A Lefty speculates on Al Gore's possible Manic Depression, Bill Clinton's likeability (NOT) and Dubya's boils.

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Alexander Cockburn

Daryn, Mistress of Pain

The discrediting of America’s electoral procedures continues at a satisfactory pace, to the gratification of the rest of the world, long wearied by self-righteous lectures from Washington about appropriate democratic procedures. The South African press suggested last week that African nations should send observers to help the United States "join the established democracies," a call echoed with malicious glee in the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s own electoral conduct had been decried by Washington with sniffy comment to the effect that its general election last June had "fallen short of free and fair."

One prime consequence of the whole affair has been the flowering of Daryn Kagan, with whom I have an exciting rendezvous each morning at 6 a.m. West Coast time. Not usually an avid CNN watcher, I’d previously regarded Kagan and the man she ambiguously describes as her "partner," Bill Hemmer, as undistinguished coanchors on CNN Morning News, she altogether too chirpy and kittenish, as against the long-tressed slutty girls on CNN Headline News like Lynne Russell. But since Hemmer was dispatched to Tallahassee, Kagan has come into her own, cruel eyes flashing above her imperious cheekbones. After allowing her to solo anchor for several delicious days, CNN news producers imported a stand-in for Hemmer, whom Kagan didn’t even deign to notice or refer to by name.

Maybe she overreached. Hastening to our rendez on Monday I was crushed to find two new and entirely undistinguished coanchors with Kagan nowhere to be seen. I love her, I tell you.

Al as Manic-Depressive

And Al? My feeling that he has been hyper-manic amid the Florida count is buttressed by this communication from a friend in the Midwest. "I’ve sometimes wondered if Gore’s self aggrandizing lies are a symptom of the manic phase of a manic-depressive illness. The other day I was arguing with one of our more distinguished faculty members and was just about to truck the idea out, saying ‘Those lies...’ when he interrupted me with, ‘Oh, that’s manic-depression,’ adding, before I could express the lovely satisfaction one feels when a baseless notion is validated. ‘Not a big deal. I’m manic-depressive. Means I get a lot done–even if I drive my staff nuts.’ He then said (as he dashed off in a characteristically manic way), ‘He couldn’t have a severe case or people would notice that he’s medicated.’ It seems to me though that people have noticed that Gore occasionally seems (over)medicated."

Admittedly, we should be cautious of such offhand diagnoses, but this interpretation does explain a lot about Gore–although as a friend points out, most bipolars, during a manic episode, engage in reckless, pleasure-seeking behavior with disastrous consequences such as dangerous sex, drunk driving, shoplifting and so forth (though you could easily argue that running for president is a reckless, pleasure-seeking activity with disastrous consequences). Here are some relevant definitions from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, 1994.

"Criteria for Manic Episode"--

"A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).

"B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree: 1. inflated self-esteem or grandiosity. 2. decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep). 3. more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking. 4. flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing. 5. distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli). 6. increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation. 7. excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)."

There’s been virtually no speculation about Al’s psychic equilibrium, which makes one wonder about Tipper’s recent eagerness to advertise her own depressive episodes. Perhaps this has been a strategy designed at least in part to distract attention from Al’s zigzags between manic arrogance and numbed withdrawal. Recall his disastrous comportment in the first and second debates. To be sure, there is no advantage to Gore’s opponents to ascribe his behavior to disease when it’s much more easily and effectively attributed to vanity and habitual deceit.

Anyway, it’s risky to suggest disease when the signs are so ambiguous and not necessarily "abnormal." On the irritability factor, noted by DSMIV as part of the manic phase, Gore is notoriously irritable and unpleasant toward his staff.

He Always Lets You Down

How like Bill Clinton to extinguish one of the very few reasons why one could retain any liking for the man; to wit, his opposition to America’s war in Vietnam. As he prepared to visit that country last week, Clinton disclosed that he now sees no reason for any apologies to Vietnam and that he understands and sympathizes with LBJ. Maybe once he survived the Lewinsky affair, Clinton swore he’d never apologize again.

This inability to express any regrets for destroying a country and killing about two million of its inhabitants has marked every president. In the course of one of his sermons on human rights, Jimmy Carter was asked whether the United States had a "moral obligation to help rebuild" Vietnam. Not at all, said Carter. "The destruction was mutual." Since "we went to Vietnam without any desire...to impose American will on other people," but only "to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese," and since in any event "the destruction was mutual," there is no reason for us, in Carter’s virtuous words, to "apologize or to castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability." There’s mutuality for you. We bombed their villages and they shot down our planes.

A generation later Clinton lectures Vietnam about freedom, which in practical terms spells out as the freedom to have teenagers earn 10 cents an hour glueing together Nikes.

David Brower & Rachel Carson

Hardly had David Brower passed on before his inveterate foes at the Sierra Club headquarters were, figuratively, pissing on the grave of America’s great green. At a board meeting of the 600,000-strong club, held in San Francisco last weekend, Brower’s protege Chad Hansen, who has been a militant board member for the past few years, was slapped with a resolution of censure for declaring in an e-mail message his support of the Nader candidacy.

Ironically, that very same day the club’s board had passed a formal resolution honoring Brower, whose last act before dying had been to record an absentee ballot for Nader. The formal position of the club’s board, needless to say, had been to endorse Gore.

On the topic of America’s great green champions, I’ve been rereading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, first published in 1962. At that time insecticides had a great deal of arsenic in them, and Carson pointed out that such insecticides (which she said were highly carcinogenic) stayed in the soil: "The arsenic content of cigarettes made from American grown tobacco increased more than three hundred per cent between years 1932 and 1952. Later studies have shown increases of as much as 600 per cent... The soils of tobacco plantations are now thoroughly impregnated with residues of a heavy and relatively insoluble poison, arsenate of lead. This will continue to release arsenic in soluble form. Tobacco grown in the eastern Mediterranean countries where arsenical insecticides are not used has shown no such increase in arsenic content." Not long after Carson died the whole debate over the carcinogenic properties of cigarettes took a different direction, and I’ve seen no reference to the arsenic angle in the intervening years.

This brings us back to Al Gore, who once manically told the Democratic Convention in 1996 that when his sister Nacy died of lung cancer in 1984 he swore by her bed he’d battle the tobacco companies from that moment on, and reject tobacco money. As we all know, he went on taking such money for another seven years, and when this delay was exposed he ascribed it to psychic numbing caused by his sister’s death.

Gore opened his presidential campaign with a pilgrimage to Carson’s homestead in Pennsylvania. Her grave is in Rockville, Md, though in fact only half her ashes are there. Her desire had been to have these ashes scattered over the sea off the coast of Maine. But her brother wanted a state funeral in Maryland. Finally he was induced to surrender 50 percent of the ashes for dispersal off the Maine coast, keeping the remnants for a ceremony his sister would have greatly disdained.

War of The Plasters

Supporters of George W. are apparently wearing a band-aid on their upper right cheeks in honor of their man, who himself has been sporting just such a piece of facial decoration, supposedly because of a boil, no doubt prompted by stress.

Mad people often wear plasters. As a child I used to see a local woman in Youghal who wore a piece of plaster on her nose. In her case mental instability was also advertised by the horse’s bridle over her head.

I hope New York Press supremo Russ Smith is loyally wearing his plaster as we await the outcome of the race and hence the resolution of our wager. My present posture is to await the vote of the Electoral College before seeing which way our $1000 Gore/Bush bet should travel. Same for the other $1000 in contention between myself and John Fund, also bet on the Bush/Gore race. But who knows? The case may be making its way onto the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. As matters stand, Russ does owe me $250, since HRC romped home to victory. I scan the mailbox eagerly, day by day. Nothing so far.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), November 21, 2000


sexual indiscretions

Hmmm, this would explain that kiss.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), November 21, 2000.

What prattle, Lars. I was REALLY hoping for an article by a liberal.

BTW, since WHEN did kissing one's WIFE become an indiscretion?

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), November 21, 2000.

IMHO Prince Al has a poor diet: too much refined sugar and caffeine, without enough whole foods. I suspect he takes laxatives, as well. My point? This situation can contribute to symptoms that mimic bi-polar disorder. If he changed his diet, in about three weeks or so, he act "normal," I'd wager.

-- (raven@never.more), November 21, 2000.


To my knowledge, Cockburn is a Socialist. That certainly makes him a Lefty. I'll defer to you as to whether that makes him a Liberal.

No, I don't think it is an indiscretion to kiss a spouse---but to do it for 5 minutes on national TV and with all those tongues?!


I don't know anything about Al's diet. You make it sound like he dines with Clinton. (Was that Al in the Krispy Kreme scene with Bill in Primary Colors)?

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), November 21, 2000.


It seems to me you're the one who claimed to never have seen that kiss. *I* saw it, and saw it MANY times. It didn't last 5 minutes, and there were NO tongues shown. In fact, it reminded me very much of the spontaneous kisses that my dad would smack on my mom after [taking a minute to count how long my mom and dad had been married at the time] 35 years!

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), November 21, 2000.


You have a remarkable memory. I did once say that I had not seen "the kiss". But later, I did see it at a private showing by an esteemed member of the NRA. What I saw was the original, uncut video which showed a wild-eyed Al kissing an aroused Tipperita. We timed it--the kiss lasted 6.35 min and there were tongues everywhere. It only ended when Al's handlers threw a bucket of cold water on them.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), November 21, 2000.


LOL. Good one! No doubt the skin on both was reptilian, and the tongues were long, thin, and darting. Someday, when I get Realplayer fixed and have time to spare, I'll have to check out Rense's site. I'm sure I can see something similar to what I've described.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), November 21, 2000.

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