By Sy Schechtman

Money is still the mother’s milk of politics despite what has been legislated in that campaign finance travesty known as the McCain Feingold bill. What we have always called "soft money" now can not be funneled to the Democratic or Republican parties directly but only through subterfuge by "neutral" interest groups not directly connected to the affected recipients. As of this writing ---Sunday, February 23--- the Democrats have already spent $63,000,000 on these "527" "informational" messages, some of which the Republicans have objected to, and now Kerry is crying foul about the "Swift Boat" allegations which have the potential of puncturing Kerry’s three purple heart sweep in his short four months stay in Vietnam.

Undeniably some interest has been added to the dull, almost soporific campaign stump speech rhetoric so far by this Republican counter blast. Allegedly we have 250 on the scene Vietnam veterans, 64 in an adjacent swift boat to the one Kerry commanded, calling into doubt the claims of Kerry’s heroic acts in the face of enemy fire. Indeed, both the local Barnes and Noble and Borders book stores are sold out of the book --- Unfit to Command by John O’Neill ---- and I can’t wait to have my doubts, fears, and/or hopes assuaged or confirmed by this book. It could be sink or swim for Kerry and how he comes off this "dirty trick’ ploy which has his already limping campaign further dragging, will be truly indicative of some crucial part of his leadership ability.

Both campaigns have piously disavowed this type of negative approach, far from the high road of affirmative campaigning. Bush first insisted that he had not read the Swift Boat allegations, and then averred that his campaign had always wanted all these 527 television ads eliminated. A lovely innocent "who me?" disavowal of any ill intent. And this from the innocent boob like face of our president, who, at other times has always boasted of being "misunderestimated" by his opposition. But pull or disavow this one particular episode as related by the swift boat veterans, and the attached voice over of post Vietnam vet Kerry denouncing supposed atrocities committed by other veterans and himself during that ill fated war? Man, how could you—that’s trampling on the right of one’s freedom of speech! (Late bulletin!—Bush says Swift Boat ads should be pulled---but advocates still want to run them!!)

It’s important to keep remembering that not only is free speech our sacred right--- most of the time---but, as said above, money is still the mother’s milk of politics. And that as you try to distort its free flow to the interested parties and candidates you get this curious dancing around the flow of past events and facts. And many versions, or "spin" of what happened. And not necessarily lies, but many interpretations, and some very dubious. There are powerful economic interests at play in our society among many valid producing and consuming groups, each circling the public treasury for what they consider their share. And these interests spend much money in order to keep the flow of public money---from the government and mainly from the individual consumer—flowing in their direction.

In a sense it’s a giant roulette table, around which are the various competing groups, from big business, labor, ecology, education, health, arts, entertainment, consumers etc., etc. And perhaps separately those in the political and governmental area, who are not looking for the spinning ball to stop in their slot for financial gain so much as to be able to have the power of a percentage of the action, of the "take", or in every day language just plain old taxes at every level of consumption or income. But, of course, at the this giant gaming table of life there is almost constant action and interest to have that spinning magnetic ball stop in their slot (or pocket) and much financial effort and persuasion politically to have this lucrative result occur not by chance if at all possible. To "fix" or assure the result by hard work, creativity or just plain old chicanery. For most of us, though, we know that experience and perhaps our ingrained sense or morality has taught us that the "the harder I work the luckier I get".

But for the politicos on every level power and prestige is a part of the take. And perhaps the very laudable need to be of service to one’s fellow man; and ultimately to also partake in an adequate financial life style. It is important to remember that the genuine and seeming differences displayed in this gaming contest of life in reality are sometimes illusory. Remember, every night Mary Matalon and James Carville, husband and wife, and arch "enemies" in political life, go to bed together (I hope!). And I believe they have also sired a child. And that we have basically only two umbrella parties, disagreeing and dissenting but still consenting and compromising much of the time.

In the terse, memorable language of Winston Churchill—slightly adapted-- resulting in much "jaw, jaw, but less law, law". Unfortunately we still have too much law at times, as witness the fiasco of McCain Feingold, which I think that even George Soros must be having dire thoughts about now, about eight million dollars too late!!

But think of all fun and games, the sheer entertainment value, many of us have had along the way! Even up to the tense drama to come of election night in what should be a cliff hanger of a race. Assessing, approving, and despairing of the real substance of the speeches and debates, the almost daily standings in the polls; the reviling by many of the opponent, and the almost orgasmic adoring by others, but many, many more—I hope!—just steadfastly evaluating and voting, if not necessarily "In God We Trust" but still somewhat prayerfully plodding ahead as before, and so reinforcing both the basic dignity of humankind, and the principles of the democratic institutions of our great country. (And also generating much employment and money for all aspects of the media!)

Fun and games indeed!!