Bush-Cheney strategy involves G.O.P. crossover voting to take out Hillary, marketing newcomer Obama, an “independent” ticket, and maybe even martial law…
Evidence of a covert campaign to undermine the presidential primaries is rife, so it’s curious that the Democractic Party and even some within the G.O.P. have decided to ignore the actual elephant in the room this year. That would be Karl Rove. After rigging two previous presidential elections, this master of deceit would have us believe that he’s gone off to sit in a corner and write op-eds.
Not so. According to an article in Time Magazine, Republican party activists have been organized to throw their weight behind Barack Obama, the democratic rival of frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Early in Obama’s campaign, major G.O.P. fundraisers and at least one indicted criminal flushed his coffers with cash – something the deep pockets haven’t done for any candidate in their own party. With receipts topping $100 million in 2007, the first-term senator from Illinois is doing well, considering few Americans had even heard of him before 2006.
The Time magazine article goes on to explain that rank and file Republicans in red states have switched their party registrations, enabling them to vote in Democratic primaries. The G.O.P. didn’t even compete in the Nevada primary, where Obama subsequently picked up many rural counties, and in Nebraska, the mayor of Omaha publicly rallied Republicans to caucus for him on February 9th. Called crossover voting, the tactic is playing a crucial role in the Rove push to deprive Clinton of the Democratic nomination. Even with his usually reliable arsenal of dirty tricks – paperless electronic voting equipment, waitlisting, swiftboating, etc. – Rove would be hard pressed to defeat Clinton in November, since she’s popular nationwide and has promised an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. If the contest isn’t close, the vote-rigging won’t matter.
If, on the other hand, Obama wins the nomination (or even the VP spot), Rove’s prospects brighten considerably. Largely unvetted by the media, the first-term senator carries considerable baggage from his stint as a state legislator in Chicago. So far, the mainstream press has avoided the messy details and presented something more akin to a Madison Avenue marketing campaign. Both the soft lens and the soft shoe harken back to the media blitz that persuaded Americans in 2003 of the necessity of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. For example, The author of the Time magazine article, Jay Newton-Small, offered the following explanation to account for the bizarre love affair G.O.P. voters say they’re having with an African American senator on the other side of the aisle. “It seems a lot of Republicans took to heart Obama’s statement in his rousing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that ‘there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.'”
Is he kidding? In 2002, it was the “terrorism analysts” who assured us that Iraq posed an imminent threat to our national security. The many baseless assumptions and bald-faced lies repeated daily on the airwaves and front pages of leading newspapers had the effect of branding misinformation on the human brain as if it were fact. Subsequently, the deception campaign opened the door for a $9 trillion run on the U.S. treasury and a protracted conflict with no end in sight. Now that same Pavlov conditioning is being re-deployed to elect “anybody but Hillary”, as Rove operatives like to whisper to each other off camera. And the ruse seems to be working.
Last year, at the same time Clinton commanded a huge lead in the national polls, political analysts and professional strategists hired by CNN and other broadcast networks began hammering across the notion that “the voters don’t like her”. The adjectives “unlikeable”, “divisive” and “polarizing” have been repeated in the same manner that the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” was hurled every night on the evening news in 2003. The same allegations uttered by conservative ideologues on Fox News throughout 2006 became grist for news programs broadcast from coast to coast. “There is no candidate on record, a front-runner for a party’s nomination, who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has,” Rove has prognosticated openly about his nemesis.
Interestingly, Obama has parroted the Rove comment in his press interviews, including a clip broadcast on CNN. Obama’s campaign slogan “I’m a uniter, not a divider” is reminiscent of the Bush 2000 campaign, which Rove managed.
The fact that Rove’s polling about Clinton is based on interviews with conservative voters is rarely mentioned. Like the conclusion drawn in the Time article, the unlikeable/polarizing/divisive claim made no sense and lacked any credible proof. Yet anchors like Jim Lehrer, Anderson Cooper of CNN and virtually everyone on the MSNBC and Fox News teams have let the steady drumbeat of false accusation reverberate across their air waves since December. Like a Good Housekeeping stamp of approval, shows like The Situation Room and the News Hour provide the guise of news analysis for claims that would otherwise be dismissed as rantings from a right-wing fringe group. From NBC to PBS, try to find an expert who doesn’t think Clinton would melt if you threw water on her. You won’t.
Despite the chorus of naysayers, on February 5th, the candidate with the “high negatives” captured sizeable majorities in the population-rich states of California, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. While Obama won most of the the red states in play, Clinton managed to overcome the crossover voters in the Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arizona and Arkansas primaries, although she enjoys only a small lead in the delegate count. Obama managed to close even that small gap with wins in the caucus states of Washington and Nebraska, along with the Louisiana primary on February 9th.
In addition to uprooting the Democratic race, Rove may be swindling his own party primaries. From a strategic perspective, dividing the delegates between several candidates lays the groundwork for either an independent ticket or a drafted ticket at a party convention. However, with Romney dropping out of the race, McCain now appears destined to lock up the nomination, even though he’s despised by most conservatives. Rove will now almost certainly field an independent ticket. At least two-thirds of the votes cast in all the primaries and caucuses to date have been for the Democrats. In red-state New Hampshire, for instance, 50,000 more votes were cast for Democrats than Republicans, even though the latter ticket was hotly contested at the time. That’s 10 pecent of the total voter turnout. In Iowa, the lopsided vote in the Democratic primary was even more pronounced. G.O.P. winner Mike Huckabee received only half the number of votes cast for Clinton, who placed third behind Obama and Edwards.
Equally worrisome for the Clinton campaign, both traditional progressives and the younger tech-savvy generation appear to have swallowed the Obama “agent of change” bait hook, line and sinker. Nobody would have predicted a few years ago that left-leaning pundits would join in an unholy alliance with Fox News to help defeat a popular liberal with a good shot at extracting the pro-war oil aristocracy, but here we are. Journalists like Ari Berman, editor of The Nation, are popping up on Fox programs they once labeled as 24/7 campaign commercials for the Republican Party. The fact that Obama has no grassroots base, little rooted history in social justice causes, and has paid lip service to Katrina victims and the Gena 6 doesn’t seem to trouble them in the least. Although he says he supports Roe v. Wade, Obama has also attended campaign events organized for him by anti-abortion activists.
In a blog posted the morning after the Iowa Caucus, Adrianna Huffington lauded the Illniois senator as practically the Second Coming. She didn’t have much to offer in the way of specifics, however, and spent the bulk of her remarks railing at Bill Clinton, who she said had conducted himself in an interview as “arrogant and entitled, dismissive and fear-mongering”. The fact that he was angry that the press corps was doing to his wife what the the Bush Administration had done to Valerie Plame didn’t occur to her.
Huffington, it should be noted, was one of several progressive politicos swindled by the California recall referendum a few years back. Knowing the left would be fielding multiple candidates to replace the embattled Democratic governor, Enron’s Ken Lay succeeded in his bid to slip Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger into office through the back door. Candidate Huffington dropped out of the race just two days before the election, conceding the entire affair had been a set-up to divide the Democratic vote.
That she and her peers have allowed themselves to be bamboozled a second time is frankly astonishing. With a few clicks of a mouse, they might have easily learned that former Speaker Dennis Haster and the Illinois G.O.P. fielded a bible-thumping nutcase named Alan Keyes to run against Obama for the U.S. senate seat in 2004. Keyes was hand-picked to replace Jack Ryan, the candidate who offically won the G.O.P. primary, but was forced out after being accused of a sex scandal. In typical Rovean fashion, the charges against him only stuck long enough to ruin his senate bid. (A bit of trivia – Ryan’s ex-wife is actress Jeri Ryan, who played the character “Seven of Nine” in the television series Star Trek Voyager.) In the general election, Keyes received a pathetic 30 percent of the vote to Obama’s 70 percent, and this in a year when G.O.P. victories dominated the political landscape.
Here’s a little more history you won’t find at HuffPost or The Nation: At the time of his senate run, Obama was a relatively small-town player, a former law professor and two-term state legislator who lost a congressional race against the African American incumbent in 1999. Obama’s first significant donor in the 1990’s was Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a Chicago power broker and developer who tried to recruit him out of law school. After graduating from Harvard, Obama hired on with a community nonprofit agency, then later joined a prestigious Chicago law firm whose clients included Rezko.
Obama worked on (and later endorsed as a senator) a series of low-income housing development deals with Rezko and his partner, Woodlawn Preservation and Investment, collecting $855,000 in development fees. Later, while Rezko was busy fundraising for Obama’s senate race, tenants were having their heat cut off. Two-thirds of the buildings eventually foreclosed, CNN reported. An F.B.I. investigation led to felony charges that Rezko illegally obtained his income through kickbacks and bribes, with a trial set to begin February 25th.
According to Edward McClelland, writing for Salon.com, “Rezko, after all, built part of his fortune by exploiting the black community that Obama had served in the state Senate, and by milking government programs meant to benefit black-owned businesses.”
While it may be unclear why Obama would continue his relationship with Rezco after the city of Chicago had filed a lawsuit for maintaining slums, it’s indisputable that he did. In 2005, Obama approached Rezko for help in purchasing a $2 million Georgian-revival home in a Chicago suburb. The property deal involved two adjoining lots that the owner wanted to sell together. Rezko’s wife bought for the first, while Obama acquired the parcel that included a mansion for $300,000 less than the asking price.
Although no laws were apparently broken in the transaction, the Rezko trail represents a serious liability for Obama should he reach the November election. In the meantime, many of Obama’s campaign donations have since been tied to sources named in the federal indictment. While the Chicago Sun-Times puts the figure of tainted cash at $168,000, the senator initially agreed to give half that amount to charity, but only as an “abundance of caution”, a senior staffer said. Later, after NBC Nightly News grudgingly broadcast a story about the affair, the campaign announced it would donate the entire amount. (For more on this subject, read the articles in the Sun-Times.)
Incredibly, the Rezko affair went unreported by the national media until the CNN debate in South Carolina on January 17th. In response to cutting remarks by Obama about her stint on the Walmart board of directors, Hillary raised the matter of the Chicago slumlord. CNN duly followed-up, interviewing the Sun-Times reporter who broke the story, confirming Clinton’s allegation.
A few days after the debate, the Today show’s Matt Lauer brandished a photograph showing Rezko posing with President Clinton and Hillary during the 1990s and grilled the former First Lady about her relationship to Rezko. Neither she nor her husband appeared to have any history with the developer, yet NBC deftly managed to cast aspersions on them, not Barack Obama.
NBC may in fact be outFoxing Fox News when it comes to sabotauging Clinton’s presidential hopes. On the night before the New Hampshire primary, Brian Williams followed Obama around on the campaign trail, flashing a Newsweek cover of the senator, and proclaining to viewers that the Obama campaign had now become a “movement”. During the same broadcast, Andrea Mitchell described the Clinton campaign as broke, desperate, and ablaze with in-fighting. Mitchell continued with this theme the following night, even as Hillary led in the vote tally by three percentage points.
Following the South Carolina primary, both Mitchell and Tim Russert claimed on Nightly News and Today that the leadership of the Democratic Party is “mad as hell” at Bill Clinton for “attacking” Obama, and are lining up to back the Illinois senator. No sources were offered to substantiate the accusation. Russert also told Matt Lauer that Ted and Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama represented a sea change in this election, and insinuated that because Bobby Kennedy was friends with Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farmworkers, the endorsement should pave the way for Obama to capture the Latino vote.
What NBC’s crack team of reporters neglected to mention was that Bobby Kennedy’s own children, the son of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers union have already endorsed Clinton. In Nevada, Latinos in the 60,000 member Culinary Workers Union defied their white male leadership’s endorsement of Obama and helped Clinton win the caucus there. While the Florida primary was showing Clinton with a 15 percent lead in the polls, CNN fill-in anchor Bob Acosta complimented NBC’s aggressive push by declaring the Obama campaign had become a “runaway train” following its big South Carolina victory.
But if there’s a runaway train in this race, it’s the press. A charter member of the military-industrial complex, General Electric owns NBC, while Tim Russert’s Meet the Press served as a principle dissemination outpost for the weapons of mass destruction campaign in 2003. Andrea Mitchell is married to former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan. However, a host of national broadcast networks and newspaper chains appear to be slanting their coverage of the race. On the day after the Florida primary, in which Clinton beat Obama by 17 points in a record turnout of Democrats, only the cable stations reported her victory. In December, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz published an article examining the media bias favoring Obama.
“The Illinois senator’s fundraising receives far less press attention than Clinton’s,” Kurtz wrote. “When the Washington Post reported last month that Obama used a political action committee to hand more than $180,000 to Democratic groups and candidates in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the suggestion that he might be buying support received no attention on the network newscasts.”
Unlike Florida, Clinton’s New Hampshire win was not blacked out on television, but accusations of racism surfaced in the days that followed. On-air pundits and Obama surrogates suggested white voters had defied their publicly declared support of the African American candidate in the secrecy of the polling booth. During the same week, Clinton made a speech in South Carolina tying Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech to President Johnson’s signing of the 1964 Cvil Rights Act, highlighting the role of Johnson. A senior advisor to Obama circulated a 4-page memorandum urging surrogates to slam Clinton for being disrespectful to King.
If you tracked the coverage of the ensuing feud between the two campaigns, you would never know that this it was this memo that sparked the race-card accusations. Before the smoking gun showed up on the internet, Obama claimed in a television interview thea neither he nor anyone on his staff had accused Senator Clinton of insensivity. He added that he was “baffled” by her suggestion that they were involved. When the dust cleared, the media downplayed both the Obama memo and subsequent denial. Former President Clinton, however, continues to be barbecued over several angry comments uttered on the campaign trail in defense of his wife. (He also, incidentally, blasted the media’s role in disseminating the racism talking points of Obama staffers.)
Intelligent and astute, Hillary herself has historically shied away from personal attacks, whether it comes from sexist New York firefighters or Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball. (Her campaign recently cut off relations with the network when another MSNBC reporter declared that the Clintons had “pimped-out” daughter Chelsea in order to win superdelegates.)
This is not to say she isn’t capable of landing a knock-out punch when provoked. During the ABC New Hampshire debate, Clinton slammed the tag-team antics of John Edwards and Barack Obama when they tried to portray her as the voice of the “status quo”. informing the audience that both men supported the energy bill written by Dick Cheney in 2005. She said she opposed because the legislation was “larded with subsidies” for oil companies. She also called attention to Obama’s several votes to fund the Iraq War, as well as the Patriot Act renewal (he was a co-sponsor), and noted that the chair of Obama’s New Hampshire campaign worked as a lobbyist for the drug companies. Obama has also received more contributions from nuclear energy giant Excelon than any other candidate in the race, she noted.
Nevertheless, the title of Mark Lane’s bestselling book challenging the Warren Commission, “Rush to Judgment”, would aptly characterize the pre-election coverage bias in Obama’s direction for all the Democratic primaries this year. Clinton seems remiss in not calling more attention to it. Regarding Karl Rove and the Bush-Cheney team, all Senator Clinton has mustered to date is her oft-repeated statement, “They’re not going to surrender the White House voluntarily.” Last spring, she suggested that another terrorist attack against the United States would inevitably play into the hands of the G.O.P.
Vague as they sound, those two comments may prove prophetic in the event the Obama strategy fails and Hillary goes on to win the Democratic nomination and general election. The implications of a female president for American foreign and domestic policy are profound, creating jitters not only on Wall Street but for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department. It’s possible that a significant number of officials accused of breaking U.S. laws or violating the Geneva Conventions might be arrested and prosecuted by a Clinton-directed Justice Department.
If that’s not enough to keep Bush appointees and generals lying awake deep into the night, consider their long-running undercover relationships with the ayatollahs in Iran (who paved the way for Reagan’s 1980 election), the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, and the Saudi royal family. The Saudis especially have reason to fret now that they and their counterparts in Kuwait and the U.A.E. have started buying up huge stakes in U.S. banks. Condolleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi are one thing. A Clinton White House is quite another.
For his part, President Bush may have implemented a back-up plan last April when he signed National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51, an executive order allowing him to suspend the constitution without prior congressional approval. NSPD 51 gives the President the discretion to declare a state of emergency (i.e. martial law) in the event of a major terrorist attack or other “decapitating” incident against the United States, even if the attack happens outside the country.
Under this scenario, he can cancel elections, padlock the Capitol dome and send the Supreme Court justices home. Not that he’d want to send the Supreme Court home, since its right-wing majority will likely provide a veil of legitimacy for his unchecked powers. The directive also allows Bush to assign his homeland security assistant ( a low-level position exempt from senate confirmation) to administer what has been dubbed the Enduring Constitutional Government. (Here’s the text of the directive.)
Another variation on the theme might come in the form of deadlocked party conventions next summer. William Randolph Hearst took advantage of this predicament in 1932 to force Franklin Roosevelt to adopt an isolationist foreign policy in return for the delegates of the third-place candidate, Texas Congressman Jack Garner. FDR also had to take Garner as his running mate. What’s interesting here is that after FDR beat Hoover in the general election, a would-be assassin fired at the President-elect in Miami. The shots went astray when a woman in the crowd grabbed the man’s arm. Otherwise, Jack Garner might have become president.
Alternatively, a deadlocked convention can be resolved with delegates drafting a non-candidate to accept the party nomination. Al Gore, the born-again global warming crusader, may be jockeying to enter the race in this manner. This is the same gentleman who received a grade of “F” from the League of Conservation Voters when he ran against Bush in 2000. Realizing that any analysis of his actual record on the environment would expose him as a colossal fraud, Gore skipped the primaries this election cycle and set out on the celebrity circuit instead. In the past three years, the former vice-president has appeared in a documentary film, published two books and appeared on all the major talk shows.
All of which suggests that amnesia is fast becoming a staple of American consciousness. In a 1998 press release, Gore proclaimed, “Signing the [Kyoto] Protocol, while an important step forward, imposes no obligations on the United States. The Protocol becomes binding only with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. As we have said before, we will not submit the Protocol for ratification without the meaningful participation of key developing countries in efforts to address climate change.” This is the same excuse President Bush has used to avoid carbon caps for the past seven years.
Gore could also be tapped by the so-called “centrist” politicians who met in Oklahoma in January to lobby for an independent ticket, or the internet-based initiative known as Unity ’08, which pledges to run a Democrat and a Republican on the same ticket. New York mayor and billionnaire Michael Bloomberg is said to be testing the waters for a possible run, but his poll numbers to date look unpromising.
In the aftermath of Super Tuesday, Clinton has opened up a small lead of about 100 delegates over Obama, according to an unofficial tally by the Associated Press. ( MSNBC and Fox News argue that Obama leads Clinton.) Only one-third of the 22 million votes cast on February 5th went to Republicans. The more or less evenly divided allocation of Democratic delegates has brought up the possibilty that neither candidate will reach the necessary 2025 mark to win the nomination. That’s because the Democratic National Committee stripped delegates from the general election battleground states of Michigan and Florida last year, citing a complaint filed by the Iowa and New Hampshire state parties. The complaint alleged that by scheduling their primaries before Super Tuesday, the two states violated DNC rules . The party leadership duly ordered candidates not to campaign in either state. (The Republican Party allocated Michigan and Florida delegates without incident.) That brings into play the superdelegates, 796 elected leaders and party officials awarded delegate status at the national convention, a tradition going back to the 1980s. Since two-thirds of the superdelegates have pledged for Clinton, Obama supporters and members of the media are now crying foul, arguing that a “brokered convention” decided in “smoky back rooms” will destroy the Democratic Party.
Responding to those concerns, DNC Chairman Howard Dean issued a press release recently, reassuring Americans that he will intervene before August if the race still remains deadlocked. The extent of his authority to do so is not exactly clear. Some analysts interpreted the move as a DNC attempt to strong-arm the candidates into joining a President/VP ticket, with the delegate leader taking the top spot. Under this scenario, the superdelegates would not determine the slate. The DNC has also said it’s considering hold caucuses in Michigan and Florida in April or May as a way to allocate their delegates. Both pronouncements bode badly for Clinton, who has generally prevailed in regular primary precinct voting, while Obama has won most caucus states. (Caucuses require traveling long distances and waiting outside a building in long lines, factors which tend to deter the participation of older voters.) The Clinton camp has argued that the Florida delegation should be seated according to the primary results, citing the record turnout and the fact that Obama broke his pledge not to campaign there when his advertising showed up on cable TV. State Senator Bill Nelson, a Clinton supporter, balked at the suggestion that the ballots cast by 1.7 million voters in January should be replaced with caucuses which might at best attract 50,000 participants.