Northern Exposures:

Clinton Does the Democratic Primaries

"Mr. Harkin," a boozy-sounding woman in the back pipes up, "why should be send billions of dollars to Russia, when they have always been our enemy? And Poland, and Yugoslavia, and all those countries, instead of keeping the money in this country?"

Before Harkin can open his mouth—well it's already open, but before he can say anything—a large, craggy old man with a face like Lionel Stander chimes in:

"Ten billion going to Israel to put these guys to work on the Golden Heights for Russian immigrants! What the hell is this? Everybody afraid of the Jews?"

"Now sometimes you—" Harkin begins, but the man is implacable.

"I'm not a bigot, I'm not—but on the other hand, they're human beings, but we're human beings, looking for jobs too.

"That's why you need to make sure that they are investing back in this country, that's exactly what I've been telling you."

The woman from earlier is also implacable:

"What I feel, you go into a store, and myself, I buy U.S. made. Made in the U.S.A."

"You bet," Harkin panders.

"If it's made in U.S.A. we keep our people working, right?"

"That's right," he says.

"But what you see in most of the stores is Made in China. Made in Taiwan, all that. What's the point of these countries—and if those articles were not on the shelves, people would buy U.S. made. It wouldn't be there. So you pay a dollar more for the product. But our people don't work for nothing, they don't live 12 in one apartment. We have a nice way of living. And we wanna keep it that way. And I don't want to support the Russians, believe me."

Harkins talks about a bill he's introducing, instructing U.S. representatives to the IMF and the World Bank to vote against any loan to any country that spends more on its military than on its health and education. This sounds nice, until you consider that the U.S. itself wouldn't qualify for such a loan, though most other countries in the world would.

"They never pay it back. Did they ever pay it back?" the woman screeches.

"There's one country that have paid back every loan."

"Which one?"

"Israel."

"Well, the Jews, they have more money than everybody in the world!"

Harkin quickly takes a question form another part of the room. For me, anyway, he has just collapsed into nonexistence. I suppose one can, in these bankrupt times, in a state where the only major paper once ran an editorial entitled "Kissinger the Kike?" expect a little Jew-baiting on the campaign trail. But I cannot imagine Mario Cuomo or Jay Rockefeller letting such remarks just sit there in the room, just to grub a couple of votes. Not in a million years.

On November 7, 1960, John F. Kennedy stood in Victory Park in Manchester, directly across from the Manchester Union Leader offices, and said:

"I believe there is probably a more irresponsible newspaper than that one right over there somewhere in the United States, but I've been through 40 states and I haven't found it yet."

The kind of ignorant sentiments sounded at Harkin's Berlin headquarters can be heard throughout the state of New Hampshire, and even if they originated generations before Loeb's acquisition of the Union Leader, the paper has fueled them for decades. As a result, bigotry has been institutionalized among the less-educated, who believe their lives have been ruined by the Jews, the blacks, the Japanese, the communists, or invaders from Massachusetts, rather than by bad choices, bad leaders, and a refusal to learn from the larger world. The candidates certainly know this coming in, and at the risk of sounding idealistic, I think any presidential candidate stumping through this backward but maybe not entirely hopeless state has some moral duty to offer a corrective example, to show some high-mindedness, instead of just promising jobs and money and material aggrandizement.

During the years of artificial plenty, New Hampshire was happy to sell off the intangible wealth of livably scaled towns, forests, and wide-open spaces for a quick buck, three or four extra K-marts within driving distance, and an idiotic abundance of worthless consumer goods. Now that people have to live in the debris, their fields and meadows long vanished under now-vacant malls and abandoned tract developments, they might reflect that this all happened once before, when the great Amoskeag Mills shut down earlier in this century, and that history has repeated itself as farce instead of tragedy. Of course people are "hurting"—you usually do hurt after shooting yourself in the foot. And instead of yacking about wake-up calls and level playing fields and "sending a message" to the rest of the planet that America intends to remain a vicious mongoloid among nations, first in everything but human reason, any candidate worth voting for, however hard the times, ought to offer people an appeal to their better natures, as well as to the part that eats. Nobody did.

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