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 Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sarah Palin: Behind the Lipstick, the Pitbull Vanishes

  Read here article by Andrew Sullivan

Sarah Palin’s performance in last week’s big debate revealed her emptiness.

The sputtering, ramshackle motor-bike repaired in the back yard that is the Sarah Palin candidacy made a clear decision last Thursday night in her one and only “debate” for vice-president. If she gained enough speed and hurtled forward fast enough, the blur of movement would conceal the lack of any basic knowledge underneath, the absence of any relevant experience, the fathomless ignorance and the pathological lying that have dogged her candidacy so far.

And to some extent it worked.

Expectations were SO LOW after a series of comically disastrous TV interviews with Katie Couric that merely not drooling or breaking down in tears would have been a triumph.

She rattled off a series of clichés and catch phrases – “say it ain’t so, Joe”, “doggone it”, “Joe Six-Pack”, “hockey moms” – that somehow kept the illusion of her viability on life-support.

She was trained as a sportscaster and she won her debates in Alaska by simply breaking all the rules of debate, not answering any direct question and performing a piece of slightly unhinged but definitely riveting one-woman performance art.

In the end she still lost the debate on Thursday.

The polling showed that most viewers believed that Joe Biden – much more restrained than usual – won.

It may have had to do with Palin answers such as this, responding to Biden’s criticism of the Bush administration’s record in education:

“Say it ain’t so, Joe – there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced [sic] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now, doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future.

You mentioned education and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years and God bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more.

I come from a house full of schoolteachers. My grandma was, my dad, who is in the audience today, he’s a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year . . . and here’s a shout-out to all those third-graders at Gladys Wood elementary school – you get extra credit for watching the debate.”
Yes. Here is a potential leader of the free world.

But by the standards of the more recent statements – unable to name a Supreme Court ruling apart from Roe vs Wade; unsure what the word “caricature” meant; citing as her foreign policy experience the fact that Vladimir Putin travels through Alaskan airspace – this was Abraham Lincoln.

For a Republican base that scorns educational excellence, treasures “home town” values and trusts only born-again evangelicals, it was enough. To them, her lack of ability is in some ways a sign of her authenticity.

And the fact that John McCain, of all people, decided to tap this wellspring of know-nothing populism to give him a chance in a daunting electoral environment will only entrench this kind of gambit in the Republican future (if there is one).

Palin says she will “reform” government but has offered no specific plans to describe what she means. She says she will cut spending but mentions only pork-barrel boondoggles, which account for a tiny fraction of America’s massive debt.

Her response to the financial crisis is to “take on the greed and corruption” on Wall Street, whatever that may mean in practice. There is nothing there. She is not a pitbull with lipstick.

She is lipstick on a Cheshire Cat that disappears on even cursory inspection. She is a gimmick, a good-luck Barbie doll fixed to the front of an eight-wheeler truck called the McCain Express.

She is also a liar.

She is not a liar in the usual political sense. She tells lies that can be shown to be empirically untrue by anyone with access to the public record. Many of these lies are trivial, but their triviality is related to the fact that they are utterly unnecessary.

I learnt a long time ago, following the Clintons, that if people lie unnecessarily about small things, they are capable of lying about the big things as well. In the past month we have discovered the following:
Palin told one interviewer that she asked her daughters for permission to accept McCain’s veep offer; she told another that she had accepted the offer immediately and unblinkingly without asking anyone. The first version was, it turned out, a lie. But it sounded good for the 10 seconds needed on national television.

She insisted back in Wasilla that she did not fire the police chief. When the reporter called the cop to check, he read a termination letter, signed by Palin, over the telephone.

Despite her claim to Couric, Palin has not met any trade missions from Russia.

She did not oppose the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska; she lobbied for it.

She said she sold a state aeroplane on eBay. She did not.

She claimed her Teleprompter failed in her convention speech. It did not.

She said Alaska’s state scientists had concluded that polar bears were in no danger. A journalist’s legal request to review the report showed that she had lied and the scientists had indeed said the bear was endangered.

Palin said Alaska provided “nearly 20% of the US domestic supply of energy”. It does not.

The gas pipeline she touts as her main “mission accomplished” has not broken ground and may never do so.

She says she took a pay cut as mayor of Wasilla. She did not.

And on and on.

These lies are not in any dispute because they are factually checkable.

To avoid any engagement on these subjects and the untruths she has told, she refuses to hold a press conference of any type.

Mercifully, the Palin Express, however fast it travels, has wobbled with time.

As in the debate, as her manic energy at the start faded into the fumes of frantic clichés, the American public has seen enough to be underwhelmed.

Maybe in other times, when elections could afford to be about hockey moms and baby daddies, the Palin farce would be received as mere colour in the dry grey of politics.

But as two wars lurch unpredictably forward, as the global economy teeters on the edge of a precipice, as the planet enters unknown and potentially drastic climate patterns, as carbon energy empowers terror and tyranny . . . the Palin pick remains what it always was.

Unserious. And not a little terrifying.

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