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February 26, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

January 7, 2006

Michael McNulty And Impeachment

The year was 1998, the place was Pagliacci’s Restaurant on South Pearl Street in downtown Albany. A large and boisterous crowd had packed the banquet room for a Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club event. Regular folks and politicians jockeyed with the corporate media and their infernal equipment for space. The only available standing room was beyond the double doors.

We had all come to hear the main attraction, congressman Michael McNulty, who was going to announce how he would vote on the impeachment of U. S. President Bill Clinton.

In the week or so before this event, the mood in and around Albany about the impeachment had grown noticeably ugly. One would encounter anger, resentment and frustration over the railroading of the President, even by people who detested Mr. Clinton. It seemed one couldn’t go anywhere in public without overhearing conversations about how ridiculous the whole thing was. With all the problems this country was facing, why all this nonsense over a stupid blow job?

This despite an embarrassing corporate media blitz designed to brainwash the public into supporting what was little more than a con job. Almost every single day for months, the Hearst-owned Times Union screamed pro-impeachment headlines on the front page, happily printing any nonsensical rumor manufactured by corporate “think tanks.”

The entire corporate media echo chamber pounded relentlessly, the TV “news” programs, the AM radio talk shows, NPR, magazines, even FM radio rock stations. Baloney ranging from murder to serial sex crimes to treason involving foreign governments bounced between the mediums and amplified into a constant scream of libelous intent.

Despite this attack on our collective common sense, the public was not buying. Within a week, a national poll would return a number of 73% solidly against the impeachment, and the whole B.S. episode would dissolve into the ether.

But that week, when Michael McNulty stood up before his constituents at Pagliacci’s, everything was uncertain. The few comments he had made up to that point concerning Mr. Clinton and the whole overblown affair were generally vitriolic and condemning. So the question on everybody’s mind, would McNulty do the right thing and defend the President, or would he pander shamelessly to the Republican Party and the corporate media?

The mood of McNulty’s constituents at that time could be summed up by my friend Pete, a painting contractor, who at the time was mostly apolitical. First he had to ask me who our congressman was. “Is it McNulty?” he demanded. Then he asked me how McNulty was going to vote on the impeachment. I said that he would announce the next night.

“Well, he’d better vote against it,” said Pete, “or else.”

“Or else what?” I asked.

Pete gave it some thought. “Or else,” he said, “I’m gonna do something.”

When apolitical guys like Pete start to wake up and threaten to “do something,” that’s when it’s time for the politicians to run for the hills. Whatever one can say about McNulty, he knows how to stay in office and get reelected. It’s more than clear that he was hearing guys like my friend Pete waking up, and realized that he had to do something, something that ran contrary to his being, something he found very distasteful. Something that would encourage guys like Pete to go back to sleep.

At Pagliacci’s the crowd hushed. All attention was on McNulty, looking congressional in the bright lights. He gave some opening remarks, and as he launched into the subject at hand you could feel everybody in the room hold their breaths. Then, with a look of disgust on his face, McNulty announced that he would vote against impeachment.

The entire room erupted into cheering and applause. Those of us who were lucky enough to have found seats at the tables stood up to show our gratitude for his sound judgment. The ovation went on and on, while McNulty stood still with lowered eyes and appeared, well, embarrassed.

Eventually we got tired of clapping and sat down. McNulty launched into his speech, and what a speech it was.

I wish I had had the presence of mind to bring a tape recorder that day. McNulty's speech went on for more than twenty minutes, an angry and impassioned condemnation of President Clinton and his “crime,” the miserable and forgettable alleged blow job in the Oval Office. Oh, how McNulty ascended the heights of righteousness! His eyes flashed and his voice trembled with anger over... a stupid blow job. He made it clear that it was only with the greatest reluctance that he would not join with his Republican Party comrades and vote to impeach the President over... a stupid blow job.

As McNulty’s diatribe went on, and on, and on, you could see his audience growing uncomfortable and shifting uneasily. Everyone was visibly embarrassed by his display. Part of the problem was that the room was filled with Democrats, and here was our allegedly Democratic congressman mercilessly savaging the political leader of his own party. Here was clear evidence for the decline of the Democratic Party, exhibit A, one of their stalwart politicians enthusiastically taking the opportunity to downgrade and condemn one of their own.

But it was more than that. The terrible things that McNulty was saying about Mr. Clinton ran directly contrary to what the people in the room were thinking, and to what the overwhelming majority of his constituents believed. Most of his words were strangely familiar, and indeed, McNulty was stringing together catch phrases and talking points that he had lifted directly from the corporate media, the same verbiage that we had all been subjected to for months. If you closed your eyes, McNulty almost sounded like a certain cowardly, lying AM radio talk show host who has an addiction to oxycontin.

McNulty was not talking to his constituents that night at Pagliacci’s. If he had been, he would have said, “Look, the President shouldn’t have done what he did, but c’mon already. That’s between him, his family and the big guy upstairs. The real problem here is an imperial Republican Party working hand in hand with a corrupt media to destabilize our society and seize power for themselves. The President should have known better than to hand these dangerous monsters such a golden opportunity, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s done is done. This is not about party politics, this is about defending our Constitution from assault. I want you all to join with me and send a message to the Republicans and to their media that we are sick and tired of their manipulations and distractions.”

Imagine the applause for a speech like that. How prophetic it would have been. But McNulty could no more have given that speech than he could have flapped his arms and fluttered over our heads.

Mr. McNulty was speaking to the cameras, the infernal machines owned and operated by the corporate media, and by angrily attacking Mr. Clinton he was apologizing to what he believed were the real power brokers in this equation. In doing so, he revealed that as a congressman, he was not representing his constituents against the powers that be. Rather, he was representing the prevailing powers of the day against his constituents.

But that night at Pagliacci’s, the crowd was very forgiving. The issue of wrong versus right, destroy or defend the Constitution had been framed in black and white: to impeach or not to impeach. And McNulty had made the right choice, however reluctantly. We could all go back to sleep for a spell.

I’m bringing up this eight year old story not merely because of my capacity for remembering grudges in detail. This morning I found a news item that not surprisingly didn’t get picked up by the AP. It seems that a call for the impeachment of George W. Bush has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. So far, it has eight sponsors. It should come as no surprise to learn that McNulty is not one of them.

Bush’s impeachable crimes are great in number and large in scope. The unauthorized wire tapping of American citizens, the crime that brought down Richard Nixon, is just the latest in this parade of unconstitutional perfidy. Bush knowingly lied in order to plunge the nation into a useless and pointless war. He conspired to fix elections with electronic voting machines. He has mismanaged the economy to the breaking point, creating an unnecessary and ruinous debt. He deliberately withheld aid from New Orleans after a devastating hurricane. He ignored obvious evidence of the imminence of 9-11, and there is compelling evidence that he may have done so deliberately.

On and on and on, feel free to add to the list. For no other reason, Bush deserves to be impeached for sheer incompetence and rank arrogance.

So, where is Michael McNulty’s outrage? Where is that anger that we saw so many years ago in Pagliacci’s, that willingness to condemn a President over... a stupid blow job? Are not the crimes of George W. Bush a violation of his oath of office, to uphold and defend the Constitution?

Apparently, Michael McNulty does not think so. We have heard nothing from him, hardly even a perfunctory aside concerning Bush and his crimes. Openly defying his constituents, McNulty enthusiastically supported Bush’s War Against Iraq, and he enthusiastically supported Bush’s so-called “Patriot” Act. One might think that he supports Bush as much as he felt outrage at Mr. Clinton.

We should not hold our breaths waiting for McNulty to deliver a Pagliacci Speech about Bush. As long as he continues to represent the powers behind the TV cameras, he never will.

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