Thursday, September 04, 2008

America's Swetheart

Last night I found myself, in the unique position of being relatively unfamiliar with the person I was watching on stage accepting a major party Vice Presidential nomination. I knew who Jack Kemp was in ’96. Dick Cheney was a household name in 2000. Joe Lieberman was famous for bucking his party on the Clinton impeachment vote in ’98 and John Edwards had just finished a run for the presidency and a six-year senate term when he was nominated. Joe Biden has been well known in political circles for years as both a loquacious senate mainstay, as well as a presidential candidate who had problems with plagiarism in the late 1980’s.

Sarah Palin was different. I knew of her and I was aware of some of her accomplishments in Alaska but unlike the names mentioned above, I had never seen her in action. Last night she was presented to the American public in what may have been the most powerful introduction of any political entity that I have ever witnessed, including Barack Obama’s in 2004. The speech was beautifully structured and perfectly delivered and if the Monday morning quarterbacking is any indication, it has succeeded in making Palin’s first impression an overwhelmingly positive one.

Today, the Obama campaign seems to be in somewhat of a state of disarray for several reasons. First, Obama is no longer the new kid in town. Palin has stolen almost all of his thunder. Watching Palin last night, I understood some of the fascination and curiosity, which has lead many to support Obama. That breath of fresh air that Obama represented in the Democratic primaries, is now serving to wake up the GOP in a similar way. I’m guessing that some of it will trickle down to independent voters as well.

Next, attacks on Palin's family, started by left wing bloggers and picked up by much of the media were largely viewed as unfair, tasteless and deemed sexist by some. These attacks were pinned on the Democrats, by default, even though Obama was the first one out of the gate in condemning the smears and declaring family members off limits. The nature of these attacks will not play well with suburban moms who have long been an all important voting block.

Attacks on what can only be described as Palin's female credentials , by so called feminists, due to the fact that she is pro-life are equally disturbing, but these are almost sure to backfire as well.

Attacks on her experience and those who were attempting to paint her as a political lightweight and the second coming of Dan Quayle disappeared once Palin gave her intelligent, tough, bitingly funny speech last night.

In Palin, the GOP has found the perfect vessel with which to mock Obama’s cult of personality and his celebrity status, while at the same time having "Rockstar" qualities in her own right.

While Obama’s story is fascinating and unusual, Palin’s is equally fascinating, yet far easier for American families to relate to.

It also seems as though Obama has lost his status as the sole proprietor of the mantel of “change”. Obama has come incredibly close to the nation’s highest office simply by repeating the word over and over again. Palin made a case for reform and backed it up with reforms that she has actually implemented. This is something that Obama is yet to do. It appears that the GOP is successfully making the theme of their convention “change” while at the same time, not ceding the experience issue either, insisting, correctly I might add, that Palin, the unknown woman who holds the 2nd spot on the ticket, has more experience than the Democrat’s presidential nominee.

The top Democratic talking point of McCain running for “Bush’s third term” and being “more of the same” was a salient, albeit patently false, attack for months. Now, that people are being introduced to the GOP ticket and hearing the candidate’s stories, they are coming to understand that both of the Republican candidates made their careers by repeatedly bucking the establishment.

I could be wrong, but my finely tuned political instincts are telling me that Democratic attempts to paint McCain as a Bush clone are about to become largely ineffective.

When Joe Biden was announced as Obama’s running mate, there were relatively few attacks from the McCain camp. By contrast the Obama camp has been relentless in their attacks on Palin. Obama needs to be very careful of this tactic. Because the Obama camps sights have been almost soley focused on Palin, the GOP and other pundits have begun comparing Obama with the second spot on the ticket rather than with John McCain. This serves to elevate John McCain, and makes Obama look less presidential and more vice-presidential. It has also, for the time being, made Joe Biden completely irrelevant, since Obama is now being measured up against both McCain and Palin instead of just McCain.

Last night’s speech was one of the best political speeches I have ever heard. Palin didn’t need a stadium full of screaming fans or a Hollywood set to make it memorable. She didn’t need soaring rhetoric or a cadence reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King to excite the crowd. All she needed to do was to prove that she was ready to play with the big boys and there are very few at this point who would say that she failed in that regard.

Most importantly, she has helped close the charisma gap with Obama and in doing so has blunted his most important, and some would say his only, attribute. Now it’s up to McCain to present himself as the elder statesman (but not too eld) and lay out the differences he has with both Obama and President Bush. If he succeeds, we may look back at the past week as the seven days that decided the election of 2008.
- Dan Joseph

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Anonymous said...

good one Dan!

Shannonymous said...

A few reasons I'm not crushin' on Palin:


"1: Palin supports gunning down wolves from planes.

Sarah Palin is no friend of wildlife. And let's not blame this on her being a hunter. Plenty of subsistence hunters respect animals. . .Rep. George Miller is among a large number of folks who believe the practice is not only cruel, it's unnecessary (proponents say it is to keep caribou and moose numbers up for other hunters) and a violation of federal law banning airborne hunting.

Palin has also tried to make gunning down wolves (and even bears) from the air easier and financially rewarding.

As the Huffington Post reported:

Last year, the state offered a $150 bounty as an incentive for pilots and aerial gunners to kill more wolves. And leading up to this week's statewide vote on Measure 2 to stop the aerial shooting of wolves and bears, Palin's Board of Game spent $400,000 of public money on brochures and radio ads to influence the election. She not only took an inhumane and unsporting position at odds with the principles of wildlife management and fair chase, but did it in an undemocratic and underhanded way.
Palin has been said to have a "failing record" on wildlife -- including being in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- and she has opposed efforts to protect beluga whales in the Cook Inlet (whose numbers have dropped to just 375) because it might adversely affect the oil and gas industries.

2: Palin doesn't believe global warming is man-made

At every campaign stop, McCain says that human activity is the driving force behind global climate change.

But Palin is among the conservative fringe that rejects the scientific consensus. According to the Washington Post, "Sarah Palin told voters there she wasn't sure climate change wasn't simply part of a natural warming cycle." Palin told the conservative Web site NewsMax, "I'm not one ... who would attribute it to being man-made."

This may help explain why Palin announced this year that Alaska would sue the Department of the Interior over its decision to add the polar bear to its list of endangered species. If people are "over-reacting" to global warming, as Palin has said, then the polar bears' rapidly dwindling habitat should be fine and those bears can fend for themselves.

3: Palin is the candidate of powerful far right-wing cabal; her nomination seals their support for the little-wanted McCain

As Max Blumenthal reports:

Last week ... the country's most influential conservatives met quietly in Minneapolis to get to know Sarah Palin. The assembled were members of the Council for National Policy, an ultra-secretive cabal that networks wealthy right-wing donors together with top conservative operatives to plan long-term movement strategy.

4: Palin staunchly opposes abortion, even in cases of rape and incest

5: Palin takes unnecessary risks with the health of her own child, supports failed abstinence-only programs

Palin was in Texas delivering a speech when she allegedly began to leak amniotic fluid. Instead of immediately checking into a hospital, Palin finished her speech. She then flew to Anchorage, Alaska, where she drove to a hospital 45 minutes away to give birth. . .it nevertheless raises questions about Palin's judgment. In this case, she seems to have taken unnecessary risks in the delivery of her child. As the past eight years have shown us, the last thing we need is a reckless politician in office.

And speaking of unsound judgment, her daughter's pregnancy demonstrates seriously poor decision making -- not on the part of Bristol but by conservative politicians like Palin and McCain, who have decided that the best way to ensure kids learn about sex is by depriving them of information. Palin is a firm supporter of abstinence-until-marriage sex education, despite the fact that numerous studies show that abstinence-only sex education does not delay sexual activity and may in fact lead to unsafe sex practices.

6: Palin is under investigation for allegedly abusing her power as governor to help her sister in a messy divorce

At issue is whether Palin and her staff pressured and then fired the public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, because he did not fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, from the state police after he apparently threatened her sister and other family members, including her father, in 2005. The Post reported that Palin heard Wooten "threatening to kill their father" for helping his daughter obtain a divorce. Palin, who did not call the police that day, later reported the incident.

The so-called troopergate incident apparently is not the first time Palin fired police officers for failing to follow her wishes, according to Andrew Sullivan at

Sullivan cites an Anchorage Daily News report from December 1997 when, as mayor of Wasilla, Palin faced a recall "in response to Palin's controversial firing of Police Chief Irl Stambaugh." Sullivan reports that Stambaugh and another city official, the library director, Mary Ellen Emmons, were fired for "not fully supporting her efforts to govern."

"Both had publicly supported Palin's opponent, longtime mayor John Stein, during the campaign last fall," the Sullivan report said. "When she was elected, Palin questioned their loyalty and even initially asked for their resignations."

7: Palin lied about her plans for the "Bridge to Nowhere"

When accepting the GOP's nomination for vice president, Sarah Palin took credit for killing a controversial bridge project in Alaska dubbed the Bridge to Nowhere: "I told Congress, 'Thanks but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere,'" she exclaimed to a cheering audience in Ohio. But it turns out that her relationship with the bridge wasn't that cut and dry.

The Gravina Island Bridge would have linked the town of Ketchikan to its international airport, which is extremely difficult to get to by car, as it is on Gravina Island (there is currently a ferry in place to shuttle people to and fro). The bridge was to be federally funded but was quickly labeled a pork barrel project by many conservatives in Washington, including McCain.

So maybe it was an eagerness to please her new boss that caused Palin to lie to the American people right out of the gate. Who can say? But thanks to reports from the Washington Post and the Anchorage Daily News, we are now aware that that is exactly what she has done.

It turns out that initially Palin was a big fan of the bridge -- although it could be that Palin wasn't so much a fan of the bridge as she was a fan of telling Ketchikan's 14,000 residents that she was while on the campaign trail in September 2006. "She was the only candidate who was saying, 'We're going to build that bridge,'" former governor Tony Knowles, a Democrat who lost to Palin in the 2006 general election, told the Washington Post. "She's taking a position now which certainly wasn't what it was when she was campaigning."

After a long fight about how much federal assistance should be granted to Alaska for the bridge, Congress decided to grant Alaska a lump sum of $454 million to spend on general infrastructure projects, instead of specifically earmarking federal money for what had become a very unpopular project.

Even then, though, there where plans for the bridge. It wasn't until September 2007, a year after her promise to the people of Ketchikan, that Palin finally shut down the project, citing overspending. As Keith Ashdown, an investigator with Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Post: "She made the final decision to kill a very bad project, so she deserves credit for that. But she didn't do it as an ideological opponent of earmarks. She did it as someone who had to balance the books."

Palin lied to her constituents about getting the bridge done, and now she is lying to the American people about what her position was in the first place. It looks like Palin isn't the type of politician who would clean up Washington after all.

8: A so-called political reformer, Palin has big money ties to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who has been indicted for political corruption

Former Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil was known for political witticisms, including "Dance with the one that brung ya." That refers to being loyal to your supporters through the thick and thin of political life. According to the Washington Post's The Trail, from 2003 to 2005, Palin was one of three directors of "Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.," a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. A "527" refers to a section of the tax code governing such campaign groups.

"Palin, an anti-corruption crusader in Alaska, had called on Stevens to be open about the issues behind the investigation," the Post reported. "But she also held a joint news conference with him in July, before he was indicted, to make clear she had not abandoned him politically."

Stevens, who is running for re-election this year, was inducted by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., this summer for failing to disclose sizeable gifts from a now-defunct Alaskan oil company, including assistance with renovating a vacation home.

The Post report said that Stevens agreed to lend his name to the campaign committee, but it did not say how much was raised or how the funds were distributed. A report on the group at the Web site also does not list funds raised or spent.

It is not inconsistent that Palin would have been able to muscle major oil companies into making financial concessions for the benefit of Alaskans as governor -- and would have raised funds from those same corporations, the largest doing business in the state, as a director of a 527 group. Such clout is part and parcel of modern campaigns and governing. While much remains unknown about Palin's role as a fundraiser for Steven's 527, her role as a white knight reformer of Alaskan politics has some shades of gray -- as anyone who follows money in politics in small states will affirm.

9: Palin exploits her son's Iraq service for political gain

Taking the stage alongside John McCain last Friday, it took no time for Palin to play the 9/11 card. "On September 11th of last year," she announced, "our son enlisted in the United States Army. … And on September 11th, Track will deploy to Iraq. ... And Todd and I are so proud of him and of all the fine men and women serving this country."

Palin's public pride in her son served a purpose, one the media dutifully picked up. As campaign operatives rebuffed charges that Palin is unprepared, they reached for her son's military service. Confronted with her admission that she has "not paid much attention" to the war in Iraq, one guest told Hardball's Chris Matthews that, as a military mother, "she pays attention to it with her heart."

Maybe so, but Palin is hardly alone. The 2008 presidential race is remarkable in that three of the candidates have sons in the active duty military. But standard practice seems to be not to discuss it publicly.

Take John McCain. His son Jimmy returned from Iraq in February. "We have two sons in the military," he told Sean Hannity, "but we never talk about it, if that's all right." Similarly, Joe Biden, whose son Beau will deploy to Iraq in October, has kept uncharacteristically quiet about it.

So what gives Palin license to wear her son's military service on her sleeve?

Simple: She's a mom.

Palin's uber-motherhood is already the stuff of legend and controversy. With five children, including an infant with Down syndrome, now she's dealing with her teenage daughter's pregnancy. In a game that has traditionally shredded male candidates on the slightest hint that they are not tough enough for the job, Palin is the Right's version of what a strong woman should look like. That she'd be given a pass for exploiting her son's military service on emotional grounds is one thing. For her campaign to construe it as somehow making her more qualified to be commander-in-chief is absurd.

10: During her time as mayor, Palin drove a town deep into debt

According to Politico, "Palin, who portrays herself as a fiscal conservative, racked up nearly $20 million in long-term debt as mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla. That amounts to $3,000 per resident. She argues that the debt was needed to fund improvements."

Adelita said...

Your quotes from the HuffingtonPost aren't biased at all!!!