Category Archives: Culture

Is Greta Van Fleet ripping off Led Zeppelin? Both sides, just stop it.


Some love the neo-Zep sound and others hate it, but both sides are missing the point.

Greta Van Fleet, a young Michigan-based rock band featuring three brothers with a friend on drums, have been ripping the lid off the joint lately. As of this moment the video for “Highway Tune” has well over 20 million views. They’re playing all the big festivals, preparing to mount an ambitious world tour, and readying the release of their first full-length album.

In short, they are a thing.

Give them a quick listen.

If this is your first exposure to GVF, you may be thinking they sound a lot like this band you hear on Classic Rock stations every once in a while.

Yes, indeed, Greta Van Fleet owes a lot to Led Zeppelin, and it has become a point of contention for some. A Google search for [greta van fleet led zeppelin] turns up 474,000 results (and [greta van zeppelin] pulls another 2,400 or so]), so you aren’t the only one who noticed. Read more

U2: Songs of Relevance and Irrelevance

U2 is my favorite band of all time. But they haven’t been relevant since the early-to-mid ’90s. I think I have a clue as to why.

Good is the enemy of great.

U2: ZooTV, live in Sydney

U2: ZooTV, live in Sydney

Around 1984 The Police, my previous favorite band of all time, was calling it quits, and U2 released The Unforgettable Fire, hot on the heels of 1983’s War and the live EP Under a Blood Red Sky.

There was nothing like them and never had been. They embraced the “Greatest Band in the World” mantle and sought to use their position to make the world a legitimately better place, just like their heroes from a generation before had. Their music was fire and steam and passion and they performed, it seemed, with one foot in this world and the other firmly planted on some higher plane where music forged reality.

But while they remain my favorite band of all time, it’s been a long time since they were my favorite band of the moment (that honor currently goes to The Raveonettes).

The why is simple: they’ve produced some very good music in the last two and a half decades, but they haven’t been relevant since … Achtung, Baby? And that was released in 1991.

1991. Has it really been that long?

History teaches us that many of our greatest artists do their best work when young, and that quality fades as they age. In Rock, this is perhaps more true than in any other genre. How many of our musical luminaries have remained relevant over long careers, or perhaps even gotten better? Peter Gabriel. David Bowie never ceased to matter. Warren Zevon. Perhaps more, but they’re the exceptions to the rule.

In popular music, of course, artists fade for different reasons, not all of which are their fault (or a reflection on their work), Sure, artistic faculties wane. Sometimes the burning fire of youth flickers out. And it seems perfectly logical that wealth and fame might take the edge off the hunger driving a generation’s young tigers.

Sometimes artists sort of opt out, wandering off down creative paths that interest them more (but audiences less). Elvis Costello comes to mind, as does Mark Knopfler.

But every so often careers nosedive because fashions change. How many bands did “Smells Like Teen Spirit” kill overnight? How often do you hear Rock on Top 40 stations these days? And hey – remember the early days of MTV? Not a lot of room for singers who didn’t have the look, was there? Video killed the radio star indeed…

U2 certainly isn’t on top of world today, as they were in 1984, and a number of factors probably contribute to the “decline,” if that term can be applied to a band that sells out stadiums and whose albums still sell hundreds of thousands of copies even in the age of streaming.

The one that’s been on my mind for months, though, is suggested in an interview with Edge published last fall in Rolling Stone.

There’s this dichotomy to production standards these days where the music listener is used to really precise and simple, stripped-down arrangements so the inaccuracies of a band playing in a room where everything bleeds into everything else is not what’s happening. It sounds, dare I say it, old-fashioned. We love when that works for us and we love that feel of people playing in a room, when it sounds fresh. But I think we’re also wary of the fact that that sound is associated with 20, 30 years ago. We need to make sure, as we always have done, that we are part of a current conversation that’s going in music culture in terms of production, songwriting, melodic structure, all the things that keep the culture moving forward.

What we don’t want to be is caught in what I describe as a cultural oxbow lake where others are moving forward and you’re still faithfully doing what you’ve always done, but now you’re anachronistic and part of a historical form rather than what’s actually pushing the boundaries forward, the flow of where it’s going. [emphasis added]

At the risk of oversimplifying, I can’t help dividing U2’s career into two phases. The second is defined by what Edge characterizes as a concern for the “current conversation that’s going in music culture in terms of production, songwriting, melodic structure, all the things that keep the culture moving forward.”

The first phase would be the period from @1980-1992 where U2 was the thing moving the culture forward.

Again, I know I’m ignoring a lot of nuance in framing it this way. There’s no question whatsoever that U2 circa-1987 was keenly aware of how the rest of musical world sounded. What was new, what was innovative, what was fresh – listen to Joshua Tree and everything else going on at the time and it’s evident the band had its ear to the ground.

But I’ve listened to a lot of music from the ’80s and I hear zero evidence (Edge’s protestations notwithstanding) that U2, on its first few releases, was even a little worried about being part of a current conversation. On the contrary – it was the rawness and the uniqueness of their sound that was so compelling. They were the conversation other bands needed to be aware of.

In other words, U2 became the greatest band in the world by blazing the trail. Since Achtung, Baby, they have concerned themselves with following the trail. Electronica, sampling, contemporary production techniques, hip-hop influences, and on and on: U2’s relevance – musically and culturally – has varied in direct proportion to their proximity to their roots.

I hope I don’t sound bitter. Or worse, like a hipster. I’m not.have all these albums I’m talking about and some of them are quite good. I really like All That You Can’t Leave Behind and No Line on the Horizon (and parts of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb). The last couple have been quite accomplished, and I think I appreciate Songs of Experience a bit more (despite what certain critics think – perhaps I like it because it’s a tad ragged). I even defended Pop, which may not have been a satisfying musical experience, but it was a brilliant commentary on the commodification of music in society.

I’ve seen them live four times and am baffled as to why they aren’t playing Denver on this tour, because I’ll pay whatever they’re charging, always, to see U2 live.

My complaint is more elemental. I remember how War and Unforgettable Fire felt. I remember playing them over and over because I couldn’t help myself. I remember being physically unable to sit still, the chills, the adrenaline.

I remember when U2’s music possessed me. Altered me. I remember Unforgettable Fire rewriting my code.

I understand Edge’s concerns. Really, I do. Boy was a remarkable album, but it’s been done and doesn’t need to be done again. And who the hell wants to see U2 playing the hits on the Dinosaurs of Rock outdoor amphitheater circuit every summer?

They want to be great. They work very hard at it and sometimes it feels like they’re so close (“You’re the Best Thing About Me,” for instance, or “The Miracle [of Joey Ramone]” or “Raised by Wolves,” even).

But Bono has been known to quote the adage that “very good is the enemy of great.” Does he understand that Songs of Experience is very good, but not great?

It’s almost as if I’m being asked to believe there are only two choices – trendsurfer or retro act. I do not believe this. I’ve seen genius from U2 and can’t help thinking it’s still in there. I’ve seen old dogs learn new tricks. I mentioned Bowie and Gabriel earlier for a reason.

And damn it, we’ve seen U2 itself rise from the ashes before. They were on the verge of breaking up while recording Achtung, Baby. The story goes* that some of them had stepped out for lunch and when they came back Edge was noodling with this little guitar riff. It turned out to be the opening strain of “One,” and the rest is history.

And the hallmark of creative genius is the ability to onboard influence – from anywhere – assimilate it and transform it into something new.

I don’t know how U2’s muse works. I have no idea where the moment of inspiration occurs. In truth, I don’t know if they have another great moment in them. We may have to content ourselves with a decade of greatness followed by two or more decades of very good. And I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad bargain – how many bands ever gave us anything like BoyOctoberWarUnforgettable FireJoshua Tree and Achtung, Baby, anyway?

Still, you can’t blame a boy for dreaming. I like to see leaders leading.


*Who knows if the story is true, but the near-breakup is well-documented.

Trump’s GOP: the Family Feud party

Welcome to the GOP Family Feud, where there’s no answer so bad it won’t elicit enthusiastic, unanimous support.

Ever watch Family Feud?

It seems like this moment happens in every show. The question is something like “name a popular item of men’s clothing.” Turtle, the patriarch of the Gopfluffer family, hits the button and guesses “shirt.”


That’s the #1 answer!

The host (there have been several but it’s always Richard Dawson in my mind) moves down the next member of the family, Turtle’s slick-talking boy Paul. He guesses “pants,” which is correct.

But then the wheels fly off. Brother Mike guesses “clerical vestments.”

family feud

Mike can’t believe that isn’t on the list and neither can the rest of the family.

Aunt Ann, who suffers from a touch of Tourette’s, guesses “faggot liberal waistcoats.” Again, incorrect. And now the team has two strikes. One more incorrect guess and the Dino family can steal.

Unfortunately, the Gopfluffers could only round up four smart family members to be on the show, and as a result had to drag along Donnie, their drooling, orange-faced lackwit of a cousin.

Richard says “Donnie, it’s all up to you. One answer left. Give me a popular item of men’s clothing.”

Donnie stares blankly into space. The rest of the family holds its breath. Finally Donnie blurts out “STUDDED LEATHER THONGS!”

The entire studio falls silent for a couple of beats. Dawson arches an eyebrow and cuts a sideglance at the camera.

Then out of nowhere Ann starts clapping and yelling “GOOD ANSWER! GOOD ANSWER!” The rest of the family quickly joins in, clapping furiously and agreeing that indeed, Donnie has offered up a good answer.

Richard leans over and rests an elbow on the desk in front of Donnie. “So, studded leather thong, huh? I have to admit, that one had not occurred to me.” The laugh track is howling by now.


Okay, says Richard, turning to the big board. “Show me ‘studded leather thong!'”

This is how the current iteration of the Republican party operates. Periodically President Donald will say something so stupid, so malevolently dishonest, so eye-wateringly offensive (to women, to minorities, to our allies, to our global competitors, to anyone with a soul, etc.) that the whole world seems momentarily stunned.

His fellow Republicans are speechless. Some of them may have enough decency to know it’s terrible what he just said. Others agree with him but wish he’d stop saying it out loud because they’re trying to get re-elected. In any case, there’s a pregnant moment where we’re waiting to see what happens.

Then some Republican or other starts clapping and yelling “GOOD ANSWER!” Next thing you know, the whole family has joined in. I mean, a few might go on record chastising President Don, but at the very next opportunity they vote exactly how he tells them to.

Welcome to the GOP Family Feud, where there’s no answer so bad it won’t elicit enthusiastic, unanimous support.

And now our next round. We surveyed 100 audience members and asked for their answers to this question: What should America do about immigration?

Did OKC shooting prove “good guy with a gun” theory? On the contrary…

Loui's in OKC

I’m glad no innocent people died. But the incident comes closer to proving the NRA wrong than right.

Two armed citizens kill shooter who opened fire in Oklahoma restaurant

Let’s all be glad no innocent people were killed. Period.

Let’s also attend closely to the facts before the NRA arrives claiming that good guys with guns, or whatever.

Two points need making about this incident.

First, there was no deterrence. For years my pro-NRA friends have assured me that “an armed population is a polite one.” Nobody in their right mind would draw a gun when they know others might be armed. Read more

Admit it – you think chicken tastes like cardboard

chicken tastes like cardboard

Say this next time you’re served chicken against your will…

I grew up in the South, where chicken, in its many forms, was a staple of the diet. Fried chicken, of course. Chicken and dumplings. Chicken (kill me now) casserole. Baked chicken. Barbecue chicken. Chicken and waffles. Chicken pot pie. Chicken stew. Chicken noodle soup.

And of course, chicken necks, livers and gizzards.


Of course, it’s not just the South – chicken is a big dish everywhere. According to the USDA, Americans ate nearly 92 pounds of chicken per person in 2016. And worldwide the data indicates we eat 55 million chickens a day.

I have a confession. I don’t really like chicken all that much. Yeah, I play along because it’s allegedly healthier. But the bottom line is that I almost never eat chicken when there’s beef or pork on the menu.

Know why? Because chicken has no goddamned flavor. Read more

What are your three favorite Elton John songs?

Elton John

This is one of the hardest music questions I’ve ever been asked.

A few weeks ago my girlfriend asked me this one. And I thought – what a hateful question. Seriously – three? With some effort I might be able to get it down to ten or fifteen.

But it was a music question. So I thought. And pondered. And listened and relistened.

I may finally have an answer.

Number 1 is: Read more

Why won’t the GOP act on gun violence? Here’s a BIG reason nobody talks about.

It isn’t just NRA money. Congressional Republicans don’t act because their families aren’t at risk.

Did you see this?

‘WTF’: Twitter furious as Florida lawmakers declare porn a ‘health risk’ but block assault rifle ban

The vote comes less than a week after the devastating shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school left 17 people dead

Less than a week after the devastating shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school left 17 people dead, Florida lawmakers rejected an attempt to discuss a ban on assault weapons. The Florida House voted 36-71 on Tuesday (20 February) against a motion to consider the bill that would have banned the sale or possession of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines such as the AR-15 assault rifle used by the gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Republican Party (A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the NRA) doesn’t care about these children. Your children. Read more

The Year in Music: @Doc’s top albums of 2017


As always, it was a great year for music – for those willing to put in a little effort, anyway.

[UPDATED 1/12/18]

Radio and the music industry have long since abandoned any pretense of developing or presenting quality tuneage, so if you sit passively and wait for it to come to you then you’re likely going to conclude that music is deader than Elvis’s willy.

The good news, of course, is that all the technology has made possible a serious DIY golden age of independent music. Granted, without mass exposure or institutional support of some sort it can be hard for even the brightest and best to make a living at it. But the point is I found all kinds of great stuff to listen to this year and I’d like to share it with you.

I’ll also note in advance that I made a decision a few months ago to really explore what I’m calling the “3rd Millennium Sound.” There’s a Facebook group you can join and and a bitchin’ Spotify playlist you can listen to free and everything, and the description reads thusly:

3MS is dedicated to the sharing and discussion of new music of the 2000’s. The group revolves around specific genres like Electro-Pop, Darkwave, Industrial, contemporary Trip-Hop, Shoegaze/Dreampop, BritPop and more. This description isn’t intended to be limiting – 3MS is about discovery. (That said, thou shalt not share Folk here.)

My 2017 list leans that way, since those are the genres on which I was focused. An artifact of the process, though, is that’s this review is dominated by acts more concerned with resurrecting and updating older sounds (especially the range of styles we heard in the 1980s) than they are with innovating new ones. C’est la vie.

At the same time we had newer acts exploring our musical history, we also had some of that history swinging around to remind us it isn’t dead yet. There was an odd, but wonderful, resurgence of DreamPop and Shoegazer as some of our heroes from ’90s got back together, and maybe we have a sustainable trend working after last year’s Lush reunion. Somebody get Rob Dickinson on the horn…

So here, in sorta semi-alphabetical order, are some things I liked this year. The link to my 2017 collection is at the end of this post, and it contains all these full albums (except Nox Arcana, which is noted separately) plus a few more you might like.

Adam Marsland – Bulé

I didn’t include this in the original posting because, frankly, I was still grappling with it. Not because there’s any question of its excellence, but because of some very personal issues with me. I’ve been searching for a path through to what Joseph Campbell called an “authentic life” for some time, and the quest has intensified in the last couple of years. To know you aren’t where you should be, to know that place exists, but not to be able to find the way … it’s a hard way to live.

Adam Marsland has long been one of my favorite LA Power Pop undergrounders, and it seems he’s been exploring a bit, as well. Thing is, he’s a lot further along than I am. He’s been spending more and more time abroad of late, and seems to have discovered the gateway to his spiritual center in Bali. Bulé is a chronicle of that journey, I suppose, and for those who know Adam’s catalog (in all his incarnations), understand: this is different. It’s more elemental, it embraces the sounds of the culture where it was born, and it feels, from a certain weary distance, like the music at the end of the road.

I didn’t write about Bulé sooner because I didn’t know what to say, and I suppose I still don’t. But it’s marvelous, even by Marsland’s standards.

The Birthday Massacre – Under Your Spell

If there’s a complaint to be made about TBM, it’s that they seem content to stick to a core sound. Maybe, but if they’re happy to just do what they do, it’s also true that what they do is fantastic and they do it very, very well. Dark, hard, shimmery and melodic – in so many ways they encapsulate everything I love in music these days.

The Darling Buds – Evergreen

Remember The Darling Buds? Yeah, didn’t see this coming. Makes me want more, you know?

Drab Majesty – The Demonstration

One of my top 3rd Millennium Sound finds of the year. Swirly, engaging, post-Punk influenced dreaminess.


One of the absolute hookiest finds of the year. Features Davey Havok (AFI, Blaqk Audio) and the three surviving members of No Doubt cultivating a sound that won’t remind you of any of their other projects.

Ella Atlas – The Road to Now

Our old friend Stephen Masucci (The Lost Patrol, The Lovely Intangibles) is back, this time collaborating with singer Tarrah Maria, whom NY Music Daily calls “enigmatic, allusively torchy…” Fans of TLP and TLI will absolutely love the bewitching lushness of TRtN, which intimates a sensual alternate noir past where the entire world played out on the big golden screen.

Fastball – Step Into Light

I remember Fastball from way back but had lost touch, so this one surprised me. I’m still considering it – came to it late in the year – but it gets better with each spin.

Future Islands – The Far Field

Allmusic’s Tim Sendra has this to say:

The band took three years before releasing its next album, The Far Field, and while it lacks the immediacy and shock of Singles, it feels like the work of a band looking to take another giant leap forward.

I think I agree. Singles took the world by storm, and TFF isn’t Singles. It’s pretty damned wonderful, though, and one hopes Sendra has the band pegged. The 2017 release delivers a lot and promises a good deal more.

Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

Once upon a time Goldfrapp mastered the art of ice cold sexy electropop. Then they wandered off in search of a more organic sound. I respected the move, but I won’t lie – I didn’t care for the result at all. This year, though, Alison G and Will Gregory found their way home, sorta.

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires

I barely know what to say anymore. Isbell has been perhaps the most talented artist alive for several years now, constantly willing to explore both the demon-infested blackness of his own soul and our hate-riven political culture with equal measures of honesty and hope. The latter is no mean feat, it has to be said. Five stars out of five. At least.

Johnny Clegg – King of Time

Johnny is battling cancer and doesn’t have much time left. In King of Time he holds his last conversation with his friends, his family and the world at large. It’s safe to say the founder and leader of Juluka and Savuka, two of the greatest bands in African history, is putting the wraps on a legacy that will justly regard him as one of the bravest, most important artists in the history of popular music. It’s no exaggeration to say he has been the equal of other luminaries we’ve lost recently – Bowie, Prince, Petty … and the world will soon be a poorer place for his passing.

London Grammar – Truth is a Beautiful Thing

The group’s 2017 release feels at once familiar and wholly different compared with 2014’s spectacular debut, If You Wait. On the one hand, both are powered by strong songwriting, restrained arrangements and the breathtaking depth and nuance of Hannah Reid’s hypnotic alto. On the other, this effort seems more even, perhaps at the cost of the soaring high spots of IYW. Maybe the word I’m after is “meditative.” And while we remember moments like “Hey Now” from the last outing, this time around perhaps the unit of measurement is the entire album.

Principe Valente – Oceans

It has been observed that musically, the Swedes are great imitators (if not necessarily known for their innovation). Perhaps that’s fair, perhaps not, but it’s certain that Principe Valente has aggregated the sounds of Post-Punk and Goth into an especially alluring breed of DarkPop that echoes everything from Bauhaus (and later solo Peter Murphy) to Joy Division (and later New Order).

Ride – Weather Diaries

Wow – a Ride reunion. This is their first new work in a long time, and while a lot of bands that get back together have very little new to say, note the very current political themes here (I mean, Brexit? Cool.). Musically, of course, it’s very much the Ride you remember from the ’90s – although, since they and their DreamPop and Shoegazer fellow-travelers from back in the day exerted such a lasting influence, this effort doesn’t feel even remotely derivative.

Slowdive – s/t

While we’re on the subject of ’90s DreamPop/Shoegazer reunions, what about Slowdive, whose 1993 masterwork Souvlaki remains one of my favorite albums from the entire decade. I can’t tell you the new eponymous record is quite on that level, but neither is it a nostalgia tour. As Tim Sendra notes, a great deal of energy was spent incorporating ideas from the work the various members have been about since they last got together, and the result – as with Ride, noted above – feels very much like a step forward.

Monster Movie – Keep the Voices Distant

Kind of a busy year for 1990s DreamGazers, 2017 was. Monster Movie might remind you a bit of Slowdive, for instance. Which isn’t surprising, given that it’s a side project of guitarist Christian Savill (and features the band’s bassist, Nick Chaplin). If you like early Slowdive, you’re going to appreciate the ways in which KtVD remains faithful to that project’s Shoegazer roots.

Rose Hill Drive –  Mania

There’s nothing especially complicated about Boulder’s RHD. Three guys, a minimum of studio hijinks, ripping the house down to the studs. You know, the way god intended.

Sally Dige – Hard to Please

very recent discovery. As in, a couple days ago. But damn, talk about your first impressions. Dige seems to be part musician and part multimedia artist (something I think will be clearer once you’ve watched the video below). HtP is persistently danceable and a tad ominous, as though there’s something both beautiful and dangerous lurking around the corner with a sock of sand. I may be premature here – I’ve clearly not had time to give Dige the sort of deep consideration she deserves – but I’m putting her on the list anyway. She just reminds me too much of Grace Slick and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Meg Myers and Kate Bush and Ida Long and Esben and the Witch and some others not to.

U2 –  Songs of Experience

A few days ago I penned a piece arguing that U2, my favorite band of all time, had lost its relevance. I’m not going to say much more here because I’ve been doing some more reading and thinking, and I may have been unfair. I plan a post revisiting that article soon, and will say what I have to say on the subject then. Meanwhile…

Nox Arcana – Season of the Witch

I don’t talk or write about it a lot, but I have long loved the Dark Ambient genre. In fact, I go to sleep each night with Raison d’Etre’s Enthraled by the Wind of Loneliness (sic) playing. Nox Arcana is one of the best projects I have yet found, and 2017’s SotW is mesmerizing. Imagine if Edgar Allen Poe had been a Classical composer… [Stream on Spotify]

Give these artists a listen, and may 2018 be as wonderful as 2017 was. Musically, I mean.

The most dangerous word in Washington: “reform”


“Reform” is a DC euphemism for “somebody is about to get fucked.” The McDonald’s hot coffee case illustrates the point.

Sam Ervin, the late, famed North Carolina senator who presided over the Nixon impeachment trial, once said anytime he heard someone describe himself as a “simple country lawyer” he immediately checked to make sure his wallet was still there. Read more

The lesson of Bush’s Trump speech: someday Sideshow Don will seem statesmanlike, too


Is there any such thing as “conservative enough”?

By now most of you are aware of former president George W. Bush’s speech earlier today, in which he offered up a pointed critique of Donald Trump (or someone exactly like him). Bush was certainly right about the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and we all ought to be distressed by the actions that prompted the criticism.

My problem, though, runs deeper: we ought not be terrified over the state of things at present, but at the arc of things, at the trend running from Trump all the way back to Richard Nixon and at what it portends for the future of American leadership. Read more

Mark Steyn’s Stephen Paddock theory: it was the liberals

Mark-Steyn-Stephen-Paddock-VegasFamous radio mouthpiece knows why the Las Vegas gunman did it.

While surfing my morning news feed I tripped across a new theory about the motivation driving Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock. Since investigators have not yet uncovered any agenda on Paddock’s part – nothing political, not religious, didn’t hate Country music, etc. – people are going to speculate. And our political climate being what it is, that speculation is invariably going to pursue angles that justify pre-existing beliefs.

Even so, this one is a doozy. Stay with me. Read more

Dr. Sammy’s Italian sangria recipe

Italian-Sangria-recipeThis is the best sangria I’ve ever had.

The other night I was in the mood for sangria, but we were having pasta. I found myself wondering if there were such a thing as Italian sangria. So I hit teh Googles. Duh. There’s lots of recipes for Italian sangria.

Nothing looked quite right to me, though. So I took the parts that sounded good from three or four of them and decided to mash up my own little Frankensangria recipe.

Read more

What Happened: Hillary Clinton blames everybody, but it’s a clearcut case of both/and

Hillary-Clinton-What-HappenedWe Americans tend to see binaries. Right and wrong. Black and white. For us or ag’in us. Either/or. But in this case, the truth is both/and. Clinton’s What Happened is right. Her critics are right.

A lot of Democrats wish Hillary Clinton would shut up and go away. Hillary has a new book, and she clearly has no intention of shutting up or going away.

“The best thing she could do is disappear,” said one former Clinton fundraiser and surrogate who played an active role at the convention. “She’s doing harm to all of us because of her own selfishness. Honestly, I wish she’d just shut the f— up and go away.”

Since her loss, Clinton has taken fire from both sides of the aisle for what’s seen as her refusal to acknowledge her own role in her campaign’s defeat.

She has blamed Russian hackers, sexism and former FBI Director James Comey for her defeat. But she has proven less vocal about flaws in her own campaign.

Is she right? Although investigations are still under way, it seems likely (based on the theory that where there’s smoke there’s fire, and there’s a lot of smoke, and also the Trump Crime Family is as stupid and corrupt as the night is long) that Russia played a role in helping Trump. If I were her I’d be righteously disenchanted with Comey, as well. And there is zero debate as to the role of misogyny in her unpopularity. A huge amount of the Hillary hate is driven by sexism – I can’t quantify how much, exactly, but I wouldn’t argue if you said more than 90%. As bad as she is – and make no mistake, I think she was a horrible candidate – if she were a man the reaction to her would have been on a par with any other bought-up Democratic apparatchik (as long as said apparatchik was white, of course).

So it is more than fair to say that Clinton has a point.

On the other hand, it is more than fair to say, as I note above, that she was a deeply flawed candidate. While she is not without accomplishments by a long shot, a number of charges having nothing to do with gender may objectively be laid at her feet. In a fit of frustration with certain of her supporters last March, I noted the following:

  • She voted for George Bush’s illegal war on Iraq, a mistake for which there was no excuse. That war left up to, and perhaps more than 200,000 civilians dead.
  • She supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And then backtracked. If you liked the TPP, fine – make the case. But it was a position which was wildly at odds with what many Dems believed in, and thus criticism of her on the issue was fair game.
  • She doesn’t think we need to bring back Glass-Steagall – which her husband helped kill and which paved the way for the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.
  • She supported – or maybe not – the Keystone Pipeline. Again, it was hard to tell, and this sort of waffling is not a candidate’s greatest quality.
  • Her eventual support for marriage equality was preceded by 20 years or so of unambiguous opposition to it (and it’s fair to argue that she flipped on the issue only once the polls hit a tipping point).
  • She has a record of being neo-Con/hawkish even by Republican standards.
  • She’s a big fan of war criminal Henry Kissinger.
  • She supported the Patriot Act.
  • She praised Nancy Reagan on AIDS. She later apologized, but WTF? Is this really something a presidential candidate couldn’t be expected to get right in the first place?
  • She has a long history of – and forgive me for using Dubya’s cynical term here – flip-flopping, and all too often the about-faces seem to coincide with broad shifts in the polls. A caveat here, though. One might actually argue that this is one of Clinton’ better qualities, that she listens to the people. Sticking to your guns and staying the course and not changing horses in mid-stream when it becomes clear things have changed is not a virtue. So I’m willing to entertain discussion on this one.
  • She took a lot of cash from Wall St. and as such we might be suspicious about her commitment to getting the financial sector under control. After all, these aren’t people who dish out millions for the privilege of being brought to heel.
  • Finally, in every way I can see, she is unarguably to the right of Richard Nixon. She is what we would have called, back in the early 1970s, a mainline Republican.

I think more broadly – and this admittedly gets into the vague warm fuzzies of politicking – it can also be fairly charged that she had no real vision for her presidency. There were plenty of reasons to vote against Trump, but comparatively fewer to vote for her. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using your opponent’s shortcomings as campaign fodder – you’d be insane not to, in Sideshow Don’s case – but it’s also true that voters like being inspired. They’re motivated by the sense that they’re moving toward better days. As a certain other candidate once demonstrated, people will vote for hope.

Did Clinton ever offer hope?

In other words, Clinton is right to point out the forces that kneecapped her campaign. Without Russia, Comey and the fact that America has deep-seated issues with women she would very likely be president right now.

And those who now wish she’d shut the fuck up and go away are also right to criticize her for running a weak campaign. She was running against the most appalling candidate, perhaps, in the history of American politics (I say perhaps because I can’t quite get the genocidal Andrew Jackson out of my head). Had she been able to muster any sort of positive message at all, she would have won in a cakewalk.

Had she even tried to address the very real concerns of Sanders supporters, she may well have won. Should they have set aside their rage against the mainstream machine that is the modern Democratic party and done whatever was necessary to prevent our current dumpster fire of a presidency from becoming reality? Maybe, but it’s easy to read that laundry list above and see how people starved for meaningful change might be a bit uninspired by a candidate who promised more of the same, forever and ever, amen.

We Americans tend to see binaries. Right and wrong. Black and white. For us or ag’in us. Either/or. But in this case, the truth is both/and. Clinton is right. Her critics are right.

The real question before us right now – maybe the only question – is how best to approach the 2018 midterms and the crucial 2020 general. From where I stand, I can’t see how Clinton is helping.Hillary-Clinton-What-Happened-book.jpg

« Older Entries Recent Entries »