Monday, November 6, 2000

Week of 11/06/2000

The Dirtiest Player in the Game
- by David Matthews 2

In the world of professional wrestling, one man is known as "The Dirtiest Player in the Game." That man is the legendary "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

Flair was the shining example of the glamour of professional wrestling. The robes, the gold, the limousines, the women, the perfectly coifed platinum-white hair, the expensive clothes. Everything about him exuded success. But Flair the wrestler was also arrogant, cocky, sneaky, the master of mind games, and willing to use every underhanded trick imaginable to get the win.

Until recently, it was hard to try to find the political equivalent to the "Nature Boy." Politicians don’t like to be seen as arrogant, put-offish, or cocky. They want to be seen as the "babyfaces", the good guys who have to fight hard and play by the rules in order to win.

I suppose the closest you could’ve come to having a "dirty player" in politics would be the late Richard Nixon. Nixon’s political career had always held an element of duplicity. End Vietnam, yet bomb Cambodia. Support the Constitution, yet try to circumvent it. Support free markets, yet order a one-year freeze in the marketplace that would take years to resolve.

But Nixon knew how to accept defeat. When he knew that the Congress was ready to impeach him for his abuses of power, he resigned. He chose the honorable way out, and eventually history forgave him.

Until now, nobody could come close to being a "dirty player" in politics as Nixon was.

"Nature Boy" Ric Flair, meet President Bill Clinton.

Like Flair, Clinton exudes all of the glamour of politics. The big-money fundraisers, the trips on Air Force One, the high-profile travel junkets. Clinton has even let his perfectly coifed hair turn white, just like the "Nature Boy." Now some might say that Clinton likes to be a "common man," but that really doesn’t seem to cut it for him. He is only about as much a "common man" as King Henry V was when he would disguise himself to visit his troops before a battle.

But with Clinton there is also that dark side of politics that seems to follow him about like a shadow. The deceitfulness, the lies, the underhanded tricks, the mind games that are played so subtly that you don’t even know you’ve been played for a fool until after it has happened.

Accuse Clinton of some wrongdoing, and you could face an audit by the Internal Revenue Service. Just about every Clinton accuser and critic has at one point or another been audited by the IRS. Nobody would ever say why they are being audited, but they would quickly dismiss any idea that the White House had anything to do with it. Documents would mysteriously disappear. Dark secrets about people’s lives would be dug up and revealed.

Of course, Clinton would never admit to such dirty tricks. Like any other politician, Clinton wants to be seen as a "babyface", a self-professed savior and champion of the "common man." But try as he might, those dirty tricks would follow him about like a puppy.

Case in point, the presidential campaign of his heir apparent, Al Gore.

Try as he might, Al Gore cannot shake off the stigma that is Bill Clinton off his campaign. He kept on claiming he was "his own man," but quite often he would point to those years of serving as the prince to King Bill the first, waiting patiently for what he would consider to be "his turn" to take over the castle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So as Election Day came closer, Gore was perplexed. He was not considered to be the overall winner, despite reinventing himself over and over again. Worse yet, he was considered to be running neck-and-neck with a man who seemed to be bumbling his way through the campaign - Texas Governor George W. Bush.

And so it came to be that Al Gore got some "help" from his mentor, King Bill.

Most people would know that Clinton would briefly "stump" for Gore, campaigning for him and claiming that a Gore regime would be considered the closest thing Clinton could have to a third term. Not really original when you think about it. In fact, that’s how Bush’s father became president in 1988, as the successor to President Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office.

So Big Bubba Spin would make his pitch, do his brief "stumping" for Gore, and then go back to the White House so he can once again try to rebuild what he calls his "legacy." Al "My Own Man" Gore became Al "Clinton II" Gore, and that seemed to appease the pundits.

But then something strange happened…

Not too long after Clinton "returned" to his kingly duties, a skeleton popped out of George W’s closet.

This skeleton was a guilty plea for Driving Under Intoxication in Maine. Now today that would be considered a felony, but this was in 1976, when such an offense was treated no better than speeding. Bush was given a ticket, he went to traffic court, pled guilty, paid the fine, lost his drivers license for a month, and that was that. No big deal back then. In fact, Bush would later say that the incident was one of the reasons why he gave up drinking.

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. in terms of bombshells, this scandal was nothing more than a fizzled firecracker. A DUI in 1976 wasn’t as consequential an offense as, say, raping a woman.. like a certain former attorney general for Arkansas was alleged to have done in the 1980’s. Bush didn’t try to fight the charge. He didn’t try to use his father’s influence to get the matter swept away. He didn’t even plead nolo to the charge, which he was more than entitled to do back then. No, he didn’t do those things. He pled guilty and accepted the punishment of the court.

And when confronted by this skeleton, Bush admitted to it! He didn’t try to lie about it. He didn’t try to deny it ever happened. He just didn’t come forward with it. That was his only crime.

Yeah, like Da Big W would come waltzing into the campaign race like Clint Eastwood in "Heartbreak Ridge" and tell everyone "My name is Texas Governor George W. Bush, and I’ve snorted more coke and drank more beer and executed more pond-scum-sucking criminals than all you numbnuts put together!" Yeah, that goes along just fine and dandy with Joe and Jane Six-Pack.

And so the question has to be raised.. is this dirty politics or just really bad timing for the Republicans?

Well if you ask the Republicans, they’ll tell you there is no doubt that it’s dirty politics. The suspect who leaked the information to the press was a Gore delegate to the Democratic Convention this past August. And Gore, of course, has everything to gain by staining Bush just days before the election.

Gore’s people, of course, deny ever being involved in the whole sordid mess. The suspect, Tom Connolly, claimed he acted alone, and that the Gore camp didn’t know anything about it.

Mind you, it’s very easy to simply blame Gore and his people for this. Gore, after all, is known to have "stretched" the truth here and there. What’s one more "exaggeration", huh?

Well, nothing.. except the real suspect may have been forgotten in all of this.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but doesn’t it seem too coincidental that George W’s DUI skeleton should suddenly pop up not too long after President Clinton started campaigning for Al Gore?

This is, after all, a standard Clinton tactic. Find old dirt on your competitor and exploit it just days before a crucial vote. Just ask Congressman Dan "The President is a scumbag" Burton. You think he wanted folks to know he once upon a time sired an illegitimate bambino? Or how about former Congressman Bob Livingston? As the man who would’ve replaced Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House, Livingston instead announced his resignation just prior to the House vote to impeach Clinton when it was going to be revealed that HE had also cheated on his wife in the past. It worked to keep Clinton in office, then. Why not use it to put his successor in office?

If it’s motive you’re looking for, then what better motive would there be but to sustain Clinton’s so-called track record? Two terms as president, followed by a term by his successor. Some would consider that to be a successful regime. As an added bonus, he would be able to deprive George Bush senior his bit of payback for the 1992 election.

If Clinton is the true mastermind behind the DUI leak, and this commentator would not be surprised if that is so, then certainly he would be considered without a doubt the dirtiest player in the game! A man willing to do anything and everything within his means to succeed, no matter whose lives are destroyed in the process. Tom Connolly would simply be yet another name lost in the Clinton machine along with dozens of victims, accomplices, associates, and fall-guys who pay for price those who refuse to be held accountable to anyone.

Sadly, if Clinton really is the mastermind behind it, he would never be implicated, because there would be no proof. The principal players would make sure that they would take the fall for whomever was the mastermind behind it. All that would be left would be idle speculation, and in an election season, even that would be quickly forgotten. Maybe that has become the nature of politics, but that does not excuse the ones who utilize such tactics, no matter which political affiliation they are with.

All the more reason to be thankful that Clinton’s reign as a self-styled king would be over come January. It is only a pity that the front-running choices for his successor are no better.

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