Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My "connection" to Bill Clinton

Looking back over the years at all the incidents, allegations and suspicions that ended up surrounding
Bill Clinton, I have to confess that, I never had a connection to him, and always felt an...uneasiness about him. I also felt an uneasiness about the southern wing of the Democratic Party.

In 1988, I had worked for the Dukakis campaign --during the summer of that year. I made a few phone calls at his downtown campaign office. Previous to that, I had worked in the Public Policy Panel as a volunteer, helping organize some brochures. I had met Brownie Ledbetter there, and was happy to work for a progressive for whom I had learned, through media exposure, to have respect. Her husband was a highly regarded Professor at the University of Arkansas.

 I was, at that time, engaged in the early stages of my still incomplete (perhaps of necessity) book "The Great Old Record of the Grand Old Party---Cheating?". One of my goals in that research had been to expose how badly and how often the GOP had cheated since its inception.

The first detailed thing  I'd tried to focus on and track down, which became a focus of my first book Tim, George Bush and Me: the Undercurrents In All Our Lives. (copyrighted June 1996) had been the Bush and Allen Dulles connections during WW2. I had been inspired by my late brother Tim's death, to write about him and my life with him, while my ongoing research into the larger issue of GOP election chicanery had inspired me to include my research about the Bush family before and during WW2. An unusual radio ad for a book I had heard in Houston in the summer of 1980, had first piqued my interest in GHW Bush and put me on the trail of GOP antics in the 1944 election.

 My work for Dukakis that summer was, in fact, the first--and, thus far, the only--time I ever worked for a Presidential candidate or campaign. Lynn had also been for him.  I had met her in October 1987 at the Unitarian Church here in LR. She is Jewish, a member of Temple B'nai Israel here. Unitarians are often a way for people to meet across denominational and religious lines.

I had fallen in love with Lynn during that previous year, and Dukakis's Jewish wife was a favorite issue of mine for my own fantasy--somewhere in the back of my head--of my own possible future with Lynn. I had hoped to marry her, but never has money--or insurance--actually worked out for tha to happen. (People don't realize how insurance can impact on romance).

Even as I was researching earlier possible GOP Presidential election scandals, when I decided to work for awhile for Dukakis and keep up with his campaign, I was appalled to once again have seen another example of dirty tricks by the GOP. Dukakis was slammed by near-constant tv ads by the big corporate funded GHW Bush campaign.  At that time, the Democrats were still holding the line on being funded by big corporations, since the CEOs of those tended to hold views which were antithetical to America's working and middle class.

After his defeat, by that mass advertising built on lies and exaggeration, I realized, as had other Democrats, that a different strategy might be needed. More regions of the nation seemed to have needed attention, was one spin. Carter had won in 1976, (though he had failed of re-election).

However, I was not impressed with the Southern wing, at least, of the Democratic Party. My own father, though I loved him and have since written about him, as well, in my second copyrighted book The Diplomats, Dad and Me: The Blurring of the Lines in Life (copyright Jan 2011), had been a southern Democrat in the classic conservative tradition.

But his views, summed up too often in George Wallace's public--though some claim not private--views on race, were disgusting to me, and we had some pretty tough words at times. Dad had, however, been one of the first JFK conspiracy theorists--and Vietnam war critics--that I was to know. During JFK's funeral, shortly after the Jack Ruby shooting of Oswald, my dad pointed on LBJ when he came on-screen and said "that's the bastard that killed John F. Kennedy". And dad never had a good word to say about him after that.

As LB J continued to escalate the war, Dad continued to be a skeptic and critic of his policies. Though my high school teachers were saying the Johnson Administration believed it was on the "path to success" and the "path to peace" in Vietnam, those next years became more tumultuous, as Johnson wavered between support for Civil Rights at home, and drafting young blacks from impoverished backgrounds to serve on the front lines.

But Dad fell for Wallace's side of the argument, and when 1967 rolled around and the inevitable confrontation between LBJ and RFK began to crop up, the skeptics about the war found a voice and the Democratic Party began to split along the northern-southern lines we have seen almost continuously today.

During those years, while I lived here in AR, I'd never heard much about BILL Clinton. But, just once, in a totally non-political setting, I met Hillary Rodham. She was in our small family furniture and crafts business. It was in 1970 or '71. I was standing at the counter, asked if I could help her locate anything, and she was "just browsing". I had just received my high school ring, and was wearing it pretty religiously. As she moved back to the door, she pointed to my ring and said "That's really beautiful." A young man came in and I don't believe I ever saw his face, but he seemed to say they needed to travel on. It could be it was Bill Clinton.

Since the election, that moment in time has often come up in my mind. Over subsequent years, from 1976-83, I lived in Houston. I would visit up here occasionally, but the only news I usually got was the little on Little Rock tv.

However, by 1984, I had heard a few allegations and attacks on Clinton. Hillary was then the First Lady of Arkansas, and I recognized her face from mom and dad's store. She seemed popular in her own right, and years later, in 1988 while working at the Public Policy Panel, I learned she was popular with our local feminist leaders such as Brownie Ledbetter.

When Dukakis made his run, I was determined to help him win. I had not worked in the Mondale campaign, though I had voted for him. I was an early feminist, having supported the ERA in published letters to Newsweek, Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat. During Vietnam, I had been part of Women for A Peaceful Christmas in Madison, Wisconsin, and my mom and sisters vociferously joined their effort to weaken corporate influence in America through making the craft items that group sent out directions for.

Johnson let go of the effort at re-election in the face of dropping poll numbers in key states in the primaries. In my own life, dad was there, in the background, constantly the skeptic and conspiracy theorist regarding LBJ.

McCarthy succeeded pretty well in NH, but later conspiracy theorists were to claim Johnson deliberately didn't seek re-election to deflect or defeat suspicion that he'd killed JFK--and perhaps Martin Luther King and RFK.

In any case. the 1968 election brought to a head the "Dixiecrat" problem among Democrats. Gradually, that group drifted more and more into Independent status, and now, is trying to be Republicans. Now, all the ugliness that used to characterize that third party movement, is with us in the GOP.

Over those years, Bill Clinton came and went, first as Governor and then Pres. But his positions were controversial and regarded with some suspicion by liberals. How could a southerner possibly be a progressive? At least, a genuine progressive?  Yet, he did succeed in bringing some sanity to our gun laws, achieving a ban on assault weapons that lasted until Bush's son, George W. Bush, managed to--some would argue, cheat--his way into the White House and undo that ban and start a horrific war in Iraq.

During those years of Clinton as governor, I had said little, but after his Presidency seemed to turn to a parade of allegations of sexual infidelity, I became embarrassed and was glad I had refrained from working in his campaigns.

Though I definitely knew I wouldn't vote for Bush, in 1992, I was more conflicted about Bob Dole by 1996. He had served honorably in WW2--something for which I wasn't quite so sure about Bush--while, meantime, more scandals about, largely, infidelity tormented Clinton. I reluctantly voted for him, based on the hope his policies would be more progressive than those of Dole.

I was disappointed. Clinton's second term, as has been the case with several Presidents, deteriorated badly from his first. His policies drifted way too far Right for my tastes. He buddied up with Larry Summers and other ultra-right economists and supported the disastrous and usurious Gramm-Leach-Bililey Act which allowed corporate banks to to get interest that was previously considered illegal. This was especially disappointing given his earlier history as a state Prosecuting Attorney enforcing Arkansas's famously progressive consumer loan programs, which hold interest rates way down for consumers here.

I felt, like Brownie Ledbetter and others at Public Policy Panel, that Hillary should be in the White House, and saw her as the real "ace in the hole" for Progressives of the Clinton years.

To the extent it helped Progressives and feminists get a woman further along toward the White House, I was for the Clinton campaign.

During the 2016 campaign, I helped a couple of elderly ladies in nursing homes to vote via absentee ballot, and helped arrange for others to help still others. Two of those ladies were my Lynn and my own mom, both of home reside in nursing facilities. My little mom had always told me, all my life, that she wasn't registered to vote but that "if they ever run a woman for President, I want to register and vote."
BOOM. So, I helped mom vote! And, I was glad Lynn got to vote again. (Like me, Lynn had voted for Gore in 2000, managing to hobble in the rain to the polls using a cane.)
We were once again up against the Bush family, and, both times he ostensibly "won", there had been and continue to be, significant doubts as to his win.

Anyway, I never directly worked for Bill Clinton. About the only thing I can say, in his behalf, in the midst of the newest allegations the GOP has revived or magnified recently in light of the disgusting Roy Moore antics in Alabama, is that at the time of his terms of office, no one ever alleged rape and really the charge was not, at that time, harassment or rape, but more just that he'd been cheating on Hillary. Allegations of murder, however, dogged his heels, and I haven't hesitated to investigate and further investigation of, those allegations. Now, a new or repeated allegation of rape by Juanita Broderick, who had at one time claimed a rape, and then recanted her claim, has surfaced.

Once again, we must ask troubling questions about top Democrats on a progressive issue, that of sexual harassment and whether the allegations are true or trumped up for political or sociopathic reasons. 

During my presentation for my Master of Arts degree, one of my professors stated "I can't stand Bill Clinton, Max" seemingly in response to my statements about how "funny looking" George H. W. Bush's WW2 records are. Apparently, he was uncomfortable withe allegations about Bush, because, like many people, he had "bought" Bush. But, aside from that, was the troubling realization he, like some of my classmates, was assuming that, because I was extrapolating negative possibilities about Bush in WW2, I must, therefore, have been supporting Clinton.

But by 1998, when I made my presentation, the 1996 campaign was even over, and Clinton hadn't been opposed by Bush, but by Dole. Nevertheless, some people's thinking required them to tie me to Clinton, though I'd never worked for his campaign as I had for Dukakis, Bush's original opponent.

So, with this climate, the classmates and the late professor, are going back into their usual conspiracy theories about me and Bill Clinton, I suppose. But this time around, they can explain their thinking. I don't think I'm going to have to explain mine.