You Bet Your Ass: Clinton’s “Garbage Man” Takes a Ride to the Dump

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In the Clinton White House, Ickes was known as the “Garbage Man.” He was fired by Clinton in 1996 after his role in several questionable Clinton fundraising schemes was brought to light. In a lengthy New York Times profile of Ickes in 1997, Michael Lewis noted that “Ickes has been caught up in so many of Clinton's scandals and crises that he came to describe ….

[Elections 2008: Commentary]


 

Poor Harold Ickes.


Ickes—President Clinton’s former deputy White House chief of staff and now both a key political advisor to Hillary Clinton and a member of the Democratic National Party (DNC) rules committee—broke into a temper tantrum Saturday as DNC officials forged a compromise to give back Florida and Michigan all their delegates, but only with half of their voting power. In the case of Michigan, it also called for a revised delegate count.


Winding up on the short end of a landmark 19-8 vote, Ickes swore. He whined. He threatened. He made an ass out of himself.


“This motion [regarding the Michigan allocation of delegates] will hijack—hijack—remove four delegates won by Hillary Clinton and most importantly reflect the preferences of 600,000 Michigan voters,” Ickes ranted. “This body of 30 individuals has decided that they are going to substitute their judgment for 600,000 voters.”


Ickes also asserted that Clinton reserved her right to appeal the decision to the DNC credentials committee.


It was both a lie and a last-ditch bluff by the Clinton machine to hold-up the Democrats come their national convention later this summer in Denver.


 

And totally disingenuous. This is the same Harold Ickes who in August of last year voted to strip both Florida and Michigan of their convention delegates for staging their party primaries too early in the season—and against the rules of the DNC. Rules that Ickes had voted to uphold.


Today, he was singing a completely different tune. And with a straight face. No, make that with an angry face, or even more accurately, a trademark angry face. Ickes is a notoriously bad loser. “Was the process flawed?” Ickes barked rhetorically. “You bet your ass it was flawed!”


Perhaps a little background is in order.


Harold McEwen Ickes is a child of power and privilege. His father, Harold L. Ickes, served as Secretary of the Interior under Franklin Roosevelt. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Columbia Law School. Less ceremoniously, he served as the model for the character Howard Fergerson in Joe Klein’s best-selling expose of the Clintons, Primary Colors.


In the Clinton White House, Ickes was known as the “Garbage Man.” He was fired by Clinton in 1996 after his role in several questionable Clinton fundraising schemes was brought to light. In a lengthy New York Times profile of Ickes in 1997, Michael Lewis noted that “Ickes has been caught up in so many of Clinton's scandals and crises that he came to describe his function in the White House as ‘director of the sanitation department.’''


He is also a Clinton loyalist. He covered up the Gennifer Flowers scandal. He arranged for White House visits by John Huang to raise money for Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. He also ran Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate race.


And, as is often the case with children of privilege, Ickes doesn’t think that rules necessarily apply to him. According to Newsweek, Ickes once bit the leg of a foe in a political clubhouse brawl and threatened to slam a congresswoman into the pavement.


That’s class.


He’s also been known to battle with his teammates. Rumors were rampant that he’d been at odds with fellow Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn, who was forced out after lobbying on behalf of the Colombian government. And as Clinton began lagging behind in the delegate count, it was the combative Ickes who devised Clinton’s take-no-prisoner strategy on the campaign trail.


It has backfired in the campaign, and it backfired yesterday in Washington at the DNC committee gathering. No one has ever accused Harold Ickes of being a skilled negotiator or an effective deal-maker, and his inability to do either on Saturday marked the final straw that broke the back of the Clinton candidacy—for good.


There were a dozen Clinton supporters on the Rules Committee, and only eight for Obama, but when the smoke had cleared and three of Clinton's supporters voted for a compromise, Ickes acted like a spoiled brat who vowed to take his toys with him.


Only he didn’t have any toys to take.


Like many members of the Clinton inner-circle these days—and that includes the Senator and the ex-President themselves, along with James Carville, Lanny Davis, Paul Begala, Howard Wolfson, and Mandy Grunwald—Ickes is displaying a peculiar brand of petulance. All of these power players had jumped on the Clinton bandwagon confident, if now downright arrogant, about their chances of taking over the White House. They were odds-on favorites.


That arrogance bred overconfidence, and Ickes & Co. mishandled the game plan from day one. They let delegates go in Iowa and other caucus states, while Obama assumed a lead that they couldn’t overcome. Then it was Ickes who started talking about “pledged delegates” switching votes. Once again, the bulldog mentality backfired.


But yesterday, Ickes and the rest of the Clinton clique got their comeuppance. The members of the DNC rules committee made it clear that the Democratic Party no longer belongs to the likes of the Clintons and Harold Ickes. It now belongs to Barack Obama.


You bet your ass.

 

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Award-winning filmmaker and journalist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is the former recipient of a both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is

Calypso Dreams. His article for The Black Star News on racism in the Clinton campaign can be read here: http://blackstarnews.com/?c=135&a=4470


 


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