February 2008

Holding my nose for Hillary?

By David Grant Long

I'm just not sure I'll be able to do it.

Vote for Hillary, that is, rather than facing the reality of shape-shifting Mitt Romney or blood-and-guts John McCain.

It's certainly not because she's a woman, nor is it about what she wants to do if elected.

Or even her screech-owl voice.

No, my aversion developed quite recently and has to do with a brief correspondence we had.

My missive concerned one of her very rich (and equally loathsome) endorsers — Robert Johnson, billionaire owner of Black Entertainment Television. At a rally last month in Columbia, S.C., Johnson compared her to Barack Obama in regard to their good works as young sprouts.

She labored mightily for civil rights, he maintained, while the shiftless Obama hung out in the ’hood doing drugs.

Of course, he didn't have the balls to come right out with that, so he said, “I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book.”

Barack has written about using pot and cocaine as a teenager, and this was the third time one of Hillary's supporters had publically referred to it, the others being Mark Penn, her campaign pollster, and former Vermont Gov. Jean Shaheen's husband Billy, who resigned as co-chair of her campaign after his mudslinging was widely criticized.

In an effort to quell the furor over his slimy remark, Johnson then released a statement that was a total lie, claiming he was merely referring to Obama's “community organizing,” not drug use, and Hillary maintained that he should be taken at his word.

But no one bought that hogwash, and it prompted me to log on to Hillary's website and send her an email saying Johnson's obvious falsehood was as offensive as his original sleazy remark. I added that she and Johnson must think people are really stupid, and that if I ended up voting for her, I would be swallowing hard and holding my nose.

Apparently many folks had a similar reaction, because Johnson soon issued another statement addressing Obama directly:

“I am writing to apologize to you and your family personally for the uncalled-for comments I made at a recent Clinton event,” he blathered. “In my zeal to support Senator Clinton I made some very inappropriate remarks for which I am truly sorry.”

Is that vague enough for you? Does it make you wonder why he couldn't just come out with it and say, “I'm sorry I implied you are a dope fiend”?

At any rate, this feeble peace offering was supposed to be the end of it, but I still hadn't heard back from Hillary.

A few days later I did, however, and it was with eager anticipation that I clicked on her e-mail, hoping she, too, would condemn the affront of an overzealous supporter, even if couched in similarly guarded words.

But she ignored my harangue completely, instead inviting me to enter a contest by sending her money. The winner would be flown to her Jan. 31 debate in Los Angeles.

“You've probably seen the debates on TV, but I can tell you it's nothing like being there in person,” she wrote. “Not only would it be fun for you, but having you there as my guest would mean so much to me.

(I was beginning to think she hadn’t even read my note!)

“After the debate, you and I can talk about the campaign and about what we're doing together to change our country.”

In fact, I can think of little that either of us has done to effect significant change.

Take health care, for instance. Early in Bill's first term, she headed a group of the usual suspects that was supposed to develop a plan to provide medical care for all our citizens, but what they came up with was a monster that included the major for-profit insurers so they could continue to make buckets of money off the sick.

You know, the same companies that cherry-pick the healthy and routinely deny legitimate claims or cancel policies outright when those threaten their huge profits. (She still favors this approach.)

Her convoluted plan was dismissed out of hand by Congress and nothing much has been done since, resulting in nearly 50 million people whose only health care is obtained from emergency rooms when they become gravely ill.

I, on the other hand, have long advocated a single-payer system similar to those in just about all other firstworld democracies, one that would take the greedy insurers out of the loop and regulate prices of medical care that keep climbing sharply as our population ages.

Of course, now that Rep. Dennis Kucinich has dropped out of the presidential sweepstakes, no candidate favors such a “radical” approach.

Still, if I can take Hillary at her word, she wanted me to come to L.A. and experience a candidate debate firsthand.

“One of my favorite moments in any debate . . . is when I look out into the audience and make eye contact with someone I know. Often it is someone I just met who shared their story with me.

“Next Thursday, I want you to be that person.”

Then came the touch on my anemic wallet.

“Click here to contribute,” she twice begged in boldface.

Sure, Hill, I have nothing better to do with my time and money. Maybe we could also talk about public financing of presidential contests so the candidates would be chosen based on their ideas rather than their ability to pay for slick, misleading ads that cost millions yet add little to our knowledge of their positions.

And maybe you could consider this column my “contribution.” Click here, Hillary.

David Grant Long writes from Cortez, Colo. He has the distinction of having received a write-in vote for president (not his own, he says!) in the 1996 election.