Bobbitt Politics 

No wonder people like the Rev. Jesse Jackson have turned sarcastic about American "leadership."VbCrLf

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While it's difficult to say which presidential candidate is pedaling the hardest away from his primary positions, only Barack Obama has his most "deep and unequivocal?VbCrLf supporter expressing the wish-it-was-a-secret desire to morph into Lorena Bobbitt.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's not-quite-off-mic concept of removing Obama's privates reminds me of a woman at the last meeting of my Peak Oil group.

"Barack's Republican lite,?VbCrLf she said without a hint of pride. Or amusement.

Is it any wonder that we're becoming cynical about our politics when the man behind "change you can believe in?VbCrLf decides to change toward the status quo? Here he is backpedaling toward George Bush on "faith-based?VbCrLf and Iraq in much the same way that Bush back-pedaled toward Bill Clinton on Korea and "nation-building?VbCrLf and Clinton back-pedaled toward anybody with money in his promised "most honest?VbCrLf administration in history.

It makes me yearn for the good old days of smoke-filled rooms and senators elected by state legislators. Certainly, the candidates' turnarounds couldn't have been so complete that a "deep?VbCrLf supporter thought castration might be in order in the days when it was considered uncool for a presidential contender to leave his front porch during the campaign.

That system gave us Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, while the primarily primary system has contributed Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Papa Bush.

The guys with the cigars win hands down. Nobody in those days rented out the Lincoln Bedroom to heavy-hitting campaign contributors or trolled airport bathrooms looking for a good time, did they?ÿ

And with those old guys, you at least knew where they stood. As proof, I submit the book "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, Delivered by Ex-senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Philosopher, from His Rostrum - the New York County Court House Bootblack Stand.?VbCrLf

George Washington Plunkitt, a New York state senator, declared right up front that while others went into law or medicine to make a buck, he went into politics. Unlike Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, furthermore, his cash wasn't hidden in the freezer. He collected it out in the open via "honest graft?VbCrLf - no bag man or bundler required.

Plunkitt's distinction between "honest?VbCrLf and "dishonest?VbCrLf graft could find traction today. Think: Obama getting a better rate on his mortgage because of insider gardening with a convicted felon or John McCain picking up the phone for savings-and-loan scammer Charles Keating.

All three, Plunkitt included, are too smart to get caught with their hands in the public till.ÿ

Instead, in Plunkitt's day, when New York City wanted to build a bridge across the East River, it discovered the land on both sides was owned by George Washington Plunkitt. The swamp that was due to become a state park? Plunkitt owned that, too. Need building bricks for New York City's federal courthouse, Uncle Sam? Meet Plunkitt, the sole contractor.

No dishonest graft involved - or cynicism produced - because Plunkitt, remember, told the voters he was in politics for the money.

"Somehow, I always guessed about right, and shouldn't I enjoy the profit of my foresight??VbCrLf Plunkitt explained. "I haven't confined myself to land; anything that pays is in my line.?VbCrLfÿ

Today, that payment's for "access?VbCrLf and gives us people like Jack Abramoff while ensuring an unending supply of lobbyists, 527 hate groups and bundlers of campaign contributions. No wonder the woman at my Peak Oil meeting and?_the Rev. Jesse Jackson have turned sarcastic about American political "leadership.?VbCrLfÿ

ÿWhile it's still bizarre that Jackson is a "wide, deep and unequivocal?VbCrLf supporter of a man he'd like to see castrated - why not just vote for Hillary? - the good old days of cigar smoke had to be better than this.

"I want to say that I don't own a dishonest dollar,?VbCrLf Plunkitt reminded his constituents. "If my worst enemy was given the job of writin' my epitaph when I'm gone, he couldn't do more than write: ?~George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Opportunities, and He Took 'Em.'?VbCrLf

Just like Lorena Bobbit saw her opportunity when hubby John Wayne Bobbit was asleep and she took it. S

?_Randy Salzman is a former journalism teacher at Virginia Union University and a transportation researcher who lives in Charlottesville. ÿOpinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.




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