Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin's speech

I missed the first part of the speech as we were watching Colombian news, so I can't speak to her personal narrative (not that I have *any* interest in her story). But I did see most of the substantive part and I have to say, I agree with CNN's Jeffrey Toobin who called the speech "smug, cutting, and sarcastic". I'd go further. I think it was too clever by half and not particularly populist (being that popularism refers to grass roots democracy, supporting the working class, and promoting issues that are relevant to the people - three things that Palin definitely did not do last night).

What I mean by too clever by half is that there were too many "inside" jokes about Obama, jokes that half the time even I didn't immediately recognize (like holding back the sea or whatever which I guess was a reference to the evangelical end-of-the-worlders who see Obama as the anti-christ). And I have to suggest that if a relative junkie like me didn't get her "jabs" that easily, then I hardly think that John and Jane Q. Average were going to get them either.

Even beyond that, I thought the speech was rather amatuerish. It hardly spoke to policy issues or the economy (the closest she got was oil "independence" which is so far beyond stupid given that hydrocarbon markets are GLOBAL and even marginally increasing US production would have zero effect on prices). The tone was antagonistic, arrogant, and, at times, a litany of lies (see Bridge to Nowhere). And , I thought all her "barbs" were distracting, lacking in class, and pointless. More on this in a moment.

But no matter what I thought, the media practically fell all over themselves for a speech that was, no matter your political predisposition, was well delivered and quite forceful. In terms of delivery, I certainly get why they thought it was better than Biden's speech. This concerns me. The media have been going after Palin and McCain for days now since she's an obvious gimmick pick and is vastly unqualified to be President. But the McCainites have pushed back against the media calling them sexist and liberal and the media has a tendency to back down.

They shouldn't. Instead they should continue to do their job. And that includes pointing out the outright lies coming out of Palin's mouth (she supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it, she increased federal earmarks for Alaska, and she is involved in a political scandal - some "reformer"). And, most troubling, I have yet to see anyone in the CNN media hierarchy state the fact that her husband was a member of the Alaska Independence Party or that she herself has attended their conventions, addressed their conventions, and actively sought out their support. Because, to me, hiring a pro-successionist governor to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency is a colossal error in judgement and is reason enough to disqualify McCain as a legitimate contender.

Here's Joe Klien on this topic:

"There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is "a task from God." The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme."

At any rate, back to what I referenced above about her barbs being classless. It has become evident in previous weeks that McCain's only chance is to polarize the electorate and hold out for 0.1% of the vote, ala George Bush in 2000 (and a miraculous Florida problem). And that desperation has led to the most craven of political strategies - a Rush Limbaugh campaign. Palin fits into this and if you listened last night, she spent the majority of her time trying to drum up a new culture war. She was anything but respectful of the opposition and, in a word, came off awfully rednecky.

Contrast that to Obama, who has always appeared presidential, and has carefully stated time and time again that he respects McCain, he just doesn't think the man is the right choice for President. Obama's rhetorical strategy is to suggest that their differences are POLICY differences not PERSONAL differences. McCain's (and Palin's) rhetorical approach have ONLY attacked Obama on a PERSONAL level and NEVER attacked him on a policy level (I mean, how could they, they're wrong on the issues and they know it). I think this difference is critical because in a world in which there are disagreements over policy, compromise is possible. But in a world in which the disagreements are personal, there is no progress. I mean, does anyone else remember high school?

Ultimately, I don't think the McCain-Palin crap is gonna fly because I think this is a "change" election about specific policy solutions to problems at home and abroad and the GOP isn't particularly interested or versed in policy solutions (McCain is a self-admitted no-nothing on economics - only the most important issue of the day). In fact, the closes Palin came to the "change" meme was to suggest that Washington wasn't working and that they needed to get the old guys out of there and start again. Which I guess is sort of ironic since the GOP has controlled the White House for 8 years and Congress for 6 and this would undoubtedly be the one area where we agree.

Ultimately, I don't think last night's speech was a "grand slam" like the media is pushing. Instead, I think it was a "base consolidation" speech that got a bunch of hard core GOPers roused up but probably fell on deaf ears in living rooms across America. To the truly "undecideds" and "independents", I don't think this speech helped McCain. In fact, I think it probably hurt. Because that voting block is likely the only voting block that actually pays attention to policy, to the direction a candidate wants to take the country, and to the "presidential" nature of any given candidate. So giving a rah-rah speech that was little more than a collection of partisan jabs that you'd be more likely to hear on Rush Limbaugh than at a national convention doesn't seem like it would satisfy the needs of the undecideds.

Anyway, it's getting hard to keep track of all of the scandals circling Palin, so I'm posting this link from DailyKos which is fairly comprehensive.

Finally, I have to confess, Palin definitely worries me. Not so much in this election. I think it would be a monstrous upset if Obama lost and I don't think, at the end of the day, it's going to be particularly close. But Palin's getting serious on the job training in national politics and I'm very worried that she's gonna be around in 2012 as a legit candidate. A lot can happen between now and then but it's extremely concerning to me that a Christian extremist can be so widely accepted and like in mainstream national politics. There's a whole racial element to this as well which I touch on in the near future, but the bottom line is, I think as a country we've had enough of the "God speaks to me", "God is on our side", and "God is punishing the Jews for not recognizing Jesus" type political leaders.



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