A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old
and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel
Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add
or would like to make an empty threat, please contact
January 7, 2006
Michael McNulty And Impeachment
The year was 1998, the place was Pagliacci’s
Restaurant on South Pearl Street in downtown Albany. A large and
boisterous crowd had packed the banquet room for a Robert
F. Kennedy Democratic Club event. Regular folks and politicians jockeyed with
the corporate media and their infernal equipment for space. The only
available standing room was beyond the double doors.
We had all come to hear the main attraction, congressman
Michael McNulty, who was going to announce how he would vote on the
impeachment of U. S. President Bill Clinton.
In the week or so before this event, the mood in and
around Albany about the impeachment had grown noticeably ugly. One
would encounter anger, resentment and frustration over the railroading
of the President, even by people who detested Mr. Clinton. It seemed
one couldn’t go anywhere in public without overhearing conversations
about how ridiculous the whole thing was. With all the problems this
country was facing, why all this nonsense over a stupid blow job?
This despite an embarrassing corporate media blitz
designed to brainwash the public into supporting what was little
more than a con job. Almost every single day for months, the Hearst-owned
Times Union screamed pro-impeachment headlines on the front page,
happily printing any nonsensical rumor manufactured by corporate “think
The entire corporate media echo chamber pounded relentlessly,
the TV “news” programs, the AM radio talk shows, NPR,
magazines, even FM radio rock stations. Baloney ranging from murder
to serial sex crimes to treason involving foreign governments bounced
between the mediums and amplified into a constant scream of libelous
Despite this attack on our collective common sense,
the public was not buying. Within a week, a national poll would return
a number of 73% solidly against the impeachment, and the whole B.S.
episode would dissolve into the ether.
But that week, when Michael McNulty stood up before
his constituents at Pagliacci’s, everything was uncertain.
The few comments he had made up to that point concerning Mr. Clinton
and the whole overblown affair were generally vitriolic and condemning.
So the question on everybody’s mind, would McNulty do the right
thing and defend the President, or would he pander shamelessly to
the Republican Party and the corporate media?
The mood of McNulty’s constituents at that time
could be summed up by my friend Pete, a painting contractor, who
at the time was mostly apolitical. First he had to ask me who our
congressman was. “Is it McNulty?” he demanded. Then he
asked me how McNulty was going to vote on the impeachment. I said
that he would announce the next night.
“Well, he’d better vote against it,” said
Pete, “or else.”
“Or else what?” I asked.
Pete gave it some thought. “Or else,” he
said, “I’m gonna do something.”
When apolitical guys like Pete start to wake up and
threaten to “do something,” that’s when it’s
time for the politicians to run for the hills. Whatever one can say
about McNulty, he knows how to stay in office and get reelected.
It’s more than clear that he was hearing guys like my friend
Pete waking up, and realized that he had to do something, something
that ran contrary to his being, something he found very distasteful.
Something that would encourage guys like Pete to go back to sleep.
At Pagliacci’s the crowd hushed. All attention
was on McNulty, looking congressional in the bright lights. He gave
some opening remarks, and as he launched into the subject at hand
you could feel everybody in the room hold their breaths. Then, with
a look of disgust on his face, McNulty announced that he would vote
The entire room erupted into cheering and applause.
Those of us who were lucky enough to have found seats at the tables
stood up to show our gratitude for his sound judgment. The ovation
went on and on, while McNulty stood still with lowered eyes and appeared,
Eventually we got tired of clapping and sat down.
McNulty launched into his speech, and what a speech it was.
I wish I had had the presence of mind to bring a tape
recorder that day. McNulty's speech went on for more than twenty
minutes, an angry and impassioned condemnation of President Clinton
and his “crime,” the miserable and forgettable alleged
blow job in the Oval Office. Oh, how McNulty ascended the heights
of righteousness! His eyes flashed and his voice trembled with anger
over... a stupid blow job. He made it clear that it was only with
the greatest reluctance that he would not join with his Republican
Party comrades and vote to impeach the President over... a stupid
As McNulty’s diatribe went on, and on, and on,
you could see his audience growing uncomfortable and shifting uneasily.
Everyone was visibly embarrassed by his display. Part of the problem
was that the room was filled with Democrats, and here was our allegedly
Democratic congressman mercilessly savaging the political leader
of his own party. Here was clear evidence for the decline of the
Democratic Party, exhibit A, one of their stalwart politicians enthusiastically
taking the opportunity to downgrade and condemn one of their own.
But it was more than that. The terrible things that
McNulty was saying about Mr. Clinton ran directly contrary to what
the people in the room were thinking, and to what the overwhelming
majority of his constituents believed. Most of his words were strangely
familiar, and indeed, McNulty was stringing together catch phrases
and talking points that he had lifted directly from the corporate
media, the same verbiage that we had all been subjected to for months.
If you closed your eyes, McNulty almost sounded like a certain cowardly,
lying AM radio talk show host who has an addiction to oxycontin.
McNulty was not talking to his constituents that night
at Pagliacci’s. If he had been, he would have said, “Look,
the President shouldn’t have done what he did, but c’mon
already. That’s between him, his family and the big guy upstairs.
The real problem here is an imperial Republican Party working hand
in hand with a corrupt media to destabilize our society and seize
power for themselves. The President should have known better than
to hand these dangerous monsters such a golden opportunity, but that’s
neither here nor there. What’s done is done. This is not about
party politics, this is about defending our Constitution from assault.
I want you all to join with me and send a message to the Republicans
and to their media that we are sick and tired of their manipulations
Imagine the applause for a speech like that. How prophetic
it would have been. But McNulty could no more have given that speech
than he could have flapped his arms and fluttered over our heads.
Mr. McNulty was speaking to the cameras, the infernal machines owned
and operated by the corporate media, and by angrily attacking Mr.
Clinton he was apologizing to what he believed were the real power
brokers in this equation. In doing so, he revealed that as a congressman,
he was not representing his constituents against the powers that
be. Rather, he was representing the prevailing powers of the day
against his constituents.
But that night at Pagliacci’s, the crowd was
very forgiving. The issue of wrong versus right, destroy or defend
the Constitution had been framed in black and white: to impeach or
not to impeach. And McNulty had made the right choice, however reluctantly.
We could all go back to sleep for a spell.
I’m bringing up this eight year old story not
merely because of my capacity for remembering grudges in detail.
This morning I found a news item that not surprisingly didn’t
get picked up by the AP. It seems that a call for the impeachment
of George W. Bush has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives.
So far, it has eight
should come as no surprise to learn that McNulty is not one of them.
Bush’s impeachable crimes are great in number
and large in scope. The unauthorized wire tapping of American citizens,
the crime that brought down Richard Nixon, is just the latest in
this parade of unconstitutional perfidy. Bush knowingly lied in order
to plunge the nation into a useless and pointless war. He conspired
to fix elections with electronic voting machines. He has mismanaged
the economy to the breaking point, creating an unnecessary and ruinous
debt. He deliberately withheld aid from New Orleans after a devastating
hurricane. He ignored obvious evidence of the imminence of 9-11,
and there is compelling evidence that he may have done so deliberately.
On and on and on, feel free to add to the list. For
no other reason, Bush deserves to be impeached for sheer incompetence
and rank arrogance.
So, where is Michael McNulty’s outrage? Where
is that anger that we saw so many years ago in Pagliacci’s,
that willingness to condemn a President over... a stupid blow job?
Are not the crimes of George W. Bush a violation of his oath of office,
to uphold and defend the Constitution?
Apparently, Michael McNulty does not think so. We
have heard nothing from him, hardly even a perfunctory aside concerning
Bush and his crimes. Openly defying his constituents, McNulty enthusiastically
supported Bush’s War Against Iraq, and he enthusiastically
supported Bush’s so-called “Patriot” Act. One might
think that he supports Bush as much as he felt outrage at Mr. Clinton.
We should not hold our breaths waiting for McNulty
to deliver a Pagliacci Speech about Bush. As long as he continues
to represent the powers behind the TV cameras, he never will.
Post * * * Next
This site maintained by Lynne
Jackson of Jackson's