Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin and why you sometimes see me, fingers in ears, eyes shut tight, shouting, "Nah nah nah, I can't hear you!!"

Who is this Sarah Palin? And why do I keep wanting to call her Nancy or Cathy? Yeah, she totally looks like a Cathy to me. But that is neither here nor there. My plan today is to round up some information on this person of whom I've never before this week heard even the slightest mention. And to explain to those who know me why sometimes I'm like, "Let's learn everything about this issue; come on, it'll be fun," and others I'm like, "Lalalalala! I don't wanna know! Shut up shut up shut up! Lalalalala!". Please add links to other interesting information about Palin and why she was chosen in the comments, if you find it!

Where to start? I have quite a few go-to sites (as it turns out). If I want the liberal, not-on-tv view, I go to Washington Monthly or Kevin Drum (now on Mother Jones). If I want the "we're so in the middle, we make up opposing viewpoints to stories that don't really have them" view, I go to CNN. For someone shouting an echo of how I feel about something at an unreasonable volume, Countdown with Keith Olbermann. (I'm really looking forward to Rachel Maddow's new show - I think it might be "someone echoing how I feel about something at a reasonable volume".) For the Oregon connection, The Oregonian. For the full backstory that will make me feel like it's impossible to hate anyone and to totally understand who they are as a person, the New Yorker. Usually I would consider The New York Times and Washington Post good sources of factual information. And of course, for the Crazy, I have to turn to Fox News. Oh, or a Bill Kristol op-ed in The New York Times.

But what that leaves out is a real sense of what's going on in a real conservative's head. Generally speaking, I avoid trying to do that anyway. I hate to admit it, but I'm only a sort of political person. In the same way that I overempathize with characters on tv, how George's antics on Seinfeld make me feel personally ashamed and nauseated, reading someone's passionate opinions that are in direct contradiction with my own and knowing that I can do nothing to convince them they're wrong also makes me feel sick. I feel depressed, despondent, angry and yes, a little nauseated. We are each largely powerless to enact real change in the world on our own. It's why we form communities of like-minded people. Barack Obama isn't where he is today because he, as one man, had some great ideas. He's there because he had some great ideas that appealed to communities of people who acted cooperatively and collectively to push him to the forefront as the spokesman for their beliefs. I know this, but I get bogged down in the details, the individuals. I know I can't persuade an anti-abortionist that their point of view doesn't make for good policy and is, in fact, in contradiction with both science and the ethical standards of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that good people who only want a better world can be so closed-minded and, well, so wrong. And then I realize that if one person is making that point of view known on a national level, they represent a community and then I feel totally, completely powerless. And I can't sleep at night. So a lot of the time, I tune out politics entirely, because it's just too draining to pay attention.

That said, I will try to keep my head out of the sand through this, even though the stuff Pete was reading aloud last night was already turning my stomach.

I think I'll start with CNN. They've been driving me nuts lately with their "it's not real journalism if you don't provide two opposing viewpoints, so make something up!" style of reporting. As predicted, they offer two opposing commentaries. Although as Pete pointed out, the craziest right wing thing they could find (apparently) was "She's okay, guys," while the left wing piece is literally titled, "Is McCain out of his mind?" Their article on her biography begins with what I think is a perfect summary of the differences between the McCain and Obama campaigns thus far. McCain's people say what they would like to be true and Obama's people state the facts in simple sentences.
The McCain campaign calls her a "tough executive who has demonstrated" readiness to be president. The Republican National Committee calls her a "conservative star with the talent, energy and family support necessary to carry out common sense policies."

But the Obama campaign calls her a candidate with "the thinnest foreign policy experience in history" who is "currently under investigation in her own state." And one of the Senate's top Democrats, Charles Schumer, said that although she is "a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling."
So here are facts I have gleaned from CNN. She's...
  • 44
  • not just the governor of Alaska, she's the first female governor of Alaska
  • the mother of 5 children, including one heading to Iraq
  • been "a beauty queen, high school basketball star and TV sportscaster."
  • the ex-mayor of Wasilla, AK
  • been involved in the politics of oil
  • under investigation for having the safety commissioner fired because he wouldn't fire her ex-brother-in-law
  • anti-abortion
  • pro-gun, a hunter and a lifetime member of the NRA
  • nicknamed "Barracuda" from her basketball days (not because she's a huge Heart fan, sadly)
  • "outside the beltway"
Here are the buzzwords I've gleaned from CNN
  • Game-changer
  • Maverick
  • Hail-Mary pass
I like this Rollins quote, too. It's like the second sentence and the last two are completely unrelated. Actually, the last two sentences are themselves completely unrelated, except in Rollins head. Pete liked that his ace in the hole is, "she plays the flute." Well, touche!
She is blunt, outspoken and charming. And don't assume she can't stand toe-to-toe with Joe Biden. She is a great debater. And she was runner-up for the Miss Alaska title, won Miss Congeniality in that contest and plays the flute.
Rollins believes she'll appeal to women because, you know, she's got ovaries or something. I agree with Tina and Dale's comments to my post yesterday: the idea that she'll draw away Hillary supporters from the Democratic fold is laughable. And it shows how intensely sexist we still are as a culture. But I think Sam Bee summed it up best on the Daily Show last night.

Okay, I'm not even going to look at the iReports because they'll just make me angry. Where to next? Let's go to the Washington Monthly. At least there someone will be willing to say what we're all thinking: This is a totally irresponsible choice. Holy cats, there's a lot of it. Maybe a summary would be better.
  • Here is what the Right is thinking. They're, um, not impressed. She's unqualified, she's not ready to lead anyone should McCain die and they don't want to vote for her.
  • And here are what Alaskans think. They think she's unqualified, she's not even a good governor of Alaska, she doesn't really understand the job and she oversimplifies complex issues.
  • And here is a summary of how totally nuts this choice is.
  • Not only did she very likely fire someone for not firing her ex-brother-in-law, she appears to be caught on tape lying about it. She also "then replaced him with a guy facing a credible sexual harassment accusation, and who was out of the job two weeks later." There's also a link to a WaPo story about "just how embarrassing this scandal is for" her. I can't decide what my favorite part is, though. The part where we're informed that the word "impeach" has been thrown around up north or the part where the author (Steve Benen) suggests that she might not be on the ticket come November. I agree with Pete, though, on that count: it would be just as big a train wreck.
  • Washington Monthly also agrees with Tina and Dale: women just aren't this shallow/stupid. WM keeps talking about how cynical a choice this is, and the more I read, the more I agree with that assessment. It's not just cynical about how women choose a leader, it's cynical about Americans in general. McCain might as well start handing out buttons that say, "Fuck you, Morons. McCain '08."
  • A classic quote from McCain's people. "Hey guys, don't worry: doctors assure us McCain's got at least four more years in him." Also, they admit that she isn't ready to lead.
  • This choice may be explained by the fact that McCain had only ever spoken to her twice before offering her the VP spot.
  • Clearly, Karl Rove was not consulted about the VP pick. This is a great quote from earlier this month where he basically describes all the reasons Palin is a poor choice in talking about why Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia, would be a bad choice for Obama. Hilarious!
  • If you only read one of these, read this one. It's a short, amusing list of items pertaining to Palin and McCain. McCain fun fact: he's 23 years older than Alaska.
  • Evidently, living in a state that borders another country is the same as foreign policy experience. Oh Fox News, it wouldn't be as funny if you weren't so damn proud of yourself.
  • She claims she was against the Bridge to Nowhere, but that might not be the whole story. In fact, she supported the project and kept the money.
Okay, maybe let's move on. Actually, this has gotten crazy long already, so I'm going to post it and then start a new entry with further links as I find them. So far the evidence leads me to believe that my assessment from yesterday remains the only plausible explanation.


Dale said...

A couple other possibilities: McCain may think it simply doesn't matter -- and as far as winning or losing the election is concerned, he may be right -- and so he might just have made a tactical decision to make the most newsworthy veep choice he could, to deflect media attention from the fact that Obama had just made the best convention acceptance speech that's been heard in a generation. It's been quite successful at that.

And I keep thinking that he actually chose Pawlenty, but found out some ghastly secret about him at the last minute, and he just couldn't face campaigning with Romney. That meant either alienating the base and causing a huge ruckus by choosing a pro-choice candidate (Tom Ridge, say, or even Lieberman), or going with his gut and really embracing the pro-life position (his heart's always been there, I think.) So -- in for a penny, in for a pound -- he picked Palin to really stir things up.

Anyways -- I don't find McCain style conservatives difficult to sympathize with. I disagree with them, but their hearts are clearly in the right place. I have a great deal more difficulty with the Bush and Rove types, but even they, I think, believe their own words much more often than we can easily credit.

We just live in entirely different worlds, receive our information through completely different filters. It is an interesting experiment to read NOTHING but conservative & right wing publications & websites for a while. Say a week. It's horrible. But it does give you some insight, both into their intolerance and willful misreading and into our own. I recommend it.

(sorry to hijack your comments with an endless comment. Biden disease, I'm afraid.)

Sydney said...

I guess that what really scares me is that there are Americans who will actually vote for this ticket and feel okay about the potential to have our first female president be this awful, awful woman. If he had chosen Condoleeza Rice, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Christie Todd Whitman or even Liddy Dole (the Septuagenarian Ticket!) I could at least think, "I disagree with you, but I respect your choice." I could think that about McCain and his voters.

I used to kind of respect McCain. Sure, he's an angry, angry man, but he seems to have done well by Arizona. As a Senator, I say 'Kudos' to him for his service to his state. But this Presidential race has exposed a lot of things about him that I think make him unfit for the office. Aside from "he's old and cranky", he's shown he can't remember basic information; he contradicts himself and can't be trusted to toe his own party line; and now he's shown that he'd rather pander to a base that, frankly, isn't really even his, than make a responsible choice for VP. If he wins, I bet you dollars to donuts Dick Chaney goes missing on January 20th and White House staffers start hearing ghostly angry Penguin(TM) squawking from deep within the bowels of the building. And then Mr. Chaney would be our first secret three term president, and won't that be nice for him.

Dale said...

I know, I used to like McCain too, as an honorable enemy, and I don't know what the hell happened. It's spooky. Like there's some Rove-spore at work.