The Revenge of Epimenides
The Geffen-Obama-Hillary-Richardson dustup provided the seismic energy to momentarily glimpse the fires burning under the manicured landscape of liberal politics in America. It all began with former Clinton supporter billionaire David Geffen's remarks about Hillary at a Hollywood fundraiser. Geffen called the Clintons liars ("everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling"), depicted Hillary as a Lady Macbeth ("God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton?"), and in particular characterized Bill as an unreconstructed crook, who would pardon tax cheat Marc Rich while throwing cop-killer Leonard Peltier to the dogs. ("I don’t think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person ... Marc Rich getting pardoned? An oil-profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice?"). Choosing a tax cheat over an activist cop-killer shows lack of character in that sort of world. But this was nothing as to the damnation with faint praise that Geffen poured on Hillary, saying Republicans would find her "easiest to defeat", largely because she is so smart. ("She’s so advised by so many smart advisers who are covering every base. I think that America was better served when the candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms.")
Hillary responded by demanding, through her aides, that Barack Obama apologize on behalf of David Geffen, a reaction so suggestive of the idea that medieval bonds of fealty ruled politics as to be positively eerie. It was like a message from one prince to another demanding good behavior from their vassals.
"While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign's finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband. If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money. While Democrats should engage in a vigorous debate on the issues, there is no place in our party or our politics for the kind of personal insults made by Senator Obama's principal fundraiser."
Obama's retainers cooly replied that Hillary's anger couldn't be over "tone" it had to be about spoils. Then they played the Race Card to top it off.
"We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom. It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because he's black."
Great stuff. It was like catching a glimpse behind the curtain at a Kumbaya concert and finding the entire cast not only out of character, but making fun of their lines. Here's Geffen on the subject of the Clinton Royal Family from Arkansas. "Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And I’m tired of hearing James Carville on television. ... It’s not a very big thing to say, ‘I made a mistake’ on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can’t." There in fact was the key problem in the whole Geffen-Obama-Hillary mess. It raised the question of which was the play and which was reality on the liberal political platform. Just as churchgoers who, after reading in the papers that their pastor was a involved in some sordid drug and sex scandal might wonder whether every Sunday service was a lie, Geffen's outtakes raise doubts about whether politicians (not just Democrats) believing in anything at all.
Roger Simon thinks that whatever else may be true, politicians believe in winning. And Geffen laid into Hillary because he believed she was unelectable. But in this kind of calculus, the actual character of the candidate and the platform's effect on national security and welfare proves secondary to the main goal of winning the election. Geffen was her pal, glad to sing her praises, for so long as she could win. But now Geffen lets us in on the secret of what she is really like. Now we know the truth, don't we? One of the most famous logical problems of antiquity was the Cretan Paradox. Cretan philosopher Epimenides declared "all Cretans are liars," and he of course was a Cretan. It is now often referred to as the "Liar's Paradox". Now Geffen, like the ancient Cretan, tells us that "Obama is inspirational." Well I'm glad that he is.