Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Palin Redux

You need not have been following the presidential race closely to know that the Republicans' nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president was, at best, a laughable attempt to win the support of voters who supported Hillary Clinton while, at the same time, lighting a firecracker beneath the red-meat conservative base.

I could cite the interview she gave to Charlie Gibson of ABC News, but I already wrote about that. Her recent stints with Katie Couric of CBS have sufficed to let the average viewer know that Palin is utterly unqualified to hold any position of authority in the federal government, much less Vice President of the United States, and far much less President of the United States. Can you imagine? I cannot.

Here we have a woman who has displayed an incomprehensible lack of knowledge about world affairs, who has come up lamentably short even in the eyes of some of the softest pundits seeking to give her every benefit of the doubt, and who cannot say whether she reads a single newspaper.

Some have ascribed her suffering at the hand of the press to sexism, but that, frankly, is a joke. If a woman does not know what she is talking about, does not understand what Hamas represents, does not know what a $700 billion government bailout of the financial industry entails, then she is not suffering from sexism, she is quite simply not smart enough to occupy the second most important, or possibly the most important office in the most powerful nation in the world.

In what was apparently an actual interview, Palin was asked on Tuesday, "Governor, your candidacy has ignited extreme hostility, even some hatred on the left and in some parts of the media. Are you surprised? And what do you attribute this reaction to?" (I should mention that Hugh Hewitt, a hilariously partisan writer, conducted this interview.)

Palin responded:
"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, and we start doing those things that are expected of our government, and we get rid of corruption, and we commit to the reform that is not only desired, but is deserved by Americans. "

And that would be funny, if she wasn't a nominee for vice president, because she can't even give a straight answer to the ultimate softball question of all softball questions. Americans deserve more than "Joe six-pack American" in the office of vice president. Here's a question: If you needed heart surgery, would you ask your sister? If you needed investment advice, would you ask your girlfriend? If you wanted to understand the political atmosphere in the Middle East, would you ask your aunt? These are not sexist questions. If Sarah Palin wants to position herself as a hockey mom, a pitbull with lipstick, an average Joe six-pack, then why can't we question whether we want such mediocrity in the position of ultimate power?

Hewitt also asked: "Now governor, the Gibson and the Couric interview struck many as sort of pop quizzes designed to embarrass you as opposed to interviews. Do you share that opinion?"

Palin said: "Well, I have a degree in journalism also, so it surprises me that so much has changed since I received my education in journalistic ethics all those years ago. But I’m not going to pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrelful. I’m going to take those shots and those pop quizzes and just say, “That’s okay.” Those are good testing grounds. And they can continue on in that mode. That’s good. That makes somebody work even harder. It makes somebody be even clearer and more articulate in their positions. So really I don’t fight it. I invite it."

First of all, the Gibson and Couric interviews were just about as kind as they could possibly be. But what really gets me about that exchange is Palin's response, because according to her own Wikipedia page, Palin spent one semester at Hawaii Pacific University in 1982, transferred to North Idaho College to spend two semesters in a "general studies" program, transferred to the University of Idaho for two semesters (during which time she won her beauty pageant), for whatever reason transferred again to Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska for a "term," then finally came back to the University of Idaho for three semesters, eventually earning her BS in communications-journalism in 1987. So not only are her journalism credentials questionable, at best, it appears that her college education as a whole doesn't even qualify her for Teach for America, much less vice president.

Sarah Palin is now holed away in Sedona, Ariz., being briefed by operatives from the McCain campaign and awaiting her date with Joe Biden on Thursday for the vice presidential debate. If her interviews are any indication, Palin will fail miserably. Yet ideologues will still attribute her failure to the "liberal" press, to commentators who aren't yet ready for a powerful, "average" woman to come into great political power.

At this stage, though journalists must remain neutral, commentators and pundits must be honest with themselves, and with the American people. Just because the McCain campaign accuses you of being "in the tank" because you're skeptical, doesn't mean you're doing wrong. In fact, it probably means you're doing right.

I would be surprised if McCain wins this election. In the end, I predict an Obama near-landslide, along the lines of a 53-47 popular vote split, if not more. If you look at the Bush-Kerry electoral map from 2004, it seems clear that Obama can turn key states: New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, Florida. If Obama can't pull this off, then I have serious questions about the rationality of the American voter.