… And Gore’s Nadir

Nader’s Rise

Clinton’s victory on China trade helps Bush, who pushed hard for it with Republicans — not Gore, who has to support the decision while trying to keep his distance from it. The China trade measure also provides added strength to Nader, who is giving Gore’s teetering campaign the jitters in the West as well as in the labor movement. Although Nader is polling at 5 percent nationally, slightly ahead of Buchanan, he is at 7 percent in Oregon and around 10 percent in California, particularly troubling because it’s considered a do-or-die state for Gore.

Nader has been hitting hard on the Veep’s backsliding on eco issues and corporate power. The Green Party candidate has long been a leader of the anti-free trade movement, and with Gore waffling on China, the UAW announced it would reopen its presidential endorsement to consider Nader. UAW president Stephen Yokich said last Tuesday that the union is “deeply disappointed” in the vice president’s stance on trade, declaring that Gore “is holding hands with the profiteers of the world.”

In addition, Nader has been harshly criticizing Clinton, telling the New York Times/ABC Webcast Political Points last week, in response to a question about the president’s impeachment trial: “I thought he crossed [the] boundary so seriously in that scandal that the House was proper in impeaching him and the Senate really should have convicted him.” Regarding the Arkansas Bar’s current attempt to strip Clinton of his law license, Nader said: “I think law licenses have been taken away from lawyers for less egregious offenses than what President Clinton committed as president of the United States.”

The political effect of Nader’s rise is to suddenly throw into doubt the Democratic hold on California and force Gore to spend time and money there. It also spells trouble for Gore in Michigan, a state where the UAW has considerable clout and which is considered key by both Bush and Gore. (Remember that it was in Michigan in 1968 that George Wallace, corralling blue-collar union votes, pulled off an upset.) To underscore just how important the UAW’s changing position is, AP reported last Thursday that Tony Coehlo, who heads Gore’s campaign, had contacted House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt and whip David Bonior to intervene with the union leader, to no avail.

In Ohio, another key state, Nader is polling at 4 percent — and the Ohio Poll shows he has the highest favorable rating among likely voters: 43 percent, as opposed to 22 percent for Bush and minus 3 percent for Gore.

Footnote: AFL-CIO president John Sweeney sought to soften labor’s criticism of Gore, noting, “We saw very little lobbying by the vice president,” and dismissing out of hand a protest vote for Nader.

Keyes to the Kingdom

Phillips for God

Ralph Nader’s brisk campaign has buoyed other independents, among them Howard Phillips’s Constitution Party, which is running the founder of the New Right on a Christian Right platform aimed at pulling votes from Shrub on abortion, guns, and education (Phillips is a big home-schooler). The head of the Conservative Caucus Foundation, a Nixon-appointed director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and a keen defender of U.S. rights in the Panama Canal, Phillips ran a notable 1992 campaign to abolish the income tax. He opposes federal funding of education and health care, wants the U.S. out of the UN, and denounces government employment of homosexuals. He is against all abortion, and would support criminal prosecution of women who break the law if it is outlawed.

Last week, Phillips said he plans to be on the ballot in 40 states. He hopes to pull votes from the Catholic Buchanan, along with disheartened libertarians and unhappy right-wingers on the fringes of the Bush camp. “George and George’s Dad tend to discount the power of the Christian Right,” says Phillips (who is a Protestant convert from Judaism). The New Right waged an unflinching battle against George Bush during the Reagan years, contending that he was weak, unprincipled, and quite possibly a liberal.

This time around, Phillips is hoping to persuade Alan Keyes to leave the GOP and link up with him to run as president or vice president, saying recently that he thinks Keyes is “a great man.” However, Keyes wants to use his leverage to push Bush to pick a VP candidate who is unequivocally opposed to abortion. Should Bush pick someone like Tom Ridge, who is prochoice, Phillips hopes Keyes would reconsider.

Psychohistorians View Clinton

Great Balls Afire

When former federal prosecutor Barbara Olson insisted on Larry King Live last week that President Clinton ought to be disbarred, panel member F. Lee Bailey angrily retorted that she was out to “deball the President.” Bailey’s outburst brought a snicker from Olson, but in fact discussion of castrating the “phallic boy king” has become a hot topic among psychohistorians, who plumb the unconscious for a more profound meaning of what politics is all about.

Psychohistory can be explored along the following lines, according to Lloyd deMause, editor of The Journal of Psychohistory: In modern society, a leader is less an authority figure than a delegate, “someone who tells us to do what we tell him we want done,” who “takes the blame for us… [who] is expected to absorb our violent feelings without collapsing.” As long as our leaders follow our unconscious demands, we will follow them, deMause observes. But the moment they ignore the fantasy, the jig is up. At the end of two terms in office, Clinton is weak and no longer able to absorb our “poisonous” feelings; as a result, the nation verges on disintegration. The signs are all around. Instead of bedding Monica, Clinton displeased the nation by having oral sex with her. The stain on her dress symbolizes his lack of manhood.

What to do? “Ancient societies underwent rituals of purgation to revitalize the powers of the king,” thereby “ridding themselves of pollution through… sacrifice and other punishments, fasts, battles, and regenerative rituals. As Robespierre said in 1792: ‘Louis must die because the patrie must live.'”

In modern democratic societies, we don’t usually kill our leaders; instead we throw them out of office, replacing them with more virile substitutes. Or a fortunate leader might hie himself to the whorehouse, where, as a sniveling masochist (all leaders are masochists), he might seek the whip of a dominatrix to purge the poison. Clinton, of course, was prepared for his role in this regard by his whip-wielding mother long ago.

In this scenario, psychohistorians suggest, the current attempt to disbar Clinton is token regicide, since the impeachment failed to kill him off. If that doesn’t work, a stock market crash still might do the trick.

Elián Comes to Town

There Goes the Neighborhood

Tiring of seclusion on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Elián González entourage last week moved to trendy Cleveland Park (blocks from Al Gore’s home and the home of Donald Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, and close by excellent private schools such as Sidwell Friends), settling in at the Rosedale Estate. This is a neighborhood where the city’s get-ahead people walk their dogs and commiserate over Hillary and Bill’s misfortunes.

Once an Episcopal home for wayward girls, the estate was fobbed off on Youth for Understanding, a group devoted to educational exchange. Local residents gossip that Rosedale probably has an association with the CIA, although no one talks openly about this. Cleveland Park became trendy during the Kennedy administration, and today White House employees live here, as do high officials of the World Bank and the IMF.

One might have thought that unlike the inhabitants of fashionable Georgetown, who were cool to the Gonzálezes when they visited there briefly, suggesting, of all things, that the lad had been drugged (see Mondo Washington, May 16), liberal Cleveland Park might be expected to be more accommodating. Unfortunately, the boorish nature of some residents has been on display, with one woman complaining to a TV reporter about all these people hanging around, asking to use the toilet and wanting glasses of water. Other residents began asking why Greg Craig, who lives in a veritable mansion just down the street from Rosedale Estate, doesn’t take the Cubans in himself. As one neighbor told The Washington Post, “It does amuse me to see all these Janet Reno supporters, who said ‘good for her’ when Elián was taken by force, crying like scalded pigs now that Elián is coming to their neighborhood.”

Jesse the Body Block

No sooner had the House voted to okay the China trade bill last week than Jesse Helms warned: “I don’t particularly relish raining on their parade, but I feel obliged to make clear that I do not intend to allow the Senate to simply rubber-stamp the president’s plan to reward the Chinese Communists.”

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi