a better country one bust at a time
Super Tuesday? John Kerry was in Washington that day, in a dark,
depressing shopping mall called the Old Post Office Pavilion. Flanked
by his family and about 1200 Washington insiders who had arrived early
to formally kiss his ass, Kerry, mouth all Chiclets, gave a smug acceptance
speech and gleefully cracked the proverbial champagne magnum on the
S.S. Foregone Conclusion, which comes into port in Boston this week.
was about 15 yards from Kerry during his Super Tuesday speech, just
to his left, in the press section. I was at the stage of my campaign-trail
work where I was actually pretending, in public, to "cover"
the campaign so that the other reporters would not catch on to what
was going on in my mind. After about three weeks on the bus with Kerry,
I was in a state of almost complete mental paralysis. It was almost
like a state of amnesia, or the annihilating early onset of schizophrenic
illness, brought on by some deeply traumatic experience—like watching
your father butcher your mother to death, or catching your wife screaming
with pleasure in bed with Hitler.
this day I can't describe what brought it on, although I'm sure it had
something to do with the campaign. I only remember that I was at Kerry's
Super Tuesday speech in body only. On the outside I was just trying
to get through the motions, while inside I struggled to put the pieces
back together. As Kerry began his speech, I stared at the podium with
blank eyes. And just then, someone behind me to my left tapped me on
turned around. A short, bald man with maniacal eyes extended his hand,
breathing loudly through his mouth.
this great?" he said.
guess," I said.
Weiner," he said.
shook his hand. "Matt Taibbi," I replied.
smiled proudly. "I'm with the Office of National Drug Control Policy,"
he said. "Well, I used to be, anyway. Used to be the Communications
Director. I worked with Barry McCaffrey!"
I said, recoiling a little. "No shit."
no shit!" he said. "What do you do, Matt?"
working for Rolling Stone."
he said. "Good magazine. We did some things with you folks a couple
of years ago."
the state I was in, it suddenly seemed entirely possible that the ostensibly
countercultural Rolling Stone was in some kind of cooperative,
collusive arrangement with the White House Drug Czar. It later turned
out that Weiner was referring to some RS pro-legalization article
that he had provided dissenting quotes for. But at the time I didn't
know this, and the Orwellian realization that I myself might be indirectly
working with the drug- enforcement apparatus just bounced harmlessly
off my flatlined psyche.
I said, "that's nice. The thing is, Bob, I'm not feeling too well
it's a good magazine, despite it all," he said, ignoring me. Then
he waved his hand in the direction of the podium. "But you know
what's great about this?"
I said honestly. "What?"
going to have a president with sense again," he said. "This
current guy is a disaster. Right now, all domestic law enforcement goes
through Ashcroft and Ridge. It's all about terrorism now. I mean, the
War on Drugs isn't even a priority!"
I said, "that's just self-defeating."
God for Kerry," he said. "It's going to be like the old days
old days again. For
all those people who are going to turn on the tv this week and imagine
that what they're seeing at the convention is nothing more than the
Democratic Party's current stated platform—"Harmless Bullshit for
America"—I urge them to consider a few things about the Kerry campaign.
It has a few features that have been commented on very little in public.
For one, it's crawling with narcs.
is a fiction being perpetuated in the media that the Democratic Party
is "more united than ever," that "the whole party has
been energized" by the mission of defeating George Bush. (I think
the reality is that the would-be dissenters are simply too depressed
to argue.) A corollary to this assumption is the alleged reason for
this unity, which is that, apart from Iraq, there were virtually no
differences between any of the candidates who ran for the nomination
in the last year.
started to notice this in the press after Iowa. A typical example is
this line from a piece by Walter Shapiro of USA Today: "Things
might have been different for Kerry if the Democratic Party was riven
by major ideological cleavages," he wrote. "But once the war
in Iraq receded as a litmus-test issue for Democratic voters, the relatively
minor differences among the candidates on domestic policy were not enough
to sway the outcome."
Howard Dean told me in the plainest language possible that he did not
think that nonviolent drug offenders should go to jail. "I mean,
if you're selling heroin in a school zone, that's maybe something you
should go to jail for, but otherwise, it's a medical issue," he
explained to me that since most drug laws were state laws, his likely
strategy as president for clearing the prisons would be to provide block
grants to states that develop alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent
kind of people were you likely to find on the Dean plane? A lot of ex-Clinton
types, true, but also people like Kurt Schmoke, the former Yale classmate
of Dean's and mayor of Baltimore, who once called the Drug War "our
domestic Vietnam" and was the first major politician in the country
to advocate the decriminalization of drugs.
would you find hanging around the Kerry campaign? Forget about people
like Weiner, who just showed up uninvited. One of the constants of the
Kerry plane was a guy named David Morehouse, who is a senior political
advisor to Kerry. Morehouse, like Weiner, is a former ONDCP heavy. He
was once the number-two man in the agency behind Barry McCaffrey. Just
a few days after Super Tuesday, he explained to me with pride that he
had been involved with the planning of many of the ONDCP's most celebrated
the fried-egg thing?" I said.
yes, the fried-egg thing, and some others," he said.
said he left the ONDCP before the plan to plant hidden anti-drug messages
in the scripts of tv shows like Friends and E.R. went
into action, but admitted he had been there during the planning of these
are the kinds of people Kerry hangs out with: the fried-egg guy.
how about Kerry's likely replacement for Tom Ridge? Rand Beers, Kerry's
Homeland Security advisor, is one of the most zealous and remorseless
narcs in American history. As undersecretary of state for international
drug enforcement under Clinton, Beers signed off on a defoliating program
in South America in which a substance similar to Agent Orange was sprayed
over would-be coca fields along the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. When
an environmental group filed suit on behalf of Ecuadorian peasants who
claimed—with the support of the Red Cross—that the sprays had caused
the destruction of all crops as well as severe birth defects in humans
and livestock, Beers responded by insinuating that the plaintiffs had
ties to al Qaeda through the Colombian FARC rebels.
heck, at least he's not George Bush. Right? Isn't that what we're supposed
to be thinking this week?