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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin Does That To People

A month ago, I encountered a lady at my local South Florida coffeeshop, whose family were looking for construction jobs in our area. Originally from Gainesville, she had one of those excessively lilting Southern accents which either enchant you or distract you (the former, for me).

I have this trick with people. I like to flesh out their opinions by gently directing the conversation. It wasn't long before we got to the topic of politics.

"I was raised to believe white people and black people shouldn't date", she proclaims.

"Oh? Like Barack Obama's parents?"

"Barack Obama? No, I mean my daughter."

(Laugh) "I see. But you are not comfortable with him?"

"Oh no, ma'am, as long as he fixes the economy, I don't care. We're suffering real bad up there."

Before I have a chance to prod, she drops this bombshell (well, another one).

"I just don't want a woman to be President. I don't want a woman making decisions with the menopause."

At this point, I am caught so off-guard, that I give her a tinkling laugh back, neither aggressive or derisive, but full of genuine surprise. We part ways cordially. I am not a judgemental person, and I'm tired of Americans being so PC, that we've lost the ability to TALK to each other honestly.

I never want to live in that America.

But our conversation has stuck in my mind since then. Because as you can see, we were talking about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As late as mid-August, there was no other female politician as prominent, as powerful, as recognisable as Hillary. (Have you noticed that famous women are often called only by their first name?)

Hillary. It was Hillary then, or no one.

But thanks to my fellow bloggers, JSU, Ruth Anne Adams and Simon Dodd, I had this little name floating around my brain since May. "Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska".

Even then she seemed the remotest of long shots for the Republican ticket, long ago settled atop, even as the Democratic one still raged white hot.

Because of this indecision, the national attention was firmly on the Obama-Hillary saga, and some little nobody Governor from Alaska wasn't about to deviate anyone's attention to her chances as VP.

Besides, who could take her seriously? There were many many men in the queue ahead of her.

The strongest was ex-Governor Mitt Romney of Massachussetts, but also Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Governor Hailey Barbour of Mississippi. Even the barely constitutionally eligible Govenor of Louisiana, but highly appealing, Bobby Jindal, was named ahead of her in the Veep stakes.

Senator John S. McCain III had a virtual plethora of choices, people thought. The bench seemed deep.

All my life, I've laughed at liberals because of their identity politics affectation. To reduce a choice to something which I consider so meaningless as a skin shade, or a different set of chromosomes, instead of a person's leadership skills or political acumen, seemed so alien to me, as to be almost deranged.

I was sure I could never be one of those "We WILL have a black President!", "I WANT a woman in the White House!" people.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the self-awareness forum. I realised I was becoming more and more interested in this creature. See, Sarah Palin does that to people.

She did it to Adam Brickley, for example, who not soon after her inauguration as Governor, launched a blog called "Draft Sarah Palin for Vice-President". We're talking February 2007.

It was in February 2008 that my blogger colleague, Benning, wrote up a post about her. I'm telling you, she does that to people.

For one, I liked everything about her. In one of those stream-of-consciousness waves you sometimes think of in your head, this is how I thought of her:

"Idaho-born, blue-collar family, dad high school teacher and sports coach, Catholic-schooled, NRA member, sportscaster, basketball point guard, nickname Barracuda, union husband with native Alaskan blood, high school sweetheart, fisherman, steel worker, dog musher, mother of 5, pro-Lifer who decided not to abort her Down Syndrome baby boy, son in Iraq, executive experience, local, gubernatorial."

No where do you see the one word that most liberals would use for her instead.


It didn't matter to me. I was enchanted, entranced, intrigued by her details and credentials, not just the happenstance of her gender. For it was in May that I thought if this woman had been a Democrat, and there had been no Hillary, the Democrats would've snapped her up immediately.

Except of course, they would never do that. Woman she was, but her personal ideology is alien to them. She is far too folksy, at that.

Somewhere along the line, they thought only a woman whose face was instantly recognisable to the masses, whose Senatorial job hailed from the most elite State and city in the Union, whose husband was an ex-President, only she was worthy of consideration for a seat with the Big Boys in D.C., even if the seat is on the second tier.

Besides, everyone knows that black man trumps white or black woman -- in identity politics, anyway.

So during the time of the most rivetting presidential campaign in American history (we can now say with utter confidence), this ex-beauty queen from Wasilla, Alaska, who insisted on being flown back on an Alaskan Airlines plane from a Texas Governor's Conference, and though in acute labour pains, made sure her baby was born in her home state, this Sarah Palin was snubbed by Democrats and many Republicans alike.

John McCain had met her in February. Once. Maybe to a person like Barack Obama, who hasn't been able to see leadership abilities in action, being surrounded by such worthies as Ayers, Rezko and Rev. Wright, he might have needed more than one meeting to vet this woman.

But John McCain had been surrounded by leaders since birth.

From that 4-star Admiral grandpa, to that 4-star Admiral pop, from Ronald Reagan, to the entire Senate, to every President since Nixon, countless world figures, and a galaxy of Naval personnel in between, you can bet John McCain can size up a person real fast.

That meeting must've lingered in his mind, because I tell you, this Sarah Palin does that to people. She sticks in your mind. Reason? She's political GOLD.

Inexperienced, you say?

A meme that is only being pushed because aging Boomer journalists see their colleagues dropping like flies around them (RIP Tim Russert and Tony Snow) and an American public which expects the world to be Botoxed. Both these sets of people see McCain as Methuselah.

He's ancient! 72 years-old, with two bouts of cancer! Never mind that his 98 year-old mother, Roberta, is still alive and getting speeding tickets.

The man is obviously one tough debate question away from a massive coronary.

Oh, Pope Benedict XVI? 83. One stroke. Elizabeth II? 82. Failing vision, osteoporosis.

Two incredibly spry and mentally fit people with full schedules, who will probably bury various reporters, way before their own demise.

Yes, world. The aged still have a role to play even in the highest positions of power, whether you like it or not -- just ask Robert Mugabe (84).

But didn't the Republicans make a big song and dance about Senator Barack Obama's inexperience?

I hate to break it to you, but when you head a ticket, instead of buttress it, you will receive more scrutiny. What life and death decisions, the kind of executive decisions a military commander or Governor are prepared to make, has Senator Obama made...ever? As State Senator, and "activist".

(By the way, what exactly does an activist do? One sentence will suffice; easy on the violins, please)

We should vote for him why, exactly? Because of an aura of rock stardom, that other Boomer affectation?

I am not one of those who dismiss him or discount his talents. He clearly brings a sense of destiny, and self-respect to the table. I like that. I would like it more if he weren't so liberal and snide about his fellow Americans.

It would also help if he could give definitive answers without nuances about the questions of the day, because that's what distinguishes a person with character. When you have principles, you don't need laws.

In giving convoluted answers in the Saddleback Forum, instead of dazzling, he seemed to contort himself intellectually just in case he offended any potential voters. He seemed helpless, and I was left hopeless I would ever be comfortable with a possible President Obama.

(Why not? I was comfortable with a President Clinton)

Think back to my original litany of adjectives above about Governor Palin. Though no one can claim deep insight into her philosophy of governance, by her associations and actions I can tell a lot about her.

She may yet disappoint me. I am prepared for this. Some people are already pushing the story that she's a Creationist. This would disappoint me.

But the story came about like this -- when asked during the gubernatorial debate if Creationism should be taught alongside Evolution, she replied yes.

She was the only one of the candidates that did, and she effectively parlayed a politically savvy answer, into an unique position. But in the 2 years since she's been Governor, she's backed away from the matter. She's no Creationist any more than someone who proposes alternative fuels instead of gasoline, is automatically proposing to scrap gasoline completely.

You see, the tom-toms are beating already, trying to find a "no-go" topic with which to cudgel her nascent candidacy.

Instead, it is I who am looking very closely at Senator Obama, and his various supporters in the national media.

I think they are in a very difficult position, vis-à-vis destroying her, and being seen as gender-biased...again.

Women are watching Senator Obama, and MSNBC, and Daily Kos, and countless liberal media outlets who did a number on Hillary Clinton.

Once, and you might be able to say it was not because she was a woman, but because she was, well, you know, Hillary.

(A ripoff ad dripping in misogyny, which made even I, no Hillary supporter, wince)

But do it twice in the form of Governor Palin, with the nutcracker jokes, with the beauty queen pageant remarks, with the haughty dismissal of her brain matter, and there will be few feminists unable to ignore the simple fact that their side is as sexist as they thought conservatives were.

Her candidacy is something surely not counted on by Senator Obama and his staff, else they would never have gone after Hillary Clinton the way they did, and allowed others to do so as well.

And this is where this pick transforms itself from surprising, to genius.

Senators Obama and Biden will have to contort themselves yet again, prisoner of their identity politics, whereas Governor Palin is an escapee of them.

The brutal truth is, she didn't need Democrats to get ahead. She was a Republican, sought out by a maverick politician who until now was seen as a dubious member of his Party. She didn't need to "earn her dues" as a feminist, either.

He might've elevated her due to that litany of qualities which captivated him, and sensed a tougher cookie than others in Upper East Side salons can decode, but she was a woman of substance and merit on her own terms.

Both Senator Obama and Governor Palin are children born in the 1960s. They probably share very similar generational cues. One has a chasm for a background. The other is as American as apple pie.

They are both vying for very different positions, on very different platforms.

Yet, one gets the sense people are discounting both Senators Biden and McCain, and comparing the two directly. In fact, there are two actors not present in this drama, whose spectres nevertheless haunt our stage: George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton.

During all these few days left until November 4, 2008, the two most prominent individuals which defined two decades of American politics will be missing.

But most people will not be satisfied until they can find some Dubya in Sarah Palin, as well as some Hillary.

For those who cannot let go of the ghosts of the past, they are unable to see that for once, fate has dealt them a completely unknown hand. And in their anger in thinking they got a weak hand, they are unable to use their talents to play it.

See, Sarah Palin does that to people.

And therein lies the wisdom of this choice.

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  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger benning, at Sat Aug 30, 05:47:00 am GMT-4  

  • Before GWHBush ran to succeed President Reagan, and won the nomination, my favorite was Jeane Kirkpatrick, former US Ambassador to the U.N. I really wanted her to run. She would've made a tremendous President. Like Reagan, she began her political life as a Democrat.

    Regarding her selection to that post, Wiki reminds me:"She had never been around a Republican before. On the way to her first meeting with him [Reagan], she told Allen, "Listen, Dick, I am an AFL-CIO Democrat and I am quite concerned that my meeting Ronald Reagan on any basis will be misunderstood." She asked Reagan if he minded having a lifelong Democrat on his team; he replied that he himself had been a Democrat till age 51, and in any event he liked her way of thinking about American foreign policy."

    So well did he think of her that she was the keynote speaker at the 1984 Republican Convention; Kirkpatrick was still a registered Democrat.

    She would've been good for this country. So, for me, Sarah Palin was an easy choice. :D

    BTW: I left a lot of typos, so I deleted the former comment. Sorry!

    By Blogger benning, at Sat Aug 30, 05:51:00 am GMT-4  

  • .
    This is going to be fun. History will be made, one way or another, and it looks more likely now that it will be the right history.

    Even more Hillary supporters will go for McCain now. Obama is no longer a near certainty. Heaven forbid something happens to McCain, but I believe Palin would rise to the occasion. She has the right attitude. Everyone knows Obama is NOT ready for POTUS, Palin is only for the VP. Look at Dan Quayle.

    YEY SARAH PALIN! YEY John McCain! Great pick! The 1st woman for the GOP VP? SCORE!

    She's conservative! SCORE! She's a Governor! SCORE! She's pro-drilling! She's a hunter! SCORE! She's a hockey Mom and played basketball in school! SCORE! She's pro-life! And she respects women! SCORE! She fights corruption! SCORE! She's high-energy! SCORE! She's tough! SCORE! She's got 5 kids! SCORE! Her son is going to Iraq in the Armed Forces! SCORE! She's married to a Blue-collar professional! SCORE! She's smart! SCORE! She's young! SCORE!

    And she's a Hotty to boot! SCORE! The Left is going to go nuts! SCORE!
    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    never elect a woman

    who's a conservative
    she's just a gender traitor

    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    just HOPE to pay more taxes

    DREAM about high fuel prices
    CHANGE PROGRESS to move backwards

    All real freedom starts with freedom of speech. Without freedom of speech, there can be no real freedom.
    Philosophy of Liberty Cartoon
    Help Halt Terrorism Today!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 30, 07:00:00 am GMT-4  

  • You are such a wonderful writer, Vic...this is sublimely good bloggage! I have another couple o' pics up...

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Aug 30, 11:35:00 am GMT-4  

  • I blame Dick Cheney. He, the searcher, became the nominee. In 8 years of solid work, he made the veep slot much more important than it had been under John Adams [who was escorted out of Washington's cabinet meetings] or even Al Gore, who was given a good bit to do by President Clinton. Maybe we can tolerate a Nixon to McCain's Eisenhower. That ticket beat intellectual Stevenson...twice.

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Sat Aug 30, 11:35:00 am GMT-4  

  • Already, the Wikipedia edit war on Palin has begun...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 30, 04:42:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Vic,

    I recall you blogging months ago about Palin's potential to become the VEEP.

    I won't bother to say all the nice things I'd like to based on a quick preousal of her already demonstrated talents.

    And while I have long thought McCain was the lesser of 2 evils, her being picked does IMHO make him the better choice.

    Note I am a dyed in the wool conservative, and look @ McCain as a politician as the Manchurian Candidate, despite my VAST respect for him as a man. And fellow USNA graduate.

    Second note that POS peanut farmer should have been tossed out of the Naval Academy. And his getting a nobel prize was the first of many that resulting im my ridicule of that so called honor......

    By Blogger Unknown, at Sat Aug 30, 11:35:00 pm GMT-4  

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