The Poisoned Chalice

The Poisoned Chalice

At least when Duffy’s Circus left Youghal there’d be piles of dung from the elephant and the horses.


At least when Duffy’s Circus left Youghal there’d be piles of dung from the elephant and the horses. The Kerry campaign leaves nothing of fertilizing potential, not a single creative idea, only grim advisories like not running any nominee from the Northeast in 2008, and we all know the probable life span of that piece of useful advice.

How quickly the caravan moves on! The Brookings crowd sadly pull their résumés from the fax machines. John Kerry resumes his ghostlike sojourn in the Senate, where he might apply himself to improving his attendance record, the worst in the upper chamber. He missed no less than 76 percent of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s public hearings over the course of his eight-year tenure on that committee. Teresa returns to full-time work at the Heinz Foundation, dispensing money to neoliberal environmental groups, though, alas, she has had to dispense with the wise counsel of Ken Lay, formerly of Enron, who adorned her board of advisers until last year.

Pockets of Kerrycrats fight on, like Japanese soldiers on atolls in the Pacific. No doubt there are 527s out there, still nourishing themselves on the money of men like Soros. There’s even been some talk about Kerry keeping his hat in the presidential ring, but we shouldn’t take that too seriously. Over the next few months his horselike visage will fade in the murk of memory.

The political consultants pocket their retainer fees, their 10 or 15 percent commissions on hundreds of millions’ worth of campaign ads, and march on to the next electoral rendezvous. Before the election a profile of Kerry’s manager, Bob Shrum, disclosed that he stood to make $5 million out of the 2004 presidential campaign, win or lose.

The truly bad news is that the 9/11 nuts have relocated to Stolen Election. My inbox is awash with their ravings. People who have spent the past three years sending me screeds establishing to their own satisfaction that George Bush personally ordered the attacks on the twin towers and that Dick Cheney vectored the planes in are now pummeling me with data on the time people spent in line waiting to vote in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and how the Diebold machines are all jimmied. As usual, the conspiracy nuts think plans of inconceivable complexity worked at 100 percent efficiency, that Murphy’s law was once again in suspense and that 10,000 co-conspirators are all going to keep their mouths shut.

Here’s what my colleague at The Nation Justin Taylor tells me, re the much-ballyhooed youth vote: The consensus now seems to be that the youth vote spiked upward about 9 percent, a considerable lift from one election to another. But voter turnout as a whole went up by about the same proportion, so while youth did get more involved, they did not get more involved than anyone else. “With regard to John Kerry and the youth vote,” Justin advises me, “there is good reason to believe that while the young were probably more likely to go blue this time, there is a rapidly expanding Republican Youth faction that likely voted in more consistent–if not larger–numbers than the Kerry crowd. Forget business school blue-bloods, and think of those order-by-phone ads you see for Christian-rock double albums on cable channels–all those dead-eyed white kids with the slow sway and the vague smiles; these are the wing nuts of the next generation, and they are largely of age or coming of age to make their vote felt.”

The months will pass and then, most hideous of hideous thoughts, we’ll have to put up with three solid years of talk about Hillary Clinton. With her in the White House and Bill at the UN, there’ll be nowhere left to run.

Those who argued that Bush’s re-election would, by and large, do more to sap the American Empire already detect pleasing omens of enhanced discord among the allies. Out goes the oiler of troubled waters, Colin Powell. In comes fractious Condoleezza. Would you really have preferred Holbrooke, shuttling between Paris, Bonn and Madrid amid relieved shouts that here, after four dark years, was a man who respected Euro-feelings?

And talking of the euro, down down down goes the US dollar against all the major world currencies. Soon we’ll be getting news footage of US tourists pushing airport trolleys piled high with worthless greenbacks along the rue St-Honoré and into the Ritz to settle their bills before camping out under the bridges. In the past two years the US dollar has declined 52 percent against the euro, which many people used to think had about the same substantive brawn as a UN blue helmet.

Here’s a sign of how bad things are. Speaking honestly, can you remember the name of the Treasury Secretary? Aha! It’s…John Snow. Now, in the old days everyone knew the name of the Treasury Secretary, the guy who protected the money and strutted the ramparts of Fort Knox. Not anymore. These days he’s a harrowed mendicant who spends most of his day on the line to Beijing, imploring the Chinese not to join up with the Japanese in ditching the dollar as a global unit of account, heeding Jude Wanniski’s thought that they could join up to fix the yuan and yen to gold in an Asian Bretton Woods.

The neocons? They’re holding on, probably aware that if they quit government they’ll live like hunted things, fleeing lawsuits down the years. They’ll cling on and then hope Bush will pardon them on his way out of Dodge in 2008, same as his dad did Weinberger and his CIA buddies.

Falluja has now supposedly been “won.” For how long? Sometimes the parallels drawn between Iraq and Vietnam have seemed a bit theatrical. Not anymore. No hearts and minds have been won in Falluja any more than they were won in the Vietnamese countryside around My Lai. The city has been destroyed in order to save it for democracy. The language of the US military commanders, and of the journalists who relay their press releases, echoes with eerie and horrible fidelity those press releases from US military HQ in Saigon thirty-five years ago. LBJ handed the quagmire on to Nixon. It’s Bush’s poisoned chalice, bestowed by his first to his second term, the cup he’ll be hoisting on Inauguration Day.

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