Thursday, June 26, 2008

One of Life's Mysteries: Why do Republicans Persist?

For several years I have had occasion to chat with the individual who manages my parents' investments at a major stock brokerage. We have always gotten along very well, and have had far ranging conversations on many subjects, including the state of the country, the world, and the economy. One subject we dance around very gingerly is politics. Yet recently, she was bemoaning how the economy is a disaster right now, and confessed to be in despair for the first time in her life about the direction of the country. She added that her despair was made worse by the two "idiots" (or some word to that effect) currently running for president. After confirming that she was in fact referring to McCain and Obama, I asked point blank who she thought would be better. Not to my surprise, she answered "Giuliani or Romney." I bit my tongue and quickly changed the subject.

As I say, her reply did not surprise me. Not only because she had insinuated her Republican leanings to me in the past, but also because of where she worked -- in the bowels of the Wall Street Beast, West Coast branch office. It seems to be an article of faith on Wall Street that the stock market -- and with it, the economy -- will do better under the Republicans rather than the dreaded Democrats.

This attitude has pretty well become conventional wisdom in the general public as well. That conventional wisdom holds that the Democrats, as members of the "mommy party," spend all their time and energy worrying about the poor, the disadvantaged, the immigrants, and the victims of society, and whipping up useless government programs to spend our hard-earned tax dollars on various bleeding-heart projects to alleviate the suffering (real or imagined) of these groups. Republicans, on the other hand, as the "daddy party," are concerned with the big important issues, like national security and the economy, and understand the "real world" much better. In this view, Republicans are too savvy to waste tax dollars on liberal do-gooder projects, because they know that the free, unregulated market does an infinitely better job of running the economy for everybody. A rising tide lifts all boats, they say, and if we just let it do its thing, the free market will take care of all our problems. Right? Well, that's the theory, and the so-called Liberal Media has basically bought it hook, line and sinker. This has been true at least since Reagan taught us all that "Government is not the solution to our problem; Government is the problem."

There's only one difficulty with the theory: it's wrong. To quote a different President: "Facts are stubborn things." As the historical facts stubbornly show by every objective standard and in every relevant category -- inflation, gross domestic product, national debt, economic growth, government spending, employment and job creation -- Democrats have consistently done better for the economy than Republicans. The superiority of Democratic economic stewardship extends to every level of society except one -- the very wealthiest. The evidence shows that under Democratic administrations, every income group, from the poorest to the richest, experience improvement and economic growth. By contrast, under Republican administrations, not only is the overall economic performance inferior, but only the very wealthiest individuals fare better; all other income groups do worse under Republicans than they do during Democratic administrations. (See, for example, here, here, and here.)

Why is this? Well, it seems the best explanation is that in their economic policy decisions, Republicans are so obsessed with cutting taxes for the wealthy and making life easier for large corporations, that their policies are of only limited benefit to the rest of the country. In other words, because their focus is on the wealthiest 5%, the other 95% of the country does better under Democrats.

And that's also the explanation for why Wall Street and the Pooh Bahs of the so-called Liberal Media have swallowed the false conventional wisdom about Republicans being better for the economy. Nowadays, those TV anchors and talking heads are members of the top 5%, just like the stock brokers and financial analysts who all pray for the nomination and election of someone like Giuliani or Romney. I surmise that these people are so out of touch with the great mass of the country, they actually don't realize that the rest of us are doing so very much worse under Republican stewardship. As far as they're concerned, life couldn't be better; just refresh my martini and keep those tax cuts coming, please.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pericles in Orinda

Pericles is one of Shakespeare's less well-known plays, although performances of it seem to be popping up more and more in the past few years. At the time it was first produced, it was one of Shakespeare's most popular works. For reasons which are obscure, it was omitted from the Folio, and exists only in corrupted Quarto texts which are generally thought to reflect the hand(s) of at least one other author/contributor. (See here.) The California Shakespeare Festival (called CalShakes for short) has mounted a new production of Pericles at its outdoor theater in the hills above Orinda, about 16 miles east of San Francisco. The production, which is "adapted and directed" by Joel Sass, suffers from an over-reliance on schtick and farce. This emphasis on the comical aspects of the play detracts from its inherent romance and beauty, most notably in its poignant final scenes. Nevertheless, the cast of the CalShakes production does an excellent job, the production is inventive and beautiful, and the play is well worth seeing.

Pericles is the first of Shakespeare's four "Romance" plays, the subsequent ones being Cymbeline, Winter's Tale, and The Tempest. This quartet of late plays, which used to be categorized as comedies, are now sometimes thought of as the first "tragicomedies," although they could as easily be called "fantasies" on account of their often fantastical and quasi-magical aspects. The word "Romance" is a good all-purpose description, since it is defined as a narrative depicting heroic exploits, marvelous deeds, fantastic adventures or supernatural events, usually in a historical or imaginary setting, and often in the form of allegory. (See here.) An interesting aside: the word "romance" eventually became synonymous with "novel," a word derived from "novella storia" meaning a new kind of story. In fact, in some languages (e.g. French) the words for novel and romance are derived from the same root. It is no accident Shakespeare wrote his English Romances while Cervantes was inventing the modern novel in Spain.

Pericles certainly qualifies as a "romance" under any of these definitions. It recounts the adventures and calamities of Prince Pericles of Tyre as he travels around the eastern Mediterranean beleaguered by villainous rogues, beset by the inimical sea, finding a wife only to lose her in childbirth, losing his beloved daughter through treachery, and finally being reunited with both daughter and wife in a pair of quasi-magical reunions. The play is an allegory of life, with Pericles' travails representing the universal human journey from innocence through disappointment and despair to self-knowledge and wisdom. It has a huge cast of characters, including an on-stage narrator who serves as a kind of chorus previewing and commenting on the action; and is set in at least seven different locations, including several violent storm scenes on board ship at sea.

CalShakes deals with the difficulties of mounting this fantastical epic through a minimalist use of simple easily movable pieces of scenery, and a stripped down cast of eight actors each playing several roles, some as many as five or six. On the whole, the actors are excellent and handle their multiple (and wildly varying) roles well.

The success of any production of Pericles depends principally on the quality of the leading actor. Christopher Kelly, a CalShakes newcomer, proves fully capable of handling the challenges of the demanding title role. Due to the nature of the story, Pericles can easily come off as a guileless innocent wandering from one disaster to another. The danger is that the audience may find him more pathetic than sympathetic. Kelly manages to avoid this pitfall. He invests Pericles with an attractive lack of affectation at the beginning of the play while conveying an intelligent innocence that is free of foolish naivete. Because Kelly lets us see Pericles' fundamental intelligence and goodness, the audience is able to participate sympathetically in the character's deep disillusionment and painful journey from nihilistic despair to wisdom, acceptance and fulfillment.

Next to Pericles himself, the two most important roles in the play are his wife, Thaisa, and their daughter Marina. Versatile actress Delia Macdougall makes an enchanting and deeply affecting Thaisa. Macdougall beautifully conveys the huge transition Thaisa must make in this play, from budding adolescent radiant with the urgency of young love to mature woman scarred by tragedy and deep loss. In one of the more radical (and amusing) juxtapositions in this production, Macdougall also portrays the Bawd who tries unsuccessfully to force Marina (Thaisa's daughter) into harlotry. Macdougall was able to disappear into the two roles so convincingly that I did not recognize her as the same actress.

The young actress Sarah Nealis assayed the difficult role of Marina, the daughter of Thaisa and Pericles, who is believed to have been murdered when she was captured by pirates and sold into prostitution. This is a demanding role for any performer, with two particularly challenging scenes. The first is the one in which Marina manages to maintain her virtuous chastity against an importunate noble customer (Lysimachus) at the whore house where she has been imprisoned, while simultaneously converting him to virtue and making him fall in love with her. The other is the famous recognition scene in which Marina meets the aged Pericles, who has renounced the world and taken a vow of silence as a result of what he believes is the tragic death and loss of both his wife and child. In this amazing scene at the climax of the play, father and daughter gradually recognize each other as Marina recounts her life story in response to Pericles' increasingly urgent questioning. In both of these very demanding scenes, Nealis was fully convincing. This is no mean feat for a young performer, and deserves recognition as such.

The rest of the roles in this colorful pageant were filled by some of the Bay Area's finest and most reliable actors. Ron Campbell was alternately villainous and hilarious in the character roles of Antiochus, Cleon, a fisherman, a knight, and several other worthies. Danny Sheie was--what can I say--delightfully Danny Sheie as Helicanus (Pericles' principle adviser), Simonides (the jovial father of Thaisa), and Boalt (the whoremonger's servant). The versatile Dominique Lozano was amazingly protean in a huge variety of roles, both female and male, including the evil Dionyza, the mysterious physician Cerimon, a fisherman, a knight, and several others flashing by. Alex Morf, as Lysimachus, was convincing in the difficult conversion scene, and amusingly dastardly as a variety of rogues, cutthroats and hired assassins. Finally, Shawn Hamilton was impressive as both the narrator/chorus Gower and the goddess Diana.

As mentioned at the outset of this review, there was a definite flaw in this production. It was obvious from the very outset that the adaptor/director had chosen to emphasize the comical aspects of this Romance in a rather tongue-in-cheek way. At times, the style of the production seemed to veer into farce at the expense of the more serious, romantic, and even tragic aspects of the play. As far as I was concerned, this approach robbed the production of a great deal of its potential depth and emotional impact.

Thus, the villainous Antiochus (Ron Campbell) was presented simply as an over-the-top farcically melodramatic stage villain all too obviously trying to entrap Pericles with his insinuating riddles. Ideally, the audience should feel a frisson of shock and horror as the true relationship between Antiochus and his daughter is gradually revealed. Played instead for laughs as a mock villain complete with a (totally unnecessary) affected accent, the character lost any semblance of mystery or ambiguity.

This choice to emphasize the farcical at the expense of the "romantic" was seen over and over again throughout the play, with an over-abundance of silly accents, silly walks, and other assorted silly schtick. Although the audience ate it up, of course, there was a price to be paid. This became all too clear at the end of the play, by which point we were so used to seeing every scene presented as farce that a large portion of the audience actually laughed during the deeply moving recognition scene between Pericles and Marina. This was not the fault of the actors, who heroically persevered in portraying the beautiful father-daughter reunion with great sensitivity. At the time, I felt annoyed at the crassness of some members of the audience. In retrospect, I think the fault lies more with the director. Perhaps if Mr. Sass had "adapted and directed" a little less and instead let the actors reveal the truth of their characters a little more, the audience would have been permitted to experience some of the deeper joys of this very beautiful play, and not just the belly laughs.

'Tis Pity She's a Whore

When I was growing up in New York City in the 1950's, I became a theater lover by the time I was 6 or 7. I would avidly scan the New York Times theater section every day for the latest reviews and accompanying Al Hirschfeld cartoon (I became quite an expert at finding the Nina or Ninas hidden therein.) Around this time, some theater mounted a production of the bloody Jacobean revenge tragedy 'Tis Pity She's A Whore by John Ford. I can clearly recollect being deeply intrigued by the mysterious title of the play as soon as I saw the advertisements and reviews mentioning it. What could the title mean? Specifically, what was a "whore," and what could be so pitiable about being one?

I asked my parents, and distinctly remember how obviously uncomfortable the question made them. (This was the '50's, remember; my parents were very conventional WASPs, albeit liberal and well-meaning.) They gave me some vague explanation about it being an unfortunate woman of ill repute, which left me completely in the dark and forced me as usual to seek an explanation from my more worldly classmates at school. I never lost my fascination with the play though, based on its intriguing title and my early encounter with it, and always wanted to see a production somewhere. I finally got my wish just this past week at the current American Conservatory Theater production of 'Tis Pity She's A Whore right here in San Francisco.

The American Conservatory Theater is self-consciously the doyenne of San Francisco Bay Area theatrical companies. Perhaps for this reason, there always seems to be an overly earnest feel to ACT shows, as though the actors, director and management were trying a little too hard to convince themselves and the audience that they really were the top theater company in the Bay Area, and just as good as any theater in New York. My experiences at ACT productions have always been mixed. For every outstanding production I've seen, I have had to sit through two or three so-so, mediocre, or downright disappointing ones, with too few really outstanding actors on stage. All too often, I've thought that ACT had let its own name go to its head; it had become over-ACT.

I'm happy to report that the current production of Jacobean playwright John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore does not suffer from any of these problems. It is the best production I've seen at ACT in ages, without one false note. The production itself, directed by ACT artistic director Carey Perloff, is relatively traditional, at least in its stunning Jacobean period costuming and style. I appreciate this -- there is no self-conscious attempt to impose a director's concept on the piece, and Ford's harrowing vision is allowed to speak for itself. The acting is uniformly superb. This is especially true of the two leads: Michael Hayden and René Augesen as the incestuous brother/sister lovers Giovanni and Annabella. Hayden and Augesen are absolutely incandescent in their depiction of an ungovernable sexual attraction so intense it overwhelms every barrier in its path. I didn't know lust could be so terrifying until I saw these two superlative actors ignite the stage in this production.

I could go on and on about how incredible Augesen and Hayden are. But mention must be made of at least some of the other really outstanding actors in this production. Veteran ACT stalwart Anthony Fusco is mesmerizing as Vasques, the wily servant who instigates most of the blood letting at the end of the play. The ever-reliable James Carpenter -- my personal all-time favorite Bay Area actor -- does a great turn as the duplicitously villainous Richardetto. Susan Gibney is stunningly charismatic in the role of Hippolita, the jilted lover of Annabella's unwanted suitor Soranzo (performed by Michael Earle Fajardo.) Gibney is also a very accomplished dancer, as she proves in the scene at Annabella's wedding to Soranzo. Finally, Robert Sicular and Steven Anthony Jones each turn in solid, completely convincing performances as, respectively, the father of the incestuous lovers and their religious confessor.

The one clearly contemporary -- and utterly original -- aspect of the production is the musical accompaniment. This was composed, and is performed at each performance by, the singer-composer "hard-core" self-described riot grrrl cellist Bonfire Madigan Shive. Shive hails from the Seattle grunge rock scene, but is also classically trained. She plays her gut wrenching jazz/baroque/renaissance cello riffs while seated on a kind of organ-loft like contraption suspended above the stage, where she looks for all the world like some weirdly angelic ornament. Although she is rarely entirely silent, she is never obtrusive on the action. The music that issues from her cello and her incredible voice is perfectly matched to the volcanically emotional action on stage. She well deserved her end-of-show ovation.

I waited a long time to see 'Tis Pity. This magnificent production was worth the wait.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Popular History vs. Real History

I recently slogged through Michael Beschloss' book Presidential Courage, subtitled "Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989." I found the book profoundly disappointing on many levels. Just having finished Dorin Kearns Goodwin's superb Team of Rivals on Lincoln's life and presidency, Beschloss' entry in the popular history sweepstakes comes off looking singularly pathetic.

The entire book read like the academic equivalent of cotton candy. You don't have to be a trained academician to be disappointed with Beschloss's mamby-pamby history-for-the-masses style. Aside from Goodwin's magisterial Team of Rivals, other recent examples of excellent popular histories abound: see, for example, Joseph Ellis (His Excellency George Washington, Founding Brothers), David McCullough (John Adams, Truman) and Walter Isaacson (Benjamin Franklin). All of these authors have run rings around Beschloss in terms of the depth and weight they bring to their books, without sacrificing readability and enjoyability in the slightest.

The single most damning aspect of Beschloss' pathetic entry in the popular history market is his tendency to give such short shrift to knotty historical details as to render his "analysis" (so called) misleading or even false. One of the most egregious examples occurs in a chapter on Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Beschloss writes: "[That] July, he [Lincoln] summoned his Cabinet and read them his draft of a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. On New Year's 1863, 'all persons held as slaves within any state' would become 'forever' free." (page 109) (Incidentally, this two-sentence squib constitutes an entire paragraph. This is par for the course in this book, in which the paragraphs are rarely even three short sentences long.)

This is the closest Beschloss ever comes to telling the reader what the Emancipation Proclamation actually said. In fact, the full text of the document is as follows: "[A]ll persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." (Italics added.) Beschloss simply omits any mention of the fact Lincoln's proclamation only freed the slaves in the Confederacy, over which he had no actual power, and declined to free the slaves in the Union slave states over which he did have power (specifically, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and West Virginia).

One is left with the unmistakable impression that Beschloss simply doesn't want to surprise his readers with the unpleasant historical reality that Lincoln chose to limit the Emancipation Proclamation to freeing the slaves in the Confederacy while leaving those in the Union still in bondage, either because revealing such a fact might upset their idealistic preconceptions, or because any analysis of the actual political and strategic reasons Lincoln had for doing so would unduly tax their patience. Apparently, Beschloss thinks popular histories must be dumbed down to sell. How dumb.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


In the delicate situation in which the Democratic Party finds itself right now, the most important thing for all the supporters of its two leading candidates to do is simply "Be Gracious." Obama supporters need to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton just gave a beautifully gracious concession speech. They must also be willing to acknowledge that Hillary would have made a superb and powerful presidential nominee. Only if Obama supporters like myself can show such graciousness toward Hillary and her supporters, can we hope to receive like graciousness from them. And believe me, the country needs some graciousness right now.

In that spirit, I now acknowledge that I allowed my darker, more paranoid political shadow side too much leeway in my last post about the election. (History in the Unmaking, here.) Specifically, I have been proven wrong in castigating her for acting out of unbridled narcissism and a shameless sense of entitlement during these last two months of the campaign in general, and specifically in her nonconcession speech last Tuesday night, June 3. You can chalk up the somewhat intemperate accusations I made in that post to three things: 1) my passionate desire to see a Democrat win the Presidency; 2) my deep fear that the Republicans will divide, conquer and steal yet another election, as they have so many times in my lifetime; and 3) my own intemperance and tendency to get carried away by the passions of the moment. In my defense, my take on Hillary's June 3 nonconcession speech was quite similar to that of many other commentators, and was actually more temperate than some of the strident advocacy I've seen coming from Hillary supporters in the last several weeks.

But enough of that. Today, June 7, just four days later, Hillary gave a very gracious, moving and brave concession speech calling on her supporters to work for the election of Barack Obama. The graciousness of Hillary's speech is best indicated by her repeated use of Obama's own best lines, themes, and slogans -- as has already been noted on Talking Points Memo, here, and on HuffPo, here. Frankly, she didn't hit a false note. It was beautiful.

Many, many times during this campaign as I've watched the various candidates, I've been amazed at how difficult it was to decide whom to support. The final three -- Clinton, Edwards and Obama -- were all totally acceptable to me. I actually decided to go for Edwards based on his issue positions, until I got swept up by Obama mania. My criticism of Clinton, and the reasons I didn't support her, all boiled down to her vote on the Iraq War, her failure to acknowledge how grave a mistake that was, and my concerns about having an ex-President in the White House partnered to the elected President. All of these criticisms were surmountable, and I would have enthusiastically supported her had she become the nominee. As the campaign progressed, however, I became increasingly alarmed and ultimately angered by what I perceived as the divisive tactics she and her surrogates were using in their fight against Obama. This hardened me in my choice of Obama, and turned me against her.

However, it's time to move past all that. In her speech today, Hillary did the right thing, and much more. She made it clear just how much this campaign has transformed her. If she had run like this all along, fighting for every vote in the Iowa caucuses instead of running as the "inevitable" establishment candidate trying to out-macho the others in order to prove that a woman could be commander in chief, she might well have beaten Obama and become the nominee herself. (As well analyzed by Politico's David Kuhn here.) Although there are many strong arguments to make against selecting her as the Vice President nominee (see here), I am so concerned about bringing disaffected Hillary supporters on board that I would support such a decision if Obama ultimately makes it. Indeed, based on the speech she just gave, I'm now thinking that Hillary could be a very good choice for VP. At the very least, she should be offered a position of some significance. I still think she'd be great on the Supreme Court! Hang it . . . she'd be a great President.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

You Can Do It, Dubya!

Via Froomkin:

CBS News reports: "President Bush's approval rating is at its lowest level to date. Just 25 percent of Americans approve of the overall job Mr. Bush is doing as President, an all-time low for him and among the lowest approval ratings ever recorded for a President.
"Sixty-seven percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing - the highest such figure in CBS News polls since he assumed office.
"Only Presidents Nixon (24 percent) and Truman (22 percent) have seen polls showing job approval ratings lower than 25 percent during their presidencies, according to Gallup Polls. President Carter's all-time low was 26 percent."
The CBS number for Bush is the lowest yet for the
major polls.

Come on Dubya, go lower! Go to just 20 percent approval! Beat Nixon! Beat Truman! I know you can do it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

History in the Unmaking

After the historic events that occurred tonight with the close of the longest presidential primary season in American history, it's time for something political. You want a rant? I'll give you one. On this, the night when the nation witnessed the first time in history an African-American has clinched the nomination of a major political party for the Presidency of the United States, what should have been an exciting and joyous occasion was totally upstaged by the unwillingness of that individual's principal opponent to concede -- or even acknowledge the possibility of -- her defeat in the primary contest. It was a sorry, sorry sight.

Sadly, the Clintons -- both Bill and Hillary -- are proving they are even more astronomically narcissistic than anyone previously would have believed. They actually do seem to think they are the reincarnation of Franklin and Eleanor. I simply could not believe her speech tonight following her victory in the South Dakota primary (and, not coincidentally, preceding her defeat in the Montana primary). It was one of the most self-absorbed political speeches I've ever heard in my life.

I readily admit Hillary would be a great candidate for president. With her unbelievable tenacity and seeming ability to go on campaigning endlessly, she would easily bulldoze her way over John McCain and straight into the Oval Office, should she be given the chance. I am also willing to admit the possibility that this speech was just a sign that Hillary is still in the "denial" phase of her perfectly natural and inevitable psychological transition to rational acceptance of her loss. I will happily admit that my instant analysis of her speech tonight may be proven wrong -- and that tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, she will come out and do the right thing, congratulating Obama on his historic victory and committing to do her utmost to see him elected President. Indeed, I devoutly hope this will happen.

But somehow, I suspect that my darker suspicions are correct. Dammit, it's over. It's been over for about a month now. Barring some absolutely unthinkable catastrophe, Obama has secured the nomination by virtue of the pledged delegate count. In light of the simple arithmetic, Hillary should have simply conceded defeat tonight, and offered her congratulations and support to Obama. Her bare acknowledgement of his status in the race, and her statement that she has not decided what to do next in this primary campaign, simply staggers the mind. It appears she still wants to screw it up for Obama somehow between now and the convention in Denver, so that against all odds she will be granted that nomination this year instead of him. There is only one other possible explanation, and it's not a pretty one. To quote her speech tonight, "What does Hillary want?" The answer is she wants to be President, no matter what it takes. I think this speech was her official announcement of her candidacy for 2012 -- and by extension, an indication of her intention to sabotage Obama's candidacy in the election of 2008.

Let's look at the facts. The rumor mill is now saying that Hillary is "open" to an offer of the Vice Presidential nomination. But if Obama offers her the VP slot at this point, he will certainly take on the appearance of having been emasculated, whether or not she accepts the offer. It gives a distinct appearance of weakness for a Presidential candidate to give in to pressure to choose an individual with whom he is so evidently incompatible. It would be said that if Obama could not stand up to pressure from Hillary, how will he stand up to the Russians, the Iranians, and the terr'ists?

If Obama were to make such an offer of the Vice Presidency, I cannot imagine Hillary would accept it on any terms other than on his commitment to make her a virtual co-president á la Cheney. That would obviously put Obama in an intolerable position, both during the election campaign, and -- should he win -- in his subsequent presidency. In 1980, ex-president Gerald Ford campaigned for Reagan to put him on the ticket as Vice President with the understanding Reagan needed the "more experienced" Ford as co-president. Ford's campaign for such an arrangement backfired, and Reagan very properly balked at the entire idea. Of course, Ford had already lost the previous election in 1976, having himself been emasculated in that race by Reagan's earlier powerful primary challenge. Reagan went on to win in 1980 on his own, having avoided emasculation by Ford. I submit that Hillary knows her history.

If on the other hand she were to turn down such an offer of the Vice Presidency (perhaps because he was unwilling to make her a copresident with him), Obama would look even more like a loser than he already would have been made to look by virtue of his being forced to make the offer in the first place. "Poor Barack: his offer wasn't attractive enough for Hillary." Evidently, it wasn't worth much. The obvious implication would be that he wasn't going to be winning the Presidency any time soon. Either way, what a perfect way to maneuver him into looking like a loser. And how convenient for Hillary in 2012.

If Obama doesn't offer her VP, Hillary's surrogates -- all those Geraldine Ferraro types who showed up in D.C. last week to "protest" the "theft" of primary votes from Michigan and Florida -- will raise the battle cry of alleged sexism. Hell, they already are screaming that. One can't have missed the rather intemperate charges being made that Obama is an "unqualified" "affirmative action" candidate, the corporate media has always been "biased" against her, and the "party bosses" have unfairly "stolen" the nomination from her, blah blah blah. Obama's failure to offer Hillary the vice presidency at this point will simply confirm the view of these people that he, and the rest of the party establishment, is irredeemably sexist, elitist, and biased against her (and by extension, them).

Whatever the merit of some of these claims of sexism, the fact is a goodly percentage of the Democratic base, as represented by the hard core Hillary supporters in that portion of the primary electorate that voted for her, is now fully committed to her candidacy come hell or high water. These avid supporters want her to fight on to Denver, and threaten to bolt the party if she is not nominated. The Clintons have carefully stoked the growing anger and passion of their followers, and have nursed the mixed feelings of entitlement and victimization they appear to have. In consequence, Hillary is now in the cat bird seat. Obama needs her (or so she thinks), and she can make any demands on him she wishes in return for her support in the electoral campaign. In either case -- whether he offers her the Vice Presidency, or not -- his path to the Presidency is now much more difficult than it had to be, no matter how much overt support Hillary gives him in the general election.

And it is all so utterly unnecessary. She could have been classy. She could have given a gracious speech acknowledging that Obama has accumulated the necessary delegates to secure the nomination, and offered her unstinting support to him in the tough election campaign ahead, with or without an offer of the Vice Presidency. But that's not the speech she gave tonight. Her all too visible inability to be gracious or even realistic would be sad, if it were not so destructive to the party.

I most certainly hope that I'm wrong, and eagerly await proof of Hillary's good faith. But I'm getting awfully tired of waiting for her to start putting the best interests of the country above those of her own candidacy. In her speech, Hillary answered her question about "what [she] wants" by describing the issues of social justice and equity she so passionately cares about. Sorry, I no longer believe her. Hillary is bitterly -- yes, I mean bitterly -- disappointed. She was "in this campaign to win." Her nomination was supposed to be "inevitable." It's no longer about the Democratic Party, nor the good of the country, and certainly not about the issues of social justice which she claims are the motivating force behind her drive to secure the nomination and her inability to concede. If it were really about any of these things, Hillary would be doing everything she could, right now, to make sure the Republicans don't get the chance to steal yet another presidential election and thereby make those goals of social justice and equity even more difficult to attain than they now are. No, it's not about any of these things. It's all about the Clintons and their precious sense of entitlement.