Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Leave it to the British to say what the US Media will not

Normally, I never take a complete article and reprint it. Today I am, because this about says it all. Friday, October 3rd, Michelle Goldberg of The Guardian writes:
At least three times last night, Sarah Palin, the adorable, preposterous vice-presidential candidate, winked at the audience. Had a male candidate with a similar reputation for attractive vapidity made such a brazen attempt to flirt his way into the good graces of the voting public, it would have universally noted, discussed and mocked. Palin, however, has single-handedly so lowered the standards both for female candidates and American political discourse that, with her newfound ability to speak in more-or-less full sentences, she is now deemed to have performed acceptably last night.

By any normal standard, including the ones applied to male presidential candidates of either party, she did not. Early on, she made the astonishing announcement that she had no intentions of actually answering the queries put to her. "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also," she said.

And so she preceded, with an almost surreal disregard for the subjects she was supposed to be discussing, to unleash fusillades of scripted attack lines, platitudes, lies, gibberish and grating references to her own pseudo-folksy authenticity.

It was an appalling display. The only reason it was not widely described as such is that too many American pundits don't even try to judge the truth, wisdom or reasonableness of the political rhetoric they are paid to pronounce upon. Instead, they imagine themselves as interpreters of a mythical mass of "average Americans" who they both venerate and despise.

In pronouncing upon a debate, they don't try and determine whether a candidate's responses correspond to existing reality, or whether he or she is capable of talking about subjects such as the deregulation of the financial markets or the devolution of the war in Afghanistan. The criteria are far more vaporous. In this case, it was whether Palin could avoid utterly humiliating herself for 90 minutes, and whether urbane commentators would believe that she had connected to a public that they see as ignorant and sentimental. For the Alaska governor, mission accomplished.

There is indeed something mesmerising about Palin, with her manic beaming and fulsome confidence in her own charm. The force of her personality managed to slightly obscure the insulting emptiness of her answers last night. It's worth reading the transcript of the encounter, where it becomes clearer how bizarre much of what she said was. Here, for example, is how she responded to Biden's comments about how the middle class has been short-changed during the Bush administration, and how McCain will continue Bush's policies:

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? ... 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.

Evidently, Palin's pre-debate handlers judged her incapable of speaking on a fairly wide range of subjects, and so instructed to her to simply disregard questions that did not invite memorised talking points or cutesy filibustering. They probably told her to play up her spunky average-ness, which she did to the point of shtick - and dishonesty. Asked what her achilles heel is - a question she either didn't understand or chose to ignore - she started in on how McCain chose her because of her "connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills?"

None of Palin's children, it should be noted, is heading off to college. Her son is on the way to Iraq, and her pregnant 17-year-old daughter is engaged to be married to a high-school dropout and self-described "fuckin' redneck". Palin is a woman who can't even tell the truth about the most quotidian and public details of her own life, never mind about matters of major public import. In her only vice-presidential debate, she was shallow, mendacious and phoney. What kind of maverick, after all, keeps harping on what a maverick she is? That her performance was considered anything but a farce doesn't show how high Palin has risen, but how low we all have sunk.


Lulu Maude said...

I've been reading a book called Just How Stupid Are We?
Though it was written before the introduction of La Palin to our national consciousness, it sure resonates.

Fingernails on a blackboard, she is.

Randal Graves said...

This is exactly why we ARE the greatest nation on earth. Per capita, our rates of public entertainment are unsurpassed. God Bless You, Sarah Palin and go get them witches!

Um, she's still winking at me.

Make it stop.

DivaJood said...

Lulu! Hi! Great to see you out and about. She is worse than fingernails on a blackboard, and that she's been foisted on us - ugh. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Randal, she's got a rock in her eye, sorry, dude.

Fran said...

Bravo! The brits have a special charm to sum up the situation. I love the reference to " the encounter", because, let's not dignify it by calling it a DEBATE.

It was a bloody debacle, and many an eyebrow raised while chatting over a spot of tea.
I'm sure much of the world is wondering if the United States has simply gone stark raving mad.

susan said...

Last night I was sitting in a hospital waiting room watching the debate with a man much older than me. He was disgusted with McCain and went on to say that Sarah Palin has set the cause of women back a hundred years. I'm getting the feeling a lot of people agree with him.. with us. Don't despair, my friend.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Fran, you know what they say: If you have to ask the question, you already know the answer.

Thankfully, the polling data show a refreshing trend towards sanity in the United States. Neither Senator Obama nor any other one person is a panacea for the troubles that ail the United States, but I believe he's more than a step or two in the right direction. It is for that reason I voted for him on January 29, although that vote was not counted until February 5 as part of a compromise between the Alabama GOP and the national GOP leadership for the coastal counties due to Mardi Gras. It is for that reason he will also have my vote on November 4.

Liberality said...

That's why I often won't watch a debate or address on television. If you listen to what they are actually saying and can hear how idiotic it is then that is good enough. It's even better when you can read the transcript! People are so easily distracted by hocuspocus it seems to me. What a great article. It deserves as much attention as we all can bring to it so thanks for sharing it.

MRMacrum said...

Madame Mousse Keynesian de la Castle Wasilla, but to us commoners known as Sarah who wields the big stick while John wiggles his small one, has definitely put women back where they belong by Jeezum. While she can't very well stay barefoot and pregnant, she could get pregnant with Mukluks on. And did on at least several occaisions. So she knows what the rest of Womankind goes through everyday as they pack up the minivan with 7 restless hockey midgets and hauls them down to the corner ice arena. Can you say "I identify Sarah. I understand you and wish I was you."

I am not sure where I was going with this, but well, I'll move along now.

I know I mixed Spanish with French. Since I can rightfully claim ignorance in both languages, I figured I would show off that talent.

Hey, it's 3 AM here in Maine. I can't sleep. What did you expect? "Leaves of Grass"?

FranIAm said...

This is a great post- thanks for the links as well.

Reading the transcript of the debate- achhhhhhhhhh- my eyes. And the Goldberg column was brilliant.

And that f*cking wink...

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that this honest and refreshing media commentary has to come from overseas. There was once a brief period in our history when the media took it's role as the guardians of free speech seriously; when the "shallow, mendacious and phoney" demeanor of Sarah Palin would be called to the carpet instantaneously. These days they're called diseased, biased liberals. May Providence save us all.

DivaJood said...

Fran, the Brits have a much higher command of the English Language than the US Media has. After all, they're British and they invented the language, eh?

Susan, I hope all is well? Anyway, I was calling Ohio voters for the Obama campaign, trying to get people to vote early. The first question is "Which candidate do you support in the Presidential election?" This 87 year old guy tells me "Obama. That other guy is a blithering idiot."

Mandalbrot, that's the ticket - blame Mardi Gras! The polls are showing a trend toward Obama, but the only poll that matters is Nov. 4, and so I remain concerned. Thank you for coming by my place.

Mrmac, Yes, I expected "Leaves of Grass," nothing less. See? You're turning into a slacker. Hmmmm.

FranIAm, doesn't the transcript make your head hurt? I mean, she's just beyond surreal.

Spartacus, Edward R. Murrow died a long time ago. Walter Cronkite retired. Then somebody invented Fox Noise. Hmmm.

Distributorcap said...

no wonder the world hates us -- we are a bunch of phoney liars. our "pundits" are a bunch of horny farts (like you Pat Buchanan)

DivaJood said...

DCap, we don't have pundits. We have gasbags.

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