Op-Ed by Brett Redmayne-Titley
For far too long voters, political pundits and presidential opponents have never asked the most important question of any recent presidential campaign. The results are shown today. After repeated four year cycles of a full set of only the wrong questions, the voter is now faced with a Hobson’s choice between arguably the two worst qualified presidential candidates – ethically, socially and politically – in US history.
It was exactly eight years ago today. Bartending at a beer joint in Knoxville, TN – the sparse, late night crowd leaning, beers in hand, on the bar from their nearby barstools. They were rabid with presidential banter. Quickly emptying beer mugs and soggy tongues combining with their passion for a reprieve after Bush II, made for spirited argument. Just days before, the supposed oracles of “Hope” and “Change” had allowed Barack Obama to smite the vaunted Clinton machine at the DNC convention. Hillary, then, had attempted to desperately, yet unsuccessfully, shroud herself in her opponent’s socialist mantle. This left the promises of the first black American president to now, for the next three months, go after the very vitriolic, business-as-usual, republican challenger, John McCain. Because of the McCain campaign being the mirror for all the myriad of nation-wide social issues and problems, the bar-folks tonight – like America itself – were giddy with the prospect of all the many solutions and all the many promises offered by US presidential candidate Obama.
Indeed the fifteen month long DNC contest was filled with all manner of Obama’s promises which were a collective repudiation of eight years of G.W. Bush plunder. From universal health care and the public option to new banking regulations; bringing home the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to new US military restraint, improving US education and illegal immigration guarantees, securing Social Security, denying the upcoming recession and eliminating lobbyists from his proposed cabinet, Obama now filled the TV screen daily in every home – and this bar – across a desperate America. His promises rained down as if a downpour of hope and change. Like national campaigns previous, it all sounded so good.
So, on they went at the bar discussing the merits of Obama, his historic candidacy and his promised future. The bartender, currently pouring a fresh round with his back to the five, was listening. Apparently he was the only one present with a short-term memory, for he recalled, as each glass filled, first suffering through eight fraudulent years of the Clinton presidency and those lessons that should have been learned.
So as the banter continued, the bartender finished pouring, now spinning around to face his customers, depositing the newly frothed glasses, one…two… three… four… and… five!, with a loud, distinct slam directly before each the fawning five-some. He was upset. He’d heard this shit before.
This campaign cycle’s presidential choices, by simple comparison, are the two worst qualified ever to lead the voters of America to promised prosperity. In synopsis and review, the two might best be described as:
A life-long corporatist who sold her soul for power and money long before teaming up with her skullduggerous husband and who now masquerades – again – before voters in the socialist clothing of the other supposed – and now vanquished – supposed socialist offering. After promising to clean up American banks, investment houses and all manner of existing corporate crime, this candidate fails to tell voters that she is in reality corporate crime personified. After soliciting millions in different types of donations via the US State Dept. in exchange for “speaking fees” from these same villainous corporations and world leaders, she nervously laughs off, without comment, factual documentation of her crimes. Strangely, her supporters seem to wallow in her indiscretions. They ignore the former first lady’s prostitution of her character at every level of her political career and none choose to recall that she had no moral compunction regarding her husband using his female aid as the first-ever walking presidential humidor – nor his subsequent impeachment for same. She is political opportunism perfected. The next three months will reveal just how much voter “lack of trust” it will take to send Hillary Rodham Clinton back to her normal duties: shoveling money for the Clinton Foundation.
Alternatively, the voter may be forced to choose a never-apologetic corporatist who is probably not a “rich billionaire,” revels in bombastic statements similar to passages from Mein Kampf and offers only vague details of any plan of action – on any issue of importance to Americans – but does guarantee to “Make America Great Again.” This candidate has no plan, few specifics, no political experience; only promises of his claimed personal greatness somehow subsequently smearing vicariously onto each one of his rabid minions. This candidate bristles with unbridled, hyperbolic vitriol whenever challenged with facts. Still, this other half of the voters nation-wide scream, yell and salute their new hero like a legion of Hitler Youth. Somehow, despite Donald J. Trump’s ever-reddening, pinkish facial hue, these voters fail to notice the ever-enveloping odor of sulfur nor the subtle, yet increasingly obvious protrusion of horns and tail.
Regardless of personal foibles, will either of these two candidates have the ability – assuming that post-election that they still have the willingness – to give to the voter what each has so vociferously promised?
“You all are suffering from political delusions!,” frowned the bartender, the fresh beers now properly in place.“Everything you just said, every promise, every policy, ever social program, problem and every solution means absolutely nothing. NOTHING! Unless…” and now he hunkered down, bent-over, elbows on the bar looking straight into the eyes of each of the somewhat shocked customers – who fortunately were also friends – and said slowly in metered cadence,”…unless… Obama can answer one, all-important, question…’How will you, yes you!… Mr. Presidential Candidate, get anything – and I mean anything – you promised passed into law by a Congress completely controlled by corporations; not the voter!” Righting himself, he turned away disgusted, grabbing a bar towel to dry some glasses . “Ha!” he scoffed, “Obama doesn’t stand a chance.”
Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th US President, got what he wanted. Or else. LBJ was a socialist and made not one apology for it. He was also a student, prodigy and product of real DNC power. His “Great Society” was visionary, revolutionary and vehemently opposed by republicans and many democrats alike. When Johnson, in his ’64 run, promised all manner of social programs and regulations that would make America a great nation by inclusion and concern for all Americans, he knew well the political task at hand. He made his promise to the voters that elected him to see the Great Society come to be and had all the tools to finish the job. To this end Johnson took no prisoners and rarely accepted compromise. He did not have to. He was finally President of the United States of America. What gave Johnson the presidential power to smite each and every one of his congressional opponents on the way to his socialist victory? The sledgehammer of all truly powerful, truly populist presidents long since forgotten: “Political Capital.”
If you get them by their balls, their hearts and minds will follow. – G. “Gordon” Liddy.
LBJ is presumably blaspheming very loudly from his grave at the fraudulent facade of socialist democracy that the DNC has become. In his times, and that of all presidents before him, a president had no compunction at all in using his built-up personal political capital to take even the most powerful congressional opponent to the White House woodshed. With Johnson this might be the power of his hand shake and his hawk-like stare. Perhaps a brief whispered congressional hallway or cloakroom discussion or the power of honest emphatic presidential oration before the full Congress. Worse, a summons to “the smoke filled room” with the likes of Sam Rayburn, who himself was pure DNC power personified and Johnson’s mentor over decades of accumulated power. In these times, however, what many a lowly senator or congressperson learned to dread most was: the phone call.
In Austin, TX is the LBJ museum, a must stop for all who have fond memories of the days when America was indeed “Great” and led by example at the height of what Tom Brokaw coined – in his 1998 book of the same name – “The Greatest Generation.” On the far side of the first floor of the public gallery, among dozens of other interesting exhibits, is a very small, simple exhibit easily missed. For those who understand true presidential power, this exhibit is the most illustrative of Johnson’s character, conviction and knowledge of his own inherent, crushing presidential power.
On the wall next to a small glass enclosure that shows Johnson speaking into the phone from his chair in the Oval Office, hangs on its hook a single old fashioned telephone receiver. Picking this up to listen, one hears some of Johnson’s solicitations with congressional opponents for votes needed to pass legislation within his Great Society. But these calls are not negotiations. They are diktats… from the US president. Johnson concludes one call, his voice slowly rising, “Senator… Yes, I can appreciate your position. But I will tell you, Senator…” and here Johnson’s voice takes on a nasty tone, “as your president, if I do not get your vote…NOTHING from your state will ever cross my desk again!” Then there is a click… and silence. Johnson has hung-up. No good-bye. Johnson got the senator’s vote.
That’s Presidential Power. That’s political capital!
What defines the power of a president, that which gives him the political capital to bring his opposition to their knees? For Johnson it was the deals, the arrangements, the backdoor understandings, the quid pro-quo and back-slaps of six terms (12 years) in the House followed by twelve years in the US senate, and of course a sadly truncated Vice-Presidency. In short: favors owed, multiplied by congressional power accumulated. Political Capital.
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Johnson indeed took careful note of all favors given, knowing that the effect of his political capital was contingent on his timely demand for favors owed. So, when ultimately gaining the office he had sought all his life, he now had the real assets of power to make the changes he had already dedicated his political career to. He was the President. He now could use that accumulated power. And he would use it, not for himself, not for the whims of his donors. For the people of America.
So, in the offices of the US Congress, when the phone rang…
Now, for a modern definition of presidential political capital, by comparison we might turn to the first 100 days of the ’08 Obama administration eight years ago – and all its promises of social HOPE and CHANGE. With a functionally paltry one and a half years in the US senate due to his running for president full time just over a year after entering the Senate Obama assumed the reins of the presidency. This, however, was primarily due to his offering a Pandora’s Box of bold, socialist-like promises which, combined with America’s fawning willingness to ignore the tenets of Dr. King and elect a president primarily due to “the color of his skin,” instead of examining first the “content of his character.” Or… political capital. Barack Obama had no political capital whatsoever.
Proving the point, he immediately showed this weakness to his adversaries by routinely using the two most impotent tools of any amateur politician; compromise and bribery. Worse, once he had shown this weakness his entire administration became ineffective and all his election promises null and void. In power politics, the powerful feed on the weak. Period. This would be a theme of the next eight years of Obama failure, for this failed president – as predicted – had no true political power. No political capital.
Within the first 100 days in office Obama showed his penchant for the weakness of compromise, which amounted to caving in regularly to the republicans and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who had what the president did not. So, always Obama gutted his proposed legislation in their favor. When Obama punted the first DNC, veto-proof majority of sixty seats in the Senate since in Carter administration – within mere months of taking office – all dreams of Hope and Change were thus forever dashed on the rocks of political reality and presidential ineptitude.
Recognizing opportunity, Israel chummed these new presidential waters within days of the February ’09 inauguration, by announcing another seizure of sovereign Palestinian land for more of their “settlements.” Obama, having regularly assured voters that he supported a two-state solution and America’s leadership for same, now used the only remaining tool in his already emptied political toolbox to effect his US muscle. He forced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop these settlements; by bribing him with a billion dollars worth of brand new F-16 fighter jets. The result was of course predictable to anyone but Obama: Netanyahu accepted the bribe and stopped the settlements. However, within the month Netanyahu re-authored the settlements – merely in a different location. As if Israel needed more US weaponry, despite being used, Obama still gave Bibi his jets.
Next, Obama’s promise of universal healthcare which, due to a corporate US health care monopoly and its national collusion for profit, demanded a “Public Option” in order to be effective in bringing costs down in a nation with the highest per-capital spending. As Obama plied for votes with multiple enticements to congresspersons and senators, he was still a few votes short. But in Montana, a senate vote was available for purchase as well as a congressional one in Idaho. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont ) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who both understood political capital – and presidential weakness – stated to an impotent president exactly what the mortita would be for their vote: they wanted to kill something.
Despite bringing wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming back from the brink of near extinction – at the hands of their state’s ranchers – over the previous forty-plus years by having them placed on the Federal Endangered Species Act list, Tester and Simpson wanted to kill wolves. For sport. These two did not care at all that the provisions of the Act which protected the wolves also far over-compensated all US farmers and ranchers for any loss due to a very occasional hungry wolf attack on livestock. No human has been attacked by wolves in the US in over 100 years, but Tester and Simpson saw just the right time to get what they wanted.
Obama, growing daily more desperate to show an already disappointed America his toughness, needed those two votes, no matter what. And so, the mortita was thus paid. The majestic wolves in all states were left to be slaughtered like so many hospitalized Palestinian children to an Israeli mortar or innocent US citizen to an Obama approved US hellfire rocket. Today, the howl of the wolf rarely sings in the valleys of Montana or Idaho. Most of them are now dead.
Dead as the dreams of Hope and Change.
So, again and again Obama flexed his muscles by willingly giving away the tribute demanded by republican and world leaders. Incredibly, he increasingly blamed all his failures on a divided Congress and strangely the American voter believed him. Across America the results for the voter who, not once, but twice elected him without asking the most important question in election politics were dramatic: they got virtually nothing. The corporations, however, received almost everything they asked for.
In a mere ninety days the voters will again go off and show their own political impotence by voting. Again, the most important question in Presidential politics will not have been asked. Or, answered. Will Hillary Clinton rein in the banks, provide new gun restrictions, adjust student loan debt or reverse the damage of a generation of re-branded “trickle-down-economics”? Will Donald Trump build a wall across the southern US border, toss out all the illegal immigrants, cancel the US contract with NATO, get the Chinese government to eat from his hand, ban the Muslim world and thus make “America Great Again?”
In this modern America where a corrupt Congress holds sway – by all metrics – against the voter, the most important question in presidential politics must be asked – no, screamed – at both candidates at every campaign rally and press conference. To make American great again, voters do not merely need a president full of promises, nor one that can take the US Congress by the “balls.” America needs a president who can grab them by the throat!
Post election… this will not happen.
Back long ago, at the end of that fateful evening in Knoxville, the crowd had now gone. The bar-keep gave the now quiet bar – he had long before turned down the sound – one last wipe-down before crossing the bar-room floor to turn off the flickering TV mounted high on the wall. Reaching up for the switch, the silent red-white-and-blue-colored image of Obama, standing majestically before his maddening, waving minions, glowed in his face.
“Fools,” he muttered, and turned the power off.
About The Author:
Brett Redmayne-Titley has been reporting on-scene for a decade in an effort to provide better quality reporting from current events of geo-political, environmental and moral importance. Having visited over fifty countries he is a world citizen and life-long activist, political commentator and world citizen. The author has published over one hundred in-depth articles, many of them multi-part exposes, which have been re-published and translated internationally. He can be reached at: live-on-scene [at] gmx.com