Sign Up to Follow This Blog

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Sad-Eyed Lady of the Statelands

The kings of Tyrus with their convict list

Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss,
And you wouldn't know it would happen like this,
But who among them really wants just to kiss you?

I don’t know which is more surprising— that Barack Obama tapped his former rival, Hillary Clinton, to be Secretary of State, or that Bill Clinton has agreed to play ball with the guy who humiliated him by making him sing his praises in the seventh inning stretch of the recent presidential campaign.

Either way, naming Hillary Clinton as the next Secretary of State is a political masterstroke. Once again, Barack Obama has hit it out of the ballpark.

In all fairness to the Clintons, the pitch probably seemed like a softball. In exchange for a coveted spot on Team Obama, all the Clintons had to do was publicly disclose a list of the financial contributors to their wildly successful, albeit highly secretive charitable organization, the Clinton Global Initiative.

Sure, the deal lets the former president feign ‘transparency’ by voluntarily offering up the names of the corporations, countries and charitable organizations that have stuffed more than $500 million into the Clinton coffers over the last 10 years. But can anyone really expect Hillary Clinton, the soon-to-be de facto representative of the Obama Administration abroad, to see past the favors, chits and IOUs that she and her husband have amassed over the last 15 years?

Saudi Arabia alone gave to the Clinton Global Initiative between $10 million and $25 million. The governments of Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan each gave more than $1 million. So did the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation.

So why would Barack Obama appoint someone with such an obvious conflict of interest to such a high profile post? Because Hillary Clinton’s nomination was never about building a ‘team of rivals,’ as Obama so often likes to suggest, casting himself in the mold of his political aspirant, Abraham Lincoln. Obama had another Lincoln mantra on his mind when he decided to call Hillary Clinton up to the big leagues, and that mantra goes something like this: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”

By providing the 2,922-page list containing more than 200,000 benefactors, Bill Clinton not only lifted a veil of secrecy that had protected his personal and business dealings from scrutiny for the last decade and half, he publicly disclosed every name of every person from every county on every continent in every corner of the world he has had contact with for the last 15 years.

Anyone connected to the Clintons—all their supporters, their benefactors, their cronies, their champions—all laid out not only for Obama, but for every other Clinton contrarian to see.

This deliberate drawing an adversary out into the open, leading them into the arena, then laying them bare for all to see isn’t just a technique that works well on the political stage. In fact, it’s a technique Bob Dylan has employed with dexterous skill since he stepped in the stage some 40 years ago.

Anyone who has witness Bob in his element knows that when you step on stage with Dylan, you leave nothing on the sidelines. The same is proving true with Barack Obama. Whether it’s writing about a marriage that’s doomed, or plotting a union that will likely end the same way, Dylan and Obama are masters at their craft.

The pending Obama-Clinton pact is a perfect case in point. Should Senator Clinton becomes Secretary of State, Obama gets two of the biggest sluggers in the Democratic Party on his team. If not, they go back to the minor leagues.

Either way, Barack Obama has his bases covered...

Now you stand with your thief, you're on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saintlike face and your ghostlike soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you?

For a complete, searchable list of all 220,000 donors to the Clinton Global Initiative, click here.
Digg this

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Windy City Politicians, Rainy Day Women, Senate Candidate #5

They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to make a buck.

They'll stone ya and then they'll say, "good luck."
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Cigars, it seems, aren’t the only thing they’re smoking in the backrooms of Chicago.

Last week it was reported that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly schemed to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for $1 million dollars.

Again, that’s $1 million dollars for a Senate seat held by the man who was just elected to lead the free world, making him the most recognizable person on the planet.

What could this guy possibly have been thinking?

Maybe in a time when it’s become a national pastime for politicians to see how many zeros they can put behind the next bank bailout, mortgage mark down or cash-and-carry plan for the failing car industry, Governor Blagojevich thought six zeros was a bargain. Maybe Blagojevich thought it was his duty as governor to uphold Chicago’s longstanding tradition of political corruption and scandal.

Or maybe Blagojevich is just an idiot.

Mental competency aside, anyone with a shred decency knows there’s a larger problem here hanging like a hazy cloud of smoke over this whole sordid affair. In one fail swoop, one governor’s half-baked scheme to sell-out democracy somehow managed to further retard the electorate’s already ailing perception of our political system.

To Blagojevich's credit, this Wiley politician from the Windy City’s North side wasn't completely impervious to the fact that most people don’t have $1 million cash just lying around. According to FBI wiretaps, Blagojevich would have been willing to have made do with any one of the following:
  • a substantial salary for himself at a non-profit foundation or organization affiliated with labor unions;
  • a spot for his wife on a paid corporate board;
  • promises of future campaign funds;
  • a Cabinet post or ambassadorship
Four, count ‘em four ways to commitment a felony. How considerate of the governor to give his Senatorial suitors so many ways to further debase the public's trust.

In this season of giving, however, it seems Old Saint Nick isn’t the only one ‘making a list and checking it twice.’ Blagojevich had a list of his own. And that’s where it starts to get really interesting…

According to the FBI, prominent Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi held a meeting October 31 during which Blagojevich claimed he'd been approached by a representative for an unnamed "Senate Candidate #5" who offered cash in exchange for the Senate seat. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Jesse, Jackson, Jr., was that candidate.

Jackson spokesman Rick Bryant says that while Jackson did discuss the Senate seat with Nayak, he never asked him to do—or give—anything. The notoriously talkative Jackson has said even less. Interesting.

It’s also started to get interesting for Barack Obama.

The president-elect also insists he hasn't had any contact with the Illinois governor regarding his vacant Senate seat. But Obama has yet to give his transition staff the same clean bill of health—and perhaps with good reason.

Obama stammers through Blagojevich press conference (mash-up courtesy of Sneakyville Prods.)

As it turns out, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s incoming chief of staff, is a rough-and-tumble politico in his own right. But until Emanuel assumes his new position on January 20, he will continue to represent the good people of Illinois’ 5th congressional district. And can you guess who held that job before Rahm? That’s right—Rod Blagojevich.

For the Obama team to expect us to think that the paths of Emanuel and Blagojevich haven’t crossed, and crossed repeatedly—especially considering the fact Emanuel was charged with securing his new boss’s old Senate seat for Obama family friend, Valerie Jarrett—we’d all have to be smoking something.

And while it’s definitely rained on Jarrett’s political aspirations, it seems she’s traded an umbrella for a golden parachute. Just before the Blagojevich scandal broke, Jarrett’s name was withdrawn from the running for the Senate seat. Shortly thereafter, she was named ‘special adviser to the president.’ Interesting.

I would imagine our fair Bob is watching all of this with some interest as well.

From unequivocal disdain of the flatfoots on Fourth Street,

Yes, I wish that for just one time;
You could stand inside my shoes;
You'd know what a drag it is;
To see you

to unapologetic enmity of those who have mastered the art of war profiteering,

Let me ask you one question;
Is your money that good;
Will it buy you forgiveness;
Do you think that it could

Bob Dylan has always held the feet of the media and the men who manipulate it to the fire.

Dylan once famously claimed, "I don't write political songs." But in light of the sheer disregard for justice exhibited by Rod Blagojevich, Dylan need not concern himself with chronicling this particular crisis of faith. There’s enough here to launch a thousand politically minded minstrels.

Besides, if you're looking for a Dylan song to bookend this cockamamie case of political corruption and mind numbing incompetence, all you have to do is turn the clock back 42 years…

Well, they'll stone you when you walk all alone.

They'll stone you when you are walking home.
They'll stone you and then say you are brave.
They'll stone you when you are set down in your grave.

In 2008, however, those words are less whimsical social commentary and more reflective of the massive political drubbing a certain governor from Illinois is about to rightfully endure.
Digg this

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Barack Obama and Bob Dylan: Citizens of the world

I pity the poor immigrant,

Who wishes he would've stayed home,
Who uses all his power to do evil,
But in the end is always left so alone.

Barack Obama has always had his detractors. It is politics, after all. And considering the playing field for the last 18 months has been the presidency, it’s to be expected when people came after him, they came hard.

But unlike Bush, Clinton, or any of the other recent candidates for the highest office in the land, Barack Obama has been held to a different standard. From the beginning, there have been those who maintained something ‘just isn’t American’ about Barack Obama.

But the latest controversy, which suggests Obama may not be a natural born American citizen (and therefore must be prohibited from assuming the office to which he was elected in November), ironically is the most 'American' controversy of them all: Build them up so we can tear them back down.

'Legitimacy'-- that's precisely what's at the core of this most recent affront on the meteoric ascension of Barack Obama. And the argument goes something like this:

Kenya was still a British colony in 1961
• Obama’s father from Kenya and therefore a British citizen
• British citizenship passed on to his son
• Obama was born with dual citizenship
• Obama is therefore not a naturalized, US citizen

The Obama team maintains the president-elect’s proof of citizenship is right on his birth certificate.

State of birth: Hawai’i.

Furthermore, they contend, Barack’s dual Kenyan citizenship expired when he turned 21. Case closed.

Not so fast. It turns out that the case just may be heading to the Supreme Court. Yet despite the excitement generated over the December 5th announcement that the highest court in the land could take the Obama case, most legal experts expect the Court will take a pass. As a result, what it means to be a “national born citizen of the US” will likely stay ambiguous. The rationale? The Court doesn’t like to step in and override the will of the voters.

It seems the legal experts overlooked a certain case the Supreme Court took in 2000 that very much did override the will of the voters—but that’s another grunt altogether.

The point is this: Fame comes with a price. We raise our idols to the pinnacle of fame, only to rejoice in their demise as they suffer the wounds we inflict upon them. We’ve seen it with Elvis, we’ve seen it with Marilyn, we’ve seen it with Brando. And we’ve seen it with Bob.

Just as with Barack Obama, the ‘legitimacy’ of the Bob Dylan has been called into question ever since a snot-nosed kid by the name of Robert Zimmerman arrived in New York on a cold winter day in February 1961, and began his own lifelong process of reinvention.

Maybe it’s their dubious backgrounds, maybe it’s their enigmatic, shape-shifting personalities, or maybe it’s their meteoric rise from obscurity. But whatever it is, there is definitely something about these men that excites us--and makes us extremely uneasy.

We marvel at the way they shimmer in the spotlight, yet we can’t help but wonder what it is they do when the lights turn off and they retreat to the shadows. They walk among us; yet the world they inhabit is not our own. They may be restless souls, determined and undaunted. But we are the ones left unsure and wary.

And though Dylan and Obama are both cloaked in a shroud of mystery, that cloak is cut from distinctly different cloth, two men tailored for two very different times.

But one thing is for sure. Just as something happened when the man born Robert Allen Zimmerman became ‘Dylan,’ something happened when the man born Barack Hussein Obama became simply ‘Barack’ to millions of Americans. And while Bob Dylan may be in the twilight of his spiritual journey, for Barack Obama the dawn is just now breaking.

In the end, however, the joke is on us. We may have engaged in what is a uniquely American tradition of raising these two men to the highest echelons of fame, but once we put Barack Obama and Bob Dylan on their respective pedestals, they no longer belonged to us. They became citizens of the world…

Whose visions in the final end,

Must shatter like the glass.
I pity the poor immigrant,
When his gladness comes to pass.
Digg this