Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pox Populi

"Keep this quiet: the world is round." -- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Bushtard librettist and freelance peckerhead Michael Gerson scribbles his latest hymn in the key of Bullshit Major -- which, apologies to Nigel Tufnel, is the most pathetic (and frequent) key of all. After a trite overture to the ancient homilies of William Jennings Bryan, Gerson attempts to square Bryan's ultimately tedious rabble-rousing with that of Real 'murka's new pinup gal.

The closest I have ever come to witnessing a Bryan moment was Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican convention—the triumph of another backwoods, highly religious populist. Palin praised the honesty and sincerity of small towns; pressed her credentials as a hockey mom, member of the PTA and small-town mayor; and railed against the "Washington elite," "power brokers" and (a little close to home) "reporters and commentators." If hats had been in style, they would have been thrown.

The response in some quarters to the selection of Palin was sneering. An Obama spokesman immediately called her the "former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign-policy experience." But claims about the importance of experience are inherently complicated for both parties in this election. If Palin's governing résumé is thin, Barack Obama's is thinner. If Palin's lack of experience is meaningless, Obama's case to be commander in chief is strengthened.

As much as Palin's increasingly insipid defenders whinge at the "sneering", they studiously avoid the obvious, because they know better. They cry sexism, knowing full well that any man with Palin's quals would have been laughed off the stage by now. And they would never accept a Democratic contender -- even a veep candidate -- as serious without observable foreign policy cred.

Look, asshole, there are actual differences between the thin résumés sported by Palin and Obama. For one, as Gerson himself admits, Obama's academic history is one of objective substance, as opposed to Palin shuttling between a half-dozen cow colleges to pick up a four-year communications degree in six years.

But more importantly, while Obama's few years in gubmint are constantly being downplayed, the fact is that his every statement has been under intense scrutiny by all sides, and forms an observable body of opinion on actual policy. Everyone knows what they're getting, pro or con. Nobody knows anything about Palin, except that pretty much everything she's said so far has been debunked, yet since she has nothing else to say, she keeps repeating the lies to newer and more obtuse crowds.

And Gerson wonders why rational people might be thinking these new fans are clinically stupid.

Presidential historians count experience as one possible contributing element to presidential success—but there are others. "Experience matters," historian Robert Dallek has said, "but its importance is terribly overstated." Predicting the ideal combination of background, skills and values in a successful president—or VP—is no easy task. And it cannot be argued that elite experience is somehow the key.

Americans who support Palin are not fools, peasants or theocrats. They have reasons, which elites may not agree with, but cannot dismiss. Many are attracted to her because she embodies the values of the American West, which they find superior to the values of coastal elites. This was part of the appeal of Goldwater and Reagan—a log-splitting, range-riding conservatism that emphasizes freedom. (Palin adds moose hunting to the list.) It's not irrational or simplistic for voters to prefer candidates who reflect their deepest values.

It absolutely is irrational and simplistic when it's clear that not only do these voters know precious little about her, but her own campaign insists on keeping her from saying anything at all. It's even more irrational when you consider that probably 90% of these bandwagon idiots had never even heard of Palin until a month ago. Coot jokes aside, the fact of the matter is that John McCain is an old man who has had a hard life and very serious health concerns. There is a better than average chance that he may die or be incapacitated in office, and thus be succeeded by someone whom nobody knows much of anything about, and whose biggest fans appear to be most energetic about her lack of rigorous acquaintance with any substantial aspect of policy.

That is not merely "irrational" nor "simplistic". That is borderline retarded. That makes literally no sense; it's like handing your car keys and the deed to your house to someone you met an hour ago in a bar.

And bringing Goldwater and Reagan into this is pure bullshit, as both men were quite well-known in terms of what they stood for and what they intended to do. Whether or not people agreed with that, they at least had ample opportunity to familiarize themselves with the opinions and positions of each man. None of these idiots knows a goddamned thing about Sarah Palin except that she gives them an excuse to nurse their imaginary grudges at Obama, "liberals", whoever they think is keeping them down.

But if anyone insists on bringing up Goldwater, I double-dog dare them to push that one. "In your heart, you know he's right." How'd that one work out?

Gerson disingenuously perpetuates these ridiculous grudges of the eternally aggrieved. As a speechwriter, he of all people should understand how language is always the first thing to be abused in times of political convenience. Just as "conservative" and "liberal" no longer resemble their former meanings, so does Gerson deliberately conflate "populism" with cheap demagoguery and empty rhetoric. Inane observations such as "simplicity is not always foolishness, just as sophistication is not always wisdom" are decontextualized and slapped with a "Starbucks elitists look down on you" coat of whitewash.

Never mind the fact that frequently simplicity is foolishness (as if the last eight years didn't serve as a stark example of that), and that this is eminently one of those cases. If it weren't, they wouldn't have had to hide Palin from the media all this time, her media-rattled day-trip to the UN today notwithstanding. Wow, a whole 29 seconds for the media to snap a photo and listen to her chat with Karzai about their kids? Gee, I had her all wrong -- if anything, she's clearly overqualified.

You know, ever since Palin was unceremoniously foisted upon this dog-and-pony show, the constant sob-sister refrain, as epitomized by Gerson's meaningless class-baiting, has been that we've been unfair meanies to poor Sarah. As opposed to inbred dipshits like these, just expressing those awesome small-town values:

AURORA, Colo. (AP/CBS4) ― A fifth-grader in the Denver suburb of Aurora says he's been suspended from school for wearing a homemade T-shirt that said "Obama is a terrorist's best friend."

Daxx Dalton, 11, and his father, Dann Dalton, say his First Amendment rights were violated.


"It's ridiculous that we're not able to say the work[sic] 'terrorist,'" Dann said. "What a bunch of bed-wetters we are producing in our public schools. They can't even confront the word 'terrorist.'"

"Daxx Dalton", seriously? Does Dad expect him to become a pro wrestler when he grows up, or will he settle for cooking meth and raising pit bulls? But yeah, while we sit here on the "left" and lob cheap "Klondike Barbie" cracks and make factual points about how she, you know, lies about everything and is clearly underqualified for anything beyond maybe Don Young's House seat, the vitriol coming from the other side is of a much greater magnitude.

I read far too many blogs and news sites, and I have yet to see anything launched at Palin that even approaches the tone of pure venom and spite that is regularly spewed at Obama specifically and Democrats in general. The tell is that a huge chunk of these people are not pro-McCain -- in fact, they hardly mention him. Mostly they either hate Obama and make the usual bad puns on his name, or they love them some Sarah, pretending that they've known her all their lives. They don't know or like McCain or Palin, they just hate the people running against them, and they're willing to fuck their own country up even further to prove it.

That tells you everything you need to know about why McCain had to pick an unknown like Palin, to energize the base, and to dodge and deflect the appropriate levels of research for the sixty-day homestretch. And it tells you everything you need to know about the people who fall for that shit, dive into it head first. Fuck them. If they can't explain themselves any better than "because she's a mooooommm!!1!1", then they deserve every bit of scorn, contempt, and abuse the rest of us can muster.

Sarah Palin may indeed be something of a populist. But the point is that neither you nor me, nor Gerson, nor the hordes of cultish bandwagon-hoppers have any way of knowing one way or the other. Ignorance is not a "value", no matter what a professional turd-polisher like Gerson says. He just wants to gin up a class/culture war while his former employers continue to rob everyone blind. If I were a Christian, I'd pray for Gerson's capricious deity to forgive his calculating transgressions; since I'm not, and I have no reason to believe in karma, we'll just have to hope that there's some smiting somewhere along the line for Mike and his skeevy ilk.


Marius said...

Oh, c'mon, Heywood, she did try to tell us more about her and what she believes -- it just didn't come out that right:

Hannity: What is our role as a country as it relates to national security?

Palin: Yes. That's a great question, and being an optimist I see our role in the world as one of being a force for good, and one of being the leader of the world when it comes to the values that -- it seems that just human kind embraces the values that -- encompass life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that's just -- not just in America, that is in our world.

And America is in a position because we care for so many people to be able to lead and to be able to have a strong diplomacy and a strong military also at the same time to defend not only our freedoms, but to help these rising smaller democratic countries that are just -- you know, they're putting themselves on the map right now, and they're going to be looking to America as that leader.

We being used as a force for good is how I see our country.

I mean, it's not like over the last eight years we've been ruled by anyone more articulate. Right?

Heywood J. said...

Yeah, it's not just that every assertion that comes out of her cakehole gets rapidly debunked, it's that even when she tries to extemporize, it's all Gingrich playbook jargon. A close reading reveals absolutely nothing, and the first reporter to press her on specifics is sure to enjoy watching her flail like a freshly landed trout. Or a field-dressed moose.

Indeed, per our earlier discussion of Russia-Georgia, Palin should be seriously pressed on this "help these rising smaller democracies" bit. Which smaller democracies, dear? How do you plan to "help" or "defend" them? I mean, everyone likes Saakashvili and recognizes Russia's role of resurgent belligerence. But we're not starting a war over them, and they're not getting into NATO.

Only someone genuinely besotted with the fortified wine of American exceptionalism talks the way she does. She seems genuinely unaware of the many constraints on even modest responses. I don't think we've scratched the surface yet as to how potentially dangerous she really could be.

woodguy said...

In my devious and perversely creative imagination, aided by a desire to see some sort of payback for the last eight years of hell, I've conjured up a scenario wherein John McShrub is either incapacitated or expires between now and the election (not that I hope for either).
What would these assholes of the Right do? Legally, Palin would have no claim to the nomination for the top spot, so what would transpire? I say Mittens would be picked for his "economic experience", thereby sending most of the far right loonies scrambling to a third party candidate or forcing them to sit on their hands on election day.