Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"There's Somethin' Happenin' Here..."

Sometimes you can be historical and lose.

You can have the future working for you, but that leaves you shorthanded where the present is concerned.

Banking on the future, promising a future, may mean a candidate has to wait.

How Feb. 5 plays out in the Democratic primaries remains to be seen and those of us with experience in observing and playing politics know that an exciting, forward-looking campaign will lose to a "machine" every time.

The people who have the machine were in power once, not too long ago. They spread love and money, and learned things about running for president that can only be learned by running for president.

And we know from the New Hampshire primary that venues packed with the young, with a rainbow of outsiders not usually associated with politics, does not always signify victory at the polls.

We know that there are plenty of middle-aged folks whom you don't notice when you walk in the streets, and bureaucrats, and hacks who grind out the serious and unglamorous work of party life, good folks, who back Hillary Clinton for her past achievements and relationship with a marginally successful Democratic administration led by her husband.

Ms. Clinton has won in New Hampshire and Nevada without generating the kind of excitement generated by Obama at American University the other day and other locales across the country.

But as David Brooks assures us in his recent "New York Times" column, "Something fundamental has shifted in the Democratic Party.”

Brooks, a conservative columnist last time we checked, can be expected to toe the emergent post-South Carolina narrative, that Obama Democrats, and even Billary's own supporters, finally got a sense of what the opposition always found so noxious about the Clintons.

He then transitions smoothly into a fine socio-cultural analysis of the Kennedys’ appearance at American U. as, “having to do with the confluence of themes and generations. The Kennedys and Obama hit the same contrasts again and again in their speeches: the high versus the low road; inspiration versus calculation; future versus the past and most of all, service versus selfishness.”

You can read the article if you’d like, or you can guess which candidate carried the banner of the “selfish.”

Back in 2004, when the major networks did not cover the early hours of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Brooks got a paycheck from the Public Broadcasting System to sit-in on the unknown Illinois state senator’s speech.

His personal convictions were swept aside. Brooks observed how unfortunate it was the major networks had missed the Obama speech and it was not overstatement. At that convention two future presidential candidates gave speeches, and one of them just dropped out of the race.

That’s Obama. He is so convincing (most of the time) that even a guy like Brooks, who could wax poetic about w. Bush’s scholarly readings of texts on “Catholic social work” can drop his guard long enough to be, not charmed, but challenged and inspired.

Obama burns so bright even long-damaged goods like Ted Kennedy get a reconsideration.

“The old guy stole the show,” wrote Brooks of Kennedy. He observed that, “After his callow youth, Kennedy came to realize that life would not give him the chance to be president. But life did ask him to be a senator, and he has embraced the role and served that institution with more distinction than anyone else now living - as any of his colleagues, Republican or Democrat, will tell you.”

And those were not his only nice words for the senator from Massachusetts.

Something is changing in this country. Obama may already have unleashed forces of youth, cooperation, and commitment that would make his being president unnecessary.

But by comparison, a fall campaign featuring “Clinton II: The Woman” and John McCain’s “transcendent battle against Islamic fundamentalism” seems like a cheap consolation prize.

We have been lied to, kept in a war we voted to get out of, and seen our patrimony and tax money gone to things important to a certain class of person, rather than to the commonweal.

We deserve to be led by the man who inspired us, who opened the door to a new phase in history.

Our Laws Don't Apply To...Us?

The primary season has given highwayscribery something to live for in recent days, but (p)resident Bush remains the gift that just keeps on giving... or taking or...

You have to wonder how Dan Froomkin hasn't ended up at Gitmo with his unrelenting assault on the president.

Sure, highwayscribery has been harder on w., but Froomkin actually has a readership and, as his most recent posting at "White House Briefing" makes perfectly clear, he doesn't waste the space nor does he whisper into the megaphone.

Froomkin has long been a source for top-notch journalism and inspiration here at highwayscribery.

That w. is drying up and blowing away with the winds of change sweeping our nation, doesn't mean he has mellowed, seen any special light, or learned how to compromise.

Take his latest "signing statement," those normally ceremonial accompaniments to legislation the Bush administration has raised to an art form where dissembling and dishonesty are concerned.

Froomkin reports that Congress passed a big defense appropriations bill this week. It's normally the largest outlay of your money the government makes, though the particulars are rarely parsed in the national media.

But the "Washington Post" blogger/columnist parses both the bill and the (p)resident's ensuing signing statement and concludes, surprise of surprises, that Bush sees something other than what the words say.

Section 1222 reads, and we quote:

"No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in the Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:

(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.

(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources in Iraq."

Which is very interesting because of what it says about the real action in Washington D.C.

While the media is gleefully stepping all over Bill Clinton's overstepping his role has former-president-cum-political-husband, and lubricating John McCain for another session of whoring, the Democratic Congress has been doing what it can to prevent the administration from setting up a permanent presence in Iraq, and keeping the U.S.'s paws off the beleaguered countries most precious resource...

"...Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea," as they said in the introduction to "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Bush's response to Congress, which is empowered by the U.S. Constitution to make the laws he will carry out, was this:

"[It] purports to impose requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief."

The latter which he likens to that of a dictator.

Bush doesn't understand checks and balances or the idea that Congress is fully within its rights to "impose" upon him.

Or as Froomkin put it, "The overall message to Congress was clear: I'm not bound by your laws."

Remember when you voted in 2006 to switch party control in Congress and, by implication, end the war?

This is what you got.

And if it had slipped your mind while you absorbed the magnitude of your grocery and gas bills, and all the stories about how valuable going to Iraq was now that there are only one or two bombings a day, the media wasn't going to remind you.

In spite of the fact the signing statement was distributed to reporters covering the White House, the "New York Times," "Washington Post," and "Wall Street Journal," all saw fit to ignore the story, or rather did not see it at all.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Virginia), co-sponsored language establishing a commission to investigate corporate welfare associated with the Iraq war, only to have it become part of the signing statement's sweeping and magical powers.

Said Webb, who signaled a new order back in January 2007 by getting in Bush's face at some fancy event or other, "If the administration would like to explain to us what their constitutional issues is with a piece of legislation that the President just signed, we would be happy to hear that. In the meantime, we are moving forward with the Commission."

Which sounds good, but you'll remember when the Senate tried to subpoena administration officials over the illegal eavesdropping program it started, they simply refused to appear and were backed up by Alberto Gonzales' Department of Justice, which made clear its unwillingness to prosecute for them for contempt of Congress.

And you'll remember back when Dick Cheney didn't have to respond to a subpoena of certain documents Congress wanted (for the same eavesdropping scandal), because he had deemed himself the occupant of some strange netherworld neither in Congress or the executive branch.

None of these things (nor many others) has the administration had to answer for, but a time of reckoning is near for they will soon be pulled from their bulwarks by a new election...

...if they choose to recognize it as applying to them.

Here Is To You...

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Torrance Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, of Torrance , CA :

"First Lieutenant Matthew Ferrara made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our nation abroad. Matthew's tremendous courage and bravery will always be remembered. Maria and I pray for the comfort of his family, friends and fellow soldiers during this painful time."

Ferrara , 24, died Nov. 9 of wounds sustained when his patrol was attacked by direct fire from enemy forces in Aranus , Afghanistan . Ferrara was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, United States Army, Vicenza , Italy .

In honor of 1st Lt. Ferrara, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Bridgeport Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, of Troy , MI :

"Sergeant Phillip Bocks honorably served our nation with bravery and selflessness while preserving freedom and democracy for his fellow citizens. Maria and I send our deepest condolences and continued prayers to Phillip's family, friends and fellow Marines for their loss. We are forever grateful for his dedication as a member of our nation's armed forces."

Bocks, 28, died Nov. 9 while conducting combat operations in Aranus , Afghanistan . Bocks was assigned to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, United States Marine Corps, Bridgeport , CA .

In honor of Sgt. Bocks, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Los Angeles Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri, of Los Angeles , CA :

"With deep sadness, Maria and I join all Californians in mourning the loss of Staff Sergeant Joseph Curreri. Joseph displayed tremendous courage and commitment undertaking the duty of serving in our nation's military. We send our sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and fellow soldiers as they grieve the loss of their loved one."

Curreri, 27, died Oct. 27 as a result of injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident in Siet, Lake Jolo Island , Philippines . Curreri was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), United States Army, Fort Lewis , WA .
In honor of Staff Sgt. Curreri, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Lone Pine Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Wayne M. Geiger, of Lone Pine, CA:

"Specialist Wayne Geiger made the ultimate sacrifice while bravely defending our country overseas. Maria and I wish to convey our deepest condolences and continued prayers to Wayne's family, friends and fellow soldiers for their loss. We are forever grateful for his dedication as a member of our nation's armed forces."

Geiger, 23, died Oct. 18 as a result of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad , Iraq . Geiger was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, United States Army, Vilseck , Germany .

In honor of Spc. Geiger, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Santee Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Erik T. Garoutte, of Santee , CA :

"Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are to Corporal Erik Garoutte for his unwavering commitment as a member of the United States Marine Corps. Maria and I send our deepest sympathies and continued prayers to his family and friends as they mourn the tremendous loss of their loved one. Erik's death is a great loss for California and our nation."

Garoutte, 22, died Oct. 19 in Baghdad , Iraq . Garoutte was assigned to 1st Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Company, Marine Corps Security Force Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Norfolk , VA.

In honor of Cpl. Garoutte, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Port Hueneme Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Vincent A. Madero, of Port Hueneme, CA:

"Maria and I join the community of Port Hueneme in mourning the tragic loss of Specialist Vincent Madero. Serving as a member of our nation's armed forces requires courage and bravery, qualities which Vincent embodied. Our prayers are with his family and friends during this painful time; he will be dearly missed by all who knew him."

Madero, 22, died Oct. 17 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV in Balad, Iraq. Madero was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Spc. Madero, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Sacramento Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the
death of Spc. Frank L. Cady III, of Sacramento, CA:

"Our state has lost a dedicated soldier with the death of Specialist Frank Cady. Maria and I want Frank's family to know that we are eternally grateful to him for protecting the safety of our citizens as a member of the United States Army. We join all Californians in extending our prayers and condolences to his loved ones."

Cady, 20, died Oct. 10 as a result of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over in Baghdad, Iraq. Cady was assigned to the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Riley, KS. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

In honor of Spc. Cady, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama Baraks Billary

When Hillary Clinton said she'd found her voice in New Hampshire it was not yet clear that it was coming out of her husband's mouth.

The Clintons must be seriously concerned about the eruption of the hybrid "Billary" into the national lexicon.

It both mocks them and highlights the bifurcated nature of the New York senator's campaign, which undoubtedly revisits a past that - if South Carolina is any indication - the nation has no interest in returning to.

Obama's stunning and overwhelming victory is no less significant because Billary saw it coming some days ago. They worked hard to dull the impact by playing down expectations, but after New Hampshire, that pony won't pull anymore.

You win it, you win it and are glad to do so.

highwayscribery thinks the Clintons understood only too well the danger of cleaving Bill so close to Hillary's breast (sorry), but they were desperate in New Hampshire and are right to wage their battles one at a time.

Obama, nothing if not quick on his feet, may have uttered the line of the campaign when he told Clinton (the senator, not the president), "Well I can't tell who I'm running against."

Now nobody else can either.

the scribe noted in "Palmetto State Stilettos" that, "By linking Ms. Clinton in a clear way to the former president Obama both highlights her husband's inappropriate role as hatchet man and draws into relief the fact that, if she gets back into the White House, he does, too."

Bill may be beloved within his party, but that doesn't mean the rank-and-file necessarily want him back.

If the nebulous "change" every candidate now hawks is what Americans really want, Billary's sell just got that much tougher.

Make no mistake about it, qualifying Obama's victory in the "racially charged" state, and other colloquialisms cooked up to soften its impact won't fly. Remember, South Carolina derailed John McCain' s "Straight Talk Express" eight years ago and is not to be discounted because it is a southern state.

Winning the presidency without carrying a southern state is verily impossible and coming up are Georgia, Alabama, and the rest of Dixie, which share much in kind with South Carolina.

This is not 1968. There are some capable and well-placed black columnists rising to Obama's defense and they are doing so both justifiably and with panache.

South Carolina puts to rest, also, the canard that blacks would not turn out for Obama; something we never bought for a second here at highwayscribery.

John Edwards, meanwhile, hangs in their cobbling an odd coalition together, doing respectably well, and poised to shock should he pull out a state or two somewhere. If that happens he could make this primary season look a lot like that jumble over on the GOP side.

Let's see.

At the very least, he has taken the position Dennis Kucinich has longed for as catalyst of the party's far left wing.

One thing is for certain, the media has pulled back on making assertive predictions, Obama looks a lot stronger than yesterday, and Billary a little shakier.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Marvelous Mayor

Vote people into power and they'll send police to beat you when there's a disagreement.

Ever has it been, save for a unique time in New York City from 1965 to 1973 when a tall, handsome, patrician man -- a Republican of all things -- succeeded in governing a different way.

He left the mayoralty exhausted, his political fortunes in ruin. He aged without the benefit of any commemoration or recognition of merit. His health was failing and, because his time in city government had been so short, lacked a pensioner’s health care until then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cooked up a job for him.

In the end he could not afford to live in the city over which he once reigned glamorous and intellectually challenging, and moved to South Carolina where he died a mostly forgotten man.

But today we remember John Vliet Lindsay for the unique, almost odd, position he held in American politics, and the meritorious way he chose to look into the eyes of those he governed, rather than down on them.

The information gathered for this essay comes from a fantastic book by Vincent J. Cannato entitled, The Ungovernable City

So complete is the author’s job that consulting related books seemed pointless given the work's size (675 pages) and myriad sources. highwayscribery consulted its own library and came up with “The Cost of Good Intentions: New York City and the Liberal Experiment, 1960-1975,” and found the information covered but a thin outline for Cannato’s meatier rendering.

The author himself seems conflicted about John Lindsay for he has dedicated a goodly portion of time and talent to study a man he considers a failure, which is okay. Life's purported "losers" have much to teach us and this he seems to know.

Cannato's analysis is that Lindsay stitched together a unique coalition of ritzy Manhattan liberals, poor blacks, poor Puerto Ricans, and ambivalent Jews to assume power, but failed miserably at understanding or governing to the benefit of ethnic Irish, Italian and German middle-class elements in the outer boroughs.

More on that further down. Now we recall, remember, and reminisce.

Lindsay was wildly disliked by the New York Police Department which rightly felt “handcuffed” by him. Elected as a reformer willing to tackle a city of “power brokers,” the new mayor stumbled over the very first issue he chose to focus upon - police brutality.

Lindsay felt the people of New York, minorities in particular, had a reasonable gripe where the issue of police violence was concerned. In response, he proposed a Civilian Complaint Review Board to weigh their protests.

Toward this end the mayor assembled a Law Enforcement Task Force to draft a report with recommendations for shaping the proposed entity.

Marjorie Friedlander, at the New York City Review Board Conference, supported the report and highlighted its, “avoidance of a spirit of repression and punitiveness in crime control...its humanitarianism and rehabilitation orientation in law enforcement.”

Cannatto peppers the tome with his own interpretations of things said 40 years ago, which is perfectly fine and good for the discussion that was not happening until he wrote “The Ungovernable City.”

Here he paraphrases Friedlander: “Thus civilian review was needed not only to curb police brutality, but also to foster a more humanitarian vision of criminals. Since crime was a product of social forces such as poverty and discrimination, ‘repressive’ law enforcement techniques would only add more oppression to the lives of the poor and increase crime."

Opponents of the Civilian Complaint Review Board took their battle to the ballot box where Lindsay, hands full running the madcap city, was not up to a proper counter-campaign and lost.

And so the police remained accountable to essentially no one but themselves.

But there would be further battles against the NYPD, most of which Lindsay, sitting atop the city’s hierarchy and aided by detective Frank Serpico's timely revelations of police corruption, would win.

They were uncommonly difficult years to be at loggerheads with the police. Years when people hit the streets and demonstrated over long-festering grievances.

One was racial, what was called at that time, “the Negro question.”

American cities burned with the rage of American blacks and they, in turn, suffered death and injury by violent state reaction. In New York, Lindsay sought to limit the damage, to prevent the kind of riots that signaled the permanent downturn of cities such as Detroit.

Cannato observes how Lindsay actively contrasted himself with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley who ordered his police force to shoot rioters dead and maim looters. “We happen to think that protection of life, particularly innocent life, is more important than protecting property or anything else," said Lindsay. "We are not going to turn disorder into chaos through the unprincipled use of armed force. In short, we are not going to shoot children in New York City.”

There were opportunities aplenty to shoot (or not), the most prominent being Martin Luther King's assassination.

Lindsay was at a Broadway play with his wife Mary. Harlem went bonkers and, against the advice of police officials and aides, the mayor decided upon wading into the maelstrom.

“[S]omebody has to go up there,” he told them. “Somebody white just has to face that emotion and say that we’re sorry.”

He met the crowd and spoke, protected by a Harlem group known as Allah’s Five Percenters, which aide Barry Gottehrer had cultivated. The mayor's presence diffused a situation spun out of control in other American cities that evening.

Jack Newfield of the “Village Voice” wrote: “In the collective American fantasy of ‘High Noon’ updated, tall, grim Lindsay strides down Lenox Avenue, into a subsiding storm of bricks. It’s a comforting fantasy Lindsay has earned because he is the only white Mayor in America…to have the grudging trust of the black underclass.”

Columnist Jimmy Breslin was more generous still: "He looked straight at the people on the streets and he told them he was sick and he was sorry about Martin Luther King. And the poor he spoke to who are so much more real than the rest of us, understood the truth of John Lindsay. And there was no riot in New York.”

Cannato asserts that there was a riot and arrests and vandalism, but grudgingly concedes that it was on a much smaller scale than elsewhere in urban America. He dubs Lindsay's intervention, “a high point in his administration.”

The Lindsay strategy of cordoning off a rebellious area and letting what happened happen without the use of billyclubs and police violence became common practice throughout his term; a remarkable achievement and unique approach to governance and civil order.

An odd and ultimately extinct animal known as the “liberal Republican,” Lindsay saw the forces of law and order as social agents that could be used in pro of the disadvantaged and rebellious rather than against them.

During a difficult sanitation workers strike in 1967, Lindsay butted heads with another liberal Republican, Governor Nelson Rockefeller who opposed bringing in the National Guard to clean up the accumulating trash for fear of inciting a riot.

Cannato notes that, “Lindsay countered that not having the National Guard visible in the inner city cleaning up garbage would reinforce the feeling that government was unconcerned about poor minorities. Like almost every other issue that he faced in his term as mayor, Lindsay viewed the garbage strike as a civil rights issue.”

Black anger was not the only issue that separated Chicago’s Daley from Lindsay. There was the other great street expression of those times, the anti-war/student left.

Here's Cannato again: “He said youth of the time included a ‘prophetic minority,’ of activists and protesters who, ‘react to the world not by turning their backs upon it, but by facing it honestly and forthrightly -- as it is…Those who would rebel against the conventions of our society have sound grounds, in logic and in conscience, for doing so. I should remind you, however, that the rebel who overturns society’s conventions, must take on the corresponding obligation to construct new and better conventions in their place.’”

This good mayor said things that are not said today regarding the impact of war expenditures on urban America. Another reason why we focus upon him here.

Addressing Harvard students in April 1968, Lindsay stated, “For the truth, I’m afraid, is that we cannot achieve either the cities or the society we would like as long as we continue the war in Vietnam. We cannot spend more than $24 billion a year in Vietnam and still rebuild our cities. We cannot speak of non-violence at home when we are displacing, maiming, and killing thousands of Asians for the professed purpose of protecting the peace in a land halfway across the world.”

He told a Greenwich Village rally for a Moratorium on the Vietnam War that theirs was “the highest form of patriotism. It is an attempt to turn this nation away from a dangerous, self-defeating cause…Those that charge this is unpatriotic do not know the history of their own nation and they do not understand that our greatness comes from the right to speak out.”

Who has the guts to say such a thing today? To risk political oblivion in response? Which is to say Lindsay's stance did not go down well with everyone.

Ordering the American flag be pulled to half-mast at all city buildings for Moratorium Day, Lindsay ran up against a police force that refused to follow his diktat. Something of pitched battle ensued at Gracie Mansion, the New York mayoral residence, where the stars-and-stripes were drawn up and pulled down by alternating forces of Lindsay aides and recalcitrant officers of the law.

It was a scary episode that demonstrated the extent to which the American consensus is rooted in acquiescence by civilian leaders to those with the guns, who threaten to step in and set things right as they understand them to be right, and not as those elected to direct them do.

In 1971 the city’s police, those charged with its safety and security, called a wildcat strike. Cannato attributes the ensuing calm to the fact it all went down in the dead of winter, but that's his opinion and begs the question about why we call a riot involving police a "police riot."

The cops struck, not for wages and pensions, although those herrings were served up as rationale. They struck because they did not like the mayor and the people he chose to work with rather than beat up.

They had no respect for a boss that would cooperate with, say, Yippie rabble-rouser Abbie Hoffman whom Lindsay dispatched aide Ted Mastroiannni, head of the Lower East Side Task Force, to deal with.

Cannato writes that, "The Lindsay administration used the same theory on Hoffman as it used with black militants in the city’s ghettos. They would try to co-opt him and get him to help cool down the tense East Village."


The bottom line is that Hoffman’s anarchic treatise, “Fuck the System,” was funded by the Lindsay administration, however obliquely. Cannato describes the tome as, “a guide for young people to mooch their way through New York. It gave information on free food, clothes, money, rent, movies as well as on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases.”

The paragraph conveys the author’s bourgeois sensibility and is a proper reflection of many a New Yorker's attitude and inability to comprehend the great mayor's approach, to see that if something is free, one is not mooching, that where there is information about sexually transmitted diseases, less diseases are transmitted sexually.

The Lindsay crowd floated upon their own intellectual ether, according to Cannato: “Gottehrer was anything but displeased with the book, which he called ‘everything I expected and more.’ Though he bemoaned the inclusion of information on panhandling and cheating the telephone company and Transit Authority, Gottehrer still found the book ‘perfect’ and ‘hysterically funny’.”

Years later, when Hoffman surfaced from the underground to face criminal charges, the same Lindsay aide stood on his behalf, saying, "His creativity and commitment forced our government in New York and other governments to face up to the inequities of our society.”

Most remarkable about the Lindsay gang was that they cared at all about people like Hoffman and their minions, as opposed to writing them off as loony and unrepresentative of a larger, "normal" public.

Theirs was an unusually open and, dare we say, democratic bent to governing seen, for example, in the administration's approach to the park system.

Lindsay's first appointee to the position of parks commissioner was Thomas P.F. Hoving, a thirty-five-year old curator of the Metropolitan Museum’s Cloisters, son of the president of Tiffany's, and possessor of an art history background

“He wanted to democratize the use of city parks and take the 'No' out of park signs…" writes Cannato. "Hoving was a whirl of activity. His most famous innovations were ‘Hoving Happenings.’ At one of these ‘happenings,’ on a Sunday afternoon in May, Hoving opened Central Park to adults and children alike to paint away on a 105-foot canvas with paint provided by the city…Hoving also held a kite party in Central Park, though kites had been banned there for sixty years. He organized a huge game of capture-the-flag for children…on the Lower East Side a mound of dirt brought into Tompkins Square Park to fill in tree pits had become a favorite play site for local children. When filling began and the mound shrunk, the community protested. Hoving proclaimed that the mount of dirt would remain, and ‘Hoving Hill’ was born.

This is called yielding to the wishes of those governed and doing so with a flexible mindset. And it is very hard to find.

“Hoving promoted the idea of vest-pocket parks - small playgrounds tucked into empty spaces in the city’s slums. According to Hoving, these parks were designed to ‘keep their [ghetto kids’] fucking minds off getting drugs and shooting each other.’ Hoving’s most enduring legacy was his decision to close Central Park to automobile traffic on Sundays in the summer. It was soon expanded to weekends throughout the year."

But the new access, Cannato continues, "created conflicts over the vision of the park, however. It caused strain on the upkeep of the park’s grass, shrubs, and plants. It also caused political strain as the park became a center for antiwar protests and countercultural activity such as love-ins, drug taking, loud music, and other uncivil behavior. Though a patrician Republican, Hoving was sympathetic to the counterculture. Robert Moses called Hoving a ‘recreational leftist’.”

That's an interesting category and something a person might aspire to in all apparent dignity.

Hoving was replaced by August Heckscher; a man cut from much the same cloth. Years later he wrote, “To put tidiness as the first or only consideration, and to be blind to the big things that were happening seemed a betrayal of the city’s best hope.”

Of countercultural actors, he wrote, “These dissidents and incendiary spokesman were in many cases the best members of the community. For all their faults, they had the breath of life in them.”

Above, it must be emphasized, are the words of a public official, as are those below:

“People in great numbers and of all varieties came out into the parks and squares and streets, and there they professed the values they lived by, exhibited the latest fads and fashions, paraded, demonstrated, acted out their emotions, walked, bicycled, made love, just sat. It was quite a spectacle. It was a source of alarm for politicians who raised the slogan of ‘Law and Order’ to the level of Holy Writ, for bureaucrats charged with keeping the grass green, and for some people scared by the abundance of life.”

Cannato claims that Lindsay himself thought the parks ought to be "a safety valve for all this protest, that they ought to be the area where these great dramas were acted out.”

Dramas to be acted out rather than flare-ups of disobedience to be suppressed by officially sanctioned violence.

A “New York Times” essayist, Marya Mannes drafted the darker side: "Litter overflows the baskets near the food stands, lies under benches, catches on twigs. Broken glass glints in the rocks where mica once glittered…" She saw vandalism, “What can’t be plucked or stolen is often mauled and destroyed. This includes most private planting of flowers and shrubs. It also includes tree branches and whole bushes."

Heckscher found it disconcerting but not irrational: “Some of what went for malicious destruction could be seen as an attempt on their part to rectify an error in design or conception: the failure, for example, to put a gate in a place where (from their point of view) it was obviously needed. Again: it is the nature of young people to build up, and then to destroy and to build anew.”

But these were analytical, patient interpretations of conditions that ignored simpler concerns about the city's being filthy, the breakdown in order, and an absence of common decency.

Cannato discusses Lindsay’s, “inability to understand white, middle- and working-class homeowners living outside Manhattan. Secure enough not to rely on the city’s social welfare system but poor enough not to be able to indulge in the leisure style or political reforms of the upper class, these men and women possessed what appeared to Lindsay and his liberal supporters to be parochial concerns: lower taxes, more police protection, better city services, and protection of their neighborhoods.”

It is true, and he correctly points out that all ensuing coalitions pieced together by New York mayors catered to the needs of these groups.

And of course, as Cannato discusses in great detail, New York City was falling apart. That fact was the lynchpin to Lindsay's unseating his predecessor, Robert Wagner. And so it is fair he be pinned with the failure of reversing that same trend, because it easier to critique than to mend.

But there was little awareness then about the way America was selling off its manufacturing franchise, of how globalization would eliminate factory work throughout the western democracies.

The neighborhoods that came undone, that disintegrated into violence and vandalism and welfare dependency during Lindsay's time, were not the product of his policies. They were well beyond the purview of any mayor, president even, to reverse for international capital was on the move and the flow of money is as tough to stop as a stream of demonstrators flowing down Broadway.

Nonetheless, this disintegration and disorder ended the American peoples' fling with liberalism. They were incapable of associating such things with greater freedom and the reaction was/is certainly predictable if not understandable.

But the city of filth was also the city of the Velvet Underground, the city of Andy Warhol's factory, Max's Kansas City, Fania Records, Tito Puente, SoHo, Edie Sedgewick, a metroplis that provided not only America, but the world at large, with artistic vision and direction for many years afterward.

Where are their like in Rudy Giuliani's and Michael Bloomberg's burg of corporate chains and real estate empires? What art stars have occupied a like stage or projected similar, seminal profiles?

None, because there are no John Lindsays to cultivate them; to create the tolerance and permissiveness they need to thrive. And that was an accomplishment of liberalism difficult to trace back to its policy origins and evident only years after its demise. No establishment politician today would dare to understand the needs of the counterculture, or speak in its defense, let alone provide accommodation.

Cannato concludes with the lost opportunity of Lindsay's liberalism, but leans too heavily on finding fault with the man, when it was the larger picture that had distorted and rendered an ideology of cooperation and compassion something quaint and unrealizable.

The author writes, "Lindsay saw the angry extremes of the reactionary and the revolutionary pulling the nation apart. Contrasted with these two extremes, Lindsay saw 'the center based on reason and truth,' of which he was obviously a part. He rued the fact that the ideology of the center was not 'easy to articulate because it is complex and even paradoxical.' Lindsay was speaking for the liberal Republicanism of his youth and the Cold War liberal Democratic philosophy of men like Robert McNamara. But this 'vital center,' as historian Arthur Schlesinger called it, no longer existed. By the late sixties, thanks to the Vietnam War and the challenge from the student left, this kind of politics had lost all claims to moral superiority."

That vital center has been pursued by American politicians for decades now. It would seem that, rather than a bad actor come late to the stage with outdated ideas, the liberal mayor was simultaneously behind and ahead of his times.

As such, John V. Lindsay's role was a difficult one, superhuman even, and still he delivered a rave performance as the "Marvelous Mayor."

In Memory Of...

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Fallbrook Sailor

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Chief Petty Officer Mark T. Carter, of Fallbrook , CA :

"Our hearts go out to Chief Petty Officer Mark Carter's family as they grieve the loss of their precious loved one. Maria and I wish to express our sympathies to Mark's family, friends and fellow servicemembers who served alongside him. The tremendous service and sacrifice he made for our country will be forever remembered by all Californians."

Carter, 27, died Dec. 11 as a result of enemy action while conducting combat operations in Iraq . Carter was permanently assigned as an East Coast-based Navy SEAL, United States Navy.

In honor of Chief Petty Officer Carter, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of El Dorado Hills Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Kyle Dayton, of El Dorado Hills , CA :

"Sergeant Kyle Dayton courageously served our country to protect the freedoms that each of us hold dear. Maria and I wish to express our deepest condolences and prayers to Kyle's family as they mourn the loss of their son. Our state has lost a valiant hero, whose legacy will be remembered with pride and gratitude."

Dayton , 22, died Dec. 3 as a result of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident in Ashwah , Iraq . Dayton was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army, Fort Bragg , NC .

In honor of Sgt. Dayton, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Walnut Creek Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Sean K.A. Langevin, of Walnut Creek , CA :

"Specialist Langevin committed himself to protecting our country. Maria and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Sean's family, friends and fellow soldiers who served courageously beside him. His honorable sacrifice will not be forgotten."

Langevin, 23, died Nov. 9 as a result of wounds sustained when his patrol was attacked by direct fire from enemy forces in Aranus , Afghanistan . Langevin was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, United States Army, Vicenza , Italy .

In honor of Spc. Langevin, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Torrance Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Lester G. Roque, of Torrance , CA :

"Words cannot adequately convey our sincere appreciation for Specialist Roque's service. Lester's heroic sacrifice is an inspiration to all Californians. Maria and I extend our deepest condolences to his family during their time of mourning."

Roque, 23, died Nov. 10 as a result of wounds sustained when his patrol was attacked by direct fire from enemy forces in Aranus , Afghanistan . Roque was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, United States Army, Vicenza , Italy .

In honor of Spc. Roque, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Palmetto State Stilettos

The heat is really on.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were at each other's throats last night down in the Palmetto State.

Obama's strategy is clear and, from highwayscribery's perspective, the right call for him. Ms. Clinton must decide soon who her husband is and Bill Clinton needs to do the same thing. In the South Carolina debate Obama correctly answered her retort that "He's not here (Bill), but I am" with "Well I can't tell who I'm running against."

By linking Ms. Clinton in a clear way to the former president Obama both highlights her husband's inappropriate role as hatchet man and draws into relief the fact that, if she gets back into the White House, he does, too.

The joining of the past administration to a future one may cause some to view the Clinton's push for a second bite at the apple as more than a little annoying and power-cloying.

Meanwhile, the process is working. Obama's arguments are issues the media has passed on, and Clinton's pointing out the seamy reputation of an Obama campaign operative is necessary information, too.

And Obama was clearly angry, which is something we've not seen. He is not quite as unflappable as we thought, but voters will decide whether that's a good or bad thing.

It is easy to say what good theater it all is and how much excitement this rivalry generates relative to the political process.

But it is a terrible trap for Democrats, especially if Ms. Clinton's insider campaign and collection of super-delegates crush Obama before or at the Democratic National Convention.

The anger and resentment it would generate could drive all these newly-minted Democratic caucusers and primary goers, along with Obama supporters, away from the contest in November, and from the process for years to come.

It happened in 1980 when Kennedy supporters, livid at Ted's rough handling at the hands of Jimmy Carter's minions, stayed home and opened the door to a Reagan landslide.

But for now, on with the show!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Death Roll

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Marcos Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo, of San Marcos , CA :

“Maria and I are forever grateful to those who make the commitment to defend America in our nation’s armed forces. Private First Class Ivan Merlo accepted this valiant duty with courage and bravery. During this difficult time, our continued prayers are with Ivan’s family, friends and fellow soldiers.”

Merlo , 19, died Jan. 8 as a result of wounds sustained during combat operations in Samarra , Iraq . Merlo was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), United States Army, Fort Campbell , KY. The incident is under investigation.

In honor of Pfc. Merlo, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Hesperia Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. James K. Healy, of Hesperia , CA :

“Maria and I stand with all Californians in honoring Sergeant James Healy for his service in the United States Army. James will be remembered as a protector of freedom and a patriot of our country. Maria and I are deeply saddened by this loss and we wish to extend our thoughts and prayers to his family.”

Healy, 25, died Jan. 7 at Jalalabad Airfield , Afghanistan as a result of wounds suffered when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Laghar Juy , Afghanistan . Healy was assigned to the 703rd Explosive Ordnance Detachment, United States Army, Fort Knox , KY.

In honor of Sgt. Healy, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Bakersfield Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Benjamin B. Portell, of Bakersfield , CA :

"Standing with his fellow soldiers, Sergeant Benjamin Portell proudly defended our country overseas. Maria and I extend our sympathies and prayers to his family and friends in this time of mourning. All Californians owe Benjamin a debt of gratitude for his courageous service to our nation."

Portell, 27, died Dec. 26 as a result of wounds suffered from small arms fire during dismounted combat operations in Mosul , Iraq . Portell was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, III Corps, United States Army, Fort Hood , TX .
In honor of Sgt. Portell, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Sanger Airman
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Senior Airman Nicholas D. Eischen, of Sanger , CA :

"As a member of our nation's armed forces, Senior Airman Nicholas Eischen set a courageous example for all Californians. Maria and I are deeply saddened by his loss and we will keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers. Nicholas' noble character will be deeply missed by all who knew him."

Eischen, 24, died Dec. 24 in a non-combat related incident in Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan . Eischen was assigned to the 60th Medical Operations Squadron, United States Air Force, Travis Air Force Base, CA.

In honor of Senior Airman Eischen, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Salinas Soldier
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. George J. Howell, of Salinas , CA :

"Private First Class George Howell fulfilled a valiant duty to our country, serving in the United States Army. George will be fondly remembered for his dedication to protecting freedom overseas. Maria and I will continue to pray for the comfort of his family, friends and fellow soldiers, who are mourning this tragic loss."

Howell, 24, died Dec. 21 as a result of wounds suffered when his vehicle was attacked by an improvised explosive device in Riyadh , Iraq . Howell was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Infantry Division (Light Infantry), United States Army, Fort Drum , NY .

In honor of Pfc. Howell, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Fante" by Charles Bukowski

every now and then it comes back to
him in bed there, blind,
being slowly chopped away,
the little bulldog,
the nurses passing through, pulling
at curtains, blinds, sheets.
seeing if he was still alive.
the Colorado Kid.
the courage of the American
Mencken's Catholic bad boy.
gone Hollywood.
and tossed up on shore.
being chopped away. chop, chop, chop.
until he was gone.

he never knew he would be
i wonder if he would have given a damn.
i think he would have.

John, you're big time now.
You've entered the Books of
right there with Dostoevsky,
Tolstoy, and your boy
Sherwood Anderson

I told you.

and you said, "you wouldn't
shit an old blind man,
would you?"
ah, no need for that, bulldog.

Book Report: "Ask the Dust," by John Fante

In "Ask the Dust"John Fante renders a pre-freeway Los Angeles; a Los Angeles that is organically connected to the surrounding environs, constantly reminded by the ever-present dust that it is a desert city.

That desert city was focused on downtown with its train tracks and depots, trolley system and urban grid known today as the “historic core.” His alter-ego and anti-hero Arturo Bandini rides the Angel’s Flight railway not as a tourist, but as someone who must get down the hill to Broadway for a drink and a pack of cigarettes.

It is a Los Angeles not yet divorced from its western reality, not yet a left coast New York, primed, but not entirely enveloped by the entertainment business. In fact, in a letter to his cousin Jo Campiglia, he describes the book as having “no Hollywood stuff.”

Fante’s is centered around Bunker Hill; a residential redoubt of ramshackle hotels, fading Victorian mansions, and wood-slatted apartment buildings.

And who resides in the redoubt? Well, the familiar characters of today and yore. But let us bow to Bandini, a struggling writer paying rent by the week for a hotel room; on the cusp of a great literary success:

Dust and old buildings and old people sitting at windows, old people tottering out of doors, old people moving painfully along the dark street. The old folk from Indiana and Iowa and Illinois, from Boston and Kansas City and Des Moines, they sold their homes and their stores and they came here by train and by automobile to the land of sunshine, to die in the sun, with just enough money to live until the sun killed them, tore themselves out by the roots of their last days, deserted the smug prosperity of Kansas City and Chicago and Peoria to find a place in the sun…The uprooted ones, the empty sad folks, the folks from back home. These were my countrymen, these were the new Californians. With their bright polo shirts and sunglasses, they were in paradise, they belonged.

Time has been kind to “Ask the Dust” in the way it is kind to a lot of literature because the world it portrays is gone or much changed. So what was in 1939 an oddly paced, edgy and offbeat drama of insignificants taking place in a world familiar to many, is now the same drama in a disappeared world, which adds appeal.

And what of that drama? Fante writes Campiglia that it is the, “Story of a girl I once loved who loved someone else, who in turn despised her.”

Fante was a successful screenwriter in Hollywood with credits such as “Full of Life,” “Walk on the Wildside,” and “My Six Loves,” among others, to his credit, so his ability to synopsize a story quite so well is understandable given the demands of “industrial” writing.

With equal efficiency does he go on to explain, “Strange story of a Mexican girl who somehow doesn’t fit into modern life, took to marijuana, lost her mind and wandered into the Mojave desert with a little Pekingese dog.”

And there you have it, in Fante’s words, which preclude the highway scribe from going more into more plot details.

Aside from the portrait of depression-era Los Angeles, a rather poor-fitting excerpt on an earthquake experienced by the author in Long Beach, and more of the above-quoted visions of a downtown now overrun with antiseptic corporate towers, “Ask the Dust,” is the portrait of a woman:

Except for the contour of her face and the brilliance of her teeth, she was not beautiful. But at that moment she turned to smile at one of her old customers, and I saw a streak of white under her lips. Her nose was Mayan, flat, with large nostrils. Her lips were heavily rouged, with the thickness of a negress’ lips. She was a racial type, and as such she was beautiful, but she was too strange for me. Her eyes were at a high slant, her skin was dark but not black, and as she walked her breasts moved in a way that showed their firmness.

But something about this girl, Camilla Lopez, works for him, perhaps it is this…

The girl moved like a dancer, her strong silk legs gathering bits of sawdust as her tattered shoes glided over the marble floor.

Bandini, a guy who is serious about his literature, if a bit roughly-hewn in the personality department, latches onto the girl’s class and lower life station when her natural aristocracy provokes his second generation Dago insecurities.

Those shoes, they were huaraches, the leather thongs wrapped several times around her ankles. They were desperately ragged huaraches; the woven leather had become unraveled.

Camilla works downtown at the Columbia Buffet where she and Bandini open the door to a relationship better left closed. He’s taken in a strange way by her; she disdains. He gains her interest through the application of lesser arts. “I hate you,” she tells him in turn. By the end of their psychological skirmish she blows him a kiss goodbye.

Do people really behave in this way?


She follows him out, girlish, flirty, surrendering. Rather than relish his conquest, Bandini digs for a deeper cut.

“Those huaraches - do you have to wear them, Camilla? Do you have to emphasize the fact that you always were and always will be a filthy little greaser?”

Nice guy, Arturo Bandini.

She looked at me in horror, her lips open. Clasping both hands against her mouth, she rushed inside the saloon. I heard her moaning, “Oh, oh, oh.”

In between this first meeting and the next, Bandini has a second short story published “back East.” Yes, in spite of his cruelty, we’re rooting for this first-person narrator much as we do an escaped convict hunted by hounds. He takes his subsequent winnings down to the Columbia Buffet where Camilla is wearing, “New white pumps, with high heels.”

She’s not impressed by his newfound wealth, in fact, prefers him the other way. It was for Bandini she’d shed the huaraches, but in doing so, loses him again.

The new shoes were hurting Camilla’s feet. She didn’t have her old style. She winced as she walked and gritted her teeth.

They go back and forth anew. There’s an unhealthiness that pervades their relationship rooted largely in the fact she is inexplicably in love with a rundown, dying in fact, bartender at the buffet.

“Ask the Dust,” really, has two anti-heroes, or at least one anti-hero and one anti-heroine in the bewitching, irascible Camilla.

On a first “date” (for lack of a more appropriate word) she takes Bandini out to the beach at Santa Monica in her 1929 Ford. The dish he portrays reads delicious…

After a mile she complained about her feet and asked me to hold the wheel. As I did it she reached down and took offer her shoes. Then she took the wheel again and threw one foot over the side of the Ford. At once her dress ballooned out, spanked her face. She tucked it under herself, but even so her brown thighs were exposed even to a pinkish underthing. It drew a lot of attention. Motorists shot by, pulled up short, and heads came out of windows to observe her brown naked leg. It made her angry. She took to shouting at the spectators, yelling that they ought to mind their own business. I sat at her side, slouched down, trying to enjoy a cigaret (that’s Fante’s spelling for the smoke) that burned too hotly in the rush of the wind.

Fante went on to enjoy success in his own time, to own a ranch in Southern California, and then to become the tragic in his own life’s play, stricken by diabetes that left him blind while relatively young.

One hopes his darkness was in some way brightened by the vision of his Mexican girl.

Ah, Camilla. You are the reason for the book, the muse around which a story, your story, asked to be spun. With many shortcomings, its autobiographical bent the greatest, you rescue “Ask the Dust,” ask that it be read, ask us to ask, “What dust did you become?” And beg us to touch it with our lips.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Crying Game


George Stephanopolous was “shocked!”


Terry Moran found it “shocking!”


The mainstream and mass media were “stunned” and those who follow their every prediction and pronouncment found themselves in the same state.

And the highway scribe is not going to say he was not influenced by universal predictions that Sen. Barack Obama would sweep Senator Hillary Clinton away and march to a Feb. 5 coronation as the first African-American nominee of a major (or any?) American political party.

After all, in a small way, highwayscribery is part of the media constellation and like all good, non-fiction storytellers, enjoys a good yarn such as Obama’s.

But highwayscribery was aware that the Clintons have a party within the Democratic Party, a very considerable constituency not likely to be so easily swayed from loyalties long cultivated.

Truth be told, even were Obama to be elected, many of the thousands of government slots it would be his job to fill would be done so with experienced hands from the Bill Clinton years; the only Democratic administration in a generation.

But the scribe has a longer memory than Stephanopolous or Moran or any of the professional talkers who spend so much time trying to understand voters in the aggregate when, thank heavens, we are a nation of rather prickly individuals, to say nothing of the eccentric Hampshire-ite.

Those people hate to be interpreted and have a long history of delivering surprises including Gene McCarthy’s remarkable tilt at Lyndon Johnson in 1968, “frontrunner” Ed Muskie’s crash-and-burn in 1972, or Gary Hart’s temporary upstaging of Walter Mondale in 1984.

And what the scribe’s memory produced was a gulp of fear when Hillary’s crying moment materialized before his computer screen the other day. He sensed it would not be the first time Ms. Clinton would morph from witch to sympathetic moll in the drop of tear.

The ladies related to her when Jennifer Flowers tried to sink her husband’s candidacy, because the ladies know what it’s like to be done in by a man they love and stick by him for the sake of that love.

And the scribe remembers when her cheeky opponent for the Senate in 2000 left his debate podium to hover over Clinton with a piece of paper he wanted her to sign swearing off lobbyists. For whatever reason, a hovering man waving a paper at them is disconcerting to women, which is somewhat the point here:

Men often don’t know what the woman they face across the dinner table every night is thinking.

Anyway, that moment galvanized support from both women, and those sympathetic or enlightened to the tough road most women hoe, effectively finishing off that particular foe who went by the name of Rick Lazio.

Here’s a question: Does John Edwards' poor showing have anything to do with his “ganging up” on Clinton in Saturday’s debate?

Primaries are not won a week earlier in a place 1,000 miles away. They are won in the debates, campaign appearances, and spontaneous occurrences in the days leading up to a specific vote. And the crying moment or the gang bang are just such occurrences.

The “New York Times” Maureen Dowd does a similar analysis in a piece entitled, “Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?” but the question is wrong.

She only needed to cry her way back into contention, and she has. The Clintons take their political season one game at a time, which makes them much smarter than the people with plastic badges that cover and (attempt to) predict their fortunes.

Rebecca Traister admitted in her piece for “Salon” that Hillary was not her first choice but that the (premature) glee of muttonhead/blowhard Chris Matthews over Clinton’s apparent demise was enough to swing her sympathy.

The reaction to which Traister was reacting might have been expected.

As noted, media folk like a good story, even a sexy story. the scribe has a sneaking suspicion that for all her purported glamour and celebrity, the boys on the bus see Hillary Clinton as a waddling middle-aged dame in a doughty pantsuit with policies skewed toward the concerns of (gulp!) mature women.

So is Barack done? Who knows? Now we’re going to start seeing contests in states made up of more than white people and making predictions will be just as dicey for the lords of electronica as it turned out to be yesterday.

Not only was the media burned, but the rest of us in turn.

Going back to 2000, our national passion for McNews, for having the results promptly and conveniently served up to us before we go to bed, has constantly been thwarted by a nation of shifting demographics and attitudes, which those in the think tanks and media citadels are too far removed from to discern. Even in-close, it would be hard to chart the incremental evolution of the American electorate.

In short: This Oldsmobile is not like your father’s.

The usual measuring sticks don’t do well in charting the attitudes of women, of black people, of black people voting for women, and white women voting for black men, and newly minted brown citizens’ feelings about African-Americans that went to Harvard…

The underlying theme to the Obama candidacy is that the old paradigms have gone the way of New Orleans. It takes hindsight to see and understand such a unique historical moment so that, in the meantime, we’re going to have to get used to the game actually being played before knowing who is going to win.

And that’s a good thing.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Considering Barack Obama

Superlatives are being slung around like so much horseshit and rightfully so.

There isn’t much more snow that can be rolled into the gathering, thundering ball of commentary surrounding Barack Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses last night.

the highway scribe has been on extended hiatus broken only by the requests of a select few that he weigh-in on this rather significant event in American politics.

So here goes...

We noted in “Considering John Edwards” that the former senator from North Carolina stood a good chance of becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee, because it was unlikely a woman could be elected president and less likely still that a black guy had a chance.

Black folks themselves have been holding back support for Obama, leery of having their heart’s broken (again). But this article in the “New York Times” suggests they had the same low opinion of the American people as the highway scribe did.

That’s what seven years of Geo. w. Bsh can do to your perspective.

But life can be kind and America, thank heavens, can still refresh and surprise us.

When he signed the Civil Rights Act over 40 years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson said he was handing the country over to the Republican Party for a generation.

And what a miserable generation it has been, stripping us of all cooperation and mutual protection, dissolving like acid all that was noble, theoretical, and forward-thinking in our way of governance.

But it ended last night in a state where there are barely enough African-Americans to field a decent college basketball team; in a state that is 98 percent white.

It’s a little dangerous to overstate what happened, and more so to pinpoint it, but certainly worthy of an estimation. highwayscribery’s is that what Johnson launched has borne fruit; that in spite of our obvious and undeniable differences, black and white Americans have learned to live with one another, work with one another, and even marry one another.

Obama’s mixed pedigree is merely a symptom of these trends and it was only a matter of time (apparently) before being white and voting for a black followed suit.

And the suit it followed last night was Obama.

The social cataclysm aside, the Illinois senator stands on his own as a unique political animal of extraordinary intelligence and talent and we here endorse his campaign, his efforts, and his dreams.

Thanks Lyndon.