Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In Cambodia’s Emerging Democracy - It is Up with the Huns and Hors and Down with the Princes and Princesses

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
And now come the days – or better – a continuance of the days of the Huns and Hors, and with them, the downward spiral of the Princes and Princesses. What I mean by this is the Huns, as in HUN Sen, and the Hors, as in HOR Namhong. Mr. Hun Sen is the leader of the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia; in fact, he has officially held a Prime Minister position of some form, under a Cambodian government of some form, since 1985. Mr. Hor is Mr. Hun’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and longtime member of the CPP. The CPP is and will remain the ruling and most powerful political party in Cambodia’s emerging "democracy". Cambodians recently had their fourth national election since the official end of the civil war and signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements. Those first post-war and pro-peace elections were in 1993 and held under the war ending, peace keeping and nation building efforts of UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia). The Huns and Hors have been bludgeoning and beating any political opposition ever since in the best form of any of the post-Colonial, neo-Communist, pseudo-Democratic, pro-Capitalist, Asian strongmen.

Mr. Hun’s, along with his legions represented by his Foreign Minister, Mr. Hor, main rival for power during these early years of Cambodia’s post-war transitional development has been the wily Prince Norodom Ranariddh (and the perhaps more sophisticated and durable opponent, Mr. Sam Rainsy; but first we address the Prince who is more central to this article), former leader of the FUNCINPEC political party. FUNCINPEC is the French abbreviation for Front Uni National pour un Cambodge IndĂ©pendant, Neutre, Pacifique, et CoopĂ©ratif, which in English translates to National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia. It has been called the royalist party because it emerged out of the political movement founded by the Prince’s father, the one time Prince and King Norodom Sihanouk (Sihanouk, now in his retirement is called the King Father, and is an enormous and multi-faceted figure in modern Cambodian history and politics and any considerations on him is much for another writing, if not a multi-volume set), and many of its members and supporters are from Cambodian royal families. The history of Cambodia’s monarchy goes back to the mighty Angkorian Empire of the 9th through 15th centuries of this our Common Era, whose ruins and history form the backbone of Cambodia’s tourism industry. Now those times witnessed some very powerful Princes, who would become the God-Kings. From all that can be fairly garnered, the godlike status of the monarchy has faded in strength along with its politicians, that is, except among some true believers.

As we've said, the Khmers went to the polls, on July 27th, in the third election since that first UN experience of 1993 to vote in the members of their fourth Parliament, called the National Assembly, and with it, the next government. With the result tallied, it is more than clear that Prince Ranariddh has now been reduced to barely a leader in exile – usually in France and lately in Malaysia – an all but feckless and minimally symbolic political force that has been trounced and cast aside by the Huns and Hors, as well as many of those formerly under the Prince’s leadership within FUNCINPEC. The Prince’s, and along with him many a Princess’s, downfall has been unfolding for years primarily because of his direct clash with the Huns and Hors.

The writing was well on the wall following those first UNTAC supervised elections when FUNCINPEC won the most votes, 54 to the CPP's 51, in the 120 seat National Assembly. The newly freer and more peaceful masses had spoken, and as the head of the party with the largest number of seats gained, the Prince staked his claim to the Prime Minister’s position. Yet in short order Hun Sen muscled the Prince to concede to him a position and title as a Co-Prime Minister, if nominally labeled, the Second Co-Prime Minister. Demanding a right to be an equal at the head of the government or risk the unraveling of the hard fought peace dividend, Mr. Hun, along with Mr. Hor and his other strong supporters, not to mention a pliant international community, was able to demand and receive a position at the very top. A recipe for feuds and failure, the rivalry and contempt led to tension and machinations, some involving alliance with remaining Khmer Rouge, that ultimately boiled over to urban warfare between the Co-Prime Ministers and their armed factions in Phnom Penh by July of 1997. The Prince promptly fled the country. It was a form of coup d’etat, another one in Cambodia’s post-independence history involving a royalist being overthrown.

The overthrow of Prince Sihanouk’s government in 1970 by the American backed Khmer Republicans escalated the Communist revolution that led to the victories and horrors of the Khmer Rouge and regime of Democratic Kampuchea. That coup plunged Cambodia into its darkest days and decades of civil war and strife, which was only put to an end in the 1997-1998 timeframe with the emergence of the Huns and Hors dominant position in regards to state security, military and political forces and clout. It was during the upheaval in July of 1997 that Hun Sen and all the forces loyal to him began the final push to seriously marginalize the royalists, still led by the Prince, and then following the suppression of the Prince, end the resistance still posed by a defeated but surviving and thus still threatening Khmer Rouge movement. Pol Pot died of natural causes in 1998, and the rest of the Rouges put down their arms and came over through negotiations and amnesties, and others through arrest and detention.

The elections of 1998 and then 2003 resulted in further wins for the Huns and Hors, but still not by the margins needed to avoid any accommodation with the Princes and Princesses, again most notably represented by Ranariddh. Coalition governments, yet more dominated by the Huns and Hors, were a necessity to avoid total gridlock or more pitched battles. Upon my arrival to Phnom Penh in July of 2003, just before that election, I was amazed as time went on and it took almost an entire year for the Huns and Hors, and the Princes and Princesses, to come together to put together yet another form of a “coalition” government. Despite the superficial look of co-existence, the final assault on the Prince had begun in earnest. It was during this third mandate which saw a steady erosion of the Prince’s hold onto and place in power, resulting in his removal from his key positions as President of the National Assembly and leader of FUNCINPEC. He has been ousted, forced again into exile, tried and convicted in absentia for criminal Breach of Trust related to the sale of property allegedly owned by FUNCINPEC that netted the Prince many millions of dollars. It was General Niek Bun Chhay, another leading force in FUNCINPEC who led the revolt against the Prince. Bun Chhay was the Commander of the royalist forces that got whooped by those most loyal to Mr. Hun in the 1997 coup and battles that forced the issue. Hence, the Prince prefers to stay outside of Cambodia for fear of having to answer the Breach of Trust charges and conviction of 18 months in the big house plus millions in compensation that have been finally affirmed by Cambodia’s highest court, the notoriously not so independent Supreme Court. (It so happens that the Executive Director of my NGO, Mr. SOK Sam Oeun, actually represented the Prince in the Appeal and Supreme Courts and the proverbial show trials put on therein; why the Chief Judge refused to read the judgment at the Supreme Court claiming he was too sick, with perhaps the not so subtle reference being made to the fix that was in.) For the record, going into this last election, the new FUNCINPEC party head, slated to be Prime Minister should a miracle happen, was none other than Her Royal Highness, Princess Norodom Arunrasmey. So while the Prince was out, this time the Princess was in, or not, as events would have it.

In the clash of the ever ascendant Huns and Hors with the reeling and groping Princes and Princesses, Bun Chhay well exemplifies the powerful opportunists who have gone over, if not explicitly, to the Huns and Hors. He himself barely survived July of 1997 as the Commander of the Prince’s army. Legend has it that though his, and the Prince’s, forces were routed, Bun Chhay was blessed by magical powers, in the form of his sacred tattoos and relationships to certain holy men, at times invisible to his armed nemeses, and thus escaped the conflict to live another day. (The Cambodians are a very superstitious people.) Bun Chhay has aligned himself with the Huns and Hors, and under his and their thumb the Prince and Princesses long and scheme for some sense of connection to and influence within the political transformation and evolution of post-conflict Cambodia where security, stability and economic development rule the day! We should note that the Prince and Princess aren’t necessarily on the best of terms either as based on a new criminal law against Adultery (a law some surmise was enacted by the Huns and Hors with the main purpose to further target their antagonist number one), charges were brought against the Prince by his Princess - is nothing sacred? It’s a rhetorical question.

Once ousted by his own party, to no great surprise even while in exile, in a last ditch effort to stay in the political arena and spotlight prior to the fourth national election, the Prince started his own party, called – are you ready - the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). You cannot miss the Prince’s handsome face in the NRP’s logo. Many a Cambodian will point out that he is the only political leader whose face shows up prominently directly in the middle of a political party’s logo. Though being an American, I kind of fancy the posters of the CPP which alongside the logo do show the faces of their three founding fathers, Gentlemen and Comrades: Hang Samrin, Hun Sen and Chea Sim. Mr. Hang is the Honorary President of the CPP and replaced the Prince as President of the National Assembly, and Mr. Sim is the President of the Senate. Years from now these men may just be looked upon in a way the Yanks do their George Washingtons, John Adams, and Thomas Jeffersons – though it is fairly certain that these Cambodian patriarch’s record will not lead to legends praising their honesty and embracing of Enlightenment political theory, and they are after all from exactly the same post-Colonial, Communist military and political movement which began as the National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea. These three former Khmer Rouge cadres from the Eastern Zone, under the threat of purge and "smashing" at the Killing Fields, allied themselves with the newly victorious Army of Vietnam to reclaim Cambodia from the outrages and atrocities of the Pol Pot led Angkar. And by the looks of things, it appears almost beyond a shadow of doubt that the United Front turned People’s Party has won on all fronts.

So the Prince silently stares at Cambodia from his defeated party’s logo, while the Huns and Hors proclaim their victory over all would be challengers and the land. And there are other challengers, lest we not be fair and far sighted. These too have found it equally difficult and dangerous to take on the Huns and Hors. The afore-mentioned Mr. Sam Rainsy, whose party also bears his name as the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), long has been on the Cambodian political scene and is as vocal a critic of, and a threat to, the Huns and Hors as any political rival has been and could be these days. Mr. Rainsy and his supporters are often harmed, imprisoned and, in fact, murdered, because of their willingness to exercise and demand free speech, expression and assembly, rights that are explicitly enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution and International human rights treaties that Cambodia’s separate, equal and independent branches of government are bound to uphold and enforce. As the Princes and Princesses go down, Mr. Rainsy, perhaps Cambodia’s only true Democrat of any substance and track record (though there are some others, namely Mr. Kem Sokha, leader of the newly formed Human Rights Party (HRP) who might beg to differ), manages to gain traction and, indeed, votes. Despite Sam Rainsy crying foul regarding a number of irregularities that if the election review process was truly fair and independent would tend to show actual illegality and change the outcome to provide more seats for the SRP and less for the CPP, the vote will be confirmed with the following results: CPP, 90 seats; SRP, 26 seats; HRP, 3 seats; NRP, 2 seats; FUNCINPEC, 2 seats. In the last election it was FUNCINPEC that received 26 seats, with SRP holding its own at 24. This loss has been dramatic. In a shrewd manuever, during the last mandate, the Huns and Hors, with the endorsement of the SRP, changed the law to allow a government to be formed by a Party having a simple majority of seats in the National Assembly as opposed to the two thirds originally needed, a formula which necessitated all the untenable coalitions.

With these results, the march of the Huns and Hors strengthens as they reign supreme. As a genuine political force, the Princes and Princesses are falling from grace, perhaps never to be rehabilitated in Cambodia’s changing society. Like their logo of a lighted candle, the SRP’s flame shines brighter, potentially along with that of the HRP whose name plainly states what it claims to stand for. Only time will tell, but if one surveys the beauty and bounty of this fascinating Southeast Asian nation in its regional political context, I wouldn't expect the Huns and Hors rise to end any time too soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The ECCC, We Shall See

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The date of April 17th recently past marks the anniversary of the Khmer Rouge forces taking control of the government and territory of Cambodia. The year they did so was 1975. The Khmer Rouge were the Cambodian Communists, who had been waging and winning a civil war in the countryside, and who finally closed in on the capital of Phnom Penh and the government and forces loyal to Marshall Lon Nol, which called itself the Khmer Republic. Five years earlier, Lon Nol had overthrown, in what has often been called a coup d’etat, the regime headed by one of Cambodia’s major historical figures, Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk largely is credited with successfully maneuvering Cambodia to independence from the French in 1953. (Funny enough, the official Independence Day is November 9th, my birthday; when I first told this to my Executive Director, who is Cambodian and survived the Khmer Rouge times, he looked at me with amused eyes and said, “it’s a sign”- very superstitious.) In that infamous year of 1975, the Communist forces of Vietnam also claimed their victory over the forces of South Vietnam that had formerly been supported by the U.S. It was the same with the Khmer Republic. The U.S. government sided with that regime, which from most accounts was not only notoriously corrupt and incompetent, but whose policy and actions were often determined with the assistance of astrologers and spiritualists of sorts. They never stood a chance against the hardcore fanatics led by Pol Pot and his gang, who it is worth noting, had the ideological and military support of Chairman Mao’s China. Cambodia and the world would soon know the full wrath of this particular revolution, and April 17, 1975 stands as one of those inglorious dates in the history of man’s awesome inhumanity to man.

So it is that now, all these years later, a court has been established in the reborn Kingdom of Cambodia with the very targeted mandate to bring to justice some of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge who in number you can count with, at most, half to all the fingers on your two hands. Brother Number 1, Saloth Sar, whose nomme de guerre was Pol Pot, the unquestioned leader of the Khmer Rouge movement, died in 1998. Yet a handful of others still live, though they are advanced in years and some in poor health, to face a form of justice, and they are, namely: Brother Number 2, Nuon Chea, Deputy Secretary of the KR’s Central Committee and member of its Standing Committee, the highest decision making bodies; Ieng Sary, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister; Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, in charge of culture, social welfare, and jointly responsible with her husband for foreign affairs; Khieu Samphan, Chairman of the State Presidium; and, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, head of Khmer Rouge internal security and prison camps, particularly the Phnom Penh high school turned prison and torture center known as S-21. All of them are now charged with Crimes Against Humanity and some with other international humanitarian crimes, in pre-trial detention, and being investigated by the court, which is officially called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC, because everything in Cambodia takes an acronym, you see. Along these lines, it is also often called the KRT, which stands for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. I prefer to use KRT when speaking about the court; all those Cs get one’s tongue tied, though many in Cambodia’s development scene have taken to calling it the E triple C, which is kind of catchy.

There has been and will be much debate and discussion about this juridical animal, the ECCC, that has been set up to try the vicious animals, of the human variety, that still live while millions perished or live with the devastating memories and deep wounds caused by their mad policies and practices. At the heart of the debate is whether the ECCC will fulfill its mandate in a manner that can be objectively viewed as fair and public, competent, independent and impartial. The ECCC has been called a hybrid tribunal because it operates through a combined effort of Cambodian administrative, legal and judicial personnel with the support and assistance of international personnel. The Cambodian side has been given top titles and authority and make up a majority of the various court chambers of first instance and appeal, though the ECCC is almost entirely funded by the United Nations and its member states. This arrangement was the result of relatively hard fought and drawn out negotiations between representatives of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations. The Cambodian government was insistent that the ECCC remain, in the majority, a court of local substance and characteristics. The U.N.’s side of the court took the acronym UNAKRT, which stands for the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The ECCC’s hybrid structure makes it different than the tribunals that have been established to address the slaughters that took place in the Balkans (most notably Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Rwanda in the 1990s, as those have been funded, staffed and operated exclusively under the mandate and authority of the United Nations.

A major issue for those of us who are familiar with the Cambodian approach to criminal justice is that it is widely known for its corruption and failure to adhere to many fundamental standards of due process of law and fair trial. The Cambodian criminal justice system is modeled in large part on the French civil law inquisitorial system and in many respects this system, particularly the Cambodian developing country version, deals with certain key criminal procedure and rights in a manner quite different than the Anglo-American common law adversarial system. Of note, the presumption of innocence, right to remain silent and right to confront witnesses through cross-examination and have all evidence for and against the accused fairly and fully examined, or what can be called the “equality of arms”, are in too many cases dealt with in a way that gives short shrift to the importance these rights play in safe guarding values that underpin the overarching right to liberty. Charges against an individual suspected of criminal wrongdoing are brought by a Prosecutor who then hands the case over to an Investigating Judge. It is then up to the Investigating Judge to more thoroughly investigate in order to ascertain the truth of the matter, and decide whether the charges should be dismissed or be carried over to a trial before a panel of trial judges, who sit as both judges of the facts and law.

Day to day reality in the normal domestic Cambodian system demonstrates that the Prosecutors and Judges, for all intents and purposes, become the criminal procedure, law and standards of due process. In other words, despite what is the letter of the law or a reasonable interpretation thereof, and the credible evidence before them, these judicial “officers” will do what they want and human rights advocates are often seriously stifled in their attempt to seek redress or reform for clear violations of procedure and human rights. Most of the sitting Cambodian judges received their education from Communist or Socialist countries and are beholden to the whims of the ruling party of Cambodia, the Cambodian Peoples Party (acronym: CPP), which has and will continue to dominate the government – and with it the political and economic development - of Cambodia. Many of the longtime and present core leadership of the CPP were cadres of the Khmer Rouge that took over Cambodia in 1975, though they later made the strategic move to revolt against the Party center and Pol Pot’s leadership and take the revolution in a different direction with the military and political support of the recently victorious Vietnamese forces. They called this new force the National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea and their enemy became the Pol Pot – Ieng Sary clique. The alliance between the United Front and the Vietnamese led in short order to the defeat of the Pol Pot – Ieng Sary clique and the removal of them from their dominant political and military control by January of 1979.

Yet there continued civil war and conflict and Vietnamese domination until the end of the 1980s. With the crumbling of the Soviet grip on the international Communist movement, the time was right in the early 1990’s for a U.N. brokered peace initiative. What followed was the multi-billion dollar peacekeeping and nation building mission under the United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia, or keeping to our acronym loving ways, UNTAC. The first elections were held in 1993 under the auspices of UNTAC, and have been held every five years since then, with the next round to be held this July, where again, the CPP surely will continue its lock on the government. Notwithstanding the efforts of the international community to rebuild and strengthen Cambodia’s justice system to the tune of many millions of dollars in development aid during and since UNTAC, impunity and domination by the executive branch remains the norm in Cambodia. When a powerful or connected party is directly or indirectly involved in a matter, as is often the case, there is and cannot be proper due process of law and fair trial. It is this rule of law defying strength of impunity that many will assert is a legacy, in part, of the Khmer Rouge experience and the failure to definitively address the multiplicity of crimes committed up and down the chain of command.

Thus, these five leaders of this notorious regime, who joined together to wreak such havoc on this beautiful Southeast Asian country and people, stand charged, and we shall see how this special court, with very local features and characteristics and funding and assistance from the international community, will handle its special duties. So far, the record is quite mixed - not surprisingly. Independent auditors and watchdogs have hammered away at the Cambodian hiring practices, court management, accountability and transparency standards, and there have been direct allegations of Cambodian staff having to give kickbacks to officials higher up. The jurisprudence on the limited number of contentious issues that have come before the court so far has shown a reasonable measure of acceptable legal and judicial analysis and openness, but also in some instances flawed reasoning and decision making.

And now, though it seems that the ECCC proceedings have only just gotten underway, the court is already at a very serious crossroads. Despite all the years of wrangling and ability to prepare among the relevant Cambodian government and U.N. officials, it now has been determined that the original budget of $56 million is inadequate and the original time frame of three years to complete the job is too short. Proposals to increase the budget by $114 million and extend the mandate to 2011 are with the appropriate representatives at the United Nations. The governing documents of the ECCC require that the trials take place in a fair and expeditious manner, yet as it potentially runs out of money, these Khmer Rouge leaders and executioners sit in provisional detention cells, and wait, along with the rest of us, most notably the millions of victims, for the course of this ECCC to grind on toward some legitimate end.

The questions loom very large indeed as to how this all will unfold, these thirty plus years since Pol Pot and his henchman claimed their military and ideological victory over the Khmer Republic and began their reign of terror over the peoples of Kampuchea. This reign of terror still goes on in many ways in the hearts, minds and souls of millions and continues to cast its sick shadow over the developing Kingdom of Cambodia as it struggles and strives to find its place in the larger geo-political and economic transformation of Asia that has us all looking to the east, often with wonder and awe.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Impeachment of Hillary Rodham Clinton

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Those of you who know me well, know that I have always enjoyed following and discussing matters of history and politics. In this vein, I think it is fitting that my first posting on this blog should focus on a subject that is near and dear to my heart. So, it should come as no surprise to you that I have been following fairly closely and with interest the events surrounding the American Presidential campaign over the last so many, many months. Frankly, though I have been quite impressed and to some extent excited, for a number of compelling reasons, by the candidacy of Barack Obama, until now, I have felt somehow more aligned with the campaign and candidacy of Mrs. Clinton. But now, unfortunately, things have changed. The time has come, in this very important and close race, in my opinion, for Mrs. Clinton to take a big step back, consider what's best for the country, and hand the nomination over to her surely younger and less experienced, but surely very energetic, intelligent, multi-dimensional and leading rival for the Democratic party nomination, Mr. Obama.

Mrs. Clinton must do this for the following fundamental reason: Before she has even obtained the Democratic party nomination, not to mention won the general election and actually set foot in the White House as Commander in Chief, she already has been impeached. No, because she is not President just yet she has not been brought up on charges by the House of Representatives pursuant to the Constitution for high crimes and misdemeanors, as was her man, William Jefferson, when he was the Head of State. She has not been impeached in that manner. She has been, however, impeached by the media before the court of not only American but worldwide public opinion.

The kind of impeachment I am talking about is more like that which takes place in the context of cross-examination in the Anglo-American adversarial system of justice. For basic purposes of illustrating the point, a kind of law school 101 on cross-X, let's assume that the Prosecutor's main witness in a case, we’ll call him Shady, claims that the street lights on the corner where he witnessed the accused repeatedly stabbing the victim were working fine, thus providing sufficient lighting for him to make out the facial and other relevant physical features of the assailant who is now facing a significant number of years in prison based on the alleged aggravated assault. During cross examination, the defense lawyer makes sure to get Shady, the key witness, to re-confirm his story regarding the working of the lights and to further draw out that if in fact the lights were not working, it would have been difficult for Shady to make out the features of the assailant with such confidence and certainty. Shady so confirms and commits to his story and the clarification of the defense lawyer. Then, the lawyer presents records from the utility company that show without question that, in fact, on that day and time, the lights were not on as so stated because they were undergoing repair. This is classic impeachment. Shady’s credibility has been destroyed and everything else he has said to support the Prosecution’s case is now for all intents and purposes useless, assuming a reasonable and rational jury.

Are we not, as American citizens, in ways the judges and juries during this political campaign? We are the people, who must hold our political representatives accountable, for it is our government. If we are rational and reasonable, can we conclude otherwise than that Mrs. Clinton’s credibility, at a minimum, has been severely crippled and weakened, and at this most crucial juncture of the race and time for the American body politic. The video of Mrs. Clinton's speech about her mission to Bosnia in 1996 shows one thing, and the video and facts surrounding what actually happened upon the landing of her plane, indeed, plainly shows a very different, actually opposite, thing. A picture says a thousand words I have heard it said, and something is wrong with this picture. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as the potential first woman President running against the potential first man of color to be President, is now caught outright in a lie as she ridiculously distorts the record in order to appear that she was a brave and daring public official as first lady landing and exiting her plane in Bosnia during war and under fire. Well not quite - mission not quite accomplished, and trust me, I don’t really want to go there; that may be for a totally different but nonetheless related blog, as it goes to the heart of whether we are all, once again, again, and again, being lied to by our leaders, prospective or incumbent.

To make things worse with Hillary's situation, we’ve been through it all too much already with the Clintons and their impeachable ways. Are we heading for the Hill and Bill show redux? We know how Bill, Hill's beautiful, brilliant husband, spent all of all of his run for and two terms as President trying to avoid lawsuits, prosecutions and convictions in the media, courts of law and the U.S. Congress – and we all know that his only real crime was that of being a bit of a sex maniac and philanderer, and when it was all exposed and coming down on him, he took actions as the leader of the "free world" to protect his family and the American public from the unfolding soap opera and salacious details that could and would potentially follow. Truly though, who could have imagined cum shots on blue dresses, blow jobs in the oval office and the use of at least one cigar, and a Cuban Cohiba at that I believe (perhaps the use of this delicious Communist tobacco product was what truly inspired the wrath of the radical right wing conspiracy that Mrs. Clinton claimed was out to get them) to stimulate the primary erogenous zone of the intern and willing paramour, “that woman, Ms. Lewinsky”.

This candidate, Mrs. Clinton, thus is no longer deserving of the support she has been receiving from those that have been in her camp yet nevertheless very interested in the candidacy of the young turk, Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama’s quite a unique and impressive candidate who still has an awful lot to prove but he is a political force to be reckoned with, and he may just be the next President. What a background he has, and what a name, Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama is the offspring of a black skinned Kenyan and a white skinned Kansan, brown skinned American born in Honolulu, who attended an Islamic school in Indonesia as a youth, dominated at the best law school in the world, Harvard, where he was Editor-in-Chief of its Law Review, claims close connection and loyalty to a Christian Chuch whose Pastor inveighs against all the damning conduct and policies of primarily white America to a largely black congregation. I don't think it is totally unfair, however, to posit that in some measure "the chickens may be coming home to roost" - so what then are we going to do about it? He handles his criticisms and challenges gracefully, intelligently and with reasonable candor and creativity from what I can see so far. Big things and questions for this superstar politician now and for some time to come. By self admission, Barack Hussein Obama smoked, and inhaled, pot, more than once, which, I guess we can assume he won’t be doing in the oval office, though perhaps we can expect he might smoke a cigar in it from time to time. And if we listen closely enough to what he has to say, it is possible that in his second term, it might be legal for him to in fact enjoy a nice Cohiba cigar, grown and imported from Cuba with whom there is a new and exciting rapprochement taking place. Obama is new and different and stands for something that I think does indeed revolve around hope, confidence and change for the better.

What for me is most unfortunate about this scandal with Hillary is that I do like her. I am one of those who feels that whatever happens in this campaign between the Democrats, the main thing is for the winner to be able to defeat John McCain and the Republicans in November. I like the depth and range of Hillary's experience; I do like the fact that she has been as connected and involved in public and private power as any person running for the highest office in the known Universe has been; I like the way she rebounded in her own way from the humiliation she suffered during the scandals of slick Willie's time in office, entered New York politics, won and proved herself as a respected Senator; I like her mind and strong campaign pledges and commitment to making serious changes in major domestic issues, in particular regarding mandatory health care; and, last, but not least, I do like the idea of giving William Jefferson a chance to be back in the White House, and praise God Hallelujah and willing, only leading with and using his big head, which is quite big (I believe the Paula Jones transcripts describe in some intimate detail the size and qualities of Mr. Bill's other, smaller head, shall we call it), and to have some meaningful position to address very pressing and complex issues on the international and domestic fronts.

Yes, Bill was tried to be brought down by being brought up on those Constitutionally framed high crimes and misdemeanors, which were, to wit: Four Articles of Impeachment issued by the House of Representatives substantially dealing with Perjury and Obstruction of Justice arising from investigations regarding his alleged "whipping his little willie out" to Paula Jones and the aforementioned cum shots, blue dresses, cigars, and on, and on. The Senate trial on the charges of impeachment, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist sitting as Chief Judge, resulted in an acquittal. Bill's approval ratings were in the 70% range at the height of these troubles mind you. The Clintons, back in the White House, with Barack Obama as V.P., or Secretary of State, or something very influential - this made sense to me. But now, after this, something is not right. There is loyalty and then there is ill guided blindness, not to mention hypocrisy, which all of us, not to mention our official representatives and politicos, could do with a lot less of.

There were no bullets flying or real threats posed by military combatants to Mrs. Clinton’s safety when that plane touched down in Bosnia in March of 1996 and she got off it with sixteen year old Chelsea right behind her to be greeted by a young girl bearing flowers. She made more than a mistake in how she described that trip and those events; and with all due respect to her human failings, we’re all human, what she did was lie to and let down, in my very honest opinion, her closest supporters and everyone else.

You have been impeached Mrs. Clinton, so it is now time to truthfully face and own up to it and not to spin or downplay it. And those super duper super delegates who may hold sway in this race, must too be swayed away from the Hill and Bill machine. What’s at stake for the Democratic Party and the country is much too important. It is time gracefully and respectfully to hand the race over to your worthy adversary, Mr. Obama, back him all the way so he can reclaim the White House and do his very best to live up to his campaign calls, and all the accolades he has garnered, and instill youth, vigor, sound judgment under pressure, accountability, transparency and rational policies and politics to the office of the Presidency. We need desperately a President who will be true and faithful to that, perhaps sacred, oath of office, as many rightfully consider it to be the highest office in what is all too often an irrational and unjust world.