Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

August 18, 2000


The third party candidates are really taking it on the chin this presidential election year, and that is a change: after all, they are usually ignored, and one supposes that Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader ought to be flattered by all the attention. The problem is, it isn't the kind of attention that has anything to do with why either of them are running for the highest office in the land. Indeed, the whole motivation behind the slings and arrows they have to endure is to divert attention away from the vital issues that both the Greens and the Reformers are bringing to the national debate. I've been pointing this out for months in connection with the Buchanan campaign, but the same method is being used by the Democrats against Nader – and a new factor, the sleaze factor, is operating at top speed. Talk about "the politics of personal destruction" – getta loada this from the mouth of California state Assemblywoman and professional lesbian Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), who asks what she considers to be the key question about Nader: "Is he Green or Pink?"


In a statement due out later this month from something called "California Triangle" magazine, Migden's words are a model of cowardly ambiguity and gossipy innuendo: the Medusa-headed Migden, a self-styled "big mouth," breathlessly confides:

"Of course, I don't necessarily have that information, and I certainly don't want to say anything libelous or unreasonable. All I'm saying is that we believe he has strong ties to the community – and has for years – and hasn't been forthright about it."


Please note that so-called "gay-bashing" – defined nowadays as anyone who dares assert a traditionalist view of homosexuality as an aberration – is universally condemned, as poor Dr. Laura might reasonably attest . . . except when it is indulged in by gays themselves. Then, and only then, is it suddenly okay. It is deemed legitimate by gay activists to "out" homosexuals who cooperate with those considered to be enemies of the community, i.e. anyone on the right. But Nader has hardly entered into an alliance with the Christian Coalition, nor can he be considered in any sense a conservative, except in his demeanor. Besides that, it turns out that his so-called "ties to the community" are limited to infrequent visits to Donnie's Unisex Hair Salon. With his usual class, the low-key Nader told the San Francisco Chronicle's Phil Matier and Andrew Ross: "That's like asking, 'When did you stop beating your wife? But the answer to her inference (that I'm gay) is no."


But wait a minute, Ralph, not so fast: maybe she really means you're a dyke, or perhaps even a member of the latest sexual minority to be added to the victimological litany – the Transgender community. Pretty scary, eh? Visualize Ralph Nader in drag. I don't even want to go there!


In the only known instance in which Tom Ammiano's views coincide with my own, the flamboyantly queeny President of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors – a former (and some would say present) comedian, who hosts a local TV cable show called "Ammiano Retorts" – remarked that he doubted he and Nader were of the same tribe: "But I tell you what,'' Ammiano told the San Francisco Chronicle. "If Ralph ever calls me for a date – you'll be the first to know. . . . If he was sabotaging gay rights, I could see some point, [but] I mean, what is this?"


What this is is a particularly disgusting example of a more general phenomenon, and that is the campaign to knock the two third party presidential candidates out of the running early in the game. In my dispatches from Long Beach, and my speech to the Reform Party delegates, I outlined the pattern of smear-mongering and misrepresentation by the media that colored their coverage. All right, you say, but that's because Pat is, well, Pat. Yet Nader is now getting the same treatment. As the mysteriously well-funded Russell Verney and his cohorts engage in legal maneuvers to tie up the Reform Party's federal matching funds in court, a legal assault on the seriously-underfunded Nader campaign is about to commence, with MasterCard International Inc. filing suit yesterday (Aug. 17) to stop Nader from airing a commercial that takes off on their much-parodied "Priceless Moments" commercial. This outrageous attempt to stifle political speech is justified by MasterCard as an attempt to "protect" "one of the most successful advertising campaigns, period." What is being protected here is not a corporate logo, but the corporate lock on the electoral process. Parodies have always been lethal weapons in the true liberal's arsenal, an invaluable device to expose the foibles of the powerful and incite the people to reform if not revolution. That the corporatists are now taking aim at this venerable literary form is a brazen display of naked power – and a measure of their growing desperation.


For the Nader ad dramatizes an uncomfortable truth, one that our elites would prefer that the voters not be exposed to: clips of Bush and Gore are accompanied by an incisive narration: "Grilled tenderloin for fundraiser: $1,000 a plate. Campaign ads filled with half-truths: $10 million. Promises to special interest groups: over $10 billion. Finding out the truth – priceless." The people who really run this country – and a good portion of the rest of the globe – are not about to let Ralph Nader spoil their fixed election. So far, the Green Party standard-bearer has been cut a certain amount of slack by the media: he is, after all, a socialist, albeit an idiosyncratic American socialist rather than a Marxist import. This did not, however, stop the New York Times from bitterly wondering how, in good conscience, he could steal away all those votes rightfully owned by Gore. The spreading panic over the Nader factor among the liberal punditocracy is a wonderful sight to behold – and you can bet that this latest onslaught of smears and rampaging lawyers is just the beginning of his problems. . . .


I somehow deluded myself into thinking that the attacks on Buchanan would die down after the Reform Party convention, and that I would give myself – and my readers – a respite from my ongoing "in defense of Pat" series of articles. But Gail Collins in the New York Times is a case that cries out for a response, if only to note that the bitch-goddess of the liberal punditocracy has a style perfectly suited to her method. Like some character out of Claire Booth Luce's The Women, Collins' commentary is ultra-catty and highly specialized, the voice of a feminine world from which ideology is banished and style lords it over substance. Her's is an esthetic critique, rather than a political commentary, focused not on what any of the speakers said but on the bad manners of delegates sadly lacking any fashion sense

"People, this is what our politics has been missing: rump caucuses and delegate challenges and speakers fighting for control of the microphone. The process that gave you the Mensheviks versus Bolsheviks, the nomination of Warren G. Harding and the Chicago Seven is back!"

Oh, those rude rubes of Reform: why can't they be more "normal," and sit there docilely while party leaders issue instructions? Whoever heard of a delegate challenge at one of the recent "major" party conventions? (Although I'll bet Collins wouldn't have disapproved of such effrontery to established authority when Eisenhower used it to steal the nomination from Taft in 1952). As a defender of the political status quo, Collins is naturally horrified when dissident voices get anywhere near a microphone. Not since Ronald Reagan declared "I paid for this microphone" has ownership of a major party podium been ceded to anyone outside the Beltway establishment, and our elites are determined that it will never happen again. That is why Buchanan eventually came to inherit the mantle of Reform after a lifetime in the GOP. This is also why Nader decided to seriously campaign this time around: in both parties, the decision had been made by party bosses and their corporate paymasters long before primary season commenced.


One can only wonder whether Collins considers Warren G. Harding a Menshevik or a Bolshevik, but as for the allusion to the Chicago Seven – right on! Beneath the smug self-satisfaction of our fat and happy elites, there is a subterranean turmoil, a seismic shift in the making quite similar to the period of quiescence that preceded the tumultuous 1960s. In spite of all the happy talk and the proclamations of "the end of history," there is a hint of revolution in the air, and the elites, having sniffed it out early, are determined to nip it in the bud. But the pundits are talking primarily to themselves, and in their haughty dismissal of populist movements outside the New York-Washington axis they reveal their own weakness – and fear.


Mischaracterizing the Reform Party as having wrapped "itself around a single personality" – Perot – Collins sneers at Reformers as "a group of alienated political junkies with nothing much in common but a tendency to peculiar displays of facial hair." No doubt the court of King George III was all atwitter over the tackiness of George Washington's powdered wig, and who knows but that unshaven backwoods Continentals came in for some criticism by Ms. Collins' colonial equivalents. The brittle arrogance of our elites will be their downfall.


Although her column is datelined "Long Beach," to my knowledge Collins never showed her easily recognized face in the press room, and from her description of the events that transpired there it looks as if she must have holed up in the Long Beach Westin, curled up with CSPAN and a couple of boxes of Malomars. She claims that the Buchanan forces succeeded in nominating their candidate because they "won the critical backing of the center's rent-a-guard service." Giddy with her own cleverness, and perhaps a little dizzy from the three-digit weather, Collins forgets that those rent-a-cops were paid for at the behest of the Reform Party chairman, Gerry Moan, and other party officers – who had ample warning of the Verney wrecking crew's plans to stage a provocation that could end in a physical confrontation. But never mind the facts: Collins simply can't be bothered, and doesn't want to burden her readers with them: as she makes clear enough: "You don't want to know the details. Let the authorities sort it out. This is God's way of punishing the Federal Election Commission for not doing more about campaign finance reform." Not that the somewhat ditzy Collins – who, like most Female Writers, feels unduly constrained by hard inflexible facts – knows the details or cares to know. Let's just turn these malcontents over to the "authorities." Perhaps we can even have them arrested for disorderly political conduct.


The real point of Ms. Collins' vitriol is to make sure that Buchanan and the Reform Party are locked out of the debates,

"Actually, this whole convention is an excellent demonstration of why Mr. Buchanan should be kept out. The debates are for candidates who have to accept the discipline that comes with seriously attempting to win the support of half the voting population of the country. The Reform Party is currently not only a cheesy fringe operation, but a fractionalized cheesy fringe operation, torn between a man whose greatest political triumph was winning slightly more than a quarter of the vote in a New Hampshire primary and the guy from the Maharishi University of Management. Let them sink into obscurity in peace and quiet."


Accept the discipline imposed by the elites – corporate ownership of the parties and a bipartisan internationalism – or else we're not going to let you into the electoral game. In a paragraph containing not a single reference to political ideas – or ideas of any kind – Collins employs the vocabulary of a fashion columnist to characterize the targets of her scorn as beneath contempt, and certainly not worthy of serious consideration. What was "cheesy" about the Reform Party convention was that it didn't have the lush corporate-sponsored parties, where big donors queued up for the chance to meet and mingle with the Hollywood glitz-ocracy and delegates got to literally eat their way through a corporate cornucopia of food and drink. I have my doubts that Ms. Collins ever set foot in the Long Beach Convention Center, but regardless you can rest assured she turned out in person for that Dionysian festival of corporate liberalism in Los Angeles. In the last days of a decadent empire, it is only natural that a party convention should be a modern bacchanal, and it was only natural that Ms. Collins would be out of her element in Long Beach. The Reform Party convention was a reversion to an earlier time, when politics was concerned with ideas, and contention was expected and even celebrated as a symptom of vitality. This is what conservatives mean when they say, proudly, that they want to turn back the clock.


Ms. Collins' account of what happened in Long Beach cites not a single word uttered by any of the speakers from the platform, including Buchanan, although her critique of the stage set is telling: "decorated with cranky-looking American eagles and lots of bunting, all paid for by you the taxpayers with federal funding." Naturally, federally-funded extravaganza – to the tune of some $30 million-plus – that Ms. Collins is even now enjoying, as the guest of the DNC, is perfectly legitimate, as was the GOP's Philadelphia shindig on the taxpayers' dime. After all, they have accepted the "discipline" of their betters, the elites in government, business, and most importantly the media, including such arbiters of political taste as Gail Collins. From her pulpit at the New York Times, Collins lectures us as if she were the Miss Manners of American politics, who has reduced policy questions to matters of etiquette. According to the Emily Post school of political commentary, since there was a real debate in Long Beach, this automatically puts Reformers in the "fringe." Debate is loud, and rude, and "cheesy," it conjures visions of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks: apparitions of the Chicago Seven disturb the normally dreamless sleep of Ms. Collins.


On the left as well as the right, there are signs that Gail Collins' worst nightmare – another turbulent era in the history of our nation marked by the rising influence of radical movements for social change – is about to come true. Let them try to keep Buchanan and Nader out of the debates. Let them rig this election so brazenly that whatever legitimacy the regime has on Inauguration Day will be swept away in the gale of the first crisis – a crisis, as I have been saying for months, that will undoubtedly be a war crisis. The legitimacy of a government in wartime is beyond question – if it isn't, then defeat is certain. But war itself can often serve to legitimize a regime that has come to power – or maintained power – via methods considerably less than democratic. As the Marxists used to say, "it is no accident" that Buchanan and Nader are hostile to foreign interventionism and globalism in general, with the former making an explicitly antiwar and anti-imperialist theme the linchpin of his campaign – and that both are under attack on the op ed pages of the nation's newspapers as well as in the courts. Will the corporate oligarchs who control both parties succeed in snuffing out the competition through a combination of dirty tricks and outright repression? As Matt Drudge famously says: Developing . . .

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