- If it’s a pitbull you’d better let it finish.
- If it’s a Republican you’re probably screwed for at least four years.
Governor Sarah Palin has thrown the US Presidential election on it’s ear, energising the Republican base and radically changing the odds of John McCain becoming the 44th President.
Her hugely popular acceptance speech at the Republican convention blew out the cobwebs from a relatively stale contest, and rocked the Democratic team on its heels.
The Republicans have had no qualms at all in exploiting this, decrying every less than laudatory piece of media coverage as sexist girly-bashing, and touting her selection as proof that the Grand Old Party is the true face of feminine emancipation. A truly breathtaking piece of cynicism from the Hillary-bashing ogres of the hard-right. But the real question is who the hell is Sarah Palin, and should she be put one heart-attack away from control of an over-sensitive superpower with too many guns and not enough self-control or moral credibility.
One thing shone through above all in her speech. Sarah Palin believes in her product, and that product is Sarah Palin. Any examination of her short political career shows that she believes with all the fervour and self-righteous self-regard of the right-wing Evangelical Christianity that informs her views. Her first TV interview with Charles Gibson was short on genuine understandings, but long on belief in herself and her mission. Which is fine if you’re the Governor of Alaska. But she shows even less capacity to tolerate facts that don’t fit faith than George W Bush, and hasn’t he been a breath of foetid air in the pursuit of international understanding and co-operation.
Sarah Barracuda’s belief in aggression and personal charm is one borne of her success, meteoric and as yet unchecked by the sobering effects of frustration, failure and critical self-examination. Time and circumstance supply these in ample measure to the well-rounded political leader, but she’s running for the White House now, and we’ll all have to live with the consequence. The wilful blindness to nuance and subtlety that so characterises the Bush tragedy is strongly evident in her self-aggrandizing, “don’t blink” approach to America’s war in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else they decide to give a kicking. And her personal stake in having her eldest son in uniform does not bode well for this combative, gun-toting woman who flaunts her status as mother so blatantly in her political life.
Palin’s short time as Alaska’s Governor betrays her personal fanaticism, her close personal identification with God’s plan for the world. She’s shown a strong streak of vengeful, spiteful parochialism that would be disastrous played out on a world stage. Those who don’t identify with her, or whom she doesn’t identify with have been sacked summarily. Their replacements almost invariably drawn from her own tiny world of Wasilia, Alaska, generally all short on qualifications and experience but strong on personal loyalty.
Those who have had the temerity to publicly disagree, or to even privately suggest that her decisions and judgement might be anything other than perfect have been labelled “haters”. A paranoid projection so easy to throw at anyone whose opinion you don’t like, so self-reassuring and insulating from thought, analysis and sober reflection. The world is full of people who won’t agree with Ms Palin, many of them violently, many of them leaders of other nations, religions and cultures.
Her inability to draw a reasonable conclusion when facts and personal belief collide is a serious issue too. And this is a flaw that has nothing to do with gender. When you fight the good fight against the evils of abortion, contraception and sex education in high schools and then find your teenage daughter is pregnant you should be able to spot the flaw in your own reasoning: that banning sex-ed and contraception advice leads to unwanted teen pregnancies. That Ms Palin could stand up and declare that she was proud that her ill-informed and heavily pregnant daughter was going to have the child and marry the father says quite clearly that she doesn’t think worth shit.
Public policy demands a higher standard of reasoning than this. You have to be able to look beyond your own family, your own tiny patch of God’s country and think hard about the consequences of your beliefs, your principles, your much-touted values when applied to the wider world and recognise that this isn’t the happy outcome for every pregnant teen; that poverty goes hand-in-hand with unwanted pregnancy, as does child abuse, neglect and social misery that flows from generation to generation.
“If you can come up with a statement or argument that holds true rhetorically regardless of the facts you can generally stymie any opposition. If you can craft the rhetoric, the spin, and articulate it consistently then the words are all that matter. You can prevent anyone forcing you to behave honestly or deal honestly with the facts.”
“Putin's peacekeepers in Georgia, for example, are plainly are an army of occupation. But because he calls them peacekeepers and because he can keep repeating the lie that Russia has no interest in occupying Georgia he can forestall any attempt by the West to organise against him.”
Thus Palin, for whom any convenient bending of the truth is merely a tool to promote her own advancement, which is so clearly the right thing, the best thing, the only thing that matters. The Bridge To Nowhere was a classic case of pork-barrel politics, doling out federal money to buy votes. Palin championed it until it became clear that the State would have to fund some of the cost. She dumped the project but kept $422 million of federal funds to use in her own pork-barrelling. In the big speech this becomes the “Thanks, but no thanks.” line that sent the faithful into raptures.
The lies are backed up by a culture of secrecy and deliberate deceit with the facts jealously guarded from outsiders. She and many of her people use personal email accounts to conduct State business beyond the scrutiny of public accountability. A simple request for information can be blocked by administration charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But she looks good. And if you don’t listen too critically she sounds good too. And she’ll win votes for McCain, which will be a problem for us all if he wins. The US economy is already staring recession in the face. McCain’s policies are indistinguishable from Bush’s. Haliburton, The S & L fiasco, the sub-prime mortgage disaster, they affect us all. An American economy in crisis means a world economy in crisis.