Although the Iowa caucuses are eight months distant, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's air of inevitability has been burst like so many balloons. Or so we are led to believe. Fuggedabout her 50 point leads in the polls, a big war chest, formidable campaign organization, and a level of popularity and name recognition to kill for. An obscure senator with no dough or standing in the polls and a campaign organization that could fit into a minivan who is a ringer for Doc Brown from Back to the Future is lurking Godzilla-like just over the horizon.
But while every day is a bad hair day for Bernie Sanders, this doesn't mean that Hillary is going to have one on his account. Sanders is an immensely likable septuagenarian who is technically an Independent and self-styled "democratic socialist," but reliably votes with the Democratic caucus. As the Senate's most left-leaning member, he is a leading voice on climate change, income inequality and taxing the pants off the super rich, as well as a civil libertarian who adamantly opposes mass surveillance on American citizens. And he has about as much chance of getting the Democratic nomination as one of my goldfish, while Clinton already has the nomination all but locked up and is kicking the ass of every potential Republican challenger in head-to-head polls.
This, of course, has not deterred a press corps tired of writing about Clinton's emails or her family foundation's unquenchable thirst for looking dodgy while raking in tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments and other interests while she was secretary of state. And, of course, we'll always have Benghazi.
The lamestream media is breathlessly reporting that Sanders is coming after Clinton: "Challenging Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Gains Momentum in Iowa," chirped The New York Times in a headline. "It's Not Just Hillary," wrote The Washington Post, while the Des Moines Register declared "Some Iowa Democrats Prefer Sanders Over Clinton."
Well, you don't have to be into Newtonian mechanics to know that in terms of momentum, Sanders has gone from a state of inertia to the speed of a tricycle on the upstroke of a very steep hill. But like I said, he's immensely likable, and maybe . . . just maybe, he'll smoke out some of Clinton's less progressive tendencies. Beyond that, don't hold your breath.
I'LL HAVE SOME FOX NEWS KOOL-AID WITH MY HEMLOCK
Unlike Bernie Sanders, I never have a bad hair day. This is because I don't have any hair, or more precisely not enough to warrant a regular haircut. But every once in a while, the mood strikes me and I succumb to a few minutes in the chair, which has become akin to getting a root canal because Fox News is my barber's television channel of choice.
Yet I got up from the barber chair the other day with a smile on my face and a quiet hosanna to Bruce Bartlett for helping me to see the forest for the trees: Fox News is a gift that keeps on giving . . . to the Democratic Party.Bill O'Reilly caterwauling about President Obama's "impotent" foreign policy and the twisted pronouncements of Karl Rove are bad enough, but having to put up with the Perpetual War Twins -- Dick and Liz Cheney -- is like oral surgery without novocaine.
Economist Bartlett, a former adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, believes -- as do I and should anyone grappling with the Republican Party's march to national electoral irrelevance -- that Fox News has created a bubble for conservatives to brainwash themselves into believing that the U.S. is more conservative than it actually is. The consequence is that the GOP has dutifully responded by running radical conservatives representative of the influential network's viewers, not the true state of the electorate.
"Many conservatives live in a bubble where they watch only Fox News on television, they listen only to conservative talk radio -- Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, many of the same people," Bartlett said in promoting his new paper on the subject. "When they go onto the Internet, they look at conservative websites like National Review, Newsmax, World Net Daily."
"And so, they are completely in a universe in which they are hearing the same exact ideas, the same arguments, the same limited amount of data repeated over and over and over again. And that’s brainwashing."
'SWEEPING THE MATTER UNDER THE RUG JUST WON'T WORK'
How does a history teacher from Nowheresville, Illinois become so wealthy that he can pay a blackmailer a cool $3.5 million to make a sexual molestation allegation go away? If you're Dennis Hastert, you become a congressman and a Republican Speaker of the House, to boot, and then retire to spend more time with your family . . . er, become an "influential" Washington lobbyist who gets rich by playing all sides of issues and, in his case, amassing a small fortune with land deals, one greased by an earmark he secured for a highway interchange.
I do not make light of the allegation by a former student of Hastert's. After all, it probably is true if Hastert chose to pay hush money rather than face down his accuser. Or more admirably, go public and acknowledge that he had lust in more than his heart before checking himself into a fancy clinic. Yes, Democrats do inappropriate sexual stuff, too, but Republicans like Hastert are especially despicable because they self-righteously clothe themselves in Family Values mufti and owe much of their own success to mouthing the right-wing Christianist mantra and telling other people how to mind their own business.
Let us not forget that Hastert, an evangelical, was propelled to the speakership in 1998 on the very day on which the House impeached President Bill Clinton over the Blue Gap Dress Affair. This is because the presumptive speaker, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, announced that he would step down over revelations of his own marital infidelities, some four in all, and not succeed serial adulterer Newt Gingrich. And that Hastert has not been indicted for sexual misconduct, but for giving FBI agents "false, fictitious and fraudulent" information about large bank withdrawals to pay his accuser.
That's kinda weak, but it's also kinda rich, because in voting to impeach, Hastert harrumphed that the House Judiciary Committee must "uncover the truth" and "uphold the rule of law. . . . Sweeping the matter under the rug just won't work."
And had told his pals in the Christian Coalition in 2004, "More kids need to be taught to just say no. That doesn't just apply to drugs, that also applies to sex before marriage." As well as, "It is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives."