It's not about sexism, stupid. It's about Barbie.
That's why a lot of women are gaga for Sarah Palin.
Women closing in on the big four-O -- the McCain-Palin target demographic for voters -- grew up role-playing endlessly with Barbie. They spent hours dressing dolls in sexy lingerie, stewardess uniforms, business suits and evening attire while pretending their Barbie was a CEO, a pilot or even -- gasp -- president.
Sarah, as she's called by her female fans, is a 21st century walking, talking, breathing brunette Barbie. Women long to be her friend and have her as a confidante -- the very role Barbie played during childhood. Naturally, women won't admit that Sarah is like Barbie because to do so seems unsupportively shallow and well, sexist, toward the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket.
But Sarah has lived a life very similar to Barbie's.
What girl didn't want to live in the enchanting, ever-changing world of Barbie? Sorry, Hillary, but Barbie was the first to crash the glass ceiling. After all, Barbie was an astronaut in 1965, five years before Neil Armstrong and crew landed on the moon and long before Sally Ride's space adventure. Barbie even ran for president in 1992 -- 15 years before Hillary, the first serious female contender in modern presidential politics, announced.
According to Mattel, Barbie has enjoyed more than 100 careers. In fact, the doll was designed by Ruth Handler in 1959 to assume many roles in life other than fashion model. Sarah followed Barbie's path and has repeatedly reincarnated herself in adventurous arenas that mirror those of the celebrated doll.
Sarah was a high school basketball star, and so hard-core on the court that she was nicknamed Sarah Barracuda. Imagine Barracuda Barbie with her knee-high jock socks and sexy short shorts showing the girls -- and boys -- how to score the winning jump shot. Props to Palin. She beat Barbie onto the court: Mattel didn't premiere a Basketball Barbie until the 1990s.
Mattel premiered a Miss America Barbie in 1974 when Sarah was still a child, and for three years, the doll, complete with her crown, sash, corsage and scepter, sashayed across toy chests in suburbia.
During the 1970s, the Miss America Pageant was one of the most watched televised events hitting its peak in 1970 with 22 million households. Even as women like Hillary Clinton rallied for the Equal Rights Amendment, little girls in Sarah's generation were ignorant of the protests and anticipated the annual dreamy ritual of the swimsuit parades and evening wear extravaganza with a hint of talent thrown in for scholarship.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Sarah transformed into a beauty queen during the big-hair '80s. She was second runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest and also named "Miss Congeniality." Barbie would have been proud.
After graduating from college in 1987, Sarah became a sportscaster in Alaska. Barbie beat Sarah into the newscaster seat by only two years. Mattel premiered its TV News Reporter Barbie in 1985 when journalism was at its glamorous heyday in the 1980s, thanks in part to trailblazers like Barbara Walters, Jessica Savitch and Connie Chung.
Sarah first dipped her toe into politics in 1992 when she ran for city council. That same year the Clintons were running for the White House. After he was elected, Bill Clinton opened the door to women in politics and appointed 592 women to Senate-confirmed positions while president -- the most of any president up to that time. It was hip to be a woman in politics in the 1990s. Sarah knew it, and so did Mattel when it unveiled the first Barbie for President doll in 1992.
Regardless of how down-to-earth the McCain campaign portrays Sarah, she still lives a life more like Barbie than Soccer Mom Sue.
Barbie flies a plane and has her pilot's license. Sarah's Ken -- oops, Todd -- owns a seaplane. Sarah was photographed standing next to the plane in Vogue. Don't say that's not Barbie-like.
Sarah ice fishes, hunts and snowmobiles. And she has a lot of them. In 1982, Mattel launched Eskimo Barbie, a tribute to Alaska. You know, Eskimo Barbie hunted caribou and moose outside that Dreamhouse when Ken was racing in the Iditarod Great Sled Race.
Oh, the houses. Sarah commutes between two. The three-story historic governor's mansion in Juneau has 10 bathrooms, six bedrooms and eight fireplaces. Sarah also has a more rustic house in Wasilla -- let's call it a Barbie cabin.
But Sarah has done some things that Barbie never would have considered.
When Sarah was Wasilla's mayor, a strict ordinance was passed about skateboarding on city sidewalks. Barbie would have never outlawed such a thing. Instead, she would have immediately gone shopping at the mall for the coolest skateboard and matching knee and elbow pads.
Sarah married young, and Barbie never married Ken. In fact, she kicked him to the curb in 2004. Will Sarah do the same to Todd if she becomes vice president? Barbie never had children; Sarah is the mother of five. Maybe Barbie didn't think she could have it all and Sarah did.
Girls live vicariously through Barbie. Women now can experience the campaign trail through Sarah in a way they couldn't with Hillary. Whether it matters that she recites the same speech or won't answer questions from reporters or voters remains to be seen.
Come on, Barbie lovers. It's fun to watch Sarah, if for no reason, for her daily hairstyles. At the vice presidential announcement, she looked librarian chic. At the Republican convention, her hair teased her shoulders seductively. On the campaign trail, she wears a perky ponytail. Does she have a pink curling iron hiding in her bag?
Life hasn't always been rosy in Barbie's universe. In 1992, Mattel released Teen Talking Barbie. She got in trouble when she said, "Math is hard." Considering her interview this week with Charles Gibson, Sarah may be thinking the same thing about foreign policy.
A person driving through the South might notice the chicken houses dotting the hills and flatlands. He might marvel at the larger ones, as long as a football field. He might react to their gagging stench for a moment, and then forget as he travels on. But those who live near the structures -- stuffed with as many as 25,000 chickens each -- combat the odor and health hazards daily.
"There's a horrible odor, a stench, and I have flies and rodents digging in, trying to get into my house," says Bernadine Edwards, whose 39-acre farm near Owensboro, Ky., is surrounded by 108 chicken houses within a two-mile radius. "It is unbelievable."
The 65-year-old school bus driver, who recently bought a purifier to help her breathe easier in her home, says the value of her property has plummeted since the chicken houses arrived in the early 1990s. "I'm too old to start over," she says. "I can't afford to. My house is paid for."
Edwards is not alone. Over the last 15 years, the country has seen a boom in chicken farming. Today, the industry is serving a cocktail of injustice and pollution to rural residents, and most of them aren't in a position to fight back.
Since the early 1990s, observers say, thousands of chicken houses have cropped up across the South as consumer demand for poultry has grown. Today, the U.S. is the world's poultry leader, with production of broilers, turkeys, and eggs valued at $29 billion in 2004, according to the National Chicken Council. Broilers -- chickens raised for meat -- generated $22 billion of that. The leading broiler production states in 2004 were Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas, which is home to the world's largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods.
Like chemical companies and industrial hog farmers, poultry producers don't tend to place these concentrated animal-feeding operations, or CAFOs, in ritzy neighborhoods beside multimillion dollar McMansions. Instead, chicken houses commandeer spacious rural areas, where local residents need the income and their neighbors won't speak out against them -- or are unaware of the factories' environmental and health consequences.
"These companies seek rural areas where unemployment, or underemployment, is high and people are desperate for ways to stay on the farm," says Aloma Dew, a Sierra Club organizer in Kentucky. "They assume that poor, country people will not organize or speak up, and that they will be ignorant of the impacts on their health and quality of life."
The companies provide local growers, who work under contract, with chicks, feed, medicine, and transportation. Growers take care of the rest, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction, maintenance, and labor costs. When the company requires upgrades, the costs fall to the growers. The massive amounts of manure, too, are their responsibility. (In Arkansas alone, chicken farms produce an amount of waste each day equal to that produced by 8 million people.) Payment is results-oriented, based on measures like total weight gain of the flock. It's a system, says the United Food and Commercial Workers, that leaves 71 percent of growers earning below poverty-level wages.
If growers protest, companies can cancel their contracts, leaving farmers responsible for incurred debt, says Laura Klauke, director of contract agriculture reform at the North Carolina-based Rural Advancement Foundation International. And that debt can be substantial: since banks in the region will more readily loan money for poultry houses than other types of agriculture, Klauke says, some farmers put everything on the line, mortgaging their property to make a living this way.
"If those contracts are canceled -- and they can be if the farmer doesn't do what the industry wants -- then that farmer could literally be homeless," said Klauke. "I know farmers who have been in that situation." (Industry representatives did not respond to requests for comments on this or any of the concerns expressed in this story.)
Pecks and effects
More frightening than the economic balancing act may be the health and environmental hazards posed by chicken farms, from the arsenic, ammonia, and other chemicals found in feed and manure to threats from diseased animals. While traditional farming can carry similar risks, CAFOs are especially hazardous because of the tight confinement that defines them. "The fact is, you put hundreds of animals in a very small area, that creates problems that would not exist if these animals were distributed across the countryside," says Barclay Rogers, who successfully litigated a pollution case against Tyson in Kentucky in 2003.
Rogers says the industry grew rapidly with little regulatory constraint, and has been "riding roughshod" over land and people. While CAFOs must follow federal environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, he says, many growers try to "duck and weave" regulations. "The industry may stand up and say we are over-regulating, and that we have all of these permits, but the practical aspect is that they have devised many ways to avert pollution controls," said Rogers. "That's why we are seeing the fouling of water and air. We just now are coming to grips with these consequences, as people are catching up and realizing what has happened to them."
Last year, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson (D) filed suit against Tyson, Cargill, and several other poultry companies, seeking to stop water pollution caused in his state by soiled chicken litter dumped in Arkansas. Polluted runoff, also known as non-point source pollution, is the biggest remaining water pollution problem in the U.S., according to the EPA, which cites agriculture as the largest source of such pollution. Edmondson described the problem as "an economic development issue, an agricultural issue, and a quality-of-life issue." Not to be outdone, Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) -- who is running for governor -- countered in November by suing the state of Oklahoma directly, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to prohibit Oklahoma from forcing his state's poultry farmers to adhere to the stricter standards. Both cases are still pending.
This messy interstate situation is just one indication of the many unknowns at stake. "Some of the [environmental] consequences of these CAFOs are just not clear," said Van Brahana, a geologist at the University of Arkansas who studies groundwater. "What we do know is when you have a lot of organisms living in close conditions and you have a buildup of chemicals, you might get a cause-and-effect relationship. The scary thing is we just don't know right now."
The effects on those who work directly with the animals are clearer. "In rural America, the poultry companies can get workers for a song, and the workers are so grateful to get the jobs," says Jackie Nowell of the United Food and Commercial Workers. These workers -- usually poor, and often African American or Hispanic -- "are exposed to feces [and] any disease the chicken has," Nowell says. "There are also horrible levels of dust and dander inside these houses."
Nowell adds that researchers in the region are currently exploring the possible crossover of various viruses from poultry to humans, like avian flu. "That's a real concern. These workers and people who live near these houses will be on ground zero of an outbreak."
Workers in poultry processing plants also face serious dangers from machinery, carpal tunnel syndrome, and health hazards such as contaminated microorganisms and dust. "There are huge health and safety violations in every plant," says Jennifer Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. In 2004, for example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations to Tyson for alleged violations after an employee was asphyxiated when he inhaled hydrogen sulfide, a gas created by decaying organic matter. OSHA fined the company $436,000.
Poultry companies "hire relatively low-income people, immigrants who have less of an understanding of rights and health issues," Rosenbaum says. Simply put, she says, the companies are hurting the South's small towns while they fatten their own wallets.
Katie Tillinghast lives in rural northwest Arkansas. In early January, she received a call from a neighbor who told her he planned to put three large turkey houses on his property, 200 yards away. Tillinghast wants to stop the project, but the only plausible choice would be to buy her neighbor out at $3,000 an acre -- and he owns 73 acres. She can't afford that, and knows it's highly unlikely that a rich buyer will step in to help.
Like other states, Arkansas does not yet have a law to protect residents from these operations, though several states have considered such legislation. So Tillinghast can't do much but worry -- about her drinking water, about avian flu, about noise and light pollution, about air quality. "I agree someone should be able to do what they want to do on their land," Tillinghast says. "But I don't think you should be able to do something that hurts your neighbors."
Many others agree with her, but local dynamics can make it hard for activists to issue a battle cry. "Often these plants are the only major industry in town," says SPLC's Rosenbaum. "Everyone goes to church together or went to high school together. Everyone knows everyone, and it's hard to fight that."
Groups like the Sierra Club have fought the poultry industry for many years, but only recently have they begun to collaborate with people on the ground. In 2004, a group of growers, workers, and environmental, public-health, religious, and social-justice organizations created the National Poultry Justice Alliance.
The idea came from the Glenmary Commission on Justice in Ohio, a group of Catholic brothers and priests who have worked in the South since 1939. Marcus Keyes, the commission's director, says he was inspired by a statement from the Catholic Bishops of the South in 2000 about workers' rights. "These are moral issues -- the rights of workers, conditions of workers, pay and benefits," said Keyes. "These are human rights issues, and environmental [issues, but] in the end they are all moral issues." The group's members are working to strengthen the alliance before launching a major campaign.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit may come to trial in early April that could up the ante. While previous suits have dealt with pollution and workers' rights, this one tackles the issue of health effects on residents. In 2003, a group of citizens from Prairie Grove, Ark., a town of 2,500, filed a lawsuit against several poultry producers. Citing a connection between the community's high cancer rates and arsenic contamination from chicken litter spread as fertilizer, they are seeking damages from the companies that own the birds (not, it should be noted, from the local growers). Their lawyers say cancer rates in the small town are 50 times higher than the national average.
The Prairie Grove effort has grown to include about 100 plaintiffs in multiple suits, each of which will be tried separately. Supporters say that legal action may be the only way to bring these issues to light and hold the industry to higher standards. If the court rules in Prairie Grove's favor, the decision could provide ground for others to stand on. Until then, the only ones winning in this despair-filled industry are the mammoth corporations.
Before the Iowa caucus, which Wesley Clark chose to bypass, the general was busy wooing voters in New Hampshire with one clear message: I can beat George W. Bush.
The results of the Iowa caucus -- in which John Kerry swept the state with John Edwards coming in second place and Dean a far third -- have changed the game entirely, and Clark's battle now looks a lot more complex.
Clark sits in the middle of a wildfire blazing out of control. On one side, distinguished New Englander Kerry, going for the veteran vote; the other side, the play-nice Edwards vying for the Southern populist vote. Dean is a distant flame, still burning but not near as fierce as it was a week ago. That creates a major dilemma for the Clark campaign, which focused a lot of energy on protraying him as the perfect choice for the anti-Dean voter while assuming that the veteran vote was theirs and that the Southern vote sat on the back burner. Longtime politician Kerry now seems to half-own the veteran vote instead of Clark, a four-star general and former NATO commander.
All week, Clark has had to defend previous controversial statements about his party affiliation, his stance on abortion, his support, or not, of the Iraq war and his statement that under a Clark administration another Sept. 11 would never happen again. Leading into the nation's first primary, defending old statements is not a sane strategy.
Hours after Iowa, Kerry began gaining in New Hampshire polls, pushing Dean and Clark into a battle for second. The backlash in the mainstream media against Dean -- with his surprisingly big defeat and strange concession speech -- has been fierce, and so his drop in the polls is more understandable. But with Clark, the drop is far more perplexing. If he had a strong populist message that was truly resonating with voters, he would be holding steady or gaining. He's been unable to generate much fresh positive news coverage and break out of the Iowa doldrums.
Edwards, a North Carolinian, could give Clark a true marathon run on Feb. 3 when South Carolina, Oklahoma and Missouri -- which Clark was counting on to favor the state's native son Dick Gephardt -- become the focus. Lieberman could be still in the mix, too, especially in Oklahoma where his sister lives.
While it's easy to second guess Clark's skipping of Iowa, the campaign seems to have lost some focus after Monday night, scrambling to figure out what to do. The campaign held a conference call Wednesday, insisting Clark is in this battle for the long haul even if it plays long into March.
"The goal is to win the nomination not beat any candidate," said Craig Varoga, Clark's field director.
He added that there is not one scenario that has not been discussed. Some campaign insiders stress that they never anticipated Edwards gaining strength so early, but rather had prepared for Edwards in February.
The official campaign line is that they have been paying close attention to various primary states while other candidates have focused on Iowa and New Hampshire. Clark's campaign insists that they have organization in places where Kerry, Edwards and Dean don't. True, Clark is strong in Oklahoma but Edwards is gaining and has concentrated on the state's rural areas -- the same strategy he used in Iowa.
And in Missouri, which is now anyone's taking, the Clark camp was caught this week scrambling to find a voter file; they hadn't bought one because it was considered Gephardt's turf. It's problems like that one that increasingly worry Clark's grassroots support, which began urging Clark to run for office last summer.
The Clark campaign has stressed all along they simply want a strong finish in New Hampshire. To get that is tricky. Clark can't attack Kerry because Edwards set the stage in Iowa that nice guys finish second. Clark has to hope that his solo dominance in New Hampshire a few weeks ago and Dean's self-destructing fiasco will place him in a silver place finish.
Wesley Clark looked like an experienced politician recently when he stopped in El Dorado, Ark., a small but powerful oil town with lots of green to give to someone gunning for the White House. He talked about the issues facing America and even quipped about the 2000 Florida voting nightmare.
"George W. Bush will need brothers in 49 other states to take this election," he said.
The crowd went ballistic with applause and even a few "Amens." Some said he was a Harry Truman for the 21st century, a fiscal populist who won the crowd with common sense and straight talk. Clark shook hands, kissed babies, and listened intently to people's problems, especially veterans who spewed a litany of complaints about healthcare. Clark clearly connected with the crowd and so did his wife, Gert. Enthusiastic, Clark seems to look at the campaign trail as a way to make thousands of new friends.
With rah-rah cheers and sign waving, Clark looked ready for prime time to the 500 people who showed up at the festival to hear him speak. What the voters in the audience didn't realize was that the Clark campaign, the workings behind the scene, was anything but ready to play politics with the big boys.
Within a few days of that appearance, the Clark campaign faced soap opera style hijinks as Donnie Fowler, campaign manager and former field director for Gore 2000, left amid turmoil brewing in a campaign that has never found its footing. In political circles, the Fowler story bubbled amid spin that this was just a slight bump in a new campaign and gossip that the problems were much deeper than a campaign manager packing his bags and saying adios.
The problem, say some, is the power of Mark Fabiani and Ron Klain, two former Gore 2000 gurus, who often see Clark's campaign from afar in Washington. The pair has suggested Clark open headquarters in Washington, signaling to some that Fabiani and Klain do not want to relocate to Little Rock or give up their client base, which could become a conflict as the campaign rolls along.
But other aspects bubble in a campaign that started with a draft movement and grassroots volunteers and flipped dramatically when Clark announced to the realm of experienced politics. Even before then rifts brewed between two draft movements, both begging for Clark's attention. Now, draft workers are unhappy and jealous. Some thought they would have bigger campaign roles. Others thought they would net large salaries or travel to glamorous campaign stops. That hasn't happened, and it won't. This is real-time politics, not the "West Wing."
Volunteers complain that they don't receive materials or call-backs. Clark's media operation still appears unfocused with more than five spokesmen jockeying for their name in the papers and their mugs on TV screens. Campaign workers want to spew their own personal spin even if it means ignoring the cardinal rule of politics -- stay on message and out of the headlines.
Political geeks who live for such fireworks point to one critical component missing thus far in the Clark campaign -- a political director who can ensure Clark's name shows up on ballots in key states without missing deadlines. Some states require complicated petition signatures, such as a number of signatures from certain counties within states along with high filing fees. Other states require just a filing fee and some simple forms. As one Democratic political consultant said, "You can have a great candidate who the people love, but if his name isn't on the ballot, people can't vote for him."
With such internal chaos, it's easy to forget Clark is a former general turned candidate. Since his three weeks on the trail, Clark has seized politics with Superman strength. He has wooed Hollywood, courting the likes of Steven Spielberg and Clintonites such as Arkansan Mary Steenbergen and her husband Ted Danson.
"Hollywood loves celebrities and winners," said Peverill Squire, a University of Iowa political science professor. "Because Clark is different from the rest of the field he gets celebrity status, at least for a few more weeks. But Hollywood will only stick with him if he appears to be a potential winner. If his campaign tanks, the Hollywood money and attention disappear.
Clark has already raised $3.5 million both from large and small donors -- no small feat for a newcomer. He is ahead of rival Howard Dean and George W. Bush in some polls and could be a serious contender in early primary states, especially New Hampshire and South Carolina. The initial burst of attention may have waned and soon he could be scrambling for attention like the other eight candidates.
"He still sticks out because of his unique credentials, and that will be true as long as national security issues are prominent in the campaign," said Squire. "But if economic and other domestic issues come to dominate the debate Clark will be at something of a disadvantage. To be something other than the flavor of the week he has to become more than a one dimensional candidate running a one dimensional campaign."
Clark has a long way to go. He needs to rein in the backstabbing nastiness of his campaign organization and focus on future strategy and problematic issues that have crept up since late September.
Senator and presidential contender John Edwards questioned Clark's position as a paid board member of Arkansas-based Acxiom Inc., a Little Rock data analysis company. In 2001, Acxiom which signed a $300,000 contract with Stephens Inc., a powerful Little Rock brokerage house and one of the largest off Wall Street, to obtain Clark's help in lobbying the government for homeland security business. Clark worked for Stephens until early this year.
Even after Clark left, he continued under contract with Acxiom, helping the company with consulting. He gave up the contract when he announced for his candidacy. A privacy group has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Acxiom and JetBlue Airways Corp., which has acknowledged that it had given information from about 5 million passenger records to a Defense Department contractor. Acxiom provided additional demographic information to the contractor, which produced a study that was purported to help the government improve military base security.
Edwards said Clark should explain his involvement with Acxiom, especially since Clark has raised privacy concerns about post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism laws. Clark left Acxiom Thursday, just a few hours before the third Democratic presidential debate in Phoenix, where he could have faced a showdown with Edwards about the issue. He also resigned Thursday from WaveCrest Laboratories, a maker of innovative electric motors, and Internet security company Entrust, Inc.
This week, the Washington Post reported that Clark may have violated FEC laws when he received payment for three speeches, already scheduled before Clark's presidential plans. The speeches, for which he was paid $30,000 or more each, focused on his campaign and criticized Bush's Iraq policy. The FEC considers payments for paid appearances contributions to the candidate. Corporations, unions and universities cannot pay for campaign-related appearances for presidential candidates.
The campaign said Clark won't give any more paid speeches and will return the money he was paid.
While that issue didn't raise its head at Thursday night's debate, Clark's wishy-washy stance on the war from a couple of weeks ago and his speech at an Arkansas Republican fundraiser did. It's natural that Clark, who was leading in a national CNN/Gallup poll Thursday, would take some hits from his Democratic opponents. Clark held his own as an outsider amid six inside Washington squawk boxes and Dean, who also seemed to signal to watchers he was an outsider and proud of it.
Still, a debate is as much of a snapshot of political environment as a poll is. Clark should have resigned from the corporate boards before his candidacy. He also should have realized taking money for speeches while seeking votes was not the brightest idea. What would have been non-stories became stories. Such actions show Clark is reacting, which is the worst kind of campaigning, rather than acting to promote his message of New American Patriotism.
For all the daily drama, Clark knows the one thing any battle needs is the strict organization of its soldiers. On Friday, he announced key positions in his campaign. Among names like Dick Sklar, the Balkans' former ambassador, and Mickey Kantor, former National Chair for Clinton/Gore 1992 and Secretary of Commerce, there was John Hlinko, a draft worker who has had internal strife with members of other draft movements.
Clark supporters hope that when he returns to Little Rock this weekend he acts more like a general who led the military negotiations for the Bosnian Peace Accords at Dayton instead of a campaign virgin letting politicos in Washington dictate his future.
Little Rock, Ark. -- All candidates should know the first rule of politics: Find your message and stay on it. Wesley Clark apparently didn't get the memo.
Less than twenty-four hours after declaring a run for the White House, Clark flipped his opinion on the Iraq war while traveling to his first campaign stop in Florida. There, on a plane with a handful of reporters, Clark said he would have voted for the war if he had been a member of Congress. Of all issues to waver on as a newly christened politician, this was the one he should have nailed to committed memory.
After all, Clark had preached against the war for months, announcing to the world while a CNN military analyst that the United States needed an international coalition before entering Iraq. He said more imminent threats brewed, North Korea, for example, than Saddam Hussein. Somewhere between announcing his run for president and traveling to Florida, Clark's official opinion flipped.
Then, twenty-four hours later, Clark once again flopped his opinion, telling a crowd of Iowa college students that the war was a major "blunder." He emphasized to reporters in Iowa that he would "never have voted for this war, never." His campaign folk spun, saying the entire incident simply needed clarifying. Maybe. Or maybe not.
Of course, for most of 2003, Clark has been a tad indecisive on key issues.
It took Clark months to declare a political party. With regard to his candidacy, he teased more than a burlesque dancer playing peek-a-boo. In Little Rock, he has also been more than difficult with local media, playing the wishy-washy card numerous times regarding photo shoots and interviews. Last week, Clark told a Little Rock news photographer he could follow him around on the day of his announcement. Then, when the photographer showed up, he was told no. Then, yes. Then, no. And by the end of the day, with only a few shots on his roll, the veteran photographer said, "After eight hours on this campaign trail, I'm ready to get off."
Clark may be a brilliant war planner and a visionary who will create a 100-year plan for the future of the United States but is he a savvy politician? It's hard to transform from insurance salesman to mayoral candidate in a day, much less jump into the crazy chaotic mess of presidential politics and be as polished and media savvy as someone who has been campaigning for twenty years.
Two things are certain: Clark is a novice politician, and the early stages of his campaign seem made up as they go. But Clark and crew have to be ready for prime time now. His coyness, which generated a tidal wave of free media, created an urgency that makes it necessary to look totally together and free of visible foibles this close to New Hampshire's big day.
The Clark splash last week was certainly enough to generate a lead in some polls, a stellar debut for someone who never even ran for student council. Clark plays well on television and people who don't prefer Howard Dean or George W. Bush like the four-star general. Take the South, where Clark's name is all the rage as Southerners like his pro-military background and his hobby as a newbie hunter (since his 2001 return to Arkansas) -- important aspects in a place like Dixie where the Civil War is still fought in re-enactments on weekends and society schedules life around hunting seasons.
But for all the positive buzz, the Clark campaign has a long road to travel, not just the one lined with flag-waving fans and babies waiting to be kissed.
The Clark campaign is a unique one that began in reversal with draft movement volunteers knocking on his door instead of the old-fashion way. Instead of Clark and crew starting with empty offices and establishing procedures, they begin with thousands of volunteers who feel that they "own" the candidate because of their hard work leading up to an announcement.
The volunteers, not Clark, created a network of support, and now the campaign officials have a delicate task -- deciding which ones of the volunteers were fine for the draft movement but not quite good enough for the campaign. Some will be tolerable; some won't. Feelings will be hurt and egos will be damaged. The power dynamic of the campaign is entirely different than John Kerry's or Dean's or even Al Sharpton's.
And with few key campaign leaders in place, Clark could find himself in a critical ambush sooner rather than later.
On Monday, a new allegation was thrown at Clark by Republicans who found a photograph of Clark as a three-star lieutenant general who directed strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. In the photo, taken nearly 10 years ago in the northern Bosnian city of Banja Luka, Clark stood with notorious Bosnian Serb commander and indicted war criminal, Gen. Ratko Mladic. Clark wore Mladic's military cap; Mladic's donned Clark's cap. The State Department opposed the meeting, but Clark insisted.
Such mini-scandals are nothing new.
Bill Clinton was bombarded with them after announcing in 1991, including the smoking marijuana and draft dodging ones. But Clinton had smart strategists in place to deal with such bothers while he preached his message to the masses. Clark doesn't. It's almost a week into the campaign battlefield, and Clark troops have yet to organize fully, still without a campaign manager, a savvy press operation or a headquarters where volunteers can hang their hats.
For every hour that ticks by without people in place, Clark's opposition will enjoy an open season of scandal hunting and allegations on a soldier obsessed with organization who should know better.
Amid red, white and blue balloons and recycled Draft Clark signs, Wesley Clark announced his run for the White House. "My name is Wes Clark. I am from Little Rock, Arkansas. And Im here to announce that I intend to seek the presidency of the United States of America," he told a crowd of about 1,000 supporters at a boys and girls club here.
It was about time, as many people were tiring of Clark's indecisiveness while he showed up on as many television shows as possible without even declaring a political party. On a sunny warm fall day in the political landscape owned by Bill Clinton, the coy general, who officially declared himself a Democrat only two weeks ago, became the hottest name in politics.
Clark joins an already crowded field of nine Democrats, but politicos say he brings something new to the table. He knows his way around international issues. He is a wizard about military issues. And he's telegenic -- a critical component of any campaign in a media obsessed world.
But the retired four-star Army general possesses no governing experience nor has he ever been on a campaign trail. The consequences of inexperience are harsh for a newbie. While playing war games is no easy task, neither is directing national policy or shaking thousands of hands all day.
Possibly Clark can learn from the experienced tutors who are quickly securing the perimeter around him. This week, a flood of former Clintonites flew into Little Rock to teach Clark the ropes of a successful campaign. Among the Clinton and Gore crew are Gore spokesman Mark Fabiani, Gore's chief of staff Ron Klain, former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor; former Gore field director Donnie Fowler; Washington attorneys Ron Klain and Bill Oldaker; New Hampshire activist and Clinton friend George Bruno; Clinton appointee Vanessa Weaver and Eli Segal, former head of AmeriCorps.
Powerful advertising man Skip Rutherford, a Clinton fundraiser and president of the Clinton Foundation that oversees the construction of the Clinton Library in Little Rock, also attended the campaign meeting. His attendance signaled to some that Clinton was much more involved in this campaign than appears apparent.
This influence became much clearer on Wednesday as the former president's inner circle organized the artificial hoopla and former White House staffers and interns fanned out to dispense bottles of water, sign up volunteers and handle media. The theme that resonated: Don't Stop Thinking About Yesterday.
The Clinton connection that Al Gore tried so hard to keep at a distance in 2000 seems to be closer than ever in the earliest stage of a Clark campaign. Certainly, former Gore allies know how to wage a war against Bush, hoping, perhaps, for a landslide victory by lining up with a general who knows how to strategize.
"I think the active backing from a number of former Clinton supporters is a net advantage for Clark," said Peverill Squire, a political scientist professor at the University of Iowa. "Clark has never run for office before and surrounding himself with people who have been associated with winning campaigns is one route to overcoming his inexperience. They also provide him with a host of contacts and ties to major figures in the Democratic party that most outsider candidates could never attain."
A popular button wore by supporters was "When Clinton Lied, Nobody Died." Some signs read "Bye-Bye Bush" and "Wes Wing." But while part of the crafted Clark message bashed candidate George W. Bush, the remainder seemed intent on appearing intelligent and diplomatic, not nearly as feisty as Howard Dean's tone.
As Clark said in his speech, "We're going to ask those hard questions, my friends, and ask not in bickery or attacks ... we're going to seek out the facts, to search for the causes, reach to the very essence of our democracy." It's hard to distinguish Dean's anti-war message from Clark's. Perhaps the myth is there is no anti-war message but rather simply a differing perception fueled by each candidate. Dean opposed going to Iraq. Clark, who led the 1999 NATO campaign against Yugoslavia as the allied supreme commander of NATO, was outspoken in his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Clark's big worry was the absence of an international coalition. Dean touts the same concerns.
Dean is seen as anti-war while Clark is perceived as a GI Joe warrior, but they share the same stance. They both say that the most important aspect facing the United States as a superpower is to use its might appropriately. Dean and Clark also say that the United states must respect its allies and work with them -- not around them. Yet, Clark's announcement today appeared to herald a new anti-war candidate on the scene, the perfect answer for those who keep trying to suggest that Dean plays far too left, despite his centrist positions and budget balancing in Vermont,.,
They are very alike, but despite their similarities these two candidates are considered very opposite. That's because they are not so much different as their supporters are. Anti-war folks and and a wide range of liberals like Dean. Moderates, including lots of service people -- military, veterans and Americorps kids -- take Clark's centrist view. As one fan said in the crowd, "He's a Southern Democrat's dream come true."
Maybe, but he's no Bill Clinton. And Tuesday was not the second coming of a Clinton clone. While Clark's speech talked about America, the passion seemed lacking. Clark even read chunks of it and failed to connect with a crowd as Clinton can. Afterwards, many in the crowd left without shaking the general's hand -- in contrast to a Clinton rally, where people still stand in line for hours to shake the former president's hand.
And even Clark's theme song at the end of the speech seemed odd -- Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." An aide said the song was picked to make Clark look "progressive." Or perhaps it's a war call to let Dean know he's coming after his base.
Thanks to savvy marketing by the Clinton Foundation, the former president has discovered a new following. Elvis fans have become fascinated with the foundation's latest fundraising tool -- the Clinton cookbook, featuring the Elvis favorite, grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.
By combining a saxophone-playing president with the rock-and-roll god of all time, the Clinton Foundation gets a new fundraising and tourist demographic for the $160 million library, slated to open in November 2004 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The cookbook, which will be available through direct mail sales starting Aug. 29, is the latest in the brilliant scheme to market Clinton as a tourist attraction.
Recently, the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Hot Springs, Arkansas, where Clinton grew up and attended high school, printed 100,000 Clinton trading cards to promote the city. It's the seventh time the city has featured Clinton on a card. This one shows Clinton on the White House lawn in 1999 with his late dog Buddy (named for an uncle who lived in Hot Springs).
Clinton as a tourism entity is a 21st century method to market a former president who refuses to sit still, play golf and dodge the limelight. Instead, he's all about selling himself, but of course he always has been. Remember his appearance on the Arsenio Hall show?
Skip Rutherford, a long-time FOB and executive director of the Clinton Presidential Foundation, is the mastermind behind the Clinton marketing blitz. He says that the former president has always attracted attention on an unprecedented scale. Because of that, it's logical to use him as a pitch man for tourism and the 27-acre presidential library site.
"Clinton has this aura about him," says Rutherford. "James Carville called him a rock star, but I'm not of the belief, if you build it, they will come. I think you have to have a plan and good marketing component."
Presidents always concoct methods to raise funds for their libraries. They have to. There is no other way since presidential libraries are odd entities. Funded by private donations while under construction, the libraries, once completed, are turned over to the National Archives to become dense repositories for a specific moment in history.
Clinton has always played to the pop culture of America, hobnobbing with U2 and Sharon Stone as if they were international leaders. It's no surprise that in Clinton's post-presidency, he does the same.
The new cookbook is a prime example. Meshing recipes as simple as peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with stories of Clinton lore and cooking, the foundation has created a book that will appeal to Clintonites as well as the masses. It features recipes by Bono, actress and Clinton pal Mary Steenbergen as well as politicos like Carville and former White House aides.
With Elvis in the mix, the foundation also draws tourists from Memphis -- a two-hour drive from Little Rock -- to the library. Good news for Clinton, who hopes to attract 300,000 tourists a year to his shrine by the Arkansas River.
The foundation has mastered the art of selling a president with direct mailings that allow the non-profit to reach people who are interested in Clinton and in politics. The foundation can also buy lists that target potential library donors. With that in mind, the foundation sold granite pavers for $35 in late 2001 and into 2002. Those pavers, engraved with names of nearly 8,000 donors, will line the entrance to the library. Donors also had the option of purchasing trees that will dot the library site.
If that wasn't enough, earlier this year the foundation gave fans of the former prez a chance for their names to appear on a steel beam that was placed in the library in May. The price? $35 a pop. To add to that fundraising effort, Clinton journeyed to Arkansas and signed the final signature on the beam in May. Rutherford won't comment on how much money is raised from such projects. Some donors donate more than the standard price when they support one of these efforts. One thing for sure, Rutherford says, these projects work.
"People like to get something for their money," he says. "These types of projects work and gets attention and that's in part because Clinton just generates international and national attention." It doesn't hurt to keep the focus on the former president, either. Since the library won't open until 2004, the foundation, with help from the National Archives, which is cataloging the extensive collection of artifacts and documents from the eight-year presidency, has held mini-exhibits to hold the public's interest.
The first one in 2001 highlighted gifts from around the world and the 50 states that Bill and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had received during the Clinton administration. The next one centered on a White House Christmas, featuring ornaments and decorations from the Clinton years.
This fall, once again at the renovated Cox Creative Center near the future library, another exhibit will launch. This one, a look at Clinton's favorite books, will have an added bonus -- a small display of Elvis memorabilia from the Clinton collection. The perfect hook to feed the fetish of Elvis lovers.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas journalist. Her work frequently appears in The Economist and US News and World Report. She's the author of the upcoming "Sex in the South" (Justin Charles & Co.)
A group of about 100 people gathered recently on a Monday night in Little Rock to eat chips and dip and discuss their shared passion -- General Wesley K. Clark. The bottom line among the group: They want him as their next president.
Little Rock is significant because this is the place the former allied commander for NATO calls home. Clark was born in Chicago, but grew up in Little Rock from age 4 until he graduated from high school. He returned in 2001, after West Point and a storied military career. This city, which watched Bill Clinton rise to global prominence, has recently become ground zero for the nationwide effort to recruit Clark for a White House run. Other "Draft Clark" groups throughout the country existed long before this Arkansas group, but this is the one that matters the most now.
Jeff Dailey, the son of Little Rock's mayor and a former Clinton staffer, created Arkansans for Clark, an online petition for Clark supporter's that will aid in setting up county committees in all 75 of the state's counties. That group is working in tandem with the Draft Clark 2004 movement, which is now in 42 states with more than 100 chapters.
"General Clark has what it takes to ask Bush the tough questions, to really give Democrats a strong edge," says Dailey, who hopped on the Clark bandwagon after hearing him speak. "He is the kind of leader we need to deal with international and national issues, brilliant and he knows the issues. We are pushing forward and plan to present General Clark with the petitions. "
The Draft Clark 2004 movement feels so strongly about the general's chances for a presidential run that they plan to move their national headquarters to downtown Little Rock in the next few days. Clark supporters from around the country plan to descend on the city and work like a full-fledged campaign to convince the general to run.
A show of loyalty like this in the general's backyard could go a long way toward convincing Clark to plunge into the already flooded field of nine Democrats. Maybe 10, if Al Gore decides to re-enter the fray. The big question: Is Clark a Democrat?
Clark has yet to declare a party and plays coy when asked. Most of his close associates insist he is a Democrat because he bashes George W. Bush. His record, which has been culled together from previous interviews to create a presidential candidate dossier, leans left of center. He's pro-affirmative action and pro-choice. He is against drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and sits on the board of Wavecrest Laboratories, a Virginia-based technology company that has developed a breakthrough electric propulsion system that transforms electrical energy into mechanical motion.
Since exiting NATO, Clark has pontificated around the country about global affairs, appeared regularly as a military analyst on CNN, worked for Little Rock's Stephens Inc., the largest brokerage house off Wall Street, and traveled the world attending conferences and accepting awards. He has also launched his own Website for Americans to talk about critical issues, which serves as the perfect outlet to create a platform and gain media exposure. In September, Clark's new book about the war in Iraq and terrorism hits the shelves, a surefire boost for his name recognition.
Recently on National Public Radio, Clark said that he is seriously considering throwing his hat in the ring for president. He still dodges party affiliation, but his admitted interest in running erodes any previous thoughts that Clark only craved media attention so that he could shore up support as a vice-presidential candidate. Wrong-o. Any former general accustomed to controlling troops and leading European counties doesn't want to hang in the shadow of John Kerry or Joe Lieberman. No, Clark plans to lead his own campaign if it isn't too late for battle.
Clark has said that the one question Americans should ask themselves in 2004 is: Do you feel safer now than four years ago? That answer, he says, is probably no, regardless of the creation of Homeland Security Department and its efforts to step up security in this country. With an experienced military man in the mix, Democrats get a strong inoculation against their weakness on defense issues. Bush can't accuse Clark of being soft on the military, especially since Bush went AWOL from his Guard unit in Alabama. Clark offers Democrats a rare chance to have more credibility on the military than the Republicans, even against a sitting president who has gotten us into two wars.
The general's critics say he should forgo the games about party affiliation and pick one if he wants to be considered a serious politician. They also say he should also have jumped in the race months ago, and it's really too late now. Clark will be incredibly behind in raising money. Most candidates have also hired experienced staff who know the intricacies of Iowa and New Hampshire. Supporters point to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign when the then-Arkansas governor entered the race in October.
But maybe Clark's grand plan -- slowly building an army of loyal, hard-working supporters from coast-to-coast to win the war against Bush -- is working. They write letters, hold Meet Ups -- the new online method to gain supporters -- and recruit other like-minded individuals to sign petitions to persuade Clark to run. This support keeps the media's attention and lands Clark on the Sunday morning shows.
In Little Rock, Clark confidants say that he told them several months ago he wouldn't run for president unless he was drafted. His request has definitely become reality. Every day more people log on and sign up to work for a man they know little about. That, says many, is what lures them to Clark, a mystery man without the taint of party politics.
Still, Clinton loyalists in Arkansas aren't so sure they want another Arkansan for president. Such a race will certainly serve as competition for the Clinton political legacy in this Southern state that hails its native son as a political god. Rumors in some circles also bubble that a Clark run, and if by fluke a win, hinders Hillary Rodham Clinton's chance for a clear shot in 2008.
Clark tells aides he will make a decision about the future before Labor Day. The Draft Clark groups plan to descend on Little Rock with boxes of petitions in August. They hope their innovative grassroots efforts will convince a man with no political experience to chalk one up for his country.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas journalist. Her work frequently appears in The Economist and US News and World Report. She's the author of the upcoming "Sex in the South" (Justin Charles & Co.)
A teenage boy heads toward the magazine stand at the local E-ZMart in Mississippi. His eyes dart past the clerk to the rack filled with copies of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines. As he lusts over the bevy of silicone beauties, he feels a woody coming on.He grabs a magazine, takes his change and quickly turns to leave. A policeman at the door spots the boner. Busted! That'll be a $2,000 fine and maybe a year in jail for that hard-on, kid. Sounds far-fetched? Come again. The Mississippi Legislature is considering a bill to ban erections in public. While the bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom King, is aimed at strip clubs, the literal, almost forensic wording of the legislation is raising, um, eyebrows.It defines nudity as "the showing of the post-pubertal human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, the showing of the post-pubertal female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple or areola, or the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state."Such power and repression suffocates much of the South. But the land of Dixie is also drenched with sex and desire, creating a nutty, schizophrenic society. For all the Bible thumping in this ultra-religious region, the South remains the premiere hothouse for fornicatin' and sinnin,' be it on the back roads or in country-club bathrooms.We tuck away sex and sin, creating a passionate underworld bubbling with seduction and eroticism, adultery and flirtation. Certainly, no one knows this better than Southern lawmakers, who constantly attempt to monitor morality with bizarre laws.While Mississippi is trying to rein in strip joints with its boner bill, Atlanta is home to more nude dance clubs than any other state. Rebecca Poynor Burns, in the March issue of Atlanta magazine, writes:The metro area's 40-plus nude dance clubs alone rake in $80-100 million a year. Not to mention the $20 million that dancers earn as independent contractors. Even a conservative estimate of the economic impact of the strip clubs, according to Georgia state economist Donald Ratajczak, translate into a whopping $200-240 million. That's well above the $147.6 million economic impact generated by the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Hawks combined.Benton, Ark., a small bedroom community 15 miles outside Little Rock, has one of the most active swingers clubs in the country. At the 12th Street Newsstand, where patrons are allowed to browse through porn for no more than 15 minutes, there's a self-published magazine dedicated to the swinging Benton housewife.Coming Attractions Parties, Inc., a California-based sex-toy company, boasts that some of its best saleswomen are in Dixie, specifically Arkansas and Memphis, Tenn. That's surprising since many Southern states -- Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and even Louisiana -- have made such pleasure devices illegal.On weekends, Coming Attractions representative Linda Brewer peddles sex toys from party to party in battered suitcases throughout the small towns and suburbs of Arkansas, giving shy Southern belles the opportunity to buy vibrators, potions and lotions. They choose these small, intimate parties, rather than the Internet, because they need education, says Brewer, who doubles as saleslady and Dr. Ruth."These women want a chance to be in tune with their sexuality," says Brewer. "And they have been raised really to not understand pleasure. Sometimes, I have to give a primer on what something is, like the clitoris as a pleasure point."While the sex industry booms, a perception lingers that Southerners thrive on myth, magnolia and moonlight with a touch of Jesus mixed in to keep us in line. That we Southerners are romantic creatures living out our days languishing under Spanish moss and drinking mint juleps. That "Gone With the Wind" really serves as our Bible. And it does.Even today, Southern women are still defined in a warped way by that Southern classic, categorized by their actions as a Scarlett (whore) or a Melanie (Madonna). A man desires a Scarlett, but he marries a Melanie."There has always been this bad girl, good girl attitude in the South," says Doug Monroe, 52, an Atlanta writer. "I remember growing up, feeling terribly confused and guilty about women. I think that image has waned some, but you still have it."Indeed, growing up in the South, I watched "Gone With the Wind" at least twice a year. As a Southern woman, I felt almost forced to identify with either Scarlett or Melanie. Every time I saw the movie, my mother would say, "Remember Southern belles are either mean as hell or humble as kittens."Although I wear all black Donna Karan instead of floral Laura Ashley, and would never consider joining the Junior League, I still identify with Scarlett much more than Melanie. But as a modern-day independent Scarlett, I am haunted by a certain amount of guilt that I am not meek and pure like Melanie, waiting patiently for my Ashley to return home.Rosemary Daniell, author of the Southern classic "Fatal Flowers: On Sin, Sex and Suicide in the Deep South," says the region thrives on guilt."You are going to see this [guilt] manifest," says Daniell. "That's why the South is so rich in literature like Tennessee Williams' plays. It's about liberating yourself through actions."And in this land of the Rebel yell, people will sin, repent and sin again. This shame and rebellion produces a tension and silent code: Southern women never tell about their men, their sex lives or the anger they feel."There are two taboos," says Daniell, who lives in Savannah, Ga. "We are never open about anger or sexuality. If you are, you broke the code. The fact that Southern men behave the way they do is rooted in the belief that a Southern woman doesn't tell. If you do, you are labeled a rebel."Male chauvinism didn't exit the region during the bra-burning days of the 1970s. Men still call women "honey" and "sweetheart" without giving it a nano-second of consideration. And even the toughest Southern woman usually smiles coyly."Men still compare their pistols down here," says Daniell. "Southern men are more directly aggressive and will romance a woman more than a Yankee man."In turn, Southern women are taught to flirt, but not to compete with a man. Inevitably, flirting leads to sexual encounters, which in turn forces Southern belles to continuously rejuvenate themselves into born-again virgins.My friend Julie, the quintessential Southern belle, has a set of rules to justify any sexual liaison which, of course, is always because she's "swept off her feet.""Were you tipsy? Yes. Did he come inside you? No. Were you completely naked? No. Did you come? No. See, it doesn't count," she says.And if the fling happened on vacation, especially in a cosmopolitan city, and you may never see the person again, the encounter certainly doesn't count.That's why no one in the South was genuinely shocked when President Clinton used the Southern belle tactic to dismiss his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He repeatedly insisted that he did not have sex with that woman, and probably still believes he didn't. Monica didn't count because to a Southerner a cigar isn't really a cigar.Southern men, from politicians to preachers, have always dallied around with women other than their wives. We've got Newt Gingrich and the legacy of Wilbur D. Mills, the former representative from Arkansas who ended up in the Tidal Basin with the stripper "Fanne Fox." And the South probably has enough unfaithful men of the cloth to fill an entire church.Sure, the North has the Kennedys leading its own pack of players, but Southerns like to think they taught the Yankees everything they know."Newt and all of those other Northern men should just be considered honorary Southerners," says Monroe.And of course, sex scandals have toppled many of the South's most powerful religious icons -- Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell and even Jimmy Swaggert. They, too, seem to possess the power for reinvention through repentance.It's no coincidence that the Christian Coalition and Pat Robertson are based in the guilt-ridden South. "The guilt is here in the South because there is a greater sense of church and God in a Southerner's life," explains Rod Martin, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Little Rock. "You can only have guilt when you know something is wrong, usually morally wrong. And you have to remember there are more Christians per capita in the South than any other part of the country."Even in the 21st century, the price of sex -- fire and damnation in hell -- is still preached in many churches. The strong Christian fundamentalist and conservative presence in the South wants to keep it that way, says Bryan Fulwider, a Methodist minister in Winter Park, Fla."There's a continued propagation of the notion that sex is negative except in the context of marriage." And that's not entirely good, he says.Call it what you will, but sex with a hint of Herculean denial and looming guilt is in the water down here.For Southerners, we thrive on sinning, playing the cards against righteousness and even God. But in the end, we crave our sex toys and porn, even the crazy legislation and Pat Robertson telling us we are all damned to hell. It makes it all the more sweeter the morning after.