from the Primary Trail: Year End Highlights
By Michael McCord
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Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) this latest orgy of media
hyperventilation and spectacle of triumphalism will pass.
With the capture of Saddam (aka the despotic worm in a hole),
the supporters of Bush's Babylonian Excursion have received
a much-needed Viagara jolt to justify their jones for preemptive
With our fearless leader showing once again his courage when
it comes to displaying his bargain basement moral vindictiveness
(though it is a guaranteed rise in poll numbers whenever Bush
goes nuclear with his moral outrage), we can head into the
holiday season and count our blessings knowing that we've
squandered thousands of lives and spent billions on a war
unconnected to Sept. 11, having little to do with Osama or
the Orwellian war on terror, and, oh by the way, where are
those weapons of mass destruction?
Meanwhile back in New Hampshire, we are heading into crunch
time on the Primary Trail - the final weeks and days before
the voters have their say to determine who wins this stage
of the Democratic Primary race. So before the candidates make
their final, desperate turn for the finish line, it's time
to reflect and indulge in that annual journalistic tradition
of reporting again what already has happened (aka the year-end
wrap up story). As a public service, your not-so-humble trail
guide will offer abridged highlights of the N.H. primary year
that was. And as I look over my notes and search my memory
banks, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that in one
way or another, Howard Dean has dominated the show so far.
Of the Punditry, By the Punditry, For the Punditry
At the most recent debate in Durham, Ted Koppel's fixation
about the Gore endorsement, polls and fund-raising virility
dominated the proceedings (Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's
The Daily Show put it best when he called the faux debate
a view up the asshole of the primary process). I wished that
John Kerry really had shoved the poll numbers up Koppel's
you-know-what. Koppel's hand-raising stunt - "Now class, who
thinks that little 'ole Howie can beat big bad Georgie?" -
rates as one the most debased primary moments ever. But if
Koppel had to exorcise his inside political baseball obsession,
he could have at least showed some flair and imagination.
For example he could asked:
"Gov. Dean, earlier today, you extravagantly praised Mr.
Gore for his leadership during the past three years but frankly
sir, we fell off our chairs laughing hysterically in the newsroom
because the irony was so rich - if Mr. Gore had actually showed
some leadership backbone he wouldn't have lost in 2000, the
Democratic Party wouldn't have been slapped around by President
Bush and the GOP during the last mid-term election, and you
wouldn't be filling in the leadership vacuum today. So please
explain, Gov. Dean, just how do you define leadership? You
have one minute to respond."
Skunk at the Party
Ed Gillespie, chair of the Republican National Committee,
insured easy entry into the hall of fame for political hacks
when he traveled to Vermont and New Hampshire and trashed
Howard Dean and accused Democratic candidates of "political
hate speech" for daring to criticize our fearless leader.
(Not so coincidentally, Gillespie's trip followed an RNC ad
that polluted the airwaves by claiming Bush was being attacked
"for attacking the terrorists," which translates into Dems
as being soft - really soft - on terrorism, a tactic right
out of the Joseph Goebbels play book of 'big lie' propaganda.)
Skunk at the Party 2 (with family values)
During his rhetorical slash and burn trip, Gillespie told
an audience of college students he loved his job because he
was doing it for his children, for their future.
Bipartisan Blue (Language) Bayou
F-Word Alert 1 - "Fuck Gore" said one female supporter
of Sen. Joe Lieberman in Durham the day when Al Gore, who
had picked Lieberman as running mate in 2000, dumped Joe and
jumped into the warm embrace of Howard Dean. The female supporter's
X-rated and most un-Lieberman moment of clarity came after
I asked her what she really thought of Gore and Dean's public
F-Word Alert 2 - "He (Gen. Wesley Clark) gives me
hope and doesn't try to scare the shit out of me... Bush.
Cheney. Ashcroft, you name them. Man, they are fucking evil,"
said one 20-something voter in a Pearl Jam T-shirt after meeting
Clark outside a coffee shop in Portsmouth.
F-Word Alert 3 - John Kerry, in a recent Rolling
Stone interview, said who knew that Bush would "fuck"
up post-war Iraq. He also called W. Bush a "liar" when he
talked to an editorial board in Dover. And then I received
this e-mail from a reader turned political strategist who
suggested that Kerry should expand his public remarks to include
Bush is a "lying fuck" or "fucking liar" in hopes of giving
Kerry the breakthrough his lagging campaign needs.
How Soon They Forget
"Is Dick (Gephardt) running again?" The response of a Dean
supporter who told me she had supported Rep. Dick Gephardt
Stature: So Hard to Build, So Easy to Lose.
Sen. John Kerry rode his motorcycle onto the The Tonight
Show set but unfortunately had to share the limelight and
Jay Leno's attention with a sock puppet. Only in America.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the only progressive believer
of the bunch who has struggled hard to get traction and media
attention, garnered the most headlines for his campaign with
a reality-tv spin off of 'Find a Date for Bachelor Dennis.'
George W., Take this Tax Rebate and Shove It
A lady at a Dean rally in the summer offered to donate her
$400 tax rebate as a donation to Dean's campaign. Even on
the wild and wacky New Hampshire primary trail, that's a rare
Joe Seizes the Joeness Factor
Joe (don't call me Joseph) Lieberman is big on Joe. His
ads highlight Joe's Joeness (Joe is the largest written word
seen) and his web site is Joe2004.com. We haven't seen such
a one-name campaign since Jesse (Jackson). Joe has been jilted
by former amour Al Gore and gained sympathy for Gore's
display of craven political disloyalty (which is, I know,
an oxymoron). Joe has also courted John McCain supporters
which is a curious choice in a Democratic primary filled with
thousands of angry Democrats who are in no mood to compromise
with barbarian GOPers, even if they are mavericks like McCain.
In the cultural connection department, you may remember "Joe,"
the 1970 movie starring Peter Boyle, about a working class
stiff who has had it with all that peace, love and understanding
hippie-dippie nonsense and goes ballistic. Which is what Joe2004
is doing with his favorite dart board, Howard Dean.
Politics Makes Strange Assault Gun Bedfellows
Howard Dean now loves Al Gore, or at least he savors Gore
establishment-based blessings. Howard Dean also professes
an understanding of the typical NRA gunslinger. But Wayne
LaPierre, NRA vice president, has a different opinion about
Al Gore, one with Third Reich echoes. "Al Gore intends to
force every American gun owner to carry a national I.D. card,"
LaPierre wrote in a direct mail letter in November 1999. "He
didn't exactly say tattoo a number on you forearm, but you
get the idea."
Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Vol 1
There has been no hometown newspaper advantage for John
Kerry. The Boston Globe's columnist corps has sliced
and diced Kerry to pieces (death by a thousand column cuts)
by attacking him for aloofness, campaign incompetence, arrogance,
inability to stir a high school audience to a Britney Spears-like
fever pitch, dressing like a foolish snob in cold weather
and pandering to voters. To be sure, this type of cannibalism
is not unknown for Boston but usually it's reserved for local
pols and corrupt state officials.
Honest Political Opportunism
Sen. John Edwards, the former trial lawyer from North Carolina,
has a campaign message based on his answering tough questions
with candor. He even has a serious tome called "Real Solutions
for America." Even his New Hampshire campaign website practices
straight talk. "Edwards Uses Flu Outbreak to Push For Stronger
Public Health System" read a headline about a recent proposal.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Vol. 2
Dick Gephardt's campaign hosts a web link called Deanfacts.com
which parses every public statement Howard Dean has made since,
well, he started making public statements. Dean, who supported
Gephardt in 1988, had his campaign (which is run by former
Gephardt confidante Joe Trippi) fire a salvo of its own -
a picture of Gephardt hovering over Bush as the flight-suit-in-chief
signed the Iraq War Resolution that Gephardt supported.
Bush Suck Up File, Vol. CCCXXXIV
This is a zeitgeist entry and explains much about why so
many media vultures know so little. On C-SPAN the other day,
I watched host Brian Lamb ask Richard Berke, the Washington
Bureau Chief for the New York Times, if Berke heard
inquiries from readers about Bush's missing year of Air National
Guard Service in the early 1970s. Berke looked spooked as
though this was an alien abduction issue. Lamb told Berke
he hears questions every day about Bush's AWOL time and this
is important to many Americans because, believe it or not,
it goes to the heart of our fearless leader's credibility
as a truth teller and legitimate commander. Berke dismissed
this as a non-issue (still a lingering question or two but
nothing important), not worthy of polite discussion (especially
by the Beltway-in-the-know society), and likely instigated
by unseemly, Bush-hating tribes.
I hear from many veterans who are still furious about media
culpability in covering up for Bush - "Why don't you write
about it?" they ask. (I have, I am.) To many, it's a matter
of justice. As anybody who served will tell you, Bush's flight
from duty should have ended up with serious consequences such
as (a) immediate upgrade from reserve to active duty status,
(b) courts-martial, or (c) least of all, a dishonorable discharge.
Bush not only got a free pass then but lied about it later
and got a free pass from Berke and his so-called newspaper
of record which spared no expense nor conspiratorial imagination
when it came to President Bill Clinton and Whitewater.
Will a Democratic candidate have the guts to bring up W.
Bush's AWOL record? We shall have to wait and see.
Michael McCord, a U.S. Army veteran, is an award-winning
reporter and writer living in New Hampshire.
of Michael McCord's Tales from the Primary Trail:
Wesley Clark to the Rescue?
Dean's House Calls
The Unbearable Lightness of Being