwhile, Obama is attempting--not always with success--to run a more gentlemanly campaign. When his campaign workers are briefed, they are first told that they are to be unfailingly respectful and polite. Wow. Where did this come from? Obama gets a little irritable, but over all, he exudes inclusion, respect, intellectual vigor, honesty and good humor.

Hillary and Bill, meanwhile, have behaved like thugs.

What is different now is that, finally, people have an alternative candidate who is viable, intelligent and can articulate the hopes of the masses. Liberals and nontheocrats in general finally have a candidate with warmth and red blood in his veins. Turns out, they were looking for an excuse to ditch the Clintons all along.

It is not over yet. Hillary Clinton is still in the driver's seat. But the way it looks, she can't help but behave in her calculated, galvanizing and just plain nasty way. She truly grates. And people are starting to bail.

When Hillary got emotional in New Hampshire, most cameras cut away before she got nasty even as her tears dried, "I don't want to see all this lost! I mean, we have to have somebody who is ready from day one!" not somebody who just comes in there with big ideas, i.e. Obama. Dig, dig, dig, punch, scratch, claw. She can't help it. The whole clip of her crying scene is one of the most galling, self absorbed, self-pitying drama queen performances I have ever seen.

And that isn't even mentioning Bill's sorry performance in the past two weeks, acting like a spoiled child, taking pot-shots, throwing fits.

The two of them, like their successor in the White House, utterly lack grace. With Obama, there is at least some hope for graciousness, honor, and dignity returning to the office of President. In fact, is the quality of graciousness which Obama may have most in common with Reagan and JFK, leaders who are, rightly or wrongly, still admired as much for their style as their substance.