Max Cleland is a former Georgia senator. He lost his bid for re-election after his opponent, Saxby Chambliss, ran negative ads placing Cleland alongside pictures Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and attacking him for voting against the Bush's homeland security bill.
It should be pointed out that Cleland supported a similar homeland security bill different from the president's. And that he lost three of his fucking limbs in Vietnam. (And, as my wife pointed out, the fact he lost to a man named "Saxby Chambliss" should tell you everything you need to know about his opponent.)
Now, predictably, he is "angry, bitter, and disgusted with politics," which makes for some great quotes. The level of vitriol he spews in this article about Washington and politics is simply invigorating. I seriously want to take this guy to dinner. If I had some kind of website award to give out, it would go to Cleland. Hell, I should just call it "The Maxie." Here's a sampling of quotes from the article, which you must read.
"I volunteered 35 years ago to go to Vietnam and the guy I was running against got out of going to Vietnam with a trick knee! I was an author of the homeland security bill, for goodness' sake! But I wasn't a rubber stamp for the White House. That right there is the epitome of what's wrong with American politics today!"So an apartment building somewhere in Washington kicked out a disabled Vietnam veteran and former senator from his office so they could host a Super Bowl party. Reprehensible.
"I voted for [war in Iraq] because I was told by the secretary of defense and by the CIA that there were weapons of mass destruction there," he says. "The president said it, Colin Powell said it, they all said it. And now they can't find them! Our general over there, who has no dog in this fight, he said he sent troops all over the place and they found two trailers and not much of anything else. So we went to war for two trailers?"
"Now wait a minute," he says. "Let me run this back: We have a war. A bunch of Americans die. After the war, we try to figure out why we were there. There's a commitment of 240,000 ground troops with no exit strategy. You know what that's called? Vietnam! Hey, I've been there, done that, got a few holes in my T-shirt."
In December, Cleland and Ross went to a Washington restaurant for dinner and left Cleland's 1994 Cadillac -- equipped with controls for a handicapped driver -- with a parking attendant. Confused by the controls, the attendant smashed the car into a truck, three other cars and a telephone pole. The Cadillac was totaled.
[American University's David Brown:] "He really was down. He'd had everything -- a car, a staff and people who took care of him. Now he didn't even have an office. He told me he was using an office in the basement of his apartment building and he said, 'They're gonna take that away to use for a Super Bowl party.' "
He announced that he'd provide cookies and coffee for the class, which meets Wednesday afternoons, and recommended frequent snacking.I am in awe of this man. I've got to take him to dinner. Somebody please get me his e-mail address.
"Keep your energy up because this is an energy-draining town," he said. "Just being here is draining. Being a target is draining. So keep your energy up."
"You never know what will happen in Washington," he told the class. "In so many ways, it's combat. Sometimes it's low-level combat, sometimes it's high-level. Sometimes you're the target, sometimes you're targeting somebody else. It's a target-rich environment, as they say in the military."
Socializing is important, Cleland told them, and he promised the class a social event every week. He appointed Dustin Odham, a Southern Methodist student with a mischievous gleam in his eye, to lead a "recon squad" to find appropriate watering holes.
"You gotta make sure it's safe for the troops," he told Odham, "so you gotta go there first."
"You'll have rejection. Everybody won't love you. Believe me, I know. It's nothing personal. It's just the way Washington works."
"I wanted to learn how interest groups influence government," said Jolana Mungengova, a PhD candidate from Boston University.
"Money," Cleland told her. "That's it. It's all about money, and it's out of control."
"Let me give you a quote from President Kennedy," Cleland told Jones. "He said, 'I'm an idealist with no illusions.' You'll begin to lose your illusions about things, but that doesn't mean you'll lose your ideals. That's part of life, but it doesn't mean you have to lose your ideals."
Wow. Great article.