The howls of anger and distress coming from Democrats disgusted with the toothless and meandering Kerry campaign have gone aggressively public as the Kerry meltdown becomes more obvious each day.
Yesterday, on CNN’s Inside Politics, Jesse Jackson delivered a blistering attack on the Kerry campaign for running away from the Democratic base and the issues it cares about. Jesse cited, among other things a daylong West Virginia Rainbow/labor “Invest in America” jobs rally at which Jesse spoke at yesterday, that he said drew 30,000 folks with a raft of entertainers like Willie Nelson and Judy Collins.. Jesse was furious that Kerry had ducked the rally, even though he was campaigning only 30 miles away. Jesse sneered at the inadequacy of the Kerry campaign’s much-publicized “shakeup” and its whitebread, retread Clintonista imports, snarling that “it can’t be just a vanilla shake.” (Jesse’s comments were notable for the vehemence of his tone and rhetoric, even talking airhead Judy Woodruff seemed taken aback–but you’ll search in vain on the CNN website for any mention of the interview, for the only Jackson it mentions in this morning’s news is Janet, with yet another story on her exposed boobs. Even the AP didn’t cover Jesse’s televised fireworks.)
Jesse’s right-on slamming of the top-heavy-with- consultants Kerry operation was echoed by my old friend Hank Sheinkopf–a well-known veteran Democratic campaign consultant himself, Hank worked on the Clinton and Gore campaigns as well as on many races in the South–in a New York Observer diatribe that flayed the consultant-ocracy now running the party and JFK’s downward-slaloming campaign. With wealthy Kerry message czar Bob Shrum obviously among those he had in mind, Hank raged that “what really motivates these never-out- of-work, never-in-pain and never-needy operatives is their next high-paying gig. Winning matters not; nor does losing. Chance the gardener would have loved it. Speak in platitudes but, unlike Chance, take the dough–and take it quickly, even if it means breaking the fingers, the hearts and the reputations of those who might show sufficient idealism to want to do otherwise.” As a result, the Democrats, Sheinkopf lamented, “have become an almost permanent minority party” (a view I share, and then some).
Confirming the Jesse/Sheinkopf diagnosis, and explaining why the new Kerry imports have a tin ear for the electorate’s mood, in this morning’s Washington Post Jeff Birnbaum — in an article headlined “Lobbyists Take Leave to Advise Kerry Campaign” — discloses that the whole bunch is on the payroll of Corporate America for big bucks. Joel Johnson is the strategist for the asbestos lobby’s attempt to screw its victims out of compensation, and a lobbyist for Big Pharma, and his firm partners with another lobby shop headed by Tom DeLay’s ex-chief of staff, and shares offices with the GOP firm. Michael Whouley has been the subject of a raft of puff pieces by the political press corps–but how many of them told you that Whouley is on the payroll of General Motors, the insurance industry, and Microsoft to seek special interest loopholes for their benefit? Whouley also partners with a GOP lobby shop that raises a lot of money for the Bush campaign. Joe Lockhart and Howard Wolfson are partners in a lobbying operation that represents pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer, Fannie Mae, and the regional telephone companies, and Lockhart has also been on the Microsoft payroll.
With all these Kerry-hired hacks supping at the corporate trough, is it any wonder that the only slogan they’ve come up with so far is the oh-so-feeble “W stands for Wrong”?
The WashPost didn’t mention it in today’s story, but the lobbyist who has the most clout within the Kerry campaign is the candidate’s own brother, Cameron. Cam Kerry’s Boston law-lobbying shop — Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo — advertises communications law among its areas of expertise and lobbies on behalf of wireless-industry clients such as AT&T Wireless Service, XO Communications Inc. and the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. CTIA is the trade association of the wireless industry. The Center for Public Integrity found that CTIA-affiliated companies and their employees have contributed at least $152,000 to Kerry’s Senate campaigns, and that since 1999 Kerry has taken positions that closely reflect the legislative agenda of CTIA. He sponsored two bills that CTIA lobbied for and co-sponsored six more. Not only do Kerryâ€™s assiduous efforts on behalf of the telecommunications industry help his brotherâ€™s clients, a big chunk of the combined fortune of Kerry and his wife — perhaps as much as $47.1 million — is in telecommunications stock affected by the pro-CTIA legislation Kerry has carried. (Cam Kerry, by the way, is an Orthodox Jew who has been responsible more than any other for his brother’s slavishly pro-Sharon positions, and paid a visit to Israel in the middle of the campaign. When the World Court ruled that that the Israeli apartheid “Wall of Shame” hemming in the Palestinians was illegal and should be dismantled, candidate Kerry attacked the Court for its ruling!)
At all events, if all of you have been wondering why the Kerry campaign has lacked appeal to working people, and can’t come up with a bold populist program to challenge Bush and his corporate thieves and win the election, just look at the lobbyists who surround the candidate, including his brother. Old Uncle Karl wasn’t wrong: people perform according to their class interests. And once the campaign is over, all those hacks will go back to their lobby shops and keep sucking up to Corporate America to swell their bank accounts.
Ultimately, though, the old Sicilian saying has never been truer than as a diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Kerry campaign: the fish stinks from the head.