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A few months ago, a friend asked me who I though McCain would or should pick to be his vice presidential candidate. “I think if I were working for McCain,” I said, “I’d wait until Obama makes his choice, and if he picks a man, pick a woman, or if he picks a woman, pick a man.” You know, work the difference. So it was no surprise to me that McCain picked a woman. But, just like everyone else, I was dumbfounded that woman was Sarah Palin, one-year governor of a state over twice the size of Texas with the population of El Paso (there is one person per square mile in Alaska).
It seemed at first that McCain may have thrown the election by choosing an unknown, unready running mate with a BS in communications from Idaho University and a hard-right Christianist ideology, in a ploy to woo disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. “We’re not that stupid,” came the cry from insulted feminists, and they were right to recognize that Palin did not in any way represent their ambitions.
But it turns out that they are that stupid, or at least some of them are. While it seems unfathomable that women who supported Hillary Clinton could flip to the GOP ticket for a woman who is pro-life, pro-assault rifle and pro-Bush just because she’s a woman, McCain’s numbers among white women have shot up with Palin’s stunt nomination. This is incredibly disappointing.
Palin is so obviously not equipped to be president that her own surrogates are not willing to discuss the possibility that McCain could die or become incapacitated in office. “She’s not running for president,” is the refrain. But of course, the only relevant issue when considering a VP choice, according to both presidential candidates (at least before Palin was picked), is whether they are ready to become president. John McCain will be 73 by January, used to smoke, loves to eat barbecued meat, and has had multiple bouts with serious cancer. If any president was ever likely to die in office, it’s McCain. The guy could go any minute, really. And yet his campaign thinks it’s okay to select a nominee based entirely on demographic appeal, after a single interview. And then they withhold her from the press, an obvious sign that they know she is not knowledgeable enough to survive under the spotlight. She gives one speech—a single goddamn speech—over and over again, repeating the same, already debunked, self-flattering lies about her fabricated image as a reform-minded maverick, and the press stands up and cheers, just for the novelty of her. This is a step backwards for gender equality, because if Palin were a man, the press would have murdered him by now. Special dispensation is not equality.
What this selection says about John McCain is simple: He doesn’t give a damn what happens to this country when he’s dead. McCain’s personal favorite choices, Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, are much closer to him in terms of politics and experience. These are guys who McCain would have selected if he were a real maverick, bucking party orthodoxy for the good of the country. McCain would probably have won anyway, impressing independents by risking GOP mutiny to stay true to himself, although he would never have closed the fundraising gap. Of course, there’s a good chance that all McCain ever had to do to win this thing was talk about Vietnam and stay white.
One of the most infuriating things to see on TV news—the only news that matters, when it comes to shaping public opinion—is when they do one of those “fact-check” segments while omitting relevant facts. A good example is the squashing of Palin’s attempted book-banning episode when she was mayor of Wasilla, a town of 7,000 which Palin left $20 million in debt.
This is from The New York Times:
“[I]n 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told
colleagues that she had noticed the book ‘Daddy's Roommate’ on the
shelves and that it did not belong there, according to [future Palin campaign
director Laura] Chase and [former Wasilla mayor John] Stein. Ms. Chase read
the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive;
she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
As mayor, Palin asked the town’s library director, Mary Ellen Emmons, three times, how she’d feel about book-banning, the last time asking if she’d change her mind if people were picketing the library. Emmons was staunchly opposed. Palin fired Emmons for “not fully supporting her efforts to govern,” only rehiring her when there was an outpouring of public protest against the move.
To me, this is a really big deal. But the story has been “debunked” repeatedly in the press, relying on a factcheck.org report dismissing a hoax e-mail that provided a bogus list of books “banned” by Palin. So the story is “Palin never banned any books,” which is true, but she sure as hell would have if she could have. The abortive firing episode gets nary a mention, giving the impression that the very idea Palin wanted to ban books is false, when it clearly is not.
And, since Obama’s church is such a hot topic, it would seem strange that Palin’s church, which preaches end-times theology and glossolalia, has received little mainstream scrutiny. You want crazy pastor quotes? Check out Palin’s pastor, Ed Kalnins:
On John Kerry: “I'm not going tell you who to vote for, but if you vote for this particular person, I question your salvation. I'm sorry.”
On Bush: “I hate criticisms towards the president, because it's like criticisms towards the pastor – it's almost like, it's not going to get you anywhere, you know, except for hell. That's what it'll get you.”
On Iraq: “What you see in Iraq, basically, is a manifestation of what's going on in this unseen world called the spirit world. ... We need to think like Jesus thinks. We are in a time and a season of war, and we need to think like that. ... Jesus called us to die. You're worried about getting hurt? He's called us to die. ... I believe that Jesus himself operated from that position of war mode. Everyone say ‘war mode.’ ”
Yeah. That’s where Palin learned about morality. And she was in attendance at the church just weeks ago, as a guest speaker from Jews for Jesus described Palestinian terrorism as a manifestation of God’s “judgment of unbelief” against Jews for rejecting Christ. It’s not surprising that evangelical Christians are fired up by Palin, but again, I can’t fathom the idea that Hillary Clinton supporters are excited about her.
And then there’s this little tidbit, from her RNC speech:
“A writer observed, 'We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.' And I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman.”
That unnamed “writer” was unnamed for a reason. It was Westbrook Pegler, an openly racist columnist who wrote of wishing for the assassinations of FDR—and Robert Kennedy. Pegler’s xenophobic, red-baiting politics were so extreme (he described Jews as “instinctively sympathetic to Communism, however outwardly respectable they appeared”) that he was booted from the John Birch Society. In 1963, Pegler wrote that it was "clearly the bounden duty of all intelligent Americans to proclaim and practice bigotry." And, by the way, Pegler described Truman as a “hater,” and Truman called Pegler a “guttersnipe.” High praise, indeed.
It’s hard to imagine why Palin or her speechwriter would include a phoned in quotation about how much better small-town people are than the rest of us from such a toxic source, when so many similar folksy platitudes could be pilfered from more benign writers, even ones whose names could be mentioned in public. I can only conclude that this was a coded message to the fascist right, the worst element in American politics, the very people we were all hoping were waning in significance this election cycle, that it was game on once again. I suppose there are plenty of white women who are anti-labor, pro-life, evangelical Christians. It’s just that I can’t imagine any of them were planning to vote for Obama, or Clinton, before the Palin selection.
Before anyone starts claiming that black Obama voters are equally shallow, consider whether they’d have voted for Alan Keyes. Because that’s the nearest analogy I can think of for Palin’s politics. Black people wouldn’t vote for Alan Keyes, even if he were running against Robert Byrd. They’re just not that stupid. So what the hell is wrong with white women? Are they really so aggrieved that Hillary got edged out of the Democratic nomination by Obama that they’re willing to ruin the country just for spite?
The tragedy here is that, for all McCain’s groundwork in building an image of himself as a man of character, the McCain/Palin campaign is the most cynical in modern American history. No longer feeling the need to even find a fact to hang their hat on, they have broken through the limits of distortion into the realm of utter fabrication, revealing their total contempt for the voting public. They don’t twist the truth; the truth’s got nothing to do with their strategy. It’s much easier to just lie. And it’s working. For their lies about their opponents and about themselves, they have been rewarded by substantial gains in key demographics, especially white women. Palin’s selection has also enabled them to deflect criticism by crying sexism whenever Palin’s obvious deficiencies as a candidate are raised.
And about that: It was the Clinton campaign that opened the door on claiming gender victimization as an electoral tactic. As her chances in the Democratic primary waned, Clinton and her surrogates went hog wild on the sexism charges, lashing out at anyone who dared criticize her. Admittedly, there were some ignorant comments here and there, albeit never from the Obama campaign. But when things got hairy, the Clinton campaign and its supporters leaned on sexism as an all-purpose excuse for losing, and it was a big steaming pile of horseshit. The fact is that Clinton’s gender was pretty much the only thing that distinguished her from a field rife with old, white, compromised senators. If Hillary Clinton were a man, there would have been no telling her apart from Dodd, Biden, or John Kerry for that matter. But Obama, even if you made him white, would still have been young, eloquent, and charismatic. In other words, as weird as this sounds, if you made Clinton and Obama into white men, Obama would have kicked her ass—it wouldn’t have been close.
But Hillary’s dead-enders insist that their expected primary victories were robbed from them by the “rampant misogyny” of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, and somehow Obama himself. And as Hillary’s defeat drew ever closer, she herself ratcheted up the faux feminist rhetoric, leaving Obama with hordes of angry, inconsolable women blaming him for their imagined oppression, and somehow admiring Sean Hannity at the same time. And now, the Republicans have picked up the tactic and run with it, accusing Obama of calling Palin “a pig” (willful ignorance of cliché metaphors is a symptom of this condition) and labeling anyone who dares scrutinize Palin a sexist, including Tina Fey. These allegations hold about as much water as calling condemnations of Michael Vick racist.
There’s a great sketch from the Dave Chapelle show, wherein Chappelle and crew are dressed up as classic movie monsters. Charlie Murphy is Frankenstein’s monster, and when he gets fired from his office job, he accuses his boss of racism. A black coworker looks at him and exclaims, “nigga, you a Frankenstein!”
Nobody is after Sarah Palin because she’s a woman. The fact is, she’s a Frankenstein. And if women are so angry about losing a primary fight that they’re willing to elect a Frankenstein, even a female Frankenstein, then they really are gullible, emotional, weak-minded fools, and they really do deserve all the derision they’ve gotten and more.
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