Northern Exposures:

Clinton Does the Democratic Primaries

"I've heard about parts of New Hampshire emptying out, the way you used to read about it in the Dust Bowl...eight years of Reagan, whatever good things he did have been wiped out in these three years...the World Bank in the last three years has given $3.5 billion dollars to communist China...at zero interest...those loans are guaranteed by you...the Export Import Bank is helping American businesses locate a new paper mill in Mexico...has anybody been up to the James River Paper Mill in Berlin? I was up there yesterday...they're holding on...they don't know what's going to happen...they're responsible for 20 per cent of the economy of the North Country...what are we doing financing paper mills in Mexico when paper mills in New Hampshire are teetering on the brink of going under? [Thunderous applause.] We were the world's leaders in textiles. Number one in steel. These industries are going, going, some of them are gone...I've been up in the North Country of your home state...Mr. Bush just had a new guest visiting him, Lee Pong I think is how you pronounce his name...he's the fellow who ordered the tanks in Tiananmen Square...that Chinese communist regime is right now selling missile technology...to our enemies in Tehran...they dumped all their sweater products in the United States and killed Pandora Mills...."

Never mind that most of New Hampshire has always been thinly populated. Never mind that the former Brown Co. Mills have been in decline for 30 years—in steeper decline since their purchase, in 1980, by the Virginia-based James River Corporation, which failed to refurbish the industrial plant when the capital was there. That the population of Berlin has been dropping steadily since 1960—precipitously so since the departure of the Converse Shoe Company in 1979. Or that absolutely nobody in New Hampshire refers to Coos County as the wasteland near the Canadian border as "the North Country."

As if happens, Pandora Mills was not ruined by Chinese sweaters being dumped on the American Market. Pandora Mills was ruined by a leveraged buyout of its clothing division following the company's 1983 acquisition by Gulf + Western, as the former president of Pandora Knitwear, May Gruber, informs me after the Palace Theatre loathe-in has dispersed into the gelid evening, trailing acrid vapors of Nissan and Honda exhaust. Admit nothing, blame everybody, be bitter—this could easily be Pat Buchanan's campaign slogan, as well as the state motto.

Perhaps the sorriest aspect of Buchanan's campaign is the obligation most mainstream journalists feel to declare this raging boor "interesting," mainly because customarily feeds at the same trough they do. Yes, he will get 30 per cent of New Hampshire Republican vote, and so would Adolph Hitler or General Franco. I'm from here, and I've seen this movie before. Buchanan is scary, yes, but so is the more congenial, saner fringe candidate, Charles Woods, an air crash survivor whose reconstructed face at least confronts us with the useful paradox that appearances, which all philosophy since Plato shows us to be false, absolutely dictate the selection ruler sin a televised "democracy." By contrast, Buchanan is, tediously, exactly what he looks like: a bigoted mick whose pathology runs to fag-bashing and other symptoms of sexual hysteria.

And what of these bullying, cowardly people, stewing in the bilious sweats of their own zeal, bursting into rapturous applause—the heartiest applause of the evening—when Buchanan sneers that AIDS is "still a disease of homosexuals and drug addicts," or vows to rid the NEA of every piece of "scandalous, filthy or antireligious art"? What about these jumped-up hillbillies, frothing at the dentures to beat up on people with AIDS, single mothers on public assistance, the homeless, anybody weaker than they? Who regard themselves as the only true victims of history, as "hurting," just because the world is larger than they are, more complex than the country they live in, and not, for the most part, white?

It's standard among the Buchanan set to begrudge any minority the status of victim, to bewail "reverse discrimination" in any attempt at social reparation, so it's no surprise that the Union Leader, Buchanan's principal endorser in the state, has taken up several of Pat's pet peeves. In a January 30 editorial, staffer Leonard Larsen attacks "the annual guilt trip over Hiroshima" and complains that "the popular media history...will probably define World War II in just two events." And guess what the other one is.

"...So that wasn't a war we were in. There was the Holocaust and everything else was incidental. The revisionists would make it a fact."

I should stress that the Union Leader is perfectly capable of going much further than this, of denying that the Holocaust even happened one week, and using the same fictional Holocaust the next week to attack Louis Farrakhan or some other anti-Semite of color, depending on which minority its editrix, Mrs. Nacky Scripps Gallowhur Loeb, widow of the odious William, feels like bashing when she staggers out of bed in the morning.

On the other matters, too, the paper has the mercurial temper of a pit viper. It detests Jimmy Hoffa until Jimmy Hoffa became the enemy of Robert Kennedy, and then ran a decade of editorials lauding Hoffa as the savior of organized labor. (The paper threatened to withhold its endorsement of Richard Nixon in '72 unless Tricky Dick sprung Hoffa from the federal penitentiary; Nixon grudgingly obliged.) It devoted eight years of deifying editorials to then governor John Sununu and his albatross reactor in Seabrook, yet currently refers to him as Bush's "pimp," because Sununu refuses to endorse Buchanan. Like the Stalinist-era Pravda, the Union Leader never simply changes its mind; it "discovers" a pattern of ideological error or flawed character in its former allies, admits to having been "duped," and busily retracts every positive thing it's printed about the latest charlatan. In all of this the paper represents itself as a virgin schoolmarm violated and betrayed by her most trusted pupil, an act so long in the tooth that even its subscribers can't read the Union Leader with a straight face.

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