Cory Booker’s One-Man Soap Opera Rolls into New Hampshire

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When your mission is to get every presidential candidate on the record regarding the prosecution of Julian Assange, every attempt to make contact with the candidate is reduced, in effect, to a shot in the dark. Some candidates are willing to walk among commoners and answer questions, but you will always find at least one or two who are not and who never will be. Most of the time, you can anticipate if the attempt is worth your while: there is absolutely no chance at all that Joe Biden will dismantle the cordoning rope, abandon the Secret Service, and really mingle with the grubby peons in Atkinson, New Hampshire. I knew this before I went to see him, so I couldn’t be disappointed, but I was very much let down when Kamala Harris snuck out of her house party in Gilford. Maybe I’ll have a better chance the next time she travels east, now that her polling numbers are crumbling before her.

Yes, the feebler the candidate’s polling viability, the greater the opportunity for journalistic access. Such appears to be the rule of thumb, at least: when I met Andrew Yang two months ago, he was standing in the middle of a bookstore, as if it were the nineteenth century and politicians still had to stump in the public square. How surreal! Accordingly, I had no trouble at all asking him for his thoughts on Assange, and recording his take was my first real success. Ah, but that was two months ago, when he was still a minor figure: now he is preparing for the third and fourth debates, and it may be tougher to pose for a selfie. Maybe I should check out his schedule, swing by a rally, and just kind-of dare to compare, you know?

Then again, maybe that’s a really dumb idea. Currie Dobson, one of Assange’s strongest supporters and a man with a prolific Twitter following, has re-broadcast my video with Yang, and now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people on social media declaring, “Cancel Yang!” If this fire continues to build, then we might have to call in Seth Abramson to reassure us that all of Yang’s critics are only Russian ‘bots. Come to think of it, you could tie such a claim into Yang’s approach to automation, couldn’t you? “We will prevent Putin from monopolizing robotic propaganda! We will ensure that all robotic propagandists are American-made!”

Admire the yo-yo of the politics of personality: Yang rises from the basement to the living room, Harris falls from the ceiling to the den, and somehow, Tom Steyer is terrifyingly close to landing on the national stage. In the midst of this fusillade, Cory Booker’s numbers are remarkably stable: nationally, he hovers around eight percent, but in New Hampshire, he is threatening to close at less than one percent. The numbers don’t surprise me: I don’t know a single Granite Stater who plans to vote for Booker, any more than I know anyone who cheers for Steyer. I’ve never seen a billboard for Booker, I’ve never seen his sign on anybody’s lawn, and I don’t even know what his bumper sticker looks like. He is having the hardest time generating any kind of traction here, which might be why he seldom visits: he’s probably planning to punt our primary and to focus on another early state, but where? He’s polling at two percent in Iowa and Florida, and his most optimistic tracking is in South Carolina, where he stands at four percent. There’s always a chance, but I suspect he’ll be out of the race and begging for the vice-presidential position by March.

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The Trumpmonster Visits New Hampshire, Part II

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The sun was hanging high and unimpeded in the early afternoon, five hours before Donald Trump was scheduled to take the stage in Manchester, New Hampshire. I wasn’t sure at what time I needed to leave my house; typically, I like to arrive at these political rallies with an hour to spare, in case anything sensational should develop, but only a fool would expect this event to unfold “typically”, and I could not afford to leave anything to chance. I gave my cat an early dinner, put on my fedora, and pulled onto I-93 with just under five hours to go. That may sound excessive, even to those of you who have some familiarity with these rituals, but you can never be too careful when the Donald is coming to town and setting up shop.

Consider the divinely inspired few who proved their depth of fealty by pitching their tents at the entrance to the SNHU Arena twenty-four hours before showtime. Circumspect though I thought myself to be, I couldn’t imagine there being need for such precaution, and I was tempted to dismiss the rumors as false gossip . . . that is, until I took Exit 5, headed east on Granite State, and was all but swallowed by an agglomeration of pedestrians, hundreds of whom obviously had been walking for more than a mile, all of them making their pilgrimage to the aforementioned Arena. There was a welter of people, perpetually swelling, not to mention the fleet of cars wheezing their way up the hill. Clearly, I’d been overcautious not at all: I’d expected a disaster, but this was apocalyptic.

Once I had some distance from the Arena, I began to search for free, unlimited parking. “You think you’re gonna get away with eight hours of parking at a Trump rally? You might as well wish for a unicorn!” Mock me, if you’d like, but they don’t call this city Manch Vegas for nothing: turn the right corner, drive around the right neighborhood, and you can find what the tourists aren’t meant to see. Once you find it, you know that no one’s going to hassle you about parking in front of that apartment building, and as long as you don’t leave your life savings in the glove compartment, you don’t have anything to worry about. Ah, Manchester’s a great old place, even though I suspect it’s what Trump was alluding to when he described New Hampshire as “a drug-infested den”.

A lot of people gave Trump grief for that comment—not because he disrespected New Hampshire, but because, in the same breath, he lied about having “won” this state, although he was telling the truth if he was referring to the primary, which I believe . . . sorry, I just yawned. Well, he definitely didn’t carry my state in the general election, and I’ve always found that amusing because he visited New Hampshire on the night of November 7th, 2016. He spoke at the SNHU Arena, too, and I was there, tucked away somewhere near the concourses, futilely seeking a decent picture. That was one memorable night: Republican Party all-stars crowding the stage, picket signs, and one guy wearing an orange jumpsuit and a Hillary Clinton mask. I remember standing in line for a half-hour or so, and I expected the same on this occasion, so you can imagine my terror when I neared the Arena and saw a line of people stretching for more than a mile.

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The Trumpmonster Visits New Hampshire: Part I

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In twenty-four hours, I will be sitting in a bar somewhere on Elm Street in the City of Manchester, making myself pliant. Once I have acquired a transcendent acceptance of the universe and each of its many holdings, I will stagger across the street to the SNHU Arena, where I will submit to any number of ticklish searches before, at long and blessed last, I am permitted access to the great and mighty building wherein the President of the United States will address me and ten thousand other desperate plebs. We will come together in our listless indignation to imbibe the legendary wisdom of the orange savant. It shall be a privilege, an uncommonly beatific smile of fortune, and the ticket for this assembly before our lord and savior costs us nothing at all. Such is the charitability of the Donald; it would surprise me not at all if he showered us with golden coins and spurred us to spend at the bazaar.

[Holy mother of God. Are you sure you haven’t already started drinking?]

For your information, I haven’t had a drink since Sunday night, with supper. It is now Wednesday afternoon: the sun is still high and unclouded, and my cat is rolling around on the deck, basking in the warmth of a peerless summer day. And yet, it might be Christmas Eve, for all of the electricity in the air around us. Can’t you just perceive the rich anticipation, the exhilarating sense of glorious conquest that precedes the most preternatural days? Maybe you can’t. Maybe the promise of a visit from the great pillager-in-chief doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot for you. Perhaps, au contraire, it is enough to make you nauseous, to make you ashamed to breathe the same air and walk the same ground as that corpulent crook.

No mainstream historian will write a worthwhile chronicle of the Trumpish Age. A pusillanimous pen cannot convey the disorientation of our present political culture. The term polarization lacks acuity; our phenomenal discord of intellectual perception might be compared to a Rorschach test, the results of which reveal that the American people are blind. Their blindness presents a challenge, as unique as it is infuriating: try as we might to keep ourselves keen, we cannot predict where these poor, wayward people might stumble next, and we can’t stop them from walking and crashing into us. The political arena is host to a lethal game of bumper cars, but because the vast majority of the participants are blind, you can never hope to convince them they’ve lost.

To be fair, they are probably half-right, as their opponents surely haven’t won. The chaotic contest invariably comes to a draw, as was witnessed this morning at Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ve already written about the inflammatory bile people spew at New England’s favorite coffee shop, but this morning’s incident provided a different brand of foolishness. I was standing in line behind a young couple, probably in their early twenties. The guy was dressed in an old t-shirt and loose-fitting jeans, and the girl was wearing a white tank top and a pair of sweatpants. They were necking as they waited to place their order, and eventually, they started kissing, too. I wasn’t staring at them, if that’s what you’re wondering, but considering I was close enough to smell the impropriety, well, there wasn’t much for me to do besides observe.

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Jeffrey Epstein: Murdered by Oligarchs, Buried by the Press

Hours before Jeffrey Epstein choked out his last, agonizing breath, a handful of nostalgic patrons in Milford, New Hampshire, pulled into the local drive-in movie theater, one of the few remaining in this once-powerful country, to watch a special screening of Jurassic Park. A great obsession of my childhood, Jurassic Park hasn’t aged especially well in the twenty-six years since its release, not because the T-Rex isn’t still beautifully frightening—can’t you just imagine its jaws crashing through the ceiling as we speak—but because all of the characters are simple stereotypes, each of whom has personality, but none of whom is human. My personal favorite is still Dennis Nedry, the gluttonous, narcissistic oaf who takes a bribe to steal dinosaur embryos and deliver them to his employer’s chief competitor.

I’ve never understood how Nedry planned to get away with such a massive case of theft, one which would have certainly generated headlines in the international press for many months. Did he hope to disappear? If so, then how did he think a bloated American eyesore like himself could go missing and unnoticed in a foreign land? Perhaps I would understand his judgment a bit better if I had read the novel on which the film was based, but I never did, and so, my uneducated belief is that Nedry avoided an inevitable prison sentence only because an oddly cuddly dinosaur disemboweled him. As he bled out, did he think that his fate was worth those not-so-lavish dinners he’d devoured on a Costa Rican beach? Or did he think that he might have been better off paying his own bill?

A similar question might have entered Jeffrey Epstein’s mind seconds before his brain expired for want of oxygen in a tenebrous dungeon in Manhattan. He died violently, and he died alone—save, that is, for the murderer whose hands fractured his neck. That last embrace was courtesy of people far more powerful than Epstein, people who befriended him in no small part because he could, and often did, supply them with a seemingly infinite supply of beautiful women, “many of them … on the younger side”, to quote our current president. Epstein got high on his own supply, of course, and I have no doubt that he relished his encounters with those beautiful women, but still, I have to ask if it was worth it. Was all of that sex, much of it forcible and brutal, worth being strangled in the middle of the night? Was it worth spending the last several weeks of your life sitting in a cell, perfectly aware that this murderer was coming? I can imagine you thinking it would be worth it, had the thought crossed your mind while you were losing yourself in dumbfounding hedonism on your private island/insane asylum, but once the man in black caressed your throat, still did you believe the juice was worth the squeeze?

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Withdrawing from Trazodone: A First-Person Case Study

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After the embarrassing, but blessedly brief, controversy centered around Marianne Williamson’s welcome criticism of the American pharmaceutical empire, I decided to stop taking the Trazodone that my physician prescribed to me more than a year ago. I’m loath to reveal such a personal detail, not because I fear you will dismiss me as a loon, but because medical confessionals, and psychiatric tell-alls especially, are almost invariably unbearable. Often, they are buried in the thickest layer of self-congratulation, and just as frequently, the authors can’t restrain themselves from diving face-first into the most shocking information about their private lives. My own philosophy is that Dack Rouleau the man should occupy a minimalistic presence in these pages, if he must take any space at all, and yield to the research and knowledge that forms the crux of this writing.

However, I will make an exception and admit that I’ve been taking Trazodone for a while, for just a bit less than a year-and-a-half. At the time, I was seeking medication because I was desperate: I had lost all of my friends, I was constantly getting smashed to pass the time, and in recent weeks, I had succumbed to something similar to night terrors. I couldn’t get more than four hours’ sleep before I’d rush out of my bed, my sheets soaked with sweat, and then it would be a miracle if I got any more sleep at all. It is painfully obvious to me now (as I’m sure it is to you) that I was largely responsible for my own instability, but I was too proud and foolish to accept that at the time, and my sole concern was getting a good night’s sleep.

Like most primary care doctors, my physician has a very limited understanding of psychotropics, so she wasn’t willing to prescribe anything stronger than Trazodone. I’ve never been a big believer in psychotropics: my parents taught me to be skeptical of them, and my short-lived Risperdal trial was so hideous that I swore I’d never take another psychotropic again. Alas, circumstances have a funny way of changing, and here I was, five years later, taking Trazodone without a clue as to what it’d do to me. Well, to my pleasant surprise, it worked out pretty well, and within a week or two, I was back to seven nightly hours of sleep.

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I Don’t Need My Meds, Marianne

In the early hours of Saturday morning, as I was settling into bed after a farewell dinner for one of my favorite colleagues, the Twitter beast was feasting on its freshest scandal, sinking its fangs into the declaration, #ineedmymedsmarianne. This hashtag was inspired—though perhaps the brooding intellectual force of social media is best served by a term less gentle than “inspired”—by Marianne Williamson, who skipped out on the grand opening of her presidential campaign’s New Hampshire headquarters to fly to California and participate in Real Time with Bill Maher. I’ve watched almost none of Bill Maher’s partisan propaganda program ever since he betrayed Julian Assange, but all the same, a presidential candidate—in particular a member of the Democratic Party—is effectively obligated to appear on Real Time and to put up with Maher’s tedious jokes.

Anyway, Williamson spent part of her appearance describing the American healthcare system as a “sick-care system”. She is neither the only nor the first Democratic candidate to use this term, but she distinguishes herself from most of her contemporaries by describing the broader American culture as a breeding ground for sickness. She explains that Americans live unhealthy lifestyles, eat poorly, and take way too many medications, including psychotropics. She believes that we will not “get better” unless we take serious steps to make ourselves better, and this, she argues, exceeds the debates over universal healthcare: even the most efficient healthcare system possible cannot help us if we continue to make self-destructive decisions.

In the not-so-distant past, these comments would have been patently inoffensive, even forgettable. However, we don’t live in any kind of past, and in the fluid present, in the Trumpish Age, there is nothing that the Twitter beast cannot reconstruct as an ad hominem attack. According to that most amorphous predator, these words of Williamson’s were a ruthless assault against the mentally ill: she was scolding the hapless and helpless victims of forces far beyond their control, and shaming them for accepting the blessing of psychotropics, without which they would be confined to asylums or to the cemetery. It’s unclear if the siren #ineedmymedsmarianne was promoted initially by “the mentally ill” or by their advocates, but in any case, the hashtag made the rounds for a day or two. It has since died down, and presently, it will disappear alongside so many others.

The collective failure of the Twitter beast to empower the hashtag proves one thing: the corporate media is not aligned against Williamson; if it were, then that hashtag would have been as prominent as the bogus claim that Tulsi Gabbard cheerleads for Bashar al-Assad. Come to think of it, it might prove something else: perhaps it proves that the discussion about mental illness has been abridged, even truncated, so haphazardly that it has been reduced to incoherence. How can we hope to make sense of this subject when we don’t even know what we’re talking about?

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The Masochistic Democratic Debates, Part IV

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An hour ago, I was stumbling down North Main Street in Concord, seeking the new headquarters to Marianne Williamson’s New Hampshire campaign. Eventually, I found it, protected on the near side of Penuche’s, which just so happens to be the gnarliest, unfriendliest bar in town, so of course it is the perfect counterpart to Williamson’s conquest of amour. I don’t mean to write flippantly of the candidate, as she is one of only three candidates for whom I can realistically see myself voting in the general election . . . I am, however, bitter that Williamson skipped out on the opening of her operations center in the Granite State. She skipped this, as well as a visit in Cornish earlier in the day, to jet out to Los Angeles to speak with Bill Maher. I can’t blame her, of course: as insufferable as Real Time with Bill Maher may be, it is also imperative for every Democratic candidate to make an appearance. All I’m saying is that she could have fulfilled her local obligations and then flown out of Manchester tomorrow morning.

So, absent an opportunity to ask her for her thoughts on Julian Assange, I find myself at home with the notes for the second half of the second presidential debate, and . . . good God almighty, I have grown lethally tired of this division of the debates into halves and installments and whatever else. Because the overgrown field of Democratic candidates still resembles the macabre finale to “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”, we are constantly reminded to remind ourselves that each night of the debates is only one half of one whole, as if anybody cares. There was less controversy as to whether Kill Bill was one film or two, and as far as I’m concerned, Wednesday the 31st brought us the fourth presidential debate, the puritanical be damned.

Seeing as I can’t insult your intelligence by feigning neutrality, I will come right out and say that my only interest in the fourth debate was to hear Tulsi Gabbard. Literally none of the other people onstage possess the slimmest chance of winning my vote because they are all effectively the same. They don’t offer the legitimate ideological alternative that Gabbard presents, which is exactly why CNN would seek to abridge her time as severely as it could without risking litigation. I was fully prepped for this, having suffered through the same unmistakable bias of the so-called moderators when Ron Paul ran for president in 2012, but the bootlicking crossed the line of good taste when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received seven of the first nine opportunities to speak. That type of favoritism by the network is simply undignified, and please don’t insult my intelligence by arguing that much of those seven opportunities consisted of the candidates’ voluntary responses: it is the moderators’ charge to move on to the other eight contenders. Otherwise, you’re better off without a moderator, and I’m beginning to think that would actually be a fine idea.

To ensure that the debate would never stray too far from Biden and Harris, the moderators revealed an interesting method: when asking a different candidate a question, they would often mention either Biden or Harris, thereby ensuring that Biden or Harris would have an opportunity to chime in. An example was to be found early in the debate, when Kristen Gillibrand was asked a question that mentioned Harris; in her response, Gillibrand did not even mention Harris, but still, Harris was given time to “respond”. And in a particularly gluttonous display of favoritism, the moderators allowed Harris and Biden no less than forty-five seconds to make a follow-up statement, even though the “rules” stated that they were supposed to be permitted no more than fifteen.

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