Lessons in Disillusion with the Political Class

Ross Mackenzie

3/27/2008 12:21:38 PM - Ross Mackenzie

There may be more to the Barack Obama/Jeremiah Wright story than the disconnect between what the two have been saying. Far more than an Obama in the 20-year embrace of a conspiracy theorist and black supremacist, presenting himself as a racial transcender.

In a 2006 sermon at Howard University, Wright said:

“Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president . . . and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body.”

Lesser stuff — from the pulpit or otherwise — has led many individuals lesser than Barack Obama to leave their churches. Even Howard Dean, now national chairman of the Democratic Party, acknowledged in 2004 that he had departed the Episcopal denomination because his Vermont parish church rejected a bike path across its property.

Yet what is the “more”? It is the dismay, the pessimism, the cynicism — particularly among younger voters — flowing from the recognition that Obama is no different from most of the rest of the politico breed. The maxim goes: Rare is the politician who is not variously a liar, a cheat, a hypocrite, or insincere — who eventually will engender precisely the disillusion Obama is engendering now.

Obama certainly is not alone, as so many recent dramas have shown. ’Tis the season . . .

— Eliot Spitzer, Mr. Holier-Than-Thee-or-Me and embodiment of the proposition that people in glass houses shouldn’t — now in therapy for sexual addiction.

— His rope-a-dope successor David Paterson, on just his second day in office, acknowledging multiple affairs — including with a state employee, indeed a member of the gubernatorial staff — evidently on the taxpayers’ dime. And a week later Paterson’s admission that he has smoked weed.

— Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — a married father of three — facing multiple criminal charges relating to lavish living on the public dollar, and to an alleged affair with his chief of staff.

— Years back, presidential candidate Gary Hart (“You can get awful famous in this country in seven days”), monkeying around with a blonde damsel on the Monkey Business. Al Gore — stupidly boasting he invented the Internet, fraudulently claiming to have been (with wife Tipper) the model for the novel “Love Story,” and now — heralded for his super environmental sensitivity — living a lie in his Tennessee residence that uses 20 times more energy than the average American household.

— Oh, and of course the serial philanderer Bill Clinton — looking the American people in the eye and lying about his under-the-desk Oval Office dalliances with “that woman,” Miss Lewinsky.

Hillary Clinton provides her own tawdry example inspiring a pessimistic view of pols — with her claims of vast “experience” in national and world affairs as the wife of Bill. Finally 11,000 pages of Clinton administration papers are dragged into the public arena, and they lend little support to her experiential testimonies. She lies about arriving in Bosnia under sniper fire — only to recant in the face of withering videos. And not even Bill Clinton’s “My Life” memoir backs her up.

Hear longtime Clinton adviser Dick Morris, in his Clinton critique “Because He Could,” describing what he calls the Clintons’ “prickly relationship with the truth”:

“The most curious thing about ‘My Life’ is not the former president’s tendency to canonize his scandal-plagued wife, but his virtual omission of any description of her role in the design, formulation, or implementation of public policy. . . .

“‘My Life’ and (Hillary’s) ‘Living History’ fail to match up in their accounts of (Hillary’s) accomplishments, or even her role in her husband’s administration. In his memoirs, Clinton generally mentions Hillary only when paired with Chelsea — accompanying him on one state voyage or another. Where, one wonders, are Mrs. Clinton’s great policy initiatives and proposals that she has trumpeted so loudly?”

None of this helps those possessing the audacity to hope that this or that pol (as Barack Obama invites them to do) somehow breaks the mold and transcends the rest. Hillary Clinton certainly does not, nor — post the Wright videos — does Obama. Despite the thrills their gallantries may have given the faithful, both leave us feeling smacked in the gut — our dreams shattered by our most anguishing fears. Both tap into deep-running pessimism, cynicism, and disillusion about the political class.

And that may be why both the Gallup and Rasmussen polls these days are showing John McCain — “pale, stale, frail and male,” as Gloria Steinem delights in dissing him — with growing leads in match-ups against (presumably) the best Democratic horses strutting in the paddock.