As part of their kitchen-sink effort to set new lows for political indecency, the Clintons have now managed to transform the wholly unexceptional -- a run-of-the-mill political endorsement -- into a national spectacle.
First there was merely the exceptionally offensive as their own creation. One thinks, for example, of the Clinton camp's disqualification of its party's front-runner as commander in chief. Not even Joe McCarthy sank that low or wallowed that filthily within his own ranks.
Coincidental to that have been the Clintons' imaginative reformulations of what "win" means. With each passing primary (most of which counted) and bygone caucus (most of which did not), they issued regular updates on contemporary reality. Delegates counted, then delegates didn't. The popular vote was critical, then it wasn't. The "big states" were king, then only the cumulative electoral count counted. Stay tuned.
Kind of like what the meaning of the word "is," "is."
Most political parties have rules for this sort of thing -- determining who's ahead, that is. The Democratic Party does too, actually, but the Clintons are hoping the world will little note, nor long remember, what the party ruled so long ago. If they can just churn and muddy the waters long enough, so that disunity and disorientation become the norm, then perhaps all that stuffiness about preset conditions will go the way of a Green convention.
Indeed, as the Bushites learned from the Clintonistas, the Clintonistas have learned from the Bushites. Let chaos reign.
Now -- to pick up where we started -- they force feed us the unexceptional as the spectacular.
Poor Bill Richardson. He weighed and pondered, evaluated and brooded, and finally issued an endorsement. Nothing remarkable about that, right? Happens every day, every race, with nary an explosion of outrage and vilification. Such endorsements swiftly pass into the history books and voters' receding memory. No big thing. But poor Mr. Richardson weighed not the unique fury and calculated looniness of tactical Clintonianism.
It will be interesting when a high hoohoh, who is white, endorses Obama. I can't wait to see if he or, even worse, she will endure such wrath as Richardson has had to endure, or is that reserved for Hispanics whom the Clintons rescued from the political dog pound of political obscurity, or so they say.
It began much like the aftermath of any other political rebuff. "One adviser ... described Mr. Clinton as more philosophical than angry about it." Then high tactical-muckamuck Mark Penn chimed in with rather commonplace nonchalance, "play[ing] down the importance of the Richardson endorsement, suggesting that the time 'when it could have been effective has long since passed.'"
But of course Mr. Penn said that only because he knew it not to be true. He's one of our new barometers of truth. If he within the Clinton camp says it, something's fishy and a whopper of a storm must be brewing.
And sure enough, after a brief interlude of agonized huddling, the Clintons finally unleashed Frothy Dog Carville to deliver in scandalous terms what respectable tacticians always suppress with diplomatic restraint. "An act of betrayal," cried James on national television. "Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic."
Carville is absolutely apoplectic because he can't understand what's happening. Hillary is having a campaign. Obama has created a movement. Carville and Rove have more than I thought in common. They both believe in loyalty to a candidate above faith in the people and love of country, and it's our way or the highway politics.
And what did Carville's biblical outrage accomplish? Ah, there's the rub, for the Clintons. For it only highlighted in the press their most absolute of tawdry desperation; it was like waving the flag of surrender, without the actual surrender to follow. As the New York Times soon reminded us:
On their own, endorsements in contests like this — with two such well-known candidates — do not necessarily move votes.... But the audience now is less primary voters than superdelegates — uncommitted elected Democrats and party leaders — whose votes will be critical in helping Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama get the 2,024 delegates needed to win the nomination.
And Mr. Richardson? Well, he's "the 62nd superdelegate to endorse Mr. Obama since Feb. 5, compared with fewer than five who have moved into Mrs. Clinton's column since then." He is also now a short-list vice-presidential pick, who's also now as bloodied as Barack Obama, thanks to a leading ... Democrat.
All of which surely has that 63rd superdelegate somewhere out there thinking, I've had about enough of these bomb throwers. This intraparty madness must stop, or there won't be a party left to call home.
You got that right, Forrest Gump, superdelegate. Much more of this crape' deolla, and I'll be taking a long camping weekend with nary a voting booth nor a TeeVee insight on votin' day as they call it down here.
No, I can't vote for the PTSD guy, simply for the reason that I have it, much less acute, one must assume, than his and I wouldn't tour the White House let alone run for it or vote for myself. His brain must look like cottage cheese, shot through with buck shot. If he wins the White House, I am heading for the wilds and will pretend to be harmlessly crazy, while in the nearest village for supplies, which shouldn't be so hard to do since I've been getting there since 2000. A McCain win will definitely push me over the edge and "harmless loon" will be an easy role to play.
Only a few days ago most everyone concerned was content to proceed with business as usual at least through Pennsylvania. But the Clintons are, perhaps, now short-circuiting that comfort zone through their own electrifying offensiveness.
At this point, the number of Democrats whose endorsements could shake the race is down to Al Gore, the former vice president and presidential nominee; John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who dropped out of the race last month; and Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. Aides to Mr. Edwards and Mr. Gore said that they did not expect either man to endorse anyone in the immediate future, if at all. Aides to Ms. Pelosi said she was unlikely to endorse at all.
But Ms. Pelosi doesn't need to; she has already unofficially endorsed Sen. Obama. That leaves only John and Al. And every passing day of forced Clintonian disunity increases the odds of that yet-named 63rd superdelegate saying, sooner than anyone expected, enough is enough.
There's an ancient observation from the Tao Te Ching that, for once, might have benefited the Clintons more than anything related in their cherished copy of Machiavelli's The Prince(ss). To paraphrase: The harder one grasps for something, the farther it slips from one's reach.
"The Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing."
THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.