Down the years I’ve often admired the polemical writings of Alexander Cockburn (pictured), the Scottish-born, Irish-reared but essentially posh-English radical columnist who has plied his trade in the US since the early 1970s. For a variety of reasons I’ve found his stuff a good deal less interesting since sometime around the late Clinton era and the founding of his website Counterpunch.org; but that could be me getting soft, and it doesn't detract from all the good stuff of his that I've enjoyed. Tonight, watching Newsnight again (what kind of masochist fool am I?) I had to shout at the TV during an item on John McCain’s phony opportunistic stunt of ‘suspending’ his campaign on the pretence of adding his witless views on economics to the current mess besetting America – and in the spirit of ‘bipartisanism’, no less. Jeremy Paxman presented this story with his now-terminally arrogant/obfuscating blather, interviewing Rep and Dem strategists and asking exactly the wrong questions. The Rep guy was a smooth moron of an attack-dog who nevertheless made his moron point (Obama is an irresponsible un-American pencil-neck jerk) loudly and sharply and repeatedly. The Dem guy was a bespectacled fellow called Rosenberg who spoke carefully and declared that he didn’t like to be spoken to in the coarse manner that he was hearing.
‘More mush from the wimps’, I thought to myself - this a memorable term first applied by the Boston Globe to lambaste some pusillanimous aspect of the Carter administration. Recalling where I first heard tell of same term, I pulled down my old paperback of Cockburn’s Corruptions of Empire, consulting again his ‘Archive of the Reagan Era’, which saw him write on January 27 1983 of a ‘Bipartisan Appeal’ led by Peter Peterson (then CEO of Lehman Brothers, formerly Nixon’s commerce secretary), the appeal in question being a union of major US banks and multinational corporations seeking a reduction in the budget deficit.
Cockburn wrote, ‘It is axiomatic that methodical use of the word ‘bipartisan’ indicates that some gross deception is about to be practiced on the persons (and usually the pockets) of the citizenry and that the perpetrators wish to indicate by the deployment of bipartisanship that normal democratic procedures and alternatives have been suspended… Many of the people who got the economy into its present mess and who have been profiting vastly under present conditions signed the appeal with a shamelessness that would be irksome in a child but is repulsive in persons of mature age.’
Timely words, I think. For this is just the sort of rubbish McCain is now up to. So what is Barack Obama’s view on what Cockburn in a recent Counterpunch column quite reasonably calls ‘a bailout program designed to bail out the thieves running our financial system, and stick middle America with the price-tag’? This is not a moment to sit on one's hands: if Obama wants so badly to debate McCain on Friday night, then I hope he's got something sharp and wholly partisan to say, otherwise what's the point of him?