Alexander Cockburn: election is a missed opportunity


Alexander Cockburn knows how to turn a phrase - or two. In a piece in the current The Nation titled "Fatal Distraction" he outlines what the "miraculous conception" [my phase] of Sarah Palin as VP candidate has done to the ordinary high level of American political campaign discourse [just kidding, folks]. He dismisses the circumspect MSM accounts of what happened to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and offers his own. I have to remind myself that he's writing this before the financial crash news of the last few days.

He begins by saying that the MSP has been far too circumspect in describing "the misleading procedures identified by Treasury accountants scrutinizing Fannie and Freddie's ledgers".

In cruder language the operators of these two giants had been engaged in the pleasant activity of cooking the books by borrowing at low-interest government rates, selling the repackaged mortgages at a higher-interest markup and then lying about their actual exposures. "Fannie and Freddie were almost single-handedly supporting the junk mortgage market that was making Wall Street rich," economist Michael Hudson told CounterPunch the Monday after the takeover, protecting themselves from regulatory harassment by shoveling campaign contributions at the relevant lawmakers sitting on the financial committees in Washington.

Now the Treasury is refloating these two huge casinos and sending them down the river again, so that Wall Street can stay happy and China and the other overseas lenders can be assured that the money they're lending the United States to finance activities like strafing Afghan children from the air is at least partly secured.

He's tough on the money handlers and their Republican enablers, but neither Barack Obama nor his party are spared Cockburn's scorn. Several paragraphs earlier he argued that idealistic younger voters, whose turnout is needed on November 4, are being distracted by the more ludicrous aspects of Palin's weird story:

. . . from unpleasant reflections on the candidate of hope and change, whose prime foreign policy commitment is to increase the US military presence in Afghanistan and hence the certainty that Afghan children will be shot from the air or blown up by US gunships in steadily increasing numbers.

The peace candidate has disappeared.

But the ball is being dropped at home as well. Cockburn suggests the Democrats are dead on arrival in the area of domestic change as well, particularly in the financial area:

The problem is that co-conspiring in Gramm's [Phil Gramm, McCain's "unoffical" financial advisor] deregulatory rampages in the late '90s was the Clinton Administration, spurred on by the Democratic Leadership Council. On the ticket with Obama is that lifelong serf of the banks, Joe Biden. Obama himself has been heavily staked by Wall Street.

It happens every time. Progressives are eternally hopeful, but as soon as it looks like we might prevail, we run into the same closed door. I think this time it might have been our last chance. I feel like Charlie Brown, and the system I'm working with is Lucy and that football.

Cockburn's article ends on a note a measure less lugubrious than my own - but not by much:

When they look back on it, people will surely see this election as one of the larger missed opportunities in the nation's history for scrutiny and shake-up of our economic and imperial arrangements: an unpopular war abroad, brazen thievery by the rich and powerful at home, widespread discontent of huge slabs of the electorate, beleaguered by debt, low wages and joblessness. How easy it should have been for a politician as eloquent and intelligent as Obama to create an irresistible popular constituency challenging business as usual. But what's positively eerie is the cautious sensitivity of his political antennas, alerting him time and again to the risks of actually saying or pledging anything substantive by way of challenge to present arrangements. Small wonder it's hard to remember much that he says, because so little that he does say is ever substantively memorable or surprising or exciting; no wonder that Sarah Palin is proving so successful a distraction.

[image from bodie25]

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Published on September 18, 2008 12:45 PM.

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