Exasperation in the Heartland

So commentary resumes here after a week in the dead center of America, or at least Cincinnati – close enough, what with a few hot summer evenings at the Great American Ballpark (really), watching the oldest team in professional baseball, the Reds, play out their season with the kids up from the minors trying to show they could make it in the majors, which was all hope and sadness. Some weren’t bad at all – others you wanted to not have just watched that perfect down-the-middle fastball as it passed by, and slump, standing there knowing what that meant, as the other team walks off the field – called out on that third strike, and no swing – the end.

 

And the kids swan in the pool and the adults sipped cold beer in the shade, and life passed slowly. There were fireworks Sunday night, the evening before Labor Day, down at the river. And unlike Hollywood out here, everything was deep green – dragonflies in the air, the sound of lawnmowers in the distance. It was a break. Ray Bradbury – old and feeble and living out here now – wrote about it in Dandelion Wine. It was like that.

 

The political world seemed far away, but it wasn’t – a Labor Day picnic, older folks who’d seen it all, who had worked hard and were now gathered on the back deck, seemed tired of being Midwestern Republicans, or somehow exasperated. This was Jean Schmitt’s congressional district – you might remember her. They’d had enough. Many, as old as John McCain, seemed wary of him – they knew themselves and couldn’t imagine him as president. It seemed farfetched, or at least a gamble – they’d also gotten details confused and really didn’t trust their own driving, especially at night. Some said it was madness. The Obama kid was fine with them – smart and respectful and on top of things. He’d do nicely. Obama may carry Ohio.

 

And the nomination of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate didn’t please them much either. Who was she and what had she ever done? Was this some kind of joke? And these were social conservatives. She’d been a small-town mayor and spent a year and a half as governor of a state with fewer folks than in their Hamilton County. They were not impressed.

 

The talk was that McCain – as he is wont to do – had just done a dumb-assed thing, had taken a shot in the dark, hoping for the best. You save that for the slots at the casinos across the river on the Kentucky side, in Newport, if you don’t mind losing a dollar or two. They joked about friends who were like that. No one talked about registering Democrat – but Jean Schmitt is in trouble and so is McCain. Or that is how it seemed.

 

Maybe McCain’s acceptance speech will bring them around. That seems unlikely. Things have changed. “After we’ve won, we’re going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again.” Yeah, yeah – they know better in Cincinnati. The last eight years were all Republican, and we are where we are.

 

All of McCain’s talk about his five and a half years as a prisoner of war making him really love America is fine and all that, but they have his number. They know the type – and see him as someone who ought to be one of them, one of the snowbirds who drives the RV down to Florida for the winter and swaps war stories in the trailer park. Someone needs to fix things, and it’s not the old guy.

 

But McCain’s campaign manager has now famously said that this election isn’t about those things. As Rick Davis said – “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.”

 

Forget the economy, or the two wars, or the upcoming one with Iran, or with Russia, or any other issue – it’s about character.

 

That’s not going to fly in Cincinnati – too many empty houses, too many dead kids coming back in boxes, the price of everything jumping up and incomes falling. McCain has character, oodles of it. So what?

 

That was a bit of the problem with Sarah Palin and her amazing speech. You can watch all twenty-six minutes of it. It’s the last thirty seconds. Everything is about character. There was no policy in it, or much about any issue.

 

Oddly enough, the pro-McCain Associated Press – their Washington bureau chief was angling for a job with the McCain campaign and is a friend of Karl Rove – their Calvin Woodward was allowed to write this:

 

How dare you say that about John McCain, war hero?

 

That, in so many words, is the line of counterattack coming from Republicans who only four years ago dismissed the war service of another decorated Vietnam veteran with his own story of bravery.

 

For decades, McCain was reluctant to talk about his Hanoi prison camp heroism. That reticence has vanished in the blizzard of ads, speeches and talking points before, during and surely after the convention that made him the Republican nominee.

 

His service in that war is held out as the core reason to trust his judgment and character, a point made with endless retellings by his supporters of the thumbs-up he gave in the face of torture. McCain’s wartime crucible also is used to inoculate him against all criticism, none having to do with his behavior four decades ago.

 

And that is followed by examples:

 

Think McCain owns too many houses to relate to the common American? Not fair – he lived in a North Vietnam cell for 5 1/2 years. How dare you?

 

Question his temperament or his temper? Look what he’s lived through.

 

And so it goes, followed by what McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin said:

 

He’s compassionate now because he was powerless then.

 

He has “wisdom that comes even to the captives by the grace of God.”

 

He possesses the “special confidence of those who have seen evil and have seen how evil is overcome.”

 

Even Woodward is allowed to say this is very curious – even McCain doesn’t say such things himself, or didn’t until his acceptance speech.

 

But who is this Plain woman? Between her speech and McCain’s, NBC News reported that the police officer’s union of Alaska has filed an ethics complaint on behalf of Mike Wooten, the trooper who was embroiled in a dispute with the Palin family, and who the governor is alleged to have attempted to have fired.

 

According to NBC News:

 

The complaint alleges that the governor or her staff may have improperly disclosed information from Wooten’s personnel records. The complaint alleges “criminal penalties may apply.”

 

But then it gets complicated. The union argues that recordings of a phone conversation involving one of her aide’s, Frank Bailey – released last month as part of the Attorney General’s own Trooper-Gate probe – suggested that Wooten’s records were accessed improperly. But then the McCain-Palin campaign told NBC News that the files were not protected at all – Wooten himself had signed a waiver allowing a divorce lawyer to gain access to his personnel records. And, you see, Todd Palin, the governor’s husband, was the source of information, and that the information came from Wooten’s divorce proceedings. So the McCain campaign is saying that Todd Palin gathered damaging information on Mike Wooten by looking through his divorce proceedings and then passed it on to an aide to the governor, who later used it to try to have Wooten fired. That may be legal, but not exactly ethical, but it’s just one more thing. She would like the whole probe dropped, and handed over to a panel of folks she appointed, and she certainly won’t testify until after the election. The whole thing kind of stinks. But maybe it’s a minor matter.

 

There’s a ton more, and a useful reference is Derek Thompson in Slate with The Sarah Palin FAQ – “Everything you ever wanted to know about the Republican vice presidential nominee.”

 

It’s long. This jumps out:


Did she want to ban books from the public library as mayor of Wasilla? Yes, at least according to John Stein, the town’s former mayor. Stein says Palin asked the Wasilla library “how she could go about banning books” with offensive language. It’s not clear whether any book was ever banned.

 

She plays hardball. If you don’t fire someone who has wronged her family, you lose your job – and so on and so forth.

 

But the headlines keep coming. Palin Backed At Least Two Routes To Nowhere – she said she hates that pork barrel spending but the evidence is counter to that. Palin Attended 5 Colleges; McCain Contacted 0 – it seems no one much looked into who she was or what she’d done with her life. Oh well.

 

Is it hurting? No. After Palin Speech, Obama Has Record $10 Million Day:

 

(CNN) – Barack Obama’s campaign for president has raised $10 million since Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke Wednesday night, the campaign announced, calling it a “one-day record.”

 

Palin, the governor of Alaska, launched harsh attacks on Obama, accusing him of being two-faced and a political lightweight with no significant legislative accomplishments.

 

“Coverage of the Palin attacks on the news this evening just pushed us over $10 million,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an e-mail to reporters Wednesday night.

 

The Republican Party announced earlier in the day it had raised $1 million in the wake of Palin’s speech.

 

The folks in Cincinnati were not alone.

 

And see these comments about the speech:

 

It appears that once she makes up her mind, that is the end of it…. She was a Republican novelty act with a sophomoric script…. I still don’t know anymore about this young lady tonight than I did last night…. Her speech contained few statements about policy or the party platform…. I found her barrage of snide remarks and distortions to be a major turn off…. I thought she would appear more professional, more stateswomanly. She’s no match for Joe Biden.

 

And out here, down in Orange County, Kevin Drum was put off:

 

Well, on a purely personal note, the most grating part of Palin’s speech (and Giuliani’s) was their reliance – yet again – on the trope that the only true Americans are those from small towns in the heartland. As a native Californian, that stuff just drives me up the wall. This smoldering esthetic resentment, eagerly stoked by the GOP every fours years since at least Nixon, relies on the myth that us coastal urbanites spend all our time looking down our patrician noses at anyone who lives outside the city limits, and it’s dangerous, divisive, and annoying as hell. What’s more, as near as I can tell, it’s completely backwards. Far from criticizing small town life, America celebrates it. Liberals celebrate it. Politicians celebrate it. Everyone celebrates it. I can hardly turn on the TV without hearing that, compared with the hardworking everymen and women who populate the prairies and put food on our tables, anyone who lives where I do is degenerate, suspiciously cosmopolitan, and one step away from turning the country over to the UN.

 

Feh. I know this is hardly new or uniquely American. And it’s designed for specifically political reasons. And it works and it wins elections and that’s all conservatives care about. And this is exactly the reaction they’re trying to sucker me into. But it still annoys me, and for some reason everyone feels like they have to continue playing this game forever. It’s time to stop it.

 

When the folks in Cincinnati shrug and walk away, it stops.

 

But at Hullabaloo, Digby had the best view of all this:

 

I believe that politics is more than personalities or issues. There are cultural, tribal and political undercurrents that also determine the direction of voters’ decisions, which exist outside the spectacle of election campaigns. But in our current celebrity culture, the candidates are totemic and the spectacle itself is the message. If you look at the two conventions you can clearly see the choice the two parties are offering: an inspirational call to march into the future or a forceful war cry to help defend a besieged and threatened tribe. There’s power in both of those spectacles and it depends on the country’s mood and inclination as to which one will appeal.

 

Three months ago, I thought the Democrats couldn’t lose. I still think they will win, although I believe the race will be closer than we thought. The Republicans are as good at campaigning as they are bad at governing so they picked the one guy who could even remotely claim to be a “different kind of Republican” even though his only distinction from them is that he lashes out incoherently at members of both parties. Unlike the monkish, ascetic post-partisan Obama, who appeals to people’s better nature, he is an angry bipartisan warrior who (along with his brave, martyr’d second) will bring down the wrath of God on all those who fail to put “country first.” If he can convince just a few more people that that’s what it’s going to take to fix the country’s problems, then he’ll win. I don’t think people are that dumb. But then I always underestimate the prevalence of that particular characteristic.

 

We heard the forceful war cry to help defend a besieged and threatened tribe. But people have been leaving the tribe.

 

Also see Ryan Avent here:

 

The language Obama used in his bittergate talk was obviously unfortunate, but it’s worth remembering that he was making a very serious point – that Democratic policies are far more helpful to small town Americans than Republican policies, but that the right successfully deploys cultural warfare to prevent those economic policies from resonating with voters. To see these remarks then turned on Obama by a campaign tailored almost exclusively to the needs of the very rich is surreal. Sarah Palin was basically saying, “Watch us hoodwink you the way Obama said we’d hoodwink you, and watch you all eat it up.”

 

Matthew Yglesias has an interesting take on that:

 

The basic image here, also seen in Tom Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas, is of low-income people hoodwinked into backing the GOP by culture war rhetoric. But Andrew Gelman and his coauthors in the excellent Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State mount a huge pile of data to suggest that this isn’t the case. Overall, low income [voters] strongly and consistently back Democratic candidates. Where you see culture war voting is among rich people. They explain this, plausibly, in terms of the fact that privileged people are able to do more to express their cultural preferences – both in terms of lifestyle and in terms of who they vote for. Poor people need to spend their money on stuff they need and cast their votes for practical reasons. But the well-off can afford to indulge their preferences about where to live, how to vacation, and what recreational pursuits to follow and divergent tastes in these matters continues into the voting booth.

 

Our current crop of candidates offers up some pretty good examples of this. The McCain family is really stinkin’ rich (inheriting multi-million dollar fortunes and owning a dozen houses) but the other three couples on national tickets are well-off on a much more banal scale. The Palin family, the Obama family, and the Biden family all have incomes running into the six figures which is much more than your average American family has. But the Palins choose to spend their money in very different ways. They’re raising five kids, getting into competitive snowmobiling, going on moose hunting expeditions, etc. This isn’t stuff that your typical coastal elites care to do with their time and money, but none of it is cheap, either. Rather, these are the leisure pursuits of Red America’s economic elite while prosperous people in Blue America are instead raising fewer children in smaller houses that are much more expensive per square foot and spending money on cheese plates rather than moooseburgers.

 

But in whatever sense snowmobiling is a “working class” hobby – and I’ll agree it doesn’t have vast appeal to big city sophisticates – it’s not a cheap pursuit, and I’m sure Todd Palin could have bought a ton of arugula with the money he spent on his snowmobile instead. He just chose not to, which is fine. But that’s what these culture wars are all about – relatively prosperous cultural conservatives fighting with relatively prosperous cultural liberals about “postmaterial” political issues and using lifestyle cues as proxies for those battles – they’re not about poor people mobilizing themselves on behalf of the GOP.

 

It’s all nonsense. That’s not hard to see. No wonder folks are exasperated.

 

One of the readers at Talking Points Memo nails the nonsense:

 

It really looks like the Republicans think that the Presidency, and election to it, is some kind of a joke. That it’s a game which anyone can play at, so it doesn’t matter if they grab a governor who is a political neophyte already embroiled in controversy on every front. It’s a joke, so it’s fine to ridicule and bully your opponent, fib, stall investigations, etc.

 

The “seriousness” (or “seriously?”) narrative is the kind that could sway swing voters: independents don’t want drama in their ticket – they want people who can get down to business. They want a ticket that treats voters like sober adults, that treats an election to the Presidency seriously. McCain spokespeople say it’s “Not about the issues?” What, so it’s a high school popularity contest, then?

 

That was what was being said at dusk on Labor Day in Cincinnati. And Josh Marshall carries that forward:

 

It’s a bad year for Republicans and the desire for something or someone to get excited about is palpable. And they got it. But there’s only so much more consolidating of the Republican base McCain can do. As good as her delivery was, I really don’t think this was a speech that spoke to the issues that are driving the election this year. I don’t think it’s a slashing-attacks-against-liberal-elites kind of year. And as much as politics is about gut reactions and instinct, I don’t think ignoring any discussion of the economy this year works. Finally, fundamentally, I do think this is a change election year. And I don’t think that was a change speech. Not a convincing one. …

 

Also significant, while the networks have gotten distracted about the kid nonsense, Palin has a serious issue with a lot of on the record lies – on a serious front with trooper-gate and on a lighter front with the repeated lies about the bridge to nowhere.

 

Through August, as the McCain campaign laid down a blanket of harsh and denigrating ads diminishing Obama and the Obama camp receded into the background with little clear message defining the election for up-for-grabs voters, I felt increasingly concerned about the course of the race. After this, I don’t feel that way.

 

But you know where this is going. A good friend just finished reading the Rick Perlstein book Nixonland and quotes from the very end of the book:

 

Richard Nixon died in 1994. At his funeral, Bob Dole prophesied that “the second half of the twentieth century will be known as the age of Nixon.” In a sense he surely did not intend, I think Bob Dole was correct. What Richard Nixon left behind was the very terms of our national self-image: a notion that there are two kinds of Americans. On the one side, that “Silent Majority.” The “nonshouters.” The middle-class, middle American, suburban, exurban, and rural coalition who call themselves, now, “Values voters,” “people of faith,” “patriots,” or even, simply, “Republicans” – and who feel themselves condescended to by snobby opinion-making elites, and who rage about un-Americans, anti-Christians, amoralists, aliens. On the other side are the “liberals,” the “cosmopolitans,” the “intellectuals,” the “professionals,” “Democrats.” Who say they see shouting in opposition to injustice as a higher form of patriotism. Or say “live and let live.” Who believe that to have “values” has more to do with a willingness to extend aid to the downtrodden than where, or if, you happen to worship – but who look down on the first category as unwitting dupes of feckless elites who exploit sentimental pieties to aggrandize their wealth, start wars, ruin lives. Both populations – to speak in ideal types – are equally, essentially, tragically American. And both have learned to consider the other not quite American at all. The argument over Richard Nixon, pro and con, gave us the language for this war.

 

As Perlestein comments:

 

Do Americans not hate each other enough to fantasize about killing one another, in cold blood, over political and cultural disagreements? It would be hard to argue they do not.

 

How did Nixonland end? It has not ended yet.

 

Steve Benen points out something else here:

 

There was plenty to be offended by at last night’s Republican convention, but the snide, condescending shots directed at community organizers, most notably from Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, seemed unusually cheap, even by GOP standards.

 

I noticed this afternoon that McCain had scheduled a photo-op with Habitat for Humanity (it was later cancelled), and quickly realized that all of those folks who help build homes for families in need are, in fact, community organizers. I wondered how many of them took comfort in the derision they received by leading Republicans last night, as if their work somehow lacked value.

 

The Obama campaign response:

 

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies…. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it’s happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

 

Benen:

 

Working with communities in a bottom-up model may seem worthless to the modern Republican Party, but community organizers deserve a lot more respect, especially from the GOP. Martin Luther King was a community organizer. Susan B. Anthony was a community organizer. Cesar Chavez was a community organizer. If Giuliani and Palin want to casually disregard the work that they and others like them have done, let them make their case, but the truth is, the more Republicans are in positions of power, the more Americans need community organizers to help families deal with the consequences of Republicans’ bankrupt governing philosophy.

 

And he cites The Nation’s Chris Hayes here:

 

[T]his kind of hits me where I live, since my dad is a community organizer, so lemme spell this out: the difference between a community organizer and a politician is that a community organizer can’t tell anyone what to do. They have to listen. So they can’t order books banned from a library to indulge their own religious sensibilities. They can’t fire someone because they didn’t follow orders to fire an estranged family member. They can’t ram through a $15 million dollar sports complex that leaves their local town groaning underneath the debt. Unlike politicians, they don’t have any power other than the power of people who want to see something changed.

 

Decades ago, before the ADA and a raft of other legislation, schools had essentially no requirements to provide decent education for special needs children. Then a movement of parents, engaging in – gasp – community organizing changed that. And they continue to fight day in and day out for educational equity for children like Sarah Palin’s.

 

Benen says Sarah Palin just spit in their faces and cites Jay Smooth here:

 

This recurring theme of turning the phrase “community organizer” into some sort of epithet like “communist” or “homo” or something, that’s really despicable. The difference between a community organizer and a politician is that community organizers are the ones who take the responsibility upon themselves to help their fellow citizens without the benefit of a government budget behind them. And go out there every day doing the hard thankless work to make this country livable which is what allows you politicians to be able to go on TV and brag about how this is the greatest country in the world. And for you to go on that TV show and spit in those people’s faces for the sake of a rhetorical flourish is disgusting.

 

All that the woman said, and Giuliani said, was she did something – and Obama was just messing around. Benen cites more and the AP also picked up the story.

 

But here’s the best comment – “Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor.”

 

But it just keeps getting better. ABC News’ Charlie Gibson reminded John McCain that he once said, “Senator Obama does not have the national security experience and background to be president,” and asked if Sarah Palin does.

 

McCain sensed a trap, said he never said such a thing about Obama, then he offered this:

 

She’s the commander of the Alaskan National Guard. [Obama] said that Iran was a tiny problem. He’s never visited south of our border. He has no experience on these issues. She has been in charge and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities.

 

Steve Benen picks up from there:

 

Either McCain doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s lying with the skills of a clumsy con man. It’s really just one or the other.

 

First, Obama never said Iran was a tiny problem; he said Iran is tiny as compared to the threat posed by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. If McCain wants to argue otherwise, he can make his case, but lying is just so unbecoming.

 

Second, the notion that one of Palin’s “primary responsibilities” as governor of Alaska is “national security,” is just laughable. Palin may be the ostensible head of the Alaska National Guard, but she’s “never personally ordered the state guard to do anything.”

 

Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard, told McClatchy that Palin has “no command authority” over the Guard when it comes to national security. The Guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, but Palin hasn’t approved any of these activities during her tenure, allowing Campbell to have authority over Guard operations.

 

No wonder those Ohio folks are unhappy. Benen continues:

 

Just to be clear, Palin’s lack of national security experience, to my mind, is not necessarily a disqualifier for national office. Plenty of capable national candidates have run without direct experience in foreign policy. Few have been as unprepared as Palin, but that need not be a deal breaker.

 

The problem here is that McCain and his campaign keep lying about this. Instead of crafting a compelling defense for Palin’s lack of qualifications, the Republican campaign just creates its own reality.

 

McCain has had time to get his facts straight, and he nevertheless told a national television audience just last night that one of Palin’s “primary responsibilities” as governor of Alaska is “national security.” That’s just insane.

 

But wait! There’s more:

 

GIBSON: But as you know, the questions revolve really around foreign policy experience. Can you honestly say you feel confident having someone who hasn’t traveled outside the United States until last year, dealing with an insurgent Russia, with an Iran with nuclear ambitions, with an unstable Pakistan, not to mention the war on terror?

 

MCCAIN: Sure. And one of the key elements of America’s national security requirements is energy. She understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands. Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.

 

Steve Benen comments:

 

What does that even mean? She understands what, exactly?

 

For those keeping score at home, the first person to make this argument was Fox News’ Steve Doocy, who said, with a straight face, that Palin does know about international relations because she is “right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.” Cindy McCain was second, telling George Stephanopoulos, in response to a question about national security experience, “[R]emember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia. It’s not as if she doesn’t understand what’s at stake here.”

 

U.S. News’ Michael Barone was third, defending Palin’s credentials by insisting, “Foreign policy experience? Well, Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia.” Fourth was conservative writer Frank Gaffney, who said Palin has learned foreign policy “by osmosis,” because of Alaska’s physical location.

 

John McCain, then, is fifth. Remember, when Doocy first made the argument, it was so laughable on its face that Jon Stewart called him a “moron.” Now, the Republican nominee for president is making the same pitch, hoping people are just stupid enough to believe it.

 

Palin has never been to Russia. She’s never demonstrated any expertise on U.S. policy towards Russia. She doesn’t have any background in international relations at any level. But for Republicans, the fact that she’s lived in a state near Russia is somehow a qualification for national office.

 

It’s the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard.

 

And the folks in Ohio know. And on this experience thing, also see Fred Kaplan:

 

At times like these, I’m relieved that I don’t cover elections. There’s bum DNA in my heart, and the agita might send me keeling over.

 

How else to react to the sight of sophisticated people saying, with impressively straight faces, that Sarah Palin is qualified to be vice president – even president – because she’s been the mayor of a town of 6,000 residents (the population of Wasilla when she served there in a job that even she admitted was “not rocket science”) and the governor of Alaska, which has only 100 times as many people and a legislature that meets a mere 90 days a year?

 

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is only the most preposterous figure to recite this party line. On ABC TV Wednesday morning, he went so far as to claim that her “executive experience” would have enabled her to handle 9/11 with ease – far more so than Barack Obama or Joe Biden who, he said, have “the least executive experience of any presidential candidate in 100 years.”

 

Well, not quite: John F. Kennedy had no executive experience before running for president. Neither, by the way, has John McCain. By this logic, Palin should top the ticket, with McCain as her No. 2.

 

More to the point, Giuliani could not possibly believe what he was saying. This is the man who, toward the end of his second and final term as mayor in December 2001, lobbied to repeal the law that barred third terms and, when that failed, tried to persuade Mark Green – who everyone thought was going to be the next mayor – to accept a co-mayoral arrangement, with the two men working side by side, for at least six months.

 

In other words, this is a man who believed that nobody else, not even a seasoned New York pol, could handle the demands of post-9/11 governance. There are block associations in Manhattan with more people than in Wasilla. There are as many people in Staten Island as in all of Alaska. Giuliani – like most lifelong New Yorkers, a big-city chauvinist – couldn’t possibly take someone of her provenance seriously.

 

This is getting absurd. And note this:

 

Some of the most hawkish Republican neocons, to their credit, have refused to go along with this charade. Columnist Charles Krauthammer called the Palin appointment “suicidal” because it undermined McCain’s argument that Obama lacked experience. David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who coined the phrase “axis of evil,” denounced McCain’s decision as “cynical” and “risky,” and asked, “If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?”

 

But one of them, Frank Gaffney, didn’t get the memo, as Kaplan notes:

 

In an uproarious essay, Gaffney wrote that Palin had learned more about foreign policy than Obama and Biden “by osmosis,” because Alaska lies “along the trajectory of ballistic missiles launched eastward out of Stalinist North Korea.”

 

This strikes me as unlikely. I live under the flight path of nearly every domestic flight that lands at LaGuardia and JFK. Yet that random fact doesn’t supply me with the slightest wisdom, by osmosis or some other mystical means, about the operations of the airline industry.

 

As for the equally bizarre claim that Palin knows about foreign policy because Alaska borders Russia, via the Bering Strait, again, I don’t get the connection. Has she ever dealt with a Russian? Do the Russians plan to invade Alaska? Or is this another case of learning through osmosis?

 

Let’s get real. If a Democratic candidate had picked such an off-the-wall running mate, the Republicans – Giuliani, Gingrich, and Gaffney among them – would be howling with derision. And rightly so.

 

No one in Ohio is buying this line, and James Fallows sees where this is going:

 

I’ve learned through the years that it’s very hard to judge political turning points in real time. But my guess is that the last twelve hours will be seen as the moment when McCain pushed all his chips into the pot to bet on a “mobilize the base” strategy. Given the fundamental math in this election year, that would also be the moment when it became very hard for him to win.

 

Andrew Sullivan is on the case:

 

I mean: how many times has there been a potential war-time president in office who has no record of even any interest in foreign affairs two months before a presidential election? She heard about the surge “on the news” two years ago and wasn’t focused on it enough to be able to talk at any length about it. I just don’t understand how neocons obsessed, allegedly, with the war in Iraq as indispensable to national security could gladly endorse this person as someone who could take over at any moment next January. Unless they are even hollower and shallower than I have come to understand.

 

And how many times has a vice-presidential candidate actually opposed on the record the core strategy of her running mate in foreign policy in wartime without anyone even debating the matter? In December 2006, she wanted an exit plan from Iraq. McCain has based his entire campaign – understandably – on the surge.

 

This pick makes no sense unless you see it as a deeply cynical attempt to win over Clinton voters which has become, whether McCain wanted it or not, an entirely culture-war Rovian pick, designed to unite the base against “the left” and “the media” and to make a total ban on all abortion even more central a feature of the GOP platform. The pick’s cynicism and cultural warfare make Palin the epitome of everything that is rotten in the current Republican leadership.

 

Also see the man who coined the term Axis of Evil, Bush’s former speech writer, David Frum, who loved the woman’s speech, but is still worried:

 

From the beginning, the internal controversy (such as it is) over Sarah Palin has been a controversy not about Palin herself, but about John McCain. What kind of a decision-maker is he? How much information and consideration does he bring to bear?

 

If John McCain gambled on Palin without adequate research and preparation, the fact that he won his gamble does not reassure me very much. Gamblers sometimes do win. But the longer they play, the more they lose.

 

But Palin is the new face of the Republican Party, which upsets Andrew Sullivan:

 

They are a religious and cultural identity party, primed to rally to anything their leaders say and question nothing. That’s why they’re so dangerous.

 

They can do anything and defend it – invade a country on false pretenses, grind the military into extreme danger, trash the Geneva Conventions, expand government at a record pace, threaten war with Iran and Russia – and still say with a straight face that they are the party of national security, fiscal restraint, foreign policy wisdom and military pride. It doesn’t matter what they do; these people believe in this cause because it is about God and America and their own identity. And when you have a major political party constructed like that, they can do anything. And they have.

 

Kevin Drum on the other hand has odd nightmares:

 

The press keeps digging up fresh dirt on Palin. Pressure builds up from the Troopergate scandal. The tabloids and talk shows continue to go nuts over Bristol Palin’s baby. Then something new and even more damaging pops up. Finally, after resisting as long as he can, McCain gives in and dumps Palin from the ticket. But when he does, he delivers a stem-winding screed about how the intolerant hordes of liberalism have forced a good woman off the national stage, aided and abetted by their sanctimonious friends in the liberal media – all because coastal pointy-headed elites loathe traditional heartland values and were determined to destroy Sarah Palin no matter what it took. The Christian right goes absolutely ballistic. There are torches and pitchforks in the streets. McCain replaces Palin with another social conservative and rides the bloody shirt of the culture wars to a thin victory in November. Pat Buchanan finally has his revenge.

 

But not to worry:

 

The good news is that I don’t think this will happen. What I really think will happen is that McCain will keep Palin on the ticket no matter what and will go down to defeat in November. He will then write yet another book in which he admits that his conduct was less than honorable and he feels deeply ashamed about it. He seems to be pretty good at that after the fact. He will appear on a couple of Sunday chat shows to talk about it and will then be promptly forgotten.

 

It’ll all work out. You just had to sit in the dusk in Cincinnati and listen.

 

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Heartland Voters, McCain the Warrior, McCain versus the Facts, McCain's Authenticity, McCain's Palin Gamble, McCain's Service, Ohio Rejects McCain, Palin Scandals, Palin Unqualified, Proctecting the Tribe, Sarah Palin. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Exasperation in the Heartland

  1. Pingback: Not to Worry « Just Above Sunset

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s