EnlargeHillary Clinton sits with her husband former President Bill Clinton as they attend a ceremony after walking in a Memorial Day parade(Credit: AP)
It’s zombie time at campaign Hillary. Behold the dead men walking! It was with strangely slow, narcotized numbness that the candidate and her phalanx of minions and mouthpieces responded to last week’s punishing report by the State Department’s Inspector General about her email security lapses. Do they truly believe, in the rosy alternate universe of Hillaryland, that they can lie their way out of this? Of course, they’re relying as usual on the increasingly restive mainstream media to do their dirty work for them. If it were a Republican in the crosshairs, Hillary’s shocking refusal to meet with the Inspector General (who interviewed all four of the other living Secretaries of State of the past two decades) would have been the lead item flagged in screaming headlines from coast to coast. Let’s face it—the genuinely innocent do not do pretzel twists like this to cover their asses.
Meanwhile, former Bill Clinton advisor and pollster Douglas Schoen gave the strongest signal yet in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week (“Clinton may not be the nominee”) that worried backstage huddles in the Democratic party establishment are reaching fever pitch. The article’s floating of the idea of a Joe Biden-Elizabeth Warren substitute ticket (which I’ve been privately predicting to friends all year) is so evenly and magisterially phrased that I wondered if the text had been vetted by an approving White House. So this may be why Bernie Sanders (my candidate) has gone into overdrive—not to damage Hillary, as her acolytes spitefully claim, but to fight off the tactical insertion of Biden at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Sanders could rightly claim, on the basis of his long and strenuous primary campaign, that if anyone deserves the nomination vacated by a tarnished Hillary, it is he. If Sanders does defer to Biden, it will only be via enormous concessions, beginning with the unceremonious removal of devious DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Over on the GOP side, Donald Trump continues to gain strength, despite the nonstop artillery barrage of Democratic operatives and their clone army in the mainstream media. Trump just rolls on and on, despite every foot-in-mouth gaffe that would stop a normal campaign cold. He’s terrific on the radio, I must say. Even though I do like Elizabeth Warren (I even believe she has Native American ancestry, although certainly not enough to qualify her for affirmative action), I burst out laughing in my car last week when I heard Trump confidingly say (like a yenta at Zabar’s deli), “She’s a woman that has been very ineffective—except that she has a big mouth.” His New York comic timing was spot on. I laughed out loud again this week when I heard Trump interrupt his press conference to tag an ABC reporter as “a sleaze”—at which I am sure thousands of other radio listeners heartily cheered. It’s been a long time since any major politician had the chutzpah to tell the arrogant, double-dealing East Coast media what most of the country thinks about them.
There’s an absurdist, almost Dadaist quality to Trump’s candidacy, like Groucho Marx satirizing high society swells in A Night at the Opera or the radical Yippies trying to levitate the Pentagon at their 1967 antiwar protest. Trump routinely deploys all the subversive transgressiveness that campus Leftists claim to value. He goes straight as an arrow to the forbidden and repressed—as when he recently fearlessly raised the long hushed up case of the 1993 suicide of Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel whom the Clintons had brought to Washington from Little Rock. Unfortunately, Trump mixed it up with baseless murder-conspiracy rumors, because there are already enough unanswered questions about the incident (such as possible illegal interference by Hillary’s staff in the official investigation and even the ambiguous issue of exactly where Foster died).
Trump’s boisterous, uncensored id makes a riveting contrast to Hillary’s plodding, joyless superego. Listening to her leaden attempts to tell rehearsed jokes is collective torture. Hillary is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of the Comedy Party. But we’re talking about the presidency here, not an improv club. While I would love to see a Trump-style chief executive say “You’re fired!” to half the parasitic Washington bureaucracy, I have high anxiety about Trump’s shoot-em-up attitude toward international affairs. Exactly how long would it be after a Trump inauguration before the nuke-horned bull would be crashing around the Red China shop?
Last weekend, while plowing through my old files for an upcoming book project for Pantheon, I found a written interview I gave in October 2003 to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which had asked me about allegations of misogyny against the newly elected governor of California. Here is an excerpt from my statement:
“I am still amazed at the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger to governor—a man who has never held political office and who participated in only one serious debate. It is a disturbing sign in any nation when politics have become so inefficient and corrupt that the people turn to an outsider as ‘strong man’ for leadership. This is how fascism is born. Because it is Schwarzenegger’s machismo—represented on a superhuman scale in his films—that California voters want to attack the entrenched special interests in Sacramento, his behavior toward women was irrelevant. Or rather, his behavior actually reinforced his virile image as a forceful personality who pushes through barriers.”
How eerily history seems to be repeating itself! But this time it is the fate of the entire nation that hangs in the balance. Trump is a stormily dynamic change-maker who will surely win this election unless the Democrats get their house in order and nominate a figure of honor and integrity. Bernie Sanders, who represents the wave of the future, is my first choice, but Joe Biden, with his international experience, would be a solid second. If the kamikaze party wants to nominate an ethically challenged incompetent like Hillary Clinton, then I’ll be voting Green for the second time. Go, Jill Stein!
Subject: Pre-Columbian megaliths in the Northeastern U.S.
I was pleasantly surprised to read in your latest Salon column that you’ve taken a serious interest in Northeastern Paleoamerican archaeology. The stone monuments–caverns, walls, dolmens, standing stones, balanced boulders, stone circles, etc.–that are found all over the Northeast are a true hidden treasure, and it is almost criminal how neglected they are by conservationists and academia.
I grew up in Massachusetts and studied anthropology at a respected New York college without ever once learning about these mysterious megalithic archaeological remains which bear such a strong resemblance to those found in neolithic, pre-Celtic Europe. Were it not for the fact that a close friend lives and spends a lot of time outdoors in rural western Massachusetts, I likely would never have learned about this fascinating subject.
What do you make of the similarity between these megalithic sites and those found on the other side of the Atlantic?
Sam Atwood Nashville
It was precisely those odd clusterings of boulders in heavily wooded areas outside Philadelphia that I starting to notice for the first time eight years ago—after nearly a quarter century of teaching in Center City. I began wondering about manmade cairns that did not seem to be piles of stones cleared from farm fields but distinctly resembled ritual spaces pictured in studies of European prehistoric art. Then I started to find imposing, smoothly planed standing stones (up to seven feet high)—virtually all of them long toppled and often half-buried and moss-covered in the underbrush. By their placement in key positions in the vast network of creeks and gorges in the Delaware River basin, I must assume they once had a sacred meaning in Native American cosmology.
When I tried to find information about these monumental relics, I hit a dead end. I would certainly classify such objects as rock art, but that term seems to be routinely confined to incised petroglyphs in Native American studies. There has been great discussion about petroglyph sites nationwide, including famous examples (some flooded by hydroelectric dams) along the lower Susquehanna River as it crosses from Pennsylvania into Maryland 80 miles west of here. Curious and frustrated, I embarked on a laborious, year-long process of going, shelf by shelf, through the immense Native American section of the library at the famous University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. I found plenty of material on petroglyphs everywhere in the U.S. but next to nothing about monumental megalithic structures. It seemed bizarre, given what we know about the massive sculpture and architecture of Pre-Columbian societies like the Maya and Aztec in Central America.
I eventually concluded that academic training in North American anthropology has been so focused on highly specialized excavation protocols (where stratifications revealing Native American “lifeways” over thousands of years are painstakingly uncovered and carbon-dated) that there is no room for world art or world history in the basic curriculum, leading to a lack of speculative skill and larger vision. I see no other explanation for how much has been missed, in terms of both large and small artifacts, by specialists in Native American studies of the Northeastern states. On the Web, on the other hand, there are numerous sites by enthusiastic amateurs, who post photos of their discoveries in woods and farmland and eagerly trade theories.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" (http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2017/03/notes-and-references-for-discussion-e.html). Affiliated with Georgetown University (http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/jhb7/) for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."