Off with Their Heads!
Peewees pucker up for the billionaires
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2014 – Thomas Adcock
NORTH CHATHAM, N.Y., in America
Next Monday, the ring-kissing season of American right-wing presidential politics begins with a pilgrimage to Las Vegas by four little men in search of a Big Man’s golden benediction. After performing their songs and dances in the fleshpot and slot machine capital of Nevada, the minikins will go their separate ways and variously roam the land to shimmy for two others of the opulent set.
Oh, say! Can you see what so proudly we hail at twilight’s last gleaming—o’er this land of the free, and home of the brave? Courage, my fellow Americans. This promises to be a long, hot, hateful campaign cycle.
The four peewee pilgrims, whom I shall soon discuss in detail, are men of humble sagacity and hypocritical nature. The Big Men they seek to impress—Sheldon Adelson plus the brothers Charles and David Koch—and have deep pockets, grubby mindsets, and effective control of the Republican Tea Party, a confederation of billionaires and the booboisie.
In 2010, Teapublicans burst upon the political stage in a splashy way. They elected useful idiots to the Congress and coöpted a formerly respectable institution of democracy, one led at the outset by a world-bestriding visionary and littérateur—Abraham Lincoln, born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1809; assassinated, as the Republican Party’s first president, in 1865.
How far we have gone in unfortunate direction.
In this year of 2014, Republican Tea Party pecksniffs unworthy of Mr. Lincoln’s soiled linens are vying for the presidency, and oligarchs are deciding which puppet strings to pull in return for yet more ownership of a government populated by their vassals.
Mr. Lincoln would not recognize the party he birthed, dirtied as it is by the shady moguls, Wall Street chiselers, oil barons, and petro-chemical polluters—all united to recruit liegemen for placement in public office.
Mr. Lincoln would not recognize a party that is openly contemptuous of science, freedom from religion, fact-based debate, education, art, and critical thought—contemptuous of all persons save those with the decency to have been born of Christian parentage, fair complexion, heterosexual impulse, and socio-economic privilege. (On two of those counts, I am myself exempt from Teapublican opprobrium.)
A party infatuated with the “right” to own firearms—guns as innocent in appearance as the ones that have killed four of our presidents, so far, as well as today’s favorite instruments of mass murder: modified M-16 military assault rifles with rapid-fire magazines capable of blasting off a hundred rounds of organ-melting bullets in a matter of seconds—would be anathema to Mr. Lincoln.
But I understate my case, and horribly so. I defer to two fulminators much wiser than I: the journalist Bill Moyers, 1960s-era press secretary to the late President Lyndon Johnson; and Jim Hightower, the newspaper columnist and former commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Of the Teapublican ethos that emerged during the presidential regime of George W. Bush, a one-time drunkard who found salvation in Jesus Christ, Mr. Moyers wrote in 2005: “The delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. …For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview, despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. And that is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.”
Mr. Hightower employed his customary Texan grandiloquence in defining the Republican Tea Party in a speech delivered last February 8 to the Strategy Summit, a Washington powwow under the aegis of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Outside that caucus, he said, are Teapublicans constituting a “menagerie of Koch-headed, right-wing…mutants [and] howl-at-the-moon lunatics” conspiring against “America’s workaday majority, who’re being kicked out, knocked down, and stomped on by the bosses, bankers, big shots, bastards, and bullshitters [who] seem to think they’re the top dogs and ordinary people are nothing but fire hydrants.”
But good things and bad must all come to an end.
So it is that now, with fair warning given about rebellious winds of change. Men with rings—beware! Those who kiss—take note! Warning comes by way of a cheeky billboard I spotted only last week whilst driving along a major thoroughfare of Manhattan. With rhetorical reference to les guillotines de la révolution française, here’s the message—latest in a series of billboard provocations aimed at soliciting friendly and not-so-friendly business for the politically progressive owners of a household storage company:
Other messages in the Manhattan Mini Storage series are these gems: “IF YOU LEAVE THE CITY, YOU HAVE TO LIVE IN AMERICA” and, with reference to Manhattan’s notoriously small apartments, “YOUR CLOSET SPACE IS AS NARROW AS DICK CHENEY’S MIND.” Small wonder the billboards are beloved by irreverent New Yorkers.
Let us now consider what commences on Monday, a few thousand miles from the billboards of Manhattan.
Begging bowls outthrust and lips puckered, a Lilliputian quartet of pols checks into the Venetian Resort Hotel of Las Vegas, flagship of Sheldon Adelson’s international casino gambling empire. There, they wait in turn for His blessings, which could be considerable.
Two years ago, for example, Mr. Adelson spent $15 million (€10.9 million) in support of disgraced Congressman Newt Gingrich’s failure to win the Republican Tea Party nomination for president, an effort that carried with it more than the usual Teapublican whiff of racism. A Big Man can afford such trifle.
According to an analysis by Robert Reich, an economics professor at the University of California/Berkeley who was labor secretary under President Bill Clinton, Mr. Adelson’s hourly rate of pay computes to $1.5 million (€1.09 million). This at the same time President Barack Obama leads his Democratic Party in a tepid call for a great leap forward: a new national minimum wage, set at a measly $10 per hour (€7.28).
Last year, Mr. Adelson’s holding corporation paid fines totaling $47.4 million (€34.41 million) to avoid federal prosecution in connection with investigations by Interpol and the U.S. Justice Department into drug money suspected of being laundered through his casino in Macau. Clearly, the Big Man is loaded.
A somewhat reclusive octogenarian who resembles a de-horned warthog, Mr. Adleson will receive the following supplicants:
- Christopher J. Christie. The 51-year-old governor of New Jersey, known as “Bluto” due to his bulges and bombast, is the subject of a federal criminal investigation begun last year following an unannounced, calamitous closure of the world’s most heavily-trafficked vehicle bridge for petty political revenge—and a swirl of odorific real estate deals that reaped millions of dollars for his cronies.
- John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, 61. The ex-governor of Florida is the son of ex-President George H.W. Bush and the younger brother of ex-President George W. Bush, dubbed “Monkey Boy” by certain officers of the U.S. Secret Service. As governor during the months following deadly 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, Jeb Bush was instrumental in securing the release of Cuban exiles imprisoned in Florida for—wait for it—acts of terrorism, according to “Cuba Confidential,” a book by investigative journalist Ann Louise Bardach, who has reported from Havana and Miami for the New York Times newspaper and Vanity Fair magazine.
- Scott K. Walker, 46. The Wisconsin governor narrowly survived a recall election in 2012, organized by progressive organizations angered over his strident anti-union policies. In his pre-gubernatorial job, as executive of Milwaukee County, Mr. Walker’s email clique was a hub of racial “jokes,” such as one about a woman signing up her pet dogs for welfare: “My dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English, and have no friggin’ clue who their daddys are. They expect me to feed them, provide them with housing and medical care, and feel guilty. My dogs get their first checks Friday.”
- John R. Kasich, 61. In aid of racist brethren of the Ohio state legislature—Governor Kasich signed three bills into dubious law last month, all in the cause of suppressing voter turnout in black and Latino neighborhoods; voters not likely enamored of the Republican Tea Party. The governor’s public approval rating has sunk to basement level, never mind that he considers himself presidential. Besides the racist election laws, Ohio voters are disgusted with numerous other Kasich outrages, such as a video of him dressing down a police officer as an “idiot” for having the temerity to stop the governor’s car for speeding, and a bill he championed that would strip 350,000 government workers of collective bargaining rights. (The bill was overturned in a public referendum.)
The foregoing pissants will move on to bigger and better blessings, no doubt, in their entreaties to the Koch brothers—inheritors of Kansas-based Koch Industries, an oil and chemical combine established in 1940 by their father, Fred. The would-be candidates’ obsecrations will occur far from Kansas: in Manhattan, in fact, where Charles and David are held in high regard by their fellow penthouse dwellers due to their support of certain high-class city institutions—sometimes disingenuously so.
Item: In an August 2010 issue of New York Magazine, contributor Frank Rich reported that while the brothers donate to New York’s famous Memorial Sloan-Kettering cancer hospital, Koch Industries lobbies the federal Environmental Protection Agency to keep one of its most profitable products—formaldehyde—off the list of “known carcinogen in humans,” where in fact it belongs.
Back in the day, Koch père served on the board of the crackpot John Birch Society. In a 1963 speech, available for listening in the University of Michigan archives, he spoke of an imminent “takeover” of America by communists set to “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S., until the president is a communist.” Some things never change. Today’s Koch-crazed Teapublicans routinely refer to President Obama as a communist.
In 1980, David Koch was the vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, which few Americans knew was even in the race as the far right-wing alternative to the more modestly right-wing Ronald Reagan; the Libertarian ticket polled one percent of the national vote. Koch fils campaigned for the repeal of Social Security, the end of federal regulatory agencies and welfare programs for the poor, the razing of public schools, and for scrapping the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. “In other words,” Mr. Rich wrote in his magazine article, “any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes.”
There will be other Teapublicans scrambling for the Koch millions, and Adelson millions, and whatever other comparative piddles of green the lesser top dogs see fit to leak upon lifting their legs. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin come to mind; each man is a ditto-head disciple of Ayn Rand (1905-1982), the fascist author of godawful novels. And Ted Cruz of Texas, of course, who very much admires himself in the television news broadcasts.
Like every other major U.S. industry, American Presidential Politics, Inc., has an ever-present roster of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed comers. They are kept in comfort, and see this as payment in kind for their high value. But comers delude themselves if they believe they are anything more than fire hydrants in the eyes of billionaires.
Quite another sort of Big Man is Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, an honorable veteran of American politics who is neither Democrat nor Teapublican. He provides a figurative echo of the restive cry by the French of yore—“Leur coupe la tête!” Meaning, figuratively to Mr. Sanders, the heads of what he calls the Billionaire Class—bankers to the Republican Tea Party.
Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn-born U.S. senator from Vermont who began his career as the socialist mayor of Burlington, the state’s largest city, spoke of the need for “unprecedented struggle” in his most recent letter to supporters across the country. A struggle “not merely about whether we raise the minimum wage, make college affordable, protect women’s rights, or…initiatives we need to reverse climate change; not just about preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or whether we create the millions of jobs our economy desperately needs—or creating a system that guarantees health care to all as a right, or addressing the abysmally high rate of childhood poverty.”
To Mr. Sanders, who recently told The Nation Magazine that he may run for president in 2016 as a social democrat, “the struggle now is whether we can prevent this country from moving to an oligarchic form of society, in which virtually all economic and political power rests with a handful of billionaires. I know that some of you think I’m exaggerating when I say that. I’m not.”
He added, “Last year, according to Forbes Magazine, the Koch brothers’ fortune increased by $12 billion (€8.73 billion), while the fortune of Sheldon Adelson increased by $11 billion (€8). In one year! A handful of self-serving, right-wing multi-billionaires have the capability of spending more money on the political process than everyone else combined.”
There is a Big Woman to contend with in 2016, namely Hillary Rodham Clinton—the former First Lady of America, U.S. senator from New York, hard-charging rival of Barack Obama during the Democratic presidential preliminary contests of 2008, and, finally, secretary of state for much of the Obama administration.
According to the major opinion polls, Ms. Clinton would swamp any Republican Tea Party opponent for president in 2016. But thanks to the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the matter of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which equates corporations and human beings in terms of political privilege—and which guarantees corporations and the multi-billionaires who own them a brand new right: unlimited, secret financial contributions to political campaigns. The combined windfall redounding to tiny Teapublican men hoping to be president will buy a load of slime to heap on Hillary, who might laugh about it while she can. Even before Citizens United, slime was a sound investment. Ms. Clinton need only ask the man who replaced her as secretary of state—John Kerry, defeated for president in 2004 by Monkey Boy and his professional slimesters.
As I write, the Republican Tea Party is busily engaged in “opposition research,” the polite term for manufacturing scandal and titillating filth to throw in Hillary Clinton’s face. Ms. Clinton may be derailed by such a gathering of despicable forces—as Mr. Kerry was in ’04, as her husband nearly was in 1992. And she, too, must soon kiss some rings—actually, many more rings than her Teapublican counterparts; Democrats count fewer mad hatter millionaires among their own kind.
As the probable Democratic presidential candidate in a time of onrushing oligarchy, Ms. Clinton’s immediate problem will be to avoid the trap of distraction the Republican Tea Party slimesters have in store for us voters. She could resolve this problem by doing what she has never done—nor never will do. Which is to talk, and think, like the senator from Vermont.
Run, Bernie, run.
Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag.