Thursday, October 30, 2008

Giving Us Something We Can Feel.

I had had my doubts about the Obama “infomercial” that was going to be broadcast on seven major stations last night. I didn’t trust Americans to be too happy about having their escapist sitcoms or the World Series pre-game show pre-empted by some black guy talking about his life. It had the potential to be so cloyingly self-serving, so presumptuous – it was risky.

And I still don’t know how your average American perceived it. I expect that it’s like much else; if you had already planned to vote for Obama, you still will, and if you didn’t, you still won’t. But if you had already been planning to vote for Obama – boy, can you feel really, really good about it.

Obama has a wonderful voice; perfectly suited to narration, and to conveying a sense of calm reassurance. “Hey,” it soothes, “I’ve got your back. Stick with me and everything is going to work out OK.” And it turns out that while the commercial had plenty of subtle reassurances that he is just like any other American – raised by a single mother with a strong work ethic who spent the last weeks of her life fighting with insurance companies over health care coverage – it was not at all heavy handed. In fact, the commercial was much more about letting people know that he understands the true dilemmas that are facing Americans.

Vignettes of four families were presented to make his point. In each case, because of some kind of all too typical circumstance, the families found themselves struggling to make ends meet and to hold on to what they had. An older couple in Ohio had owned their house outright, but had had to take out a mortgage on it when her medications became too expensive to afford with their retirement savings. The husband had to cut short his retirement and go back to work. The scene of him clipping his Wal-Mart badge onto his vest was poignant and, for me, thought-provoking.*

Each of these stories ripped at my heart, as they were surely designed to do, and their purpose was clear. The “left” is all too often painted by the Republicans as disconnected from the problems and the values of average Americans, which is, of course, ridiculous. The Republicans discovered the common man themselves only recently, and they’ve been trying to sell him a bill of goods ever since. These stories showed not only that Obama recognizes the average American and understands his or her problems, but that he has devoted real time to thinking about those problems and coming up with solutions. His goal was to show that he “gets” America – and he did.

*Thought-provoking because on one hand, to some Wal-Mart represents the worst example of a monolithic corporation that has insinuated itself into our communities and pushed out smaller businesses that can’t compete. On the other, it seems to have provided a lot of these post-retirement jobs for people who either need or want to keep working. But which came first? Is Wal-Mart a cause or a solution to the problem?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Biting the Hand that Feeds Her.

Apparently some members of the McCain campaign believe that Sarah Palin has become a “rogue” candidate, refusing to follow campaign instructions in favor of saying what she chooses, when she chooses. Her reason for such behavior, some staffers opine, is that she knows the McCain ship is sinking and she is positioning herself for her own run in 2012.

I say, go for it. Maybe she thinks she can portray herself in a more appealing light than she did under the campaign’s restrictions and tutelage, but I’m doubtful. Why? Because Sarah Palin is not that smart. Canny? Yes. Cunning? You betcha. Savvy? Getting there. But what a president truly needs, she is lacking in spades. She can make snotty comments about Katie Couric’s interview all she wants – about how she guesses she let her annoyance show when she thought the questions she was asked were stupid or irrelevant – but it’s only a diversion tactic. Her interview with Ms. Couric, as well as her earlier one with Charles Gibson, didn’t show her to be annoyed. It showed her to be ill-prepared, not particularly smart, decidedly “unready” for the role of vice president, and generally somewhat unlikable to all but the most devotedly knee-jerk Republican. You know, the ones who come to rallies either:

1. with their hair straight out of the blender, muttering about how Obama is a Muslim and a Socialist;

2. with their hair smoothed into a shiny helmet, vapid smiles hiding years of suppressed fury with their rich husbands who have treated them monstrously in exchange for allowing them to spend their overblown salaries;

3. with the bright light of Jesus in their eyes, looking fervent and slightly insane and confident their strict morality is the best thing for and about America; or

4. with their shirts off, beer guts hanging over their jeans as they proclaim how “hot” the vice-presidential candidate is.

So, you know, an illustrious group, and one made up of individuals I’m so pleased have the right to vote.

At Sarah Palin’s rally on Sunday, she was joined by the most exhausting and whiny Elizabeth Hasselbeck from the View. Ms. Palin and Ms. Hasselbeck, against the wishes of the McCain campaign, spent several minutes prattling on about how it was so very uninteresting that the Republican Party had spent $150,000 on clothes for Ms. Palin, and how it was a sexist double standard and nobody would waste a moment on the news that a man had spent that kind of money at Brooks Brothers. Ms. Palin asserted that she had returned most of the clothes and that she was back to her consignment duds from Wasilla, and indeed she was wearing a pink jacket that had seen better days. Ms. Hasselbeck, on the other hand, was wearing a lime green coat that was clearly a very expensive, designer garment. If the desired effect was to paint Governor Palin as her own woman, it failed. Instead, she spent far too much time on what was, just as she said, a trivial and petty issue. Worse, she undermined her own attempt to reassert her “commonness” by backing herself up with the insubstantial fashion plate Ms. Hasselbeck as her cheerleader.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the McCain campaign, Ms. Palin returned quickly to her themes of her empathy for “Tito the Builder,” “Joe the Plumber” and “Cindy the Citizen,” and to her mantra of “I’m not saying Obama’s a socialist, but it sure looks like it, doesn’t it?” But if Governor Palin really wants to distance herself from this campaign and position herself as a more appealing candidate in 2012, then she needs to recognize the obvious: this campaign has been a lesson for the history books in how not listening to what the people want can lose an election for you. In this case, the people wanted candidates to reject the divisive, nasty, partisan rhetoric that plagued the last several elections. McCain and Palin rather gleefully rejected that wish, and with luck that will prove fatal to their campaign.

To win over an electorate that by and large thinks she is woefully unqualified to hold a national office, Ms. Palin needs to spend the next four years refashioning herself as someone who wants to bridge divides rather than simply impose her harsh version of reality, prettied up as it is in a syrupy, home-spun cocoon of folksiness, on the world. And reading a few books on American history and politics wouldn’t hurt, either. She needs to at least school herself adequately to bluff her way through a few puff-piece interviews.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A dream or a nightmare.

If other Americans planning to vote for Barack Obama on November 4 feel the same way I do, then if he does not win because of (insert soul-destroying reason here: Republicans steal the election again, a Bradley effect, not enough people vote for him), there will be a massive wave of emotion to endure on November 5. If others share my sentiments, there will be:

1. Profound sadness
2. Blind terror at what the next decade holds for our country
3. An irrevocable loss of faith in the democratic process, and
4. An increase in job searches abroad.

There are so many reasons for this. The McCain campaign and its supporters can jeer about a campaign based on “hope” all they want, but the underlying premise of Obama’s campaign represents so much more than people who can’t see beyond the confines of their own four walls can imagine. Many of us believe that the last eight years have placed this country on the path to destruction, and to say as much doesn’t make us anti-American, or defeatists, or dirty liberals. It simply means we do not agree with the policies of a president whose supporters rigged an election for him, or with the way the country has been co-opted by religious fanatics who seek to legislate their version of morality for us all. It means we believe the country should be run by someone who is the opposite of who we have now: someone highly educated, analytical, calm, collaborative, and with a global world view; someone who possesses a long-term view for America.

Barack Obama holds out the promise of hope for this country. Hope that those of us who have felt disenfranchised can re-establish our voices, and not be made to feel we are un-American for daring to voice our opposition to the unprecedented, abusive amassment of power by this administration. Hope that we can renew a commitment to civil rights in this country that has been shamelessly chipped away by the current administration, and which doesn’t bode any better under a McCain/Palin stint on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hope that we can be a beacon for the world once again with national pride based not on some outdated notion that we are the biggest and strongest so that we may self-righteously impose ourselves on the rest of the world, but on our achievements as an advanced, educated, growth-oriented, post-racial and tolerant society that is blazing an enviable path into the future.

Barack Obama inspires us to dream that we can have a say in our own destinies and that with him at the helm this world is going to be a better place, and he backs up his vision with solid ideas about how to advance our nation past the loggerheads at which we find ourselves today. To imagine that this pure and hopeful dream could be destroyed by the conniving machinations of a pair of fools who clearly do not represent the majority in this country … it is simply devastating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Apparently I'm Out.

According to Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, she and the rest of America would just “love” to see the American media do an exposĂ© on who is “pro-America” and who is “anti-America” in Congress. (Presumably any non-American media would be “anti-America,” so let’s not have them participate in this investigation.)

Even though Ms. Bachmann did not follow up her statement, which she made to Chris Matthews on MSNBC, with an explanation of what constitutes “pro-America” or anti-America,” I’m going to take a swing and posit that under her world view I am “anti-America,” and that so is any Democrat in Congress.

What is wrong with the Republican Party right now? Between Ms. Bachmann’s wacko suggestion and Sarah Palin trotting out the concept at her rallies that only small towns are “pro-America,” we are witnessing something very ugly: an attempt to drive a wedge between fellow Americans by painting those that do not subscribe to a conservative agenda as lacking patriotism; indeed, as traitors to the country. It’s an awfully cheap way to try to win an election, and it undermines our strength as a nation.

After more than a decade of rancorous partisanship in this country, it’s clear that many Americans are ready to move past it and want to work together for the future of the country. A large part of Senator Obama’s appeal is that he exhorts us to come together and find common ground, to remember that we are ALL Americans and have America’s best interests at heart. His calm, unruffled demeanor soothes us and lets us believe that mending the rent fabric of our country isn’t just a pie-in-the sky ideal. It’s that type of leadership that Americans want right now; not some two-bit throwback to McCarthyism that seems designed for nothing more than to fire up the tiny minority of voters who wouldn’t see the whole scheme as an insult to their intelligence.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A self-congratulatory weekend for the liberals, except maybe me.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but Sarah Palin’s appearance on SNL was as devoid of substance as the rest of her public appearances. Was it supposed to benefit her somehow? Let us know she can take a joke? Because standing there with a tight smile while other people make fun of you, rather than actually chiming in with a little self deprecation of your own, doesn’t make me think you’re up for the joke. It makes me think you’re suffering from a nasty lack of self awareness when you can’t laugh at your own persona.

Not that I think SNL did her any favors. Giving her the line “I won’t take any questions” when stepping up to the podium just vacated by Tina Fey only reminds viewers that Governor Palin avoids questions from anyone but the faithful like the plague, a fact of which I’m sure the writers were gleefully aware. Following that up with Alec Baldwin ceding lamely “You’re much hotter in person,” after giving his true opinion while reading his lines off a cue card in a most deliberately “I don’t want to be here” manner was also an unfortunately apt depiction of how many people see her.

On the other end of the TV spectrum this weekend, there was Colin Powell’s eloquent endorsement of Barack Obama on Meet the Press. Always diplomatic, he made clear that he was in no way denigrating John McCain or indicating that he thought he could not be president (although a few things he said belied that stated position), but simply that he had a long line of reasoning to support Obama. His list was an insightful expression of the numerous character traits that he believes Obama possesses that make him right for the job, culminating in a simple statement that the personality and type of leadership Obama offers is the right course for the time we are in right now.

It was also a pleasure for those of us hanging off the left hand side of the fence to hear General Powell castigate the Republican Party for its subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to portray Obama as a Muslim, and to ask, “so what if he were?” We have come to demonize Muslims in this country by casually equating being a Muslim with being a terrorist. As a person who dislikes religious dogma of all stripes, I know that I have sometimes been guilty of making unfounded leaps of logic like that myself – not that all Muslims are terrorists, but that people who practice a faith that I don’t understand, and which seems to allow some pretty bad behavior in God’s name, have an agenda I should be scared of.

For me, though, that’s everybody. I have come to distrust organized religion in general, whether the faith is Christian, Muslim, Jewish; whatever. I have allowed myself to think that the extremist views in each group represent the ideology of all in the group. The incredibly vocal nature of evangelical Christians in America, who seem to seek to impose their own narrow view of morality on the entire country through taking over the Republican Party rather than by pleasantly inviting like-minded people to join their mega-churches, has nurtured that in me. So just as my knee-jerk reaction is to believe that evangelical Christians all possess the desire to dictate the way I live my life, I also conclude without reflection that a religion that I perceive as being violent and fundamentally sexist because of the acts of a visible vanguard (and I’m referring to Islam, although it could just as easily be Christianity) seeks to do the same things – but believes that death and destruction are warranted to achieve that goal.

I’m embarrassed to admit what an appalling lack of analysis on my part it shows to continually allow the more strident members of a religion to infect what others assure us are the gentler virtues of the faith. I’m thankful that a sober-minded, intelligent man like Colin Powell has reminded me, and the leaders of an entire political party that should at least act as if it knows better, of the danger such a cavalier way of thinking poses to the democratic ideals on which this country is based.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Because children are starving in ... America.

Will this campaign never end? It lurches on from day to day, with speeches by both presidential candidates that could just as easily be given by playing the same tape over and over and continued divisive, offensive Palin rallies. I think America is reaching the end of its rope. Campbell Brown suggests in a column today that the candidates could give everyone a break and help America at the same time, by scrapping their negative advertising for the rest of the campaign and donating the combined $30,000,000 per week to food banks and other charities.

That’s astounding, don’t you think? Thirty million dollars a WEEK spent on ads that have been shown to be having the opposite effect of what’s desired, while homeless shelters and soup kitchens across America are stretched to their limit by the influx of the newly homeless. Just as more citizens need their services, these charities are feeling the crunch of lessened donations from Americans who are hoarding their money out of fear for their own livelihoods.

This is a scary state of affairs. The story Ms. Brown tells of a woman who has taken her three small children to the shelter for all three meals a day, every day since her husband lost his job and they lost their house, hits awfully close to home. So many of us are a few missed mortgage payments away from foreclosure, and in economic times when nobody feels secure about his job, it could be you and it could be me bundling our small children up against the cold to ask for help.

The candidates are not likely to accept the challenge to divert their advertising budgets to feed the hungry. Our tax dollars are lined up for the foreseeable future to “rescue” banks and pump money into the Iraqi economy, but people here need our help. If the thought of your fellow Americans already suffering today is not enough by itself to move you, think of it this way: the time may come that you, too, will need the services and the compassion offered by our nation’s charities. The possibility is a lot more real than it was a few months ago. Money, food or time that you donate to a charitable organization now is like an insurance policy for the future. The more people that give, the more likely these organizations will be there as more people need them, and the more we renew a culture where it is natural to help one another.

America prides itself on the idea that its citizens are incredibly resourceful, and able and willing to sacrifice in the face of great challenges, but most Americans haven’t been tested on that front in many years. The potential scope of the current economic crisis constitutes a great challenge, and there is no denying that we are all going to have to make sacrifices. Why not start now, by helping us all to help ourselves with a few dollars for a homeless shelter?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate No. 3 - Game Over?

I am encouraged. Even though McCain clearly did a better job in this debate than he had in the previous two, he didn’t do well enough. Polls that came out directly after the debate showed that Obama still “won” the debate, with a split of 58% to McCain’s 31%.

What could cause McCain still to score such low numbers when he really was more effective than he had been previously? Unfortunately for McCain, he just can’t escape his own personality. He has reached a point where the negativity he exudes simply overwhelms anything he says. He smirks, and sneers, and still visibly struggles to contain his disdain and even anger. Obama may have appeared flatter than he has in previous debates, but he never loses his cool. It’s such a marked contrast to McCain, and it appears to be what the majority of American voters are warming to in this time of serious crisis.

The other simple fact is that there are only 19 days left until the election. Are there really people out there who still have not made up their minds? John McCain has done himself a great disservice over the last month, starting with the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. While his choice has been marvelous for shoring up his base, it has been miserable for bringing any new converts his way and has probably lost him some independents who might have otherwise voted for him. He claims that she has inspired women voters, but outside of his very conservative base, the opposite is true. Many women have been insulted by his assertion that she represents great strides for women in this country – particularly as more information has come out about the various ways in which she has conducted her administrations as mayor and governor as her own private fiefdom. Some of us who might have been able to tolerate a McCain presidency in concept are now terrified by the prospect when it includes a vice president Annie Oakley who lacks the requisite brainpower and who has no qualms about drumming up a little racist hatred for the cause.

McCain has followed up his cynical and misguided pick of Sarah Palin with a month of chaos. He has had no clear message other than that Obama would be a scary choice for the “good and patriotic” people who attend his rallies. He has swung back and forth on the issues, particularly with respect to the economy. One day the fundamentals of the economy are strong, the next day it’s a crisis worthy of a pretend suspension of his campaign. He and Sarah Palin have followed the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” school of politics, in which they accuse their opponent of every lousy thing they themselves are guilty of in the hopes of muddying the waters for some of their less critically-minded potential supporters. They have spent their time sowing the seeds of doubt instead of hammering home an argument of how they will help the middle class. Hint: Neither espousing trickle-down economics nor telling voters you “know” how to solve each and every crisis but aren’t bothering to share the details before you’re elected is sealing the deal. In short, they’ve squandered their chance.

McCain performed better in tonight’s debate, but if he isn’t able to convince Americans between now and November 4 that there is a person who truly understands them hiding behind the anger and the naked power grab, he’s done.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Warren, I Know You're Listening.

With whom will the new president replace Hank Paulson, and can he maybe get started on it today? Really, if the stakes here were not so high we could say that Paulson is an embarrassment and leave it at that, but with our economy crumbling around us his ability to steer us out of this crisis, or lack thereof, needs addressing today. The administration now seems to be aiming the spotlight on an assistant Treasury secretary, Neel Kashkari, to describe how the US will also use the $700 billion “rescue” package to implement the same action so decisively taken by Britain and swiftly followed by the rest of Europe: equity injections. Perhaps that is because yet another change in direction, even if this may hopefully be the right one if delivered in concert with the EU, will not pack much of a punch coming from Paulson’s mouth.

As many economists have recommended from the outset of this financial crisis, the U.S. appears to finally be on board with the concept of injecting capital into banks and financial institutions in exchange for a proportional equity interest. Some conservatives have resisted this because it is an obvious slap in the face to their ideology – there is no room for government intervention in the free markets, and particularly not when it amounts to the “nationalization” of these entities. However, it has become clear in the last few weeks that all bets are off now with respect to what amount of government intervention is appropriate or necessary to salvage the American economy.

Isn’t it possible that allowing the government to take equity in the companies it bails out could ultimately cost the American taxpayers less money? Companies that were all too happy to take the handout of Uncle Sam Fed liberating them from their “toxic” assets might be more willing to search around for creative solutions when faced with the possibility that the government might have any say in the governance of their companies. When Sweden faced this problem in 1992, its decision to take equity positions in the companies to which it provided money caused SEB, Sweden’s largest bank at the time, to find it within itself to seek other sources of capital – and it turned a profit the next year.

Oh, so much potential disaster to think about if none of this “rescue” stops the mess from flowing through like lava into the economy. But the bright side if McCain and Palin win the election is that a Vice President Palin can teach us all how to skin our own animals – we’ll need that ability.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Things I Can't Stand Anymore.

1. Sarah Palin accusing Barack Obama of actions more aptly attributable to herself and/or to John McCain, such as:

(a) putting ambition over country
(b) consorting with freaky ministers
(c) lying
(d) deregulation of the markets resulting in the housing and financial crises
(e) using fear tactics

It’s transparent nonsense and it’s desperate and loathsome.

2. Sarah Palin. She ruins every day.

3. Each day, seeing on every news website one of the two variants of photos of traders on Wall Street experiencing another crappy day:

(a) holding their heads in their hands
(b) looking up expectantly at the ticker

4. Waiting for the markets to level off. The more this wackiness in the markets continues, the more the effect is that investors and banks are digging their heels in and causing a crisis for everybody else. Will the dollars I have today be enough to pay my mortgage next week, or to feed my family?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Misleading Respite.

Yawn. There were no big surprises at the town hall debate, other than that the crypt keeper seemed marginally more coherent than he has in other venues lately. As usual, however, I was struck by the glaring differences in their demeanors: Obama is cool, languid, doesn’t get ruffled. His smile is broad and appealing and he flashes it regularly. McCain, on the other hand, is tightly wound. His demeanor is stiff and angry, even beyond the obvious physical limitations caused by his years as a POW. His smile is not much of a smile at all, but is instead a sardonic reflection of whatever condescending remark or exaggeration he’s making at the time.

And speaking of condescension: how about that eyebrow-raising moment when McCain suggested to the African-American man who had asked how the bailout would help people other than the bankers themselves that he probably hadn’t heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before all this? It was a throwaway remark that said an awful lot. This was a guy sitting in the audience of a political debate, asking a valid question about the economy. Why on earth would anyone assume he had not heard of Fannie and Freddie before the current economic crisis? How insulting, not to mention arguably you-know-what. But that would be in line with the McCain campaign’s current modus operandi, wouldn’t it.

Although the debates have not been exciting, they are a calm, welcome respite from the nastiness of the campaign trail. It’s a relief to hear the candidates discuss their actual ideas for the country without most of the appalling mudslinging that has sunk to unprecedented lows lately. Of course, I don’t see that as any kind of difference on the Obama side of the fence; he generally has proven that he prefers to stick to the issues and compare his views to John McCain’s, except when provoked. An increasingly desperate McCain, however, has latched his cold embrace around his inner snake. To see him behave himself reasonably respectably for 90 minutes, then, is both a relief and misleading. It is heartening to hear that he has some actual plans for the country, even if I don’t agree with 95% of them, and seduces me to hope that if he is elected he can drop the nonsensical behavior of the last few months and behave like an adult as he works for this country.

In reality, though, I know that hope is displaced; just a placebo my mind grasps for so as not to panic about the ramifications of a McCain-Palin administration. Because, really, how is someone who conducts himself in such a vile manner 23 hours of the day going to turn it off just because he finally won the ultimate prize: a higher rank than his father?

He can’t, because that is who he is. Other than surviving his years as a POW, his actions over the course of his life have not shown him to be an admirable person. He is a man who basks in the trappings of perceived power, who becomes angry and lashes out when anyone threatens his ambitions, and not much more. His lack of respect for women is notorious, a point that is only amplified by his cynical choice of Sarah Palin as his sidekick. When the cameras aren’t trained on him in the Oval Office, why would he be anyone but his true self?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mud Wrestling.

Say it ain’t so, Caribou Barbie! Sarah Palin’s folksy schtick that pretends to put a soft candy shell on her poisonous, hard center is increasingly intolerable. The robotic pit bull announced at a rally on Saturday that “the high heels were on, and the gloves were off,” to a cheering crowd of apparent imbeciles. Yes, imbeciles. One would have to have the IQ of Double Bubble to buy into the toxic behavior, speech and character of Governor Palin.

During her speeches over the weekend, the dead-eyed striver insinuated to her adoring acolytes that Obama doesn’t like America the way “you and I” like America, and how he “pals around” with terrorists. Fortunately, that attack on Obama’s pretty much non-existent association with William Ayers, a radical from the Vietnam era (when Obama was a child), has been largely criticized. But what do you think she really meant by separating the “anti-America” Obama from good Americans like us? She wants to continue to try to paint him as “other,” something unfamiliar and undesirable, un-American: black. It’s a not-so-subtle way to remind anybody who might be on the fence that “hey, I bet you have some deep-seated prejudices you might be fighting against – let me give you a ‘reason’ not to fight them.”

Why can’t she and her senile grandpa stick to talking about the positive changes they see for this country? Because they don’t have anything to separate themselves from the Bush administration, so they are reduced to revolting character assassinations on their rival. And in that, McCain has found a willing mouthpiece. Palin will do anything to ensure that she and McCain make it to the White House, because it’s herself she envisions ruling the roost on Pennsylvania Avenue. So she parrots her attack lines and her 3 speaking points on energy, health care, and how Obama’s tax increases will ruin the economy, then gets on another plane to do it again.

It will be interesting to see how the “gloves off” declaration of the old man and the ingĂ©nue plays out in the next few polls. Right now, Obama appears to have a 100-point lead on the electoral vote map, but the Republicans have shown time and again that Americans seem to like to get down in the mud with their politicians. Hopefully, Obama can continue to temper it by sticking to how he can improve our country, but if he wants to throw in a well-timed “Keating 5” reference, well, that’s OK with me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sarah Six Pack.

It really happened; the rumors were true. When asked whether there were Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade, Sarah Palin was unable to come up with any. She hemmed and hawed in that slightly belligerent way of hers, but in the end her answer conveyed nothing other than “I don’t know.” How Katie Couric maintains her composure talking with this woman is beyond me:

Couric: Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life, that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see, um, further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but … Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

So there you have it. Far more interesting to me, though, was her answer to the question of whether she thinks there is an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution: she does. Yeah, she does. I guess someone forgot to explain to her exactly what the justices based their decision on in Roe v. Wade.

In an attempt to counteract the serious damage she is doing to the McCain campaign and to her own national political future, Governor Palin called in today to the talk radio show of conservative host Hugh Hewitt. When “asked” whether she was surprised that her campaign had ignited so much hostility on the left and in the media, Palin explained:

“Oh, I think they’re just not used to someone coming in from the outside saying you know what? It’s time that normal Joe six-pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency, and I think that that’s kind of taken some people off guard, and they’re out of sorts, and they’re ticked off about it, but it’s motivation for John McCain and I to work that much harder to make sure that our ticket is victorious, and we put government back on the side of the people of Joe six-pack like me…”

Hey! Governor! It most certainly is not time that “Joe Six-Pack” be represented in the position of the vice presidency. Not that you’d know it from the way McCain has treated it, but it’s kind of an important job, and not one that will benefit from being held by an intellectually incurious and rather petty, small-time politician. Plus, wasn’t George Bush supposed to be the guy people would want to have a beer with? Does wanting to have six of them with you mean you’ll do six times as much damage to the country as he did?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Surprise.

It’s October, which means it’s time for a surprise. We have the whole month to see what fresh hell John McCain can think up to inflict on the voters! My hope is that the electorate is tiring of his bizarrely-run campaign, with its increasingly silly twists and turns. Let’s recap his attempted “game-changers” over the last few weeks:

1. After noticing that his attempts to interest Americans in his campaign are having less than stellar results, and as a way to divert the conversation away from the very successful Democratic Convention, McCain chooses the delightfully spunky Sarah Palin as his running mate. What a maverick! Soon America will fall in love with her just as he did when he met her yesterday!

2. Hoping to capitalize on Hurricane Gustav barreling toward the Gulf Coast, McCain, in a move soon to become his trademark, suspends the first night of the Republican Convention to make it look like he cares. He flies somewhere or other, not the Gulf Coast, to talk about how he cares while his creepy wife and the creepier First Lady hold forth at the podium back in St. Paul about how we’re all Americans. Apparently the Republicans in St. Paul just started drinking and placing ads for discreet gay sex earlier than they would have if they’d had to listen to speeches.

3. Last week, seeing the polls heading inexorably down as America is exposed to more and more examples of Sarah Palin’s incurious brand of existence, McCain decides he needs to pull out all the stops. Hearing something about a major economic crisis despite the fundamentals of the economy being “strong,” he announces that he is suspending his campaign to fly back to Washington and butt in where he’s not wanted. Even though his campaign is “suspended,” his ads continue to run and his flunkies continue to shill for him on the news programs.

4. Unable to get his party to listen to what he has to say about the bailout bill, presumably because he doesn’t know what he is saying himself anymore, he fails to muster up enough votes from the House Republicans. He issues a statement that now is not the time for blame, then 15 minutes later another one blaming the Democrats. Hedging his bets, his campaign puts out two ads simultaneously: one blaming Barack Obama for the failure of the bill’s passage, and one for its success.

Despite his best efforts to shake things up with all his “maverick” actions, McCain’s poll numbers continue to drop. Here’s hoping his next wacky stunt will be to climb back into his coffin until the election is over.

Meanwhile, tomorrow night is the vice-presidential debate, and maybe its outcome will be a surprise. Certainly the scene has been set for us, the slack-jawed public, to be pleasantly surprised when she strings two sentences together in a comprehensible manner. In the last few days, the media has been telling us that our expectations have been set low enough that any performance by Ms. Palin that doesn’t cause us to cringe far back into our sofa cushions will be cause for the Republicans to crow their victory. I’m not quite on board with that one. My expectations are low because Sarah Palin is not smart, and there’s not much she can show me to exceed them. In fact, I’m smacking my lips in anticipation of having to watch the whole thing from behind my hands.