"What do the next two years hold?” I asked in my column in The Nation, right after the November 2 elections. “Already there are desperate urgings from progressives for Obama to hold the line. Already there are the omens of a steady stream of concessions by Obama to the right. There’s hardly any countervailing pressure for him to do otherwise. In the months ahead, as Obama parleys amiably with the right on budgetary discipline and deficit reduction, the anger of the progressive left will mount. At some point a champion of the left will step forward to challenge him in the primaries. This futile charade will expire at the 2012 Democratic National Convention amid the rallying cry of “unity.”
“The White House deserves the menace of a convincing threat now, not some desperate intra–Democratic Party challenge late next year.”
One person who has now stepped forward in answer to my call is the billionaire Gorge Soros, the former currency trader and dispenser of billions to favored causes, most recently California’s failed pro-marijuana initiative. Last week Soros confided at a private gathering in Washington DC of a group of progressive movers and shakers known as the Democracy Alliance that Democratic donors should direct their support somewhere other than the president. Soros told those in attendance that he is “used to fighting losing battles but doesn't like to lose without fighting.”
“We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line,” he said. “And if this president can't do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”
The description of Soros’s sensational remarks appeared in the Huffington Post, citing unnamed sources, presumably at the private meeting. The story cited Michael Vachon, an adviser to Soros, as not disputing the story, though “Vachon also clarified that the longtime progressive giver was not referring to a primary challenge to the president. Mr. Soros fully supports the president as the leader of the Democratic Party. He was not suggesting that we seek another candidate for 2012.”
So, if Soros doesn’t favor a Democratic primary challenge against Obama and supports the president as head of the Democratic Party, but also says “it’s time to start looking somewhere else,” what exactly does he want? When he denies seeking another candidate for 2012, is he referring only to a rival Democratic candidate?
As I stressed in my Nation column, any primary opponent to the President inside the Democratic Party is doomed: Obama would survive any such challenge.
Moreover the White House deserves the menace of a convincing threat now, not some desperate intra–Democratic Party challenge late next year. There has to be an independent challenge.
My view is that we have a champion in the wings and one whom I am sure George Soros would be only too happy to support. In fact he’s a candidate who could rally not only Soros but the Koch brothers to his cause.
This champion of the left with sound appeal to the populist or libertarian right was felled on November 2, and he should rise again before his reputation fades. His name is Russ Feingold, currently a Democrat and the junior senator from Wisconsin. I urge him to decline any job proffered by the Obama administration and not to consider running as a challenger inside the Democratic Party. I urge him, not too long after he leaves the Senate, to raise — if only not to categorically reject —- the possibility of a presidential run as an independent; then, not too far into 2011, to embark on such a course.
Why would he be running? Unlike Teddy Kennedy challenging Jimmy Carter in 1979, Feingold would have a swift answer. To fight against the Republicans and the White House in defense of the causes he has publicly supported across a lifetime. He has opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His was the single Senate vote against the Patriot Act; his was a consistent vote against the constitutional abuses of both the Bush and Obama administrations. He opposed NAFTA and the bank bailouts. He is for economic justice and full employment. He is the implacable foe of corporate control of the electoral process. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January was aimed in part at his landmark campaign finance reform bill.
A Wisconsin voter wrote me in the wake of the election, “Feingold likely lost because his opponent’s ads, including billboards with pictures of him and Obama, as well as TV and radio ads, and last-minute phone bursts, convinced many voters that he has been a party-line Democratic insider all these years.”
What an irony!
Feingold has always been of an independent cast of mind, and it surely would not be a trauma for him to bolt the party. Ralph Nader, having rendered his remarkable service to the country, having endured torrents of undeserved abuse from progressives, should hand the torch to Feingold as a worthy heir to that great hero of Wisconsin, Robert La Follette.
The left must abandon the doomed ritual of squeaking timid reproaches to Obama, only to have the counselors at Obama’s elbow contemptuously dismiss them, as did Rahm Emanuel, who correctly divined their near-zero capacity for effective challenge. Two more years of the same downward slide, courtesy of bipartisanship and “working together”?
No way. Run, Russ, Run!
Prof. Dershowitz, Wipe That Egg Off Your Face
From: "Alan Dershowitz" <email@example.com >
Date: November 22, 2010 12:09:48 PM PST
To: <firstname.lastname@example.org >
Subject: Response to Article
In his [CounterPunch] article entitled “Honoring Helen Thomas” dated November 22, 2010, James Abourezk makes the following statement:
“I once called Alan Dershowitz a snake on Al Manar television. Al Manar is Hezbollah’s news channel in Lebanon. When he found out what I had said, he wrote a column in the Jerusalem Post, calling me an anti-Semite.”
“It is a lie. Here is a link to my article to which he refers. [link] I challenge him to find the term “anti-Semite” in the article. I also challenge your readers to read the article and judge Abourezk’s credibility. Now I will characterize Abourezk: He is a liar.”
I duly clicked on the Huffington Post link thoughtfully provided by prof. Dershowitz and indeed, there is no use of the term “anti-Semite” in the column by the noted Harvard law professor, published on September 21, 2007. But since the prof is a notoriously slippery fellow, I put a couple of sentences from that same column into the google search engine, pressed button A and, hey presto, up came the same Sep 21, 2007 Dershowitz column, printed that same day on the site of the United Jewish Foundation. And lo! There was a final paragraph, omitted from the Huffpost version. Here it is, in bold type.
“Well maybe former Senator Abourezk isn’t so different from the late Senator Bilbo after all. He uses the word ‘Zionist’ in precisely the same bigoted way Bilbo used ‘kike.’ [Huffington Post version ends here.]
“It is true that not all anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, but just because it is anti-Zionist does not mean it is not also anti-Semitic. If the shoe fits…” (C2007 FrontPageMagazine.com 09/21/07)
“Anti-Semite”… “anti-Semitic” … A minute difference on which the slippery prof would no doubt try to hang his hat, but to any impartial observer it’s plain enough that Abourezk’s memory is true. Dershowitz was sliming the former distinguished senator from South Dakota as an anti-Semite. It’s maybe why Huffington Post dropped the final paragraph as libelous, unless Dershowitz reserved the slime for the version he sent FrontPageMagazine which, the vigilant reader will have noted, was credited as its source by the United Jerusalem Foundation.
FrontPageMagazine is the website of David Horowitz, and thus a venue where the slippery prof could toss his ordure with a careless hand. I thought of reviewing the site in further detail, to see how the slippery prof has been comporting himself in Horowitz’s playpen, but as Vladimir Nabokov once wrote to Edmund Wilson apropos the allurements of a woman in Wilson’s novel Memoirs of Hecate County: “I should have as soon tried to open a sardine can with my penis.”
Here’s the full passage in Nabokov’s very funny letter to Wilson:
“Dear Bunny…I have read your book Memoirs of Hecate County in one swallow. There are lots of wonderful things in it. You have given your narrator’s copulation mates such formidable defenses (leather and steel, gonorrhea, horse-gums) that the reader — or at least one reader, for I would have been absolutely impotent in your singular little harem — derives no kick from the hero’s love-making. I should have as soon tried to open a sardine can with my penis. The result is chaste, despite the frankness.”
Somewhat affronted, Wilson replied stiffly,
“Dear Volodya… Thanks for your letter. But you sound as if I had made an unsuccessful attempt to write something like Fanny Hill. The frozen and unsatisfactory character of the sexual relations is a very important part of the central theme of the book, indicated by the title, which I’m not sure that you have grasped.”
A final thought about the slippery prof. Either he deliberately jimmied the record in his letter to CounterPunch by linking to the Huffington rather than the Horowitz version. Or he is so used to tossing the anti-Semite slur, that he has lost all capacity for precise recollection.
A Note on the Blathersphere
Our friends over at Alternet are running their year-end appeal. So they’re strutting the best stuff they can lay their hands on — which happens to be material taken from CounterPunch. Twice in recent days they’ve featured articles by Pam Martens, the brilliant Wall Street veteran who has been writing exclusively for our site and newsletter for several years. The latest, which Alternet made haste to lift, was Pam’s sensational article ‘Ten Ideas to Starve the Wall Street Beast.’
Now, as we stressed in our own recent fundraiser, many websites on the progressive side of the spectrum are cut-and-paste affairs, a mix of columns culled from mainstream newspapers, weeklies, blogs, tweets and so forth. Every day our CounterPunch site offers you up to a dozen original articles, and often 20 across our three-day weekend site. And a subscription gets you our twice-monthly newsletter packed with exclusive articles. We didn’t mind when Alternet would, once in a while, simply and honestly link to CounterPunch material. But now they’re getting more devious in their borrowing — reformatting Martens’ pieces and putting in tiny letters, a scarcely visible credit to Counterpunch. Jeffrey dropped them a congenial note, but this seems merely to have emboldened them in their pillage.
So in these find-raising weeks, why not give credit where credit is truly due (at CounterPunch.org)
And Talking of Pam Martens…
“Is Dr. Paul the pawn of corporate interests or a populist with a genuine mandate from the people? An in-depth analysis of the donor records for the Rand Paul campaign at the Federal Elections Commission reveals that the vast majority of Dr. Paul’s backers were a motley mix of oil interests, billionaires and millionaires who resided outside the state of Kentucky. Try as I might, in terms of financial support, I could find no populist mandate for Dr. Paul. According to the Kentucky secretary of state’s office, there are 2.9 million Kentuckians registered to vote. As of October 13, 2010, according to the Federal Election Commission’s website, Dr. Paul had received a measly 2,813 contributions from individuals, or less than 1% of registered voters in Kentucky. Of those contributions, the vast majority of the money raised came from out of state.”
Read Pam Martens, exclusive to our latest newsletter, on the best senator out-of-state millionaires could buy. And much more.
Alexander Cockburn can be reached at email@example.com.