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The Politics of Personal Destruction on Steroids

“The principal object [of the Federalists is] the political, and even the personal, destruction of John Quincy Adams.”

—Governor James Sullivan of Massachusetts, 1808

“I think that these were obviously personal and private moments that unfortunately were made public for partisan, political purposes—a part of the ongoing politics of personal destruction that was so much a part of our country’s life and certainly our time in the White House.”

—Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2003

 

 

Friday morning a week ago over coffee, I spent a transfixing three hours engaged in an intense dialogue regarding the current political situation in Turkey. I was speaking with a Turkish gentleman, representing the Fethullah Gülen movement, who possessed some “insider connections” in Istanbul. The topic held a special interest for me due to my past interfaith activities, travels in Turkey and friendships I’d established with some leading Turkish journalists. The recent failed coup and subsequent political crackdown caught me completely by surprise and left me not only shocked but deeply saddened as well.

My conversation companion—I’ll not mention his name due to considerations for his personal safety—explained how the Gülen group had supported Erdoğan coming to power initially, but as time passed his methods became more and more dictatorial. So now the aftermath of the coup attempt has left Turkey suffering under a harsher oppression than Germany in the middle thirties. Schools and hospitals established by the Gülen group have been closed and staff fired, Gülen supporters purged from the military and government, thousands arrested and imprisoned and some executed. He advised me not to e-mail my journalist friends as their communications are certainly being monitored and something sent from an American seen as sympathetic to Gülen might get them jailed. The repercussions of all this for America are dire since Turkey had long been a staunch ally and a moderate buffer between the Middle East and the West.

Of course, our discussion also broached the subject of the current presidential campaigns here in the U. S. and the rhetorical turmoil attending them. That called to mind the first time I remember seeing the phrase “the lesser of two evils” in print. It was in the classic short story by James Joyce titled “Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” appearing in the 1914 story collection Dubliners, which we read in graduate school. The story line concerned a group of local, lackluster political canvassers remembering and lamenting the downfall of their great Irish leader (and hope for home rule), Charles Stewart Parnell. The theme underlined the political tactic of employing sexual scandal to destroy one’s opponent in the struggle for victory and power. How some things never change, I thought, particularly when it involves politicians and their muckraking, hypocritical methodologies.

The present feigned outrage over Donald Trump’s recorded “locker-room banter” would seem to be a case in point. The hypocrisy is inescapable considering Vernon Jordan years ago revealed Bill Clinton engaged in similar vulgarities on the golf course and the Obama’s have invited rappers to the White House whose lyrics put Trump’s words in the shade. And that’s not to mention another female victim of Bill Clinton’s predatory advances, Leslie Millwee, just came forward this week.

The whole question of this election being “the lesser of two evils,” however, might have been completely avoided had the Senate properly fulfilled their obligation during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, found him guilty and removed him from office. There would be no Hillary Clinton now, or probably no Donald Trump either, for that matter. But, of course, had Truman allowed MacArthur to win the Korean War, there would be no Kim Jong-un now threatening nuclear holocaust. Or had Eisenhower allowed Patton to rearm Germany and take out Russia, there would have been no Cold War and no Putin now rattling sabers around the world. But I digress.

Whoever is left standing on November 9 actually may represent only a moot accomplishment if the doom-and-gloom economic prognosticators are correct. Many, such as David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, are forecasting a rapidly approaching global financial meltdown brought on by the profligate actions of the world’s central bankers and unrestrained government bureaucrats. As Mr. Stockman writes in the September James Cook Market Update, “The impending global deflation and recession will prove that 93 months of ZIRP and $3.5 trillion of QE have been a complete failure. . . the greatest monetary catastrophe in recorded history [will soon begin] its inexorable implosion.” Combine that with the escalating bellicose actions of major nuclear world powers and one gets a prescription for an apocalypse—a horrendous situation that neither feuding presidential candidate, consumed with vitriolic deprecations, will have the power or means to ameliorate or resolve.

In 1903 Bertrand Russell first published the now classic essay “A Free Man’s Worship.” Therein he expressed the view that “Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving . . . that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave . . . [and that] the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins. . . .” Nevertheless, in the conclusion he offered the one glimmer of solace that “for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day. . . .” Lofty thoughts? Ennoble one’s day? I fear, considering the current state of political and cultural virulence, not even that course may be left open to “Man.”

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Mark Scheel
Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.

14 comments to The Politics of Personal Destruction on Steroids

  • Mark, Bill Clinton isn’t running for President — Hillary is. Can you honestly say that if your wife were running for a public office you previously held, and your wife’s opponent interjected YOUR past indiscretions (?)into the fray, you wouldn’t consider it out of line?

  • I could not disagree more with this idea of voting for the lesser of two evils I have used it myself. I finally figured out why it is wrong. It is wrong because we are imposing our often mistaken values of ‘evil’ on an elective process that has been selected democratically by all who cared to participate. They are not evils, the are simply conflicting ideologies. It is best not to have an ideology at all, but to remain open to changing circumstances, common sense, and scientific intelligence. There are, for example, things Nixon and Eisenhower did that were forward thinking and brought us progress. The same can be said with Kennedy and Johnson. Each president, in turn, has always left a legacy. Very few were bad. They did the best they could under the circumstance. The circumstances overwhelmed and confused some of them. Bill Clinton’s sexual morals were not any of our business then and are most certainly none of our business now. Trump is different because be admits on camera to being a sexual predator and enjoying it, even with underage girls. That is illegal and beyond the pale for most of us. Each president faces ever-changing circumstances and economic woes, as economies are always fluid and current. Being careful about what you allow yourself to think and remaining positive in the face of adversity is just good common sense, as the mental conceptions of fear and terror help to bring these things about. The idea materialized the reality. It does not matter what historical period in which we might have lived, we always had political opposition. That is the drive between different solutions and ideas that pushes the world forward as problems are creates and solved, for good and for bad.

  • mistermuse,

    Hello. Hello. Thanks for commenting. Okay, here’s what you’re missing. My mentioning sexual indiscretions isn’t about Bill’s dalliances per se, but rather about hypocrisy. People who live in glass houses, they used to say, shouldn’t throw stones. But the Clintons and Democrats always do and the media and the establishment turn a blind eye. And you must remember, Hillary was an enabler of Bill’s escapades, threatening and silencing the women he abused. She threatened a rape victim, for example, and earlier she once defended a rapist in court and laughed how she got him off. She slandered the victims. So she’s quite guilty of being an accessory. She has no moral fiber left in her being and never should be holding office. Like they say, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. And that certainly applies to voting for corrupt crooks. Does that clear it up?

    Now to hop over to your site and see if there’s anything I can comment on there. 🙂

    Thanks as always.

    Mark

  • Hillary was “threatening the women he abused” — that makes her “an enabler”? I fail to see the logic in that. We obviously see these things with different eyes, and (as I’ve noted before) nothing either of us can say will change the other’s opinion, so further exchanges in this regard seem pointless….thus I trust you’ll understand if I do not comment on your political views again, though I’ll be happy to do so on other subjects.

    Take care.

  • Ken,

    Well, my friend, you present a mixed bag here. Some, quite honestly, I consider utter nonsense with little relationship to the real world, but other things I concede that you’re probably on to something. Most presidents I consider fairly bad, some were so so, and only three in the twentieth century I believe to have been really good–that was Coolidge, Goldwater (not elected but should have been and we’d have a far better country now) and Reagan. And evil certainly does play into things–Hillary hasn’t a moral fiber left in her being and in my view constitutes true evil. I just got done listing all her faults for another reader and I’ll not repeat them here but simply say one might start with White Water and Cattle Gate and come on up to Benghazi and e-mail deceptions and include the fact she was an enabler of Bills molesting women and threatened them to keep quiet and you’ll have a good frame for the definition. And let’s be honest, there’s no proof that Trump actually molested anyone and certainly not underage girls. Only BS talk. However, Google the Lolita Express and Bill Clinton and see what you get. Then ask yourself, is this what you want for a “first husband”? Nevertheless, when you start talking about remaining positive in the face of adversity, etc., we jump onto the same page there. And ideas materializing reality–yep, I’ll hang with you on that one too. And even though I quoted Bertrand Russell, I’m not as pessimistic about humankind as he, just what’s going down politically right now. And, yes, I think you’re correct that sometimes bad things end up with beneficial outcomes. It’s an amazing world, really.

    Good seeing your comments again, Ken. You take care of yourself.

    Mark

  • mistermuse,

    Just to clarify, although I don’t expect an answer or request one, if you’d seen the film Hillary’s America, that makes it perfectly and documentedly clear, that Hillary knew about Bill’s sexual misconduct but tolerated it willingly to advance her own ends and when it was about to get out of hand she headed what they termed “the bimbo eruption team” to shut down any women coming forward. Fact. She was an enabler and became angry only when he got caught with Monica. The sin, for her, was his getting caught. It’s like they talk about a wife being an enabler of a husband’s alcoholism even though she doesn’t drink or like what he’s done to himself–I witnessed closely that kind of situation.

    Mark

  • AJ

    Mark,

    I realize my beliefs are not shared with many, but, the more things play out, the more some people are willing to entertain my beliefs.

    The posit of ‘the lesser of two evils’ needs to be applied virtually each puppet presidential election in my lifetime. This is due to the circumstances that the banksters, globalists, self-appointed elites, and Euro-royalty ‘own’ the ‘leadership’ of both major political parties. They manufacture the ultimate candidate for each party. This way, even if there is a surprise in the results, they still own the puppet hut @ 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

    Consider recent elections, Clinton vs. GHWB, Clinton vs. Dole, GWB vs. Gore, GWB vs. Kerry, Obama vs. McCain and Obama vs. Romney. Only those who don’t know what we’re not supposed to know could say there was a true alternative in any of these ‘elections’.

    Awhile back, I realized we haven’t had a U. S.-centric foreign or domestic policy in my lifetime (I’ll be 65 in January) and this is due, in large part, to the belief that whoever resided in the puppet hut, he was advancing an agenda dictated to him. Think of how very little changes (beneficially), regardless of which party is in control to realize there is more truth in All Star Wrestling than in the U. S. political charade.

  • Hello AJ,

    Your input is most welcome and offers a fresh perspective that readers would do well to contemplate. Thanks very much!

    Mark

  • Between Trump and Bill Clinton, there’s no comparison. Clinton was a competent President and an excellent communicator. He was and is, a policy wonk par excellence. He has forgotten more about the workings of the government than Trump will ever bother, or is capable of, learning. That’s the difference between the two lechers in a nutshell.

    Hillary seems to be on the same level as Bill in knowing how the system works.

    Trump is a bullshit artist, pure and simple. Haven’t you ever met one before? And you a grown man? I know you live in the Midwest, where self-important braggarts are less common than they are on the East or West coasts, but surely you’ve met at least one? And you failed to notice the similarity to Trump?

    That Hillary laughing at the rape victim story is complete nonsense, by the way, straight from the Breitbart horseshit factory. And citing pure, agenda-driven propaganda like “Hillary’s America” as evidence for your points is pathetic. Here’s a link to an article in which the conservatives admit that they’ve been had by the right-wing media: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/08/21/politico-conservative-radio-host-laments-right-wing-media-s-role-rise-trump/212553

    Nice to see someone not blinded by right-wing groupthink, here. I speak of Mr. Finton, of course, although it applies to my long-term amigo Sr. Muse as well. AJ’s off his meds again, as you obviously know but are too polite to point out to him.

  • Don Frankel

    An interesting discussion you’ve started here Mark. But the lesser of two evils stems I think from the good guys vs the bad guys theory of politics and that seems to me to flow out of which school of ‘Watered Down Jesus’ you ascribe to. If you’re a Protestant ethic guy you will see all the reps as the lesser of the two. If you’re a Matthew 25.3 – 5 kind of guy, you’ll see the dems as the lesser of two. It doesn’t require a lot of thought or analyzing, just some rooting for your team.

    Interesting that you also see a progression in candidates as one leading to another, as if somehow if this one hadn’t effed up some other would not have been able to run but that would assume anyone running in the last 6 elections was qualified to begin with. Seems to me the usual suspects that did run would have run including HerHillayrness or someone just like her. But I could be wrong here as I’m wrong at least once a day. And, thank you for inquiring about me. I just finished a novel and was focusing on that. Also, I think I’ve made fun of everything I could.

  • Don Frankel

    Mark, I meant making fun of everything in this election.

  • Don,

    Good to see you’re back in the loop again. Appreciate the comment. I’d really be curious to know more about your novel. As for the progression, that’s only speculation of an “alternate history,” so to speak. But one I’d much have preferred.

    Some time go back and see what the Venerable Sage of Johnson County, Clarence D., had to say about Republicans and Democrats using a Biblical template to analyze. It’s The Pebble # 34 on the Scriggler site: https://scriggler.com/DetailPost/Opinion/3784

    Yes, a good thread of discussion we generated here. Again, thanks for contributing.

    Mark

  • Ricardo,

    Well, you’ve taken a hard swing at me here, so I’m going to counterpunch you in kind.

    Comparing Bill and Donald is like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, Bill is the politician–remember “slick Willie”? Have you read the book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA by Terry Reed? I gave a report on it to a libertarian group when I was still a librarian. I met Terry Reed too and really got the scoop. Clinton was deep into rot as a governor, drug running only the beginning. And it continued all through the White House, selling the Lincoln bedroom, etc. He’s “an unusually good liar” as the former Democrat Nebraska Senator Bob Kerry pointed out long ago. He made some real blunders–giving the Chinese advanced rocket science was a major one. And Hillary really blew the first shot at national health care. Of course, what your view of him is depends upon what “your definition of is is.” Really Richard, give me a break! Let Bill try to do some Trump deals and see how that goes–he would have no idea how business and the market place really works. And, yes, Hillary is on the same level of corruption as Bill with their Clinton Foundation money-laundering schemes. As Secretary of State she’s made some horrible mistakes, Benghazi being one of the biggies.

    Yes, Trump can shovel the B.S., absolutely necessary if he’s going to enter politics. But I don’t think he quite equals Bill in that regard. Again, see Kerry’s comment. Furthermore, you came close to insulting me as regards my own background and experience–FYI, I’ve lived a short time in New York twice, San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego among many other places in U.S. and both Southeast Asia and Europe. So I think I can recognize B.S. as well as you, maybe even better the way you seem enthralled by Bill.

    The Hillary laughing at rape victim is not nonsense. Here’s the link with the complete sordid story:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/20/exclusive-hillary-clinton-took-me-through-hell-rape-victim-says.html

    Now, as for the film Hillary’s America, you couldn’t be more mistaken–and the fact is if you yourself haven’t seen the film to judge, you have no basis for comment. I remind you from an earlier blog post what I said about it:
    So, as a “seeker of facts,” I purchased a ticket and ensconced myself in the local theater for a personal viewing. What I discovered, in my own humble opinion, was an educational, moving, revealing and entertaining production exposing forgotten facts of history and concealed motivations of the Democrat Party and Clinton duo. While perhaps omitting some historical material that would have been beneficial and in places depicting some scenes slightly “over-the-top,” all in all I’d have awarded it at least three-and-a-half stars out of five. And recommended that anyone from either major political party planning to vote see the film before doing so.

    Nevertheless, a serious journalist always multi-sources his/her work, so I phoned my good friend in L. A., black anarcho-capitalist and American history professor Richard Boddie. He once ran for the presidency under the Libertarian label after having formerly been both a Democrat and a Republican. “What’s your opinion of D’Souza’s latest creation?” I asked him. “It’s well done and reasonably accurate,” he replied. So, there it is.

    You’re no match for Richard Boddie, Ricardo. He’s the gold standard here.

    Finally, as for the mediamatters article (a biased liberal outfit, BTW), that talk-show host certainly represents a tiny minority and sounds to me like a closet liberal, although he’s pretty much there with Beck. I’ve heard the argument analyzed that talk radio created Trump, and when deeply examined it’s hogwash. The Republican establishment failing in their duty is the real root cause. And most conservative hosts will tell you that.

    Lastly, don’t lump me with the “conservatives” in general–as I’ve declared before more than once, I strongly lean toward the libertarian label. That’s why I sometimes agree with you on some issues, with let’s say A.J. on others. I’m not one easy to pigeon hole. So don’t sell me short attempting to do so.

    Now, hope that clears up some misconceptions. Whether we agree or disagree, I sincerely do appreciate the feedback and comments. And I’ll get back at you on your site soon. LOL 😉

    Stay well,

    Mark

  • Ricardo,

    BTW, did you see your boy Michael Moore’s movie just came out? It’s basically a bust–only two stars in the liberal Kansas City Star. And already the Trump team has found they can excerpt a few minutes and make an excellent commercial for The Donald! What a joke! 🙂

    Mark

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