Emanuel, as Ralph Nader points out in my interview with
him below, represents the worst of the Clinton years. His profile as
regards Israel is explored well on this site by lawyer John
Whitbeck. He’s a former Israeli citizen, who volunteered to serve in
Israel in 1991 and who made brisk millions in Wall Street. He is a super-Likudnik hawk, whose father was in the fascist Irgun in the late Forties,
responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians. Dad’s
unreconstructed ethnic outlook has been memorably embodied in his recent
remark to the Ma’arivnewspaper
that "Obviously he [Rahm] will influence the president to be pro-Israel…
Why wouldn't he be [influential]? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to
clean the floors of the White House."
Working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel helped push
through NAFTA, the crime bill, the balanced budget and welfare reform.
He favored the war in Iraq, and when he was chairing the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 he made great efforts to knock
out antiwar Democratic candidates. On this site in October and November,
2006, John Walsh documented both the efforts and Emanuel’s role in
losing the Democrats seats they would otherwise have won.
In 2006 Emanuel had just published a book with Bruce
Reed called The
Plan: Big Ideas for America, with one section focused on “the
war on terror”. Emanuel and Reed wrote, “We need to fortify the
military's ‘thin green line ‘around the world by adding to the U.S.
Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by
100,000 more troops.…Finally we must protect our homeland and
civil liberties by creating a new domestic counterterrorism force like
Britain's MI5.” Recall that Obama has been calling throughout his recent
campaign for an addition of 92,000 to the US Army and US Marine Corps.
Emanuel and Reed had fond words for the mad-dog Peter
Beinart, neocon warrior theoretician for the Democrats, roosting Marty
Peretz'sThe New Republic, and author of The
Good Fight where Beinart
explained why a tough new national security policy is as essential to
the future of of progressive politics as a united front against
totalitarianism and communism was to the New Deal and the Great Society.
Emanuel and Reed also commended Anne-Marie Slaughter's proposal for "a
new division of labor in which the United Nations takes on economic and
social assistance and an expanded NATO takes over the burden of
collective security." In other words, let NATO shoot the natives and the
UN clean the floors.
Walsh took a hard look at the 2006 Democratic primary
race between Christine Cegelis and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois's 6th CD,
a Republican District, which had elected the disgusting Henry Hyde from
time immemorial. In 2004 Cegelis, who iwas only mildly antiwar, ran as
the Democrat with a grass roots campaign and polled a remarkable 44 per
cent in her first run. It was not too long before Hyde decided to
retire, and the field seemed to be open for Cegelis in the November poll,
Enter Rahm Emanuel, who promptly dug up a pro-war
candidate, Tammy Duckworth. Although she had both her legs blown off in
Iraq, she remained committed to "staying the course" in Iraq. Duckworth
had no political experience and did not live in the 6th District.
Emanuel raised a million dollars for her and brought in Joe Lieberman,
Barak Obama, John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton to support
her. Despite all this help and with the Cegelis campaign virtually
penniless, Duckworth barely managed to eke out a primary victory by a
measly four percentage points.
To win the House, the Dems had to win 15 seats from the
Republicans. Walsh identified 22 candidates hand picked by Emanuel to
run in open districts or districts with Republican incumbents. Of these,
nine adopted a US “must win” in Iraq position and only one of Rahm's
candidates was for prompt withdrawal from Iraq.
Then, after the election, Walsh assessed Rahm’s supposed
brilliance in winning back the House. “Looking at all 22 candidates hand-picked
by Rahm, “ Walsh wrote, “we find that 13 were defeated [including
Duckworth], and only 8 won! And remember that this was the year of the
Democratic tsunami and that Rahm's favorites were handsomely financed by
the DCCC. The Dems have picked up 28 seats so far, maybe more. So out of
that 28, Rahm's choices accounted for 8! Since the Dems only needed 15
seats to win the House, Rahm's efforts were completely unnecessary. Had
the campaign rested on Rahm's choices, there would have been only 8 or 9
new seats, and the Dems would have lost. In fact, Rahm's efforts were
probably counterproductive for the Dems since the great majority of
voters were antiwar and they were voting primarily on the issue of the
war (60 per cent according to CNN). But Rahm's candidates were not
Talking to Nader about the
Campaign, on November 5.
AC: In 2000,you drew nearly 10,000 people to a
speech in Portland, Oregon. This year you got barely 2,000 in in the
whole of Multnomah County where Portland lies, perhaps the most
progressive county in the nation. Is this a sign of the withering of the
progressive ggleft or the dead end of independent political campaigns?
Nader: It’s a sign of the swoon in the
voting booth by people who told pollsters that they were going to vote
for me at a level of 4 to 7 million; that is, 6 per cent nationally in
the summer and 3 per cent the day before the election, according to CNN.
In Washington DC district Obama got 94 per cent. I said to people, how
many years have you known me? And they answered, it’s a historic
occasion. I wanted to be part of history. The real issue in this
campaign is the voters. These are people who knew all about Obama’s
flipflops, his support for offshore drilling, for FISA, his role as the
number one corporate cadidate.
When you in prison and you’re told you can’t get out and
to chose between TB and cancer you’ll chose. It’s beyond politics, it’s
psychology. This is what happens when we’re trapped in the winner take
all closed system, watching tv.
The pattern is: Progressive politics for three years,
and in the fourth year it renews itself with heavy doses of regressive
politics and charges forward again.
I thought we’d get two to three millon votes. We had a
huge internet presence.
AC: How many votes did you get? This year and in
the last two campaigns?
Probably 700,000. In 2000 it was 2.8 million. In 2004,
450,000. But those figures don’t tell the story. In New York this time
for example it was almost impossible to find me on the ballot.
AC What about you calling him an Uncle Tom on
Nader: On Fox I said that as the first African American
president we wish him well. The question is, will he be Uncle Sam for
the people or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations which are driving
America into the ground. Fox cut it off after “corporations”.
He is less vulnerable to criticism and harder to
criticize because of his race. When I said he was talking White Man’s
talk, the PC people got really upset.
It doesn’t matter that he sides with destruction of the
Palestinians, and sides with the embargo. It doesn’t matter that he
turns his back on 100 million people and won’t even campaign in minority
areas. It doesn’t matter than he wants a bigger military budget, and an
imperial foreign policy supporting various adventures of the Bush
administration. It doesn’t matter that he’s for the death penalty ,which
is targeted at minorities. But if you say one thing that isn’t PC, you
get their attention. I tell college audiences, a gender, racial or
ethnic slur gets you upset, reality doesn’t get you upset.
Can Obama speak truth to the white power structure?
There’s every indication he doesn’t want to. For example, in February he
stiffed the State of the Black Union annual meeting in New Orleans. He’s
a very accommodating personality.
AC: Ralph, Why do you think Ron Paul was able to
excite younger voters and you weren't?
Nader: Ron Paul? There’s the novelty aspect. It was his
first try. He hasn’t been losing. He gets the hard core people focused
on the gold standard, and abolishing the federal reserve. The “Get
government off our back”, rock-ribbed Goldwater people. He says the
things mainstream Republicans can’t.
AC: Are the Republicans down for the count for a
Nader: Any time there’s a terrorist attack they’re back
in business. Enough people will soon forget what Bush and Co actually
did. At the moment conservatives have been subjected to Obama’s shock
and awe, but they still have all these social issues. As a candidate
Obama dodged the Gay Marriage Ban ballot, but they’ll throw the social
issues at him. The Republican inventory is intact: “tax and spend”,
“over regulation”, plus all these social issues.
AC Does Palin have a future?
AC: How about the liberals and the left now?
Nader: The real crisis is the self-destruction of the
liberal progressive community. It’s got nowhere to go, other than to
renew its three out of four year cycle of criticism of the Democrats.
They’ve nowhere to go because they’ve made no demands. He’s been a
candid right-center Democrat and they’ve given him a free ride. No
demands. From Labor? No demands. He gave them a sop on the card check.
He campaigned for two years, promised blacks nothing, Latinos nothing,
women’s groups nothing, labor nothing. Contrast the lack of demands on
the liberal progressive side to what the Limbaugh crowd exacted from
AC: You think Michael Moore could have made some
demands in return for his support?
Nader: Moore knows were his bread is buttered. He’s seen
what the Hollywood set and the others did to me.
AC: How do you see the next phase playing out?
Nader: Obama faces three crises: wars overseas, economic
collapse and the deficit. They can’t use fiscal policy very much, so
he’s going to be strapped by things like Medicare.
He’s got along on general rhetoric, but now each
decision will shake some section of the liberal constituency.
They need to launch a comprehensive program dealing with
poverty, low income housing, corruption and extortion in the ghettoes,
and doubling the minimum wage to compensate for inflation.
They need to address the right of labor to form trade
unions without coming up against the steel wall of Taft Hartley
Health insurance? He’ll extend tax supports which will
give the insurance companies more business. He should deal with drug
prices, but that’s a battle he won’t undertake.
How’s he going to deal with the auto companies which are
in deep trouble? Take the proposed GM-Chrysler merger hich makes no
sense and will mean lay-offs for 90,000 workers. If people don’t want
the cars then the sacrifices and subsidies are to no avail.
The only way this guy can ever get his head above water
is if he is courageous. What he’s basically doing so far is giving the
Clinton crowd a second chance. Rahm Emanuel? He’s the worst of Clinton.
Spokesman for Wall Street, Israel, globalization.
Second: demilitarize foreign policy, establishing the
international stability that flows from our becoming a respectful but
energetic humanitarian superpower, confronting world issues like
drinking water and infectious diseases.
He has to reverse course on Afghanistan. As Ashraf Ghani
former finance minister for Karzai has said, the approach to Afghanistan
should be the need for justice, the fundamental basis of all public
Third, he’s got to develop economic policy for the
greatest good for the greatest number. Public works not bailout. Put
money where it matters.
He’s got to say to the rich and powerful, you have to
give up your greed. It should be a two-track presidency, dealing with
issues day to day, and strengthening the fiber of democratic society.
That’s partly a matter of shareholder authority, worker-owned pension
funds, which is a third of Wall Street. If every such fund was given the
authority to control what they own, it wd be over. Look at all
institutional shareholderd in Fannies. Their holdings are worth one per
cent of what they were and these were the second safest investments
after Treasuries! Believe in first principles: what you own, you
control. If you screw up you’re free to sink -- the first and second
principles of capitalism.
I’m going to write Obama a letter in the next month
saying, what you have to do is a pre-State of the union where you lay
out exactly where the Bush Administration has left America, in category
after category, so you will not be hung with it. In the pre-state of the
union, Obama should say, This is the mess
Second, Obama has to cut the sequence of war crimes and
high crimes and misdeameanours. If not, he’ll become a war criminal
himself within a month. Shut down Guantanamo with strict directives, no
torture. If he continue his policies, then he’ll become a war criminal.
If you going to restore the rule of law, you have got to draw the line
between what you’re going to do and what you refuse to inherit. Then
it’s a real fresh start.
Obama’s a guy who’s got away with a ten minute speech
for two years. He won too easily. He didn’t have to respond to the
liberal constituencies. He’s really had it very easy, because he had an
easy act to challenge and an easy act to follow ,
AC: How do you feel about your run?
Nade: I’m happy I ran, because the alternative is total
surrender. I carried the banner to 50 states. I surprised myself. Look
at the abolitionist Liberty Party in the mid-19th century. It didn’t get
a tenth of one per cent. Did you think those people wasted their vote?
We were quite successful this time in beating back ballot access
barriers , in Arizona and Ohio. It’s like the early stages of fighting
Jim Crow laws.
AC: The history of third parties over the past
thirty years is not very encouraging.
Nader: We’re advancing majoritarian programs and the
majority voters are trapped into the two party choice This is what
happens. Obama sank public funding. Not only did he betray the principle
and therefore shattered his credibility. In so outdoing he way outraised
McCain. I read the trade literature. Not one of these industries --
banking, insurance, automotive, oil, agribusiness, international trade –
is worried. They’re all totally calm. The corporate state moves on.
Corporate power has unique characteristics. It is
perfectly willing and able to corrupt, regardless of sexual or ethnic
preference. It offers equal opportunities to be corrupted or coopted .
That’s why it’s very difficult for the civil community, which is
affected by principles, nuances, honest disagreements, to confront the
monistically commercial corporations. No one says ‘the big debate inside
Exxon is whether to go more for oil or solar. That’s why every religion
in the world, in their scriptures, issues a warning not to give too much
power to the merchant class. The commercial instinct is relentless,
consistent, limitless in achieving its goal. It will run rough-shod to
destroy, co-opt or dilute civic and spiritual values that stand in its
Talking of Hope and Change…
But first a word about Alan Greenspan. In his inaugural
I trust President Obama will have some grateful words for the former
chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose 20-year tenure in that position
reduced the finances of the United States and hence those of much of the
world to rubble, thus giving Obama the pivot for his October comeback.
In our latest newsletter, we publish a particularly
searing assessment of Greenspan as a grade-A world monster, by Frederic
Claremont. Also in this subscriber-only issue, we give you John Hatch’s
terse story of one foreclosure, in California’s Central Valley – a
region devastated by the collapse of the housing bubble. And Kristian
Williams outlines the structured world of police torture in Chicago’s
Area 2, whose erstwhile chief has just been indicted.
I strongly recommend a subscription, just as I recommend
you make haste to buy from the CounrterPunch bookstore Kevin Gray’s newWaiting
for Lightening to Strike: The Findamentals of Black Politics,never
more relevant than now. You want political history, not hagiography; a
political agenda, not the hype of “hope”? Here it is.
And finally, talking of change, we seek whatever spare
change you feel able to spring loose for CounterPunch. We fly this site
through electronic space 365 days a year for your instruction and
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CounterPunchers. You give up holding the net, we crash to earth. We’re
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So we need your donation, whatever you can afford. If we
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