The Palin Backlash

It is fascinating how Sarah Palin’s nomination has turned conservative columnists and commentators against John McCain.  They echo what many others (like me) were saying immediately after McCain announced her selection: she is too inexperienced, she knows nothing of substance about the most important domestic and foreign policy issues, and her selection was a cynical move that calls McCain’s judgment into question.  This avalanche of apostasy includes Peggy Noonan’s recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece.  (Subscription required)  Noonan’s conservative credentials are impeccable.  Among other things she served as advisor to President Reagan and speechwriter for Bush senior.  Here is some of what she has to say about Palin:

[W]e have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I’ve listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite . . . But it’s unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn’t think aloud. She just . . . says things.

. . .

This is not a leader, this is a follower, and she follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine. She could reinspire and reinspirit; she chooses merely to excite. She doesn’t seem to understand the implications of her own thoughts.

Sarah Palin represents all that is mean-spirited, coarse, and reactionary about our political process.  That she could be one breath away from the presidency should keep everone awake at night from worry.

McCain’s Judgment II

A post two weeks ago about the selection of Sarah Palin asked whether McCain was serious.  The pundits view the selection as a success because it invigorated the McCain campaign.   “Ordinary Americans” like Palin because she is “just like us.”  That’s the problem.  I don’t want a President and Vice President who are just like us.  I want elected leaders who are more knowledgeable, more thoughtful, better-read, and more in tune with the world’s complexities than us.  We’ve had eight years of one of the worst administrations in history led by someone “ordinary Americans” can relate to.  Having a New York Times editorial echo these thoughts is small comfort since the “ordinary Americans” who’ve embraced McCain and Palin don’t take their cues from the Times.  Others, though–the “extraordinary Americans”–see that the emperor has no clothes.  I called Palin’s selection “a cynical, craven capitulation to the far right [that} underscores the  deep flaws in McCain’s judgment.”  The Times said it “raises profound questions about his judgment.” I said “[t]his decision is bold only in the context of politics as a game.”  The Times said “[i]f the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.”  Palin’s scripted, non-substantive, shallow–how can anyone take seriously someone who claims insight into Russia because it’s visible across the Bering Strait?–make her shortcomings painfully obvious.  If McCain were CEO of a public company and he promoted to second in command a person so obviously lacking in knowledge about the business the shareholders would have his head, the second’s physical resemblance to Tina Fey notwithstanding.  (Fey nailed Palin’s appeal in Saturday’s opening sketch on Saturday Night Live.)   I’d laugh at McCain’s buffoonery if the stakes were not so high.

PS:  Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed 9/12 Times Op-Ed piece

Is McCain Serious?

Sarah Palin is John McCain’s VP candidate?  Is it April Fool’s Day?  This cynical, craven capitulation to the far right underscores the  deep flaws in McCain’s judgment.  Do any of the pundits crediting McCain’s boldness honestly think Palin is ready to be one heartbeat away from the presidency?  This decision is bold only in the context of politics as a game.  In the context of statesmanship, leadership, judgment about the future of a nation, it is criminally negligent and insulting.

A friend asked me to state my problem’s with McCain’s candidacy in a sentence.  I said that he hasn’t shown any ability to comprehend the complexity of either national or international issues.  A few moments later I said it more succinctly:  John McCain is a binary thinker in a non-binary world.  I understand the emotional appeal of yes/no, black/white, good/bad answers, the desire to reduce bewildering complexity to simple bit-sized solutions, but that’s not economic, political, or social reality.  John McCain is like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies–whose character is, ironically, named “John McClane”–except John McCain is not running for a celluloid presidency, the USA is not the Nokomura Tower, and the bad guys are not Eurotrash in $400 haircuts led by Alan Rickman.

Equal time

A large part of John McCain’s media persona is his reputation for “Straight Talk.” This video shows McCain flatly contradicting and lying about his own prior statements: McCain’s YouTube Problem. As troubling as his dissembling is McCain’s palpable discomfort in dealing economic issues. He is scarily out of his depth.

A week ago Barack Obama pinch-hit for Ted Kennedy, delivering the commencement address at Wesleyan University after Kennedy backed out for health reasons. Obama’s speech, by all accounts stirring and well-delivered, called on graduates to enter public service. Obama failed to mention the military in his list of service options, a troubling omission for a presidential candidate and potential commander-in-chief and especially glaring on the day before Memorial Day.  Is military service only for people who cannot or do not attend schools like Wesleyan?

Say “Cheese!”

Speaking of the YouTubeification* of politics, here are two more items. First, someone uploaded to YouTube a ten-second clip of Senator John McCain allegedly napping during last week’s State of the Union address. I thought it showed McCain looking down to read, not sleeping, and according to a New York Times article today, that’s the consensus after a few days discussion among those who discuss such things. The story of the clip’s posting on YouTube had legs and, whether or not it was posted to embarrass McCain and actually captured what it is purported to capture, it signals how the ubiquity of digital cameras and the ease with which video can be posted online are shaping the political discussion.

The second item involves use of digital video and YouTube to affect the legislative process. As reported in The Washington Post, frustrated Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly are recording hearings on controversial bills such as proposals to increase the minimum wage. Last week, after a Republican-controlled subcommittee decided on a voice vote not to bring seven minimum-wage proposals (two sponsored by Republicans) to the full Commerce and Labor Committee, Democrats posted video of the subcommittee hearings on YouTube. The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus is quoted saying “[t]his is an issue of importance to hundreds of thousands of Virginians. Why not have a full and fair hearing?” Republican Vincent F. Callahan, Jr. saw it less charitably: “It’s indicative of a culture of viciousness that is infecting these halls . . . you are going to get shots of someone picking their nose and use it out of context in the fall election.”

*Catch the wave–a Google search for “youtubeification” produced 160 hits; a search for “youtube-ification” produced 269. As we enter the 2008 Presidential campaign season, what’s the over/under on the number of hits for these terms on, say, June 1, 2007, January 1, 2008, and November 1, 2008?