Warren Zevon is one of our favorites around here. He was an odd duck, a strange combination of James Taylor and Raymond Chandler, writing beautiful songs laced with sulfuric acid. One of my portsider friends made reference to Zevon's 1978 semihit "Excitable Boy" in discussing his support for Barack Obama. But we're going to put Mr. Obama to the side for just a moment, although he figures in the story at the end. I'm more interested in discussing the Clintons. And that means it's time to break out a different song from Zevon's "Excitable Boy" album. Instead, we're going to look at "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner."
The Clintons have always had a bevy of Thompson Gunners in their employ. It's part of their mystique and a source of their power. Since the Clintons first arrived on the scene in 1991, their political operatives have been the ones with the sharpest elbows and, when necessary, the biggest guns. For all of Clinton's enormous political skills, his initial candidacy was always under threat because of wounds that were, in the main, self-inflicted. Even his greatest admirers will stipulate that he was a hound when it came to women. In addition, he emerged from a state that is notorious for political corruption. It was inevitable that the many skeletons in his closet would be problematic. Clinton understood that and made sure that his operatives were able to punish anyone who might be a problem politically. Through a combination of personal charm and sheer ruthlessness, he was able to get through a nasty 1992 campaign and an eight-year presidency. They would find Ken Starr in a figurative Mombassa, in a barroom drinking gin. And if you know the song, you know what happens.
Now the Clintons are back and they have their Thompson Gunners arrayed again. But to get to where they want to be, they have to gun down someone other than the hapless Republicans they so easily befuddled during the 1990s. Now they have to gun down a certain Illinois senator who stands in their way.
And therein lies the dilemma for Democrats. Many Democrats, like Patty Hearst, heard the burst of the Thompson guns in the 1990s and bought into it because the fire was directed at Republicans and they enjoyed the carnage. But it's different now. Someone less nasty, someone more likable, would like to take the stage. But he must be damaged, even destroyed if necessary. And there is a lot of collateral damage that is being wrought, and not only for the Democrats. But the problem remains -- like Roland, these gunners are remorseless and relentless. And even if that son of a bitch Obama blows off Roland's head, the gunner will keep coming.