The anti-Bernie blitzkrieg

We were talking about last night’s so-called debate, which was like last week’s debate but even nastier. A bunch of wrinkled old hustlers (except for young hustler Pete Buttigieg) shouting each other down, desperate to sell themselves in South Carolina before their market value falls any further. Vote for me, you fools…! No, look over here, vote for me!

Another battle royale, for sure, but this time with most of the punches thrown at front-runner Bernie Sanders.

“Ain’t no way the media gonna stop bashing Bernie,” Swamp Rabbit said, checking out the tweet I’d sent him. “They don’t like nobody they can’t put a label on.”

I tossed a half-eaten apple at the willow tree that hangs over the swamp in front of my shack. “They’re calling him a communist, a modern-day George McGovern, a left-wing Donald Trump. They’ll keep trying labels until one of them sticks.”

“They were hoping he’d lose ground by calling himself a Democratic socialist, but it ain’t happening yet,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Maybe the peeps believe he’s really gonna take on the big banks and them corporate lobbyists and the student-loan and health insurance rackets.”

“I don’t know,” I said, unfolding my beach chair on the porch. “Bernie’s a humanist and an honest man, but what happens if he wins the nomination and has to go one-on-one against the most dishonest, most anti-human president ever? You’ve got a lot more faith in the peeps than I do.”

I reminded him that millions of Americans wanted General Douglas MacArthur to run for president (he did, unsuccessfully) after Harry Truman fired him, even though MacArthur had wanted to drop nuclear bombs along the Chinese border. That Richard Nixon beat George McGovern 49 states to one in his re-election bid even though he’d reneged on his promise to end the Vietnam War. That George W. Bush won re-election despite evidence that he’d made a disastrous mistake in invading Iraq.

“Trump will wave the flag and try to scare people into thinking Bernie is the boogeyman,” I said. “Like you said, the corporate media are piling on, too.”

Swamp Rabbit scowled. “So Biden or Booty or whoever is a safer bet to beat Trump than Bernie — is that what you mean?”

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good is all I’m saying. A flawed Democrat is better than a Republican dictator.”

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Battle royale in Vegas

Swamp Rabbit dropped by my shack last night toting a couple of stolen TV dinners with the brand name DEVOUR. Fittingly, we ate them while watching the Democratic candidates for president devour each other in Nevada.

I meant debate each other, of course, but devour came to mind because the candidates were nipping at each other like hungry jackals. Swamp Rabbit pictured the Dems in an old-fashioned battle royale, in which a bunch of fighters engage in a free-for-all until only one is left standing.

Elizabeth Warren floored Mike Bloomberg early on when she brought up his past treatment of women: “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” she said. “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

Bernie Sanders went on the attack, too. He reminded Bloomberg that billionaires can’t amass their fortunes without the labor of countless others who earn a lot less. Bloomberg, back on his feet again, counterpunched weakly, by trying to tar Bernie with the C-word — communism.

Joe Biden, looking punch-drunk, watched the other candidates bob and weave but couldn’t manage to land any really good shots. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar retreated to a corner of the ring to claw at each other after he mocked her for failing to remember the name of the president of Mexico.

Meanwhile Donald Trump was probably watching the battle royale with some flunkies, stuffing his fat face with Big Macs, hoping the Dems will knock each other out before one of them gets a one-on-one shot at him and his mind-boggling record of misdeeds.

None of the contestants were KO’d last night, although Bloomberg should think about throwing in the towel before he puts any more money into trying to buy a victory.

“The best case scenario is Sanders or Warren is left standing after the primaries, but any Dem will do,” I said.

“Worst case is Trump makes himself president for life before the title bout can take place,” Swamp Rabbit replied.

He was joking, I think, but you can’t be sure these days.

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An American ‘Parasite’? That’ll be the day.

I was urging Swamp Rabbit to go see the Academy Award-winning Parasite, a dark satire that should appeal to Bernie Sanders fans everywhere. He rolled his eyes and asked what a foreign-language movie directed by a guy named Bong Joon-ho has to do with Bernie.

That’s easy, I told him. Parasite acknowledges class warfare, just like Bernie’s campaign speeches. It’s about South Korea but it’s about America too, except that no American studio boss would have the balls to greenlight a movie that directly connects our social ills to government policies that help the rich get richer while forcing most other people to tread water until they drown.

“That’s crazy talk,” Swamp Rabbit said. “I ain’t drowning. I got a part-time job and four hundred dollars in the bank in case of emergencies.”

But Parasite isn’t just about income inequality, I explained, ignoring his sarcasm. It shows how the poor become invisible, and what happens to people of all classes in a society that measures success by how much money you make and how many shiny toys you flaunt. Bong makes this point in the scene where the Kims (the poor family) con themselves into the good graces of the Parks (the rich family) and proceed to…

“Don’t tell me how the movie ends,” Swamp Rabbit said. “I might watch it if it comes on TV for free. As long as it ain’t too preachy.”

It’s a high-tech fairytale, grim but absurdly funny. The Parks are rich as if by magic and live in a house that seems as big as a sports arena. The Kims are trying to eke out a living by folding pizza boxes in their tiny basement apartment before they latch onto the Parks. “They’re rich but still nice,” Daddy Kim says as the Kims guzzle the Parks’ expensive booze. “They’re nice because they’re rich,” Mama Kim replies.

The movie starts with a lot of laughs but grows more complex and violent as the plot thickens. There are no monsters but none of the characters, rich or poor, are nice. The Kims are parasites but so are the Parks in their own oblivious way. The Kims do what they think they must to get by in a dog-eat-dog world, and they go crazy in the process.

“Maybe I’ll just wait till an American does a remake of this movie,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Then I won’t have to wear myself out reading all them subtitles.”

“That’s like waiting for Donald Trump to say something thoughtful,” I replied. “It won’t happen in this lifetime.”

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Bimbo pop, then back to the bogus trial

“What a week!” Swamp Rabbit said. “On Sunday the Super Bowl. On Monday and Tuesday, the Iowa caususes and the State of the Union address. On Wednesday them Republican weasels acquit Trump. That’s four different reasons to get drunk.”

“Four excuses to catch up on my reading,” I said. “Those are nonsense events. A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing but the slow death of the republic.”

The rabbit was taken aback. “You should chill, Odd Man. Things ain’t that bad.”

Oh yes they are, I told him. In past years, I sent good writers to cover the Super Bowl — Faulkner, Chandler, Virginia Woolf. This year nobody wanted to go, they were all sick of the bombast and the bowing to the military and the bad music at the overproduced halftime shows.

Shakira and J-Lo had been booked to shake their assets at millions of flabby, beer-swilling bozos in living rooms all over the land. I predicted the media sages would call the show an “empowering” display of female and Latinx solidarity.

“What you got against women with good bodies shaking their assets?” Swamp Rabbit said.

“I’m all for it,” I replied. “Just don’t tell me it’s some kind of political statement. It’s just Jay-Z and the NFL using women to further enrich themselves.”

As it turned out, the Super Bowl was no more annoying than the bizarre display of presidential candidates cruising the caucuses for convention delegates in tiny Iowa. The ritual seemed even dumber than usual this year thanks to a malfunctioning “caucus app” that indefinitely delayed the final vote tally.

Then came the presidential address to Congress, which was more about the ugly state of Donald Trump’s mind than about the state of the union. He rattled off a long series of lies and hit a new low by presenting the Medal of Freedom to the nation’s foremost woman hater and racist, Rush Limbaugh. Nancy Pelosi brought the obscene spectacle to a fitting end by shredding her copy of Trump’s foul speech.

The next day Senate Republicans, with the surprise exception of Mitt Romney, re-affirmed their fealty to the most corrupt president in U.S. history and shattered the myth that “checks and balances” built into the U.S. Constitution ensure our protection from would-be dictators. “Not guilty,” they said, one after the other.

I stopped by Swamp Rabbit’s shack after the impeachment trial verdict and found him passed out on the floor, surrounded by empty cans and bottles. “Who won the Super Bowl?” he asked when I woke him.

“Trump did, 52 to 48,” I told him. “The fix was in.”

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GOP: He’s guilty, so what, let’s acquit

Swamp Rabbit said he was worried about me. I wasn’t working today, and I hadn’t even ventured outside my swamp shack to pick a fight with someone.

“Stop watching that impeachment trial,” he said. “It’s turning you into a nut job.”

I told him it should make everyone nutty now that Republican senators, after three years of groveling before Donald Trump, have sunk to the point where they won’t even permit the appearance of a fair trial by voting to include witnesses and relevant documents. They’re telling us Trump was correct when he falsely claimed that Article II of the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.”

They’re agreeing with Alan Dershowitz, who signaled his approval of an imperial presidency by absurdly arguing that a quid pro quo entered into for personal gain by an elected official can’t be illegal so long as that official believes “his election is in the public interest.”

“I blame Claus von Bulow,” I said. “They made a movie about his overturned murder conviction, and the movie made that dirtbag Dershowitz look like a hero. It made him famous.”

“It ain’t just Dershowitz,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They’re all dirtbags. They’re all in the loop. Them senators and lawyers and Cabinet members, them yahoos in Wildwood, New Jersey who like Trump on account of he hates blacks and immigrants and tree huggers — they wouldn’t be propping up Trump if they wasn’t as rotten as he is.”

He’s right. John Bolton, the mustache behind the door, is too concerned about book sales to share his first-hand knowledge of Trump’s law-breaking before the so-called trial is over. Lamar Alexander and other Senate “moderates” have admitted they know Trump abused his power but say they’ll vote to acquit anyway.

Lisa Murkowski lamented the failure of the Senate — a failure in which she played a key role. And here’s Marco Rubio, who seems as stupid as he is gutless: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.”

I kicked my oatmeal bowl off the porch and into the swamp. “Rubio says removing a corrupt president isn’t in our best interest. He’s worse than Dershowitz.”

Swamp Rabbit opened a can of beer and chuckled. “I was where you’re at last week, Odd Man. It don’t do no good to get your blood pressure up. All you can do is vote the crook out of office in November.”

I reached for my oatmeal bowl before it sank. “He was impeached for trying to steal the election, and he’s getting away with it. What makes you think he won’t try again and not get caught next time?”

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Change your story, change your life!

Swamp Rabbit and I were arguing about lying politicians. I used to think most of them lied only when they thought there was little danger of being found out. Like Richard Nixon, who famously said, “I’m not a crook.”

But expectations have changed, especially among Republicans. Donald Trump has made more than 15,000 false or misleading claims in his three years as president, and he’s proud of it.

Trump is in the vanguard of something new. He lies even when he knows there is recorded evidence that he’s lying. The same is true of Ted Cruz, who has made easily refuted claims about Beto O’Rourke, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Barack Obama and even Trump.

“The worst liar might be Lindsey Graham,” I said. “That boy will look out the window at a blizzard and tell you the sun is shining.”

Swamp Rabbit told me I’m old-fashioned, Republicans are hip to new cultural realities. “They ain’t lying, they’re just changing their stories,” he said. “Ain’t no moving forward if you don’t let go the past. You change your story to change your life.”

He sounded like one of those New Age, posi-vibe guys; like Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker who has helped his acolytes, including Bill Clinton, overcome negative thinking in order to “unleash the power within” while navigating the road to success.

“You can deny the past but you can’t really let it go,” I said. “It comes back to bite you. The truth will out.”

“You’re wrong, Odd Man,” he said. “This here’s the post-truth era. Them fifty-three Republican senators at the impeachment trial know Trump tried to shake down that Ukrainian, but they’d rather walk on hot coals than vote to convict.”

“What if John Bolton testifies?” I said. “He’s a first-hand witness.”

He shrugged. “They’re gonna change their stories if they absolutely got to, but they ain’t never gonna admit to lying.”

Footnote: The New York Times, Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream media know Lindsey Graham is a world-class liar who changes his stories as often as he changes his ties. They sometimes report his individual lies and contradictory statements, but never attack his credibility in a comprehensive way. Where’s that story, except in the Intercept and other alternative publications?

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NYT to readers: Vote for both of them

“This is pathetic,” I said after reading the editorial twice. “What’s going on at the New York Times?”

Swamp Rabbit looked confused. “How would I know? I ain’t no Manhattan neolib. I live in a shack in Tinicum swamp, just like you.”

I was baffled. An endorsement, by definition, involves choosing one candidate over all the others. Why choose two, unless you’re trying to confuse your readers?

Swamp Rabbit took a minute to check the editorial then read aloud from it:

Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it. That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

Warren is the radical, you see, and Klobuchar is realistic. I couldn’t help wondering how often The Times‘s editorial writers venture outside their glass-and-steel tower, and how they’re defining their terms.

Warren is actually a New Deal-style Democrat, with beliefs and policy ideas similar to those of Bernie Sanders, a candidate the Times calls divisive and despises. Klobuchar is middle-of-the-road, a lot like Joe Biden but blander and not as gaffe-prone. How her politics equates with realism is a mystery to me.

“They mean she’s a go-slow type,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They’re saying she can do what Warren wants to do, but without rocking the boat. Don’t make much sense when you think about it.”

I told him the Times editorial tells us more about the Times than it does about Warren or Klobuchar. The famed newspaper of record badly misjudged the mood of the country when it confidently endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. It still doesn’t understand Trump’s appeal. It’s hoping to get back some credibility by hedging its bets in 2020, by being all things to all people who aren’t Trump-loving troglodytes.

“Who cares about them editorial writers anyway?” the rabbit said. “They all work for corporations. I know bloggers who make more sense.”

I nodded. He said, “Don’t jump to no conclusions, I ain’t talking about you.”

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