Watching the final Dole-Clinton debate on TV, I finally understood why the upcoming election is so depressing.
If you only heard the debate on radio, you missed the best part of the show. The candidates stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by audience and cameras. When Bob Dole contradicted Clinton we could see the Prez over his shoulder, shaking his head slowly with a sad smile on his face. "Even your Republican supporters know that you've just destroyed your last ounce of pathetic credibility," he might have thought. When the President spoke, Dole liked to scowl and glare. "That fib's going to cost you another year of Senate Whitewater hearings, you adulterous, saxophone-honking criminal," he seemed to vow.
But heck, that kind of stuff is just politics as usual. No, what made that debate unique was -- their hair.
Dole's hair color was a mousy-brown with the slightest tinges of distinguished white at the temples. By contrast, Clinton's hair was solid battleship grey. As a result, there were certain camera angles where Dole actually looked younger than Clinton.
Now, I don't think Dole's natural color is still brown -- I'm skeptical that it's even human hair, to tell the truth. I also doubt that every single one of Clinton's strands is precisely that same shade. In other words, it's my opinion that both candidates have taken secret contributions from the Miss Clairol cartel, if not the Hair Club For Men PAC.
Let's follow the implications of this. Clinton's handlers probably wanted him to look more experienced, a man with the weight of the world on his square shoulders. Dole's handlers probably wanted to knock a few millennia off his appearance. So they jigger their apparent age up or down a little. Nothing wrong with that.
But you can bet that there were probably political consultants involved, campaign managers supervising the consultants, and various aides and assistants cranking out memos and position papers with titles like, "White Fringes Around the Temples: Perceptions by Midwestern Women Ages 40-44." The night before the debate, I'll bet that strategists on both sides tossed in their sleep, worrying about the hair-color-thing.
So why is this seemingly mundane detail worth mentioning? Before I've never given a moment's thought to superficialities like hair color or posture. But in the absence of meaningful debate, these trivial things bob to the surface -- and I'll wager that many viewers probably found their attention drifting, as mine did.
Look, there's scarcely a hair's breath of difference between these two men, and the (lack of debate) showed it. I've seen more heated disagreements over Coke vs. Pepsi.
I don't think the world in 1997 will be significantly different if either Dole or Clinton wins -- and as a result, I can't support either of them in good conscience. Thus my presidential nod goes to the candidate who best stands for "None of the Above:" Ralph Nader.
I don't like voting against candidates; I'd much rather support someone I believe in. Everybody would. Sadly, it's sometimes impossible to take such a principled stand.
My vote for Nader will wash out; millions of other voters think that it's really, really, important that either Clinton or Dole lead the country, and one of them will win. But if enough of us cast votes for None of the Above, there's more hope that a serious third party may emerge -- someday.
Although "voting against" seems to be the tone of this election, there are rare cases where simply voting at all guarantees a happy outcome. In West Sonoma County, I don't really care who wins as Fifth Distric Supervisor: Mike Reilly or Eric Koenigshofer. I'll bet many are going to vote depending on their preferences for the candidate's (lack of) hair -- which brings us back to the Clinton/Dole paradox, in a sense.
But there's another local race where I'd like to suggest voting for None of the Above, except that there's too great a risk of real damage.
The mudslinging arguments in the Riggs - Alioto race for the House are well known in our district. Riggs is a toady for Big Timber and a hit man in the Gingrich Contract On America. On the other side is Alioto, a toady for Big Labor and, well, a carpetbagger.
For liberals and progressives to deny that she fits the classic definition of a carpetbagger is to risk hypocrisy. Texas millionaire Michael Huffington, who became a Californian to battle Senator Feinstein in 1994, was justly denounced for moving into the state and attempting to buy the election. There's not a great deal of difference here, except that he was a Repub and she's a Demo. That, and the little fact that he remembered to vote in the last elections and she didn't.
I wish I could endorse Alioto, but I can't. Yet I can enthusiastically oppose Riggs. Thus I'd suggest you hold your nose and vote for Alioto -- every vote counts in a close election like this. Vote against Riggs.
(And before Alioto supporters take offense at my labeling her as a carpetbagger, I'd suggest they reread their history. Not all carpetbaggers came to exploit conditions in the postbellum south; some were progressives dedicated to social change and made significant contributions, once in office.)
Many state propositions and local measures are also on the ballot, but I'll only take potshots at a few.
I assume, for example, that all our readers will vote for urban growth boundaries (UGB) ballot items for their communities, such as Measure O in Sebastopol. These regulations will go far to contain urban sprawl of our towns and cities.
One ballot item that I like to read for amusement is Prop. 207. "Just like some criminals who never learn, there are irresponsible lawyers who should be put out of business...207 punishes irresponsible lawyers who file three frivilous lawsuits -- they can lose their license." [Ballot Pamphlet, page 24]
Ha ha ha ha ha ha, as lawyers say, while cheating widows and orphans or kicking dew-eyed puppies.
If you think lawyers regularly lose their licenses, I'd suggest you scan the "Discipline Report" in any monthly issue of California Lawyer magazine, which shows that fewer than a handful are disbarred statewide each month -- and those are often for crimes that would send someone like you or me to the pokey for decades. No, the real pupose of this proposition is to kill lawyer's fee limits. Vote NO on 207. You just might want to vote against it twice.
There are two campaign reform propositions on the ballot, each claiming that it offers "serious" reform and the opposing bill is a sham. Read the arguments in the voter's guide and you'll be struck by the number of exclamation points in each! AND CAPITALIZATION! IN ITALICS!!!
In truth, both propositions are riddled with loopholes. You can't do this kind of reform by voter initiative; the solution is demanding that our elected officials rewrite the groundrules. (Yeah, right.) For something this important, we shouldn't accept such a flawed compromise. Vote NO on 208 and NO on 212.
Probably everyone knows about Prop 215, the "medical marijuana" item. And you probably also know about California Attorney General Dan Lundgren's raid of San Francisco Cannibis Buyer's Club in August. Are these items connected? Certainly -- but maybe in ways you don't expect.
At the time of the raid, Bob Dole still hadn't publicly announced his decision for Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. (Perhaps you recall that this was the last small measure of excitement that the GOP hoped to build before the convention.) Having been promoted as a rising Republican star for months, Lundgren was often mentioned as being on Dole's short list. Politicial insiders think that the raid was timed to put Lundgren on the national ballot -- at the cost of incredible misery to AIDS and cancer victims.
Lundgren also plays an important part in Prop 209, the so-called "California Civil Rights Initiative" (CCRI). It's just the opposite, of course; Prop 209 seeks to roll back decades worth of progress in all forms of affirmative action -- such a mockery of "Civil Rights" hasn't been seen outside the segregated south.
But in case you've forgotten, Lundgren won the right to censor the opposition's statement from the state Supreme Court.
While 209 will rip out affirmative action programs, the official summary against the initiative can mention only "preferential treatment." Polls show large support for the measure -- backing that disappears when voters are told that the initiative would weaken affirmative action.
So our Attorney General wants to keep voters ignorant and make the terminally-ill suffer for his own career advancement? Apparently so. Vote NO on 209 and YES on 215 -- if only to vote against Dan Lundgren.
As I hope is clear from reading Stephanie Hiller's superb series, "Fighting for Community," you should vote YES on Measure E. I also hope that her series and associated links will encourage you to vote YES on Propositions 214 and 216.
I was dismayed to find that both the Press Democrat and San Francisco Chronicle took strong positions against both propositions. [See October 7 and October 20 editions, respectively.] Don't their editors and publishers know that our hospitals are being ravaged by corporate management? Didn't they read the reports in the last year about fraud by laboratories, physicians, nursing homes, and hospitals, sometimes with the complicity of insurance companies?
Maybe those reporters didn't see those stories; after all, the Albion Monitor was the only media in the country reporting on Medicare and nursing home scams.
Personally, I'd like to believe that it was ignorance that led them to oppose 214 and 216. I would hate to think that they were influenced by those expensive, full page ads promoting HMO's and hospitals that have frequently appeared recently.
As a voter, you expect that your newspaper delivers information in an unbiased manner -- or at least, identify its leanings. Can you trust media that takes large payments from corporations that have vested interests in an election?
I don't think so. And I don't believe you do, either. You can't be neutral if you take money from an interested party. And that's the primary reason the Albion Monitor has a prominent "NO ADS!" logo on the front page.
If you're the statistically-average reader, you're not a subscriber to the Albion Monitor. You're going to scan this editorial and another story or two and then depart, never to return. Why? Because we ask readers without monitor.net accounts to subscribe for $9.95 per year. Except most of you don't want to pay and disappear, never to be seen again.
News -- like everything else -- has a price. In almost all other Internet resources, that price is advertising. So here's a final thing to vote against: Internet ads on news web pages, and the potential influence that comes with them. Vote with your subscription and support to the Albion Monitor.
But even if you prefer want Internet news free (and possibly biased), vote on November 5. Vote for Ralph Nader, or any other candidates that won't give your conscience fits. Vote against those propositions and politicians that seem dishonest. Vote against the measures that seem mean-spirited. or the politicians that appear plainly mean. Perhaps because of the bland men at the top of the ballot, this is a tough election to generate much excitement for -- but in years to come, we'll regret our misguided votes, and even more, the votes we forgot to cast.
Jeff Elliott, Editor
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