Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Palin's Enemies List

Palin and Her Enemies
A New York Times column by Ross Douthat

I have no doubt my friend Bob will be as disappointed as anyone that The Bob Rule remains in effect. As Bob told me twenty odd years ago: to be a successful politician, you have to have only one thing, and that’s absolutely no sense of self-consciousness or embarrassment

Ms. Jayne Mansfield. You don't want to
know how much time I spent agonizing
over which picture of Ms. Mansfield I
would use to lead this article.
For example, during Clinton administration, notoriously successful politician Senator Orrin Hatch spent all his time and efforts trying to block every single appointment to the federal bench. Then, George W. Bush becomes President, and nominates a series judicial candidates that are flatly unqualified. When members of the Judiciary Committee start to take issue with some (but not all) of these nominees, Senator Hatch rents his garments at the unfairness of it all. How DARE anyone block these poor candidates from getting a vote on the Senate floor? And nary a blush touches the Senator’s cheek through all the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The Politics of Poopy Heads

A reoccurring theme in Governor Palin’s both spoken and written apologia as to why she is unable to govern was the “politics of personal destruction.” Governor Palin’s career was destroyed by “political operatives” (cue the theme from Mission: Impossible!) who kept filing frivolous ethics complaints against her. Answering those complaints took up all the Governor’s time and money. Not to mention, it was just plain low down and mean.

NY Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat put it this way in his July 6 2006 column: 

Here are the lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid ringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. And a moron says what.

Mr. Ross Douthat. We are unable to
confirm nor deny whether the quote
"Damn it, Samsara Samizdat...stop 
writing about me...!" attributed to Mr.
Douthat, is genuine.
So I made up that last part. But come on--has Mr. Douthat been living in solitary confinement in a North Korean prison since 1988? What on earth has been said to or about Governor Palin (or her children) that even comes close to the vitriol and scorn poured on Hillary Clinton’s head? I don’t watch much television, but I’m pretty sure I’d have heard about it if someone had called one of the Palin daughters “the Juneau Statehouse Dog.” 

Has there been a considerable effort to accuse Governor Palin of murder, following the suicide of one of her friends, as happened to Secretary Clinton, following the death of Vince Foster? 

Has Sarah Palin had to spend years defending against truly frivolous actions, the likes of Whitewater, “Filegate” (over misplaced files in the White House), or “Travelgate” (the firing of the White House travel agents)? 

Have the “liberal bloggers” Governor Palin complains of launched a wholly frivolous lawsuit, as a naked, personal attack on her and the Governor’s office, as did the individuals behind Paula Jones’s suit against President Clinton?

Has Sarah Palin had to face an “independent” counsel like Ken Starr, who wrote a “report” about sexual acts between consenting adults, pointedly including details that were irrelevant to any ethical or legal violations, but were included solely to embarrass President Clinton?

Is there anyone, with any kind of platform, that has said about Governor Palin what Michael Savage has said about Secretary Hillary Clinton? (Admittedly, I try to be that mean—but poser that I am, I’m just not in Mr. Savage’s league).

Did anyone at a rally for President Obama yell that Governor Palin was a “terrorist,” and that someone should “kill” her? At one rally, it was Senator McCain—and not Governor Palin—who finally stood up and said that then Senator Obama was a “good American,” and not some fifth columnist for a totalitarian Islamic theocracy. 

No, all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune suffered by Governor Palin are not anything unusual (or even undeserved), and she has no business complaining about it.

Will the Real Sara Palin, Please Stand Up!

Ms. Anita Eckberg, demonstrating the
safe way to use a ladder while wearing
heels. Always good to know.
In his column, Mr. Douthat says “[i]f Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is—the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity—then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure. But this caricature has always missed the point of the Alaska governor’s appeal—one that extends well outside the Republican Party’s shrinking base.”

Critic that I am, OF COURSE I think Governor Palin is the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity. But why do I think that? Because I’ve been paying attention to what Governor Palin says, that’s why. Maybe Mr. Douthat has some reason to suspect Governor Palin is lying when she says she is a fundamentalist Christian who believes her version of the Bible (in English) is the literal, infallible word of god (sic), that the world will end in cataclysmic fire on the Last Days, and that she believes in the Rapture, with Heaven for those who accept Jesus of Nazareth as the son of god and their personal savior, and Hell for everyone who doesn’t. I don’t know--she sounds sincere to me. Maybe she is just pretending--but I doubt it.

Yeah, I think that Governor Palin is “anti-intellectual,” and I would describe myself as “intellectual.” Admittedly, I am one snotty guy (and not just the booger kind). I actually own copies of Richard Hofstader’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life;Dumbing Down, Essays on the Strip Mining of American CultureMilovan Djilas’s The New Class, and a set of the pre-revised Great Books of the Western World. Ya feel me? (So I watch “The Wire.” See “poser,” supra). 

When I say “Sarah Palin is an anti-intellectual,” this is what I mean: Governor Palin has a shallow grasp of politics, history, and culture. She is proud of that fact, and believes that having a broad grasp of those issues is a disadvantage, usually because people who have such knowledge risk losing their common sense. Why do I think that about Sarah Palin? Well, just because she doesn’t SAY nattering nabobs of negativism, you just know (in her heart) that’s what she means when she attacks the Unrepresentative Eastern Liberal Elitist Media Establishment (the UELEME).

Again, I am not the only person who thinks so. The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum felt compelled to respond to Governor Palin’s July 4 2009 broadsideagainst the “main stream” (Palin’s phase) media. After noting that Governor Palin accuses “Washington and the Media” of being unable to understand her (Governor Palin’s) decision to resign, because “it’s about country,” Ms. Applebaum says

In other words, for the past nine months, Palin has avoided difficult questions, preferring Runner's World to another Katie Couric interview; she has dragged her family into the spotlight when it suited her (baby Trig was in Runner's World, too) and grown angry when the spotlight became too strong; she has eschewed reason and logic (not to mention spelling and grammar), yet reacted in horror when her critics were unreasonable and illogical in response. Then, after all that, she smugly asserts the right to decide who is a patriot and who is not. It's not about "country," in other words, it's about hypocrisy. And Sarah Palin is full of it.

Ms. Jane Russell. Howard Hughes may not have known about some things, but one thing he did know about was where to put the gun in movie posters.

Let’s just say that reasonable minds may differ to the extent my own responses to Governor Palin are “illogical" and/or "unreasonable,” but no one can deny Governor Palin couldn’t name then (and has not since) a single source of where she gets her “news,” she has refused to be interviewed by anyone not named Sean Hannity (or the equivalent thereof), and her statement explaining her resignation reads like it was written by a below average high school student. More importantly, the fact that Governor Palin is troubled by none of these things, that puts her firmly in the anti-intellectualism camp.

Forget Annette Funicello. Who All is in the Sarah Palin Fan Club?

Mr. Douthat cites a Pew poll, finding that 46 percent of “independents” and 48 percent of Americans without a college education have a favorable impression of Governor Palin. Mr. Douthat’s point is

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal[:] that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become the great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal[:] that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard . . . [S]he’s an essential democratic role[:] the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites, the up-by-your-bootstraps role embodied by politicians from Andrew Jackson to Harry Truman.

Ms. Anita Eckberg, perhaps in a
dramatization of what happens to 
Alaskan politicians who fail to properly
report gifts of residential construction.
Please note I said "perhaps," because
I just can't be sure.
No, Sarah Palin is not a Harry Truman or an Andrew Jackson, using bootstraps to pull herself up. Here’s the crucial difference: those people are able to show that they are just as good, just as smart, and just as capable as the “meritocratic elites,” despite not attending Harvard Law School or Columbia. For example, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black represents the “democratic ideal” Mr. Douthat alludes to. Love him or hate him, Justice Black certainly knew his onions. But he took the hard way to get to the Supreme Court. At age 17, without a high school diploma or a college education, he enrolled in University of Alabama School of Law. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, his only judicial experience was in 1911, when he was a “police court” judge for a year. But if you ever asked Justice Black what he read, he would not have said “let me get back to you about that.” Justice Black—and not Sarah Palin—represents what is best about social mobility in America.

I mentioned earlier that I am a snob, that I am an elitist. That means when I needed surgery, the fact a particular surgeon may have had a favorable approval rating with 48 percent of Americans without a college education, that meant less than nothing to me. I wanted a surgeon who had a favorable approval rating with people who knew about the surgery I needed. Why should I be any less demanding (and snobby) about the caliber of my political leadership? 

Ms. Jayne Mansfield. This was my other
choice for lead photo. In some ways,
it's a nicer photo, but the other picture
just felt more Jayne Mansfieldy to me.
Right, now, we are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. On the one hand, we have Sarah Palin, armed with platitudes like “[e]nergy independence and national security, fiscal restraint, smaller government, and local control have been my priorities and will remain my priorities.” On the other hand, there is Paul Krugman, who writes a column for the NY Times. He’s also a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, and won the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics. He says we need more stimulus ie lots more government spending. 

Now, just because Paul Krugman has the kind of “big fat resume” that Governor Palin was dismissive of after she was named the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, does that mean Paul is right and Sarah is wrong? Of course not. For example, one of America’s greatest physicists was William Shockley, who won the Nobel Prize for his invention of the transistor. Dr. Shockley, who died in 1989, was also (arguably) a committed racist. So, for questions about electrons and holes in semiconductors, Dr. Shockley has my attention. But for questions about eugenics—no, he is not The Man.

Still, not all opinions are created equal, nor do they all deserve equal consideration. Looking at both Dr. Krugman and Governor Palin, I am persuaded by Dr. Krugman. As for the fact that almost half of the population without a college education find Governor Palin’s economic analysis more persuasive, for me that is a cause of concern about America's non- college educated. That fact alone, however, does not give any credence to Governor Palin’s opinions.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

No, we just can’t. 

One of the themes of Mr. Douthat’s article is that while Governor Palin certainly shot herself in the foot numerous times, the elititists still treated her unfairly, because of her gender and social class.

Not a pusillanimous pussyfooter.
No we didn’t (What? Samsara Samizdat may originate from Oregon, but it is still part of the Unrepresentative Eastern Liberal Elitist Media Establishment (the UELEME). This blog is filled withhopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history. Moreover, I can be just as much a pusillanimous pussyfooter as anyone. And since it began in 2007, there has been over (kind of) 400 hits. That counts. IT COUNTS!).

In 1970, Nebraska Senator Roman Hruska carved his niche in history, when on the Senate floor, he defended President Nixon’s nomination to the Supreme Court of notoriously mediocre G. Harrold Carswell, by declaring “[e]ven if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.” 

Sorry--but no: the mediocrities do not deserve even a little chance. And yes, weshould aspire to have all Brandeises and Cardozos. More importantly, the press has the responsibility to point out who is mediocre and who is Benjamin Cardozo, and not mince words.

Ms. Jayne Mansfield. Pictures of women
sitting on diving boards appeal to me.
I'm just weird that way.
If you think you’re qualified to be vice president (if not president), then either learn how to write a coherent sentence--or don’t whine about the people with the bad manners to point out that you can’t. As EJ Dionne said, “I understand that the standard rules of journalism require an on-the-one-hand-on-the- other-hand treatment of this event by way of finding some potential silver lining in all this for Palin. But I honestly believe there is no on-the-other-hand here.” He then goes on to quote some of the more nonsensical excerpts from Governor Palin’s press release. But what else should he do? Pretend not to notice Governor Palin’s inability to write? Or make up some “on the other hand” justification for Governor Palin’s behavior, because she is too incompetent to do so for herself? 

How on earth can Governor Palin claim to have been mistreated (absent The Bob Rule about not being embarrassed by anything)? In her statement, Governor Palin insists “[e]very one – all 15 of the ethics complaints have been dismissed. We’ve won!” No, she didn’t “win” every one of the complaints. She is just wrong. At a minimum, Governor Palin has had to reimburse the State for some of her children’s travel expenses. Additionally, the state legislature concluded that Governor Palin did in fact abuse her powers, when she tried to get her ex-brother in law (the state trooper) fired. But who else besides Samsara Samizdat has had the bad manners to point that out?

Ms. Jane Russell. This was the famous 
picture I was looking for earlier. For
me, part of Ms. Russell's appeal is her
ability to look good--no matter how
idiotic the setting.
What would have happened to Dwight Eisenhower, if in 1958 he had written:

[I]t may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: "Sit down and shut up”, but that’s the worthless, easy path; that’s a quiter’s way out. And a problem in out country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and "go with the flow".

I’m not sure whether the responses would have been illogical and unreasonable, but you better believe they would have been pointed.

Eugene Robinson is absolutely correct when he takes Governor Palin to task for her assertion that “And (sic) though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make.” Mr. Robinson asks:

"What is she talking about? Who are these "countless others" who supposedly have made the same decision to abandon governorships for no credible reason? The names don't come rushing to mind. Why is any criticism of Poor Little Sarah the result of the "different standard" that mean old "Washington and the media" always apply? Because blaming her favorite alleged persecutors allows her to ignore the bewildered reaction from her constituents in Alaska who are stunned and mystified at her decision to skip out."

More to the point, it is intellectually dishonest for “Washington and the media” to notreport that following her resignation, Governor Palin is either delusional or deliberately talking nonsense to hide something….like maybe (for instance) she just plain lacks the ability and wherewithal to be a Governor of even a small state. 

Or maybe (I'm just saying) Governor Palin is trying to dodge a civil (as opposed to criminal) investigation by the IRS (as opposed to the Department of Justice) that some or all of her 34,500 square foot house that was ostensively built by her fisherman husband and a few of his buddies was in fact given to her by some of the contractors who were awarded bids for construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex and the Palins “forgot” to include the gift as income on their income tax return or report it as a contribution which then Mayor Palin may have been required to do so by state and/or federal law.
Ms. Anita Eckberg. "Damn it! I WARNED you to stop asking me who paid for my house!"

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