Saturday, September 06, 2008

Palin-Fest

Last Sunday I blogged on Sarah Palin. I praised her genuine pro-life commitment in her own life. At that time, the "babygate" puzzle was hot. I had read on a blog that her daughter, Bristol, was pregnant now. I wrote that that settled the mystery of whether Trig Palin was really Bristol's child. The news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy had not yet hit the news, though, and the comments on that post, which were meant as partial praise, got tangled in the then-unresolved babygate question. For the first time in the three years I have been writing this blog, I pulled a post.

Since then I have watched and read with great care just about everything that has come out from and about Gov. Palin. The comments in the blog this week, on posts that were about something else, nonetheless raised many questions about Palin. So today I want to give a more considered response to the one-week celebrity of the Republican ticket.

I believe that we all have the vices of our virtues. Our weaknesses are usually the complements of our strengths. The list below, therefore, alternates what I see as Gov. Palin's strengths with her related weaknesses.

She is smart, charismatic, and attractive.
She did a good job reading a speech written by others, but has so far refused to answer questions in her own voice, speaking her own mind.

She seems to have a strong marriage, has devoted herself to her family.
She has used her office to persecute those she thinks threatened her family.

She has really walked the pro-life talk, having a baby in her 40s that she knew would be very challenging to raise.
She took crazy risks with that baby's birth. I still think there is something fishy about the whole "fly home from Texas" story.

Finding her teen-age daughter pregnant, she pressed the couple to get married, which is her grandchild's best shot at a stable family life.
She said having the baby was her daughter's choice. She has also said she would sign a law banning all abortions.

She has walked the pro-military talk, supporting her son into the Army in wartime.
She has not thought in any depth about the war her son is being sent to fight.

She is a strong Christian and is not afraid to own it.
She believes God supports what she supports -- the president, the war, the gas pipeline (!)

She has walked the pro-community talk, getting involved in her PTA, serving on the city council of her hometown, and serving as mayor.
She used her power ruthlessly - firing the chief of police because he intimidated her, pressuring the librarian the censor books, putting the city in debt for money pit projects like a sports arena instead of necessities like a sewage treatment plant. And she attacks community organizing, the most basic kind of community involvement. This is a real puzzle to me. Up until now, faith-based community service has something Republicans were for.

She has opposed corruption in her own Republican party, including that of its leader, Sen. Ted Stevens.
She ran a campaign for Stevens. She supported the "Bridge to Nowhere" that he championed. She actively sought earmarks for her town, some of which Sen. McCain singled out as examples of abusive pork-barrel spending. I don't mind politicians changing their minds, or even bowing to reality. I do think it a real character flaw when they pretend that they always had the position they have now.

She opposed the oil cartel that controls Alaskan politics.
She has brought in different oil companies to carry out her pet project, the gas pipeline. She does not support freeing America from oil dependence, she favors freeing America from foreign oil dependence -- which means more sales for the main commodity of her state.

She pushed stronger ethics laws, and undid some of the excesses of her predecessor as governor.
She keeps saying that she sold the governor's jet on eBay for a profit, knowing that this is not true. Knowing that anyone who follows politics knows this is not true. She got rid of the governor's driver -- but she makes phone calls and sends text messages while driving (this may be a pet peeve of mine).

She has mobilized many ordinary people who were lukewarm about participating in this election.
In defending small town, evangelical, gun-using Americans, she sneers at cosmopolitan, mainline, violence-fearing Americans.

She has helped normalize the idea of women in every political office, include President.
She praised Hillary Clinton for putting those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. This line brought boos. I expect she will not say that again.

She is a Gen-X "just do it" person who might actually accomplish something.
She doesn't seem to have a plan for anything she does. She reacts to events, doing the opposite of whatever stands in her way.

14 comments:

SP Weston said...

My understanding is that Governor Palin has only said that she "put" the plan on e-Bay.

That's both true and designed to get people to believe something false.

It's working with all kinds of smart people, including Senator McCain.

Gruntled said...

According to the Chicago Tribune,
"Palin's spokeswoman, Maria Comella, insisted that Palin had indeed sold the plane on e-Bay.

The remarks of Rudy Giuliani as prepared for delivery to the convention also included a flat declaration of an e-Bay sale and at least one other McCain/Palin surrogate, Rep. Michelle Bachman, repeated the sold-on-e-Bay line.

A video tribute to Palin at the convention Thursday included the statement that she "auctioned the governor's jet on e-Bay."

Come Friday, McCain himself joined the e-Bay party and added his own untruth, telling a campaign audience in Wisconsin that "she took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on e-Bay -- and made a profit.""

http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2008/09/sarah_palin_and_ebay.html

halifax said...

I've read a good deal about Governor Palin over the last week, as well, and I would only suggest that the press has been quite unreliable in its reporting of her in almost every respect. As I jocularly mentioned before, perhaps if she changed her name to John Edwards, none of these little secrets would have come out.

I would also suggest that, though I don't quibble with many of your criticisms, some are less valid and some don't point to evident weaknesses (or at least not to American conservatives).

Reading a speech that someone else has written distinguishes her from exactly zero other politicians. Being opposed to abortion is not exactly a weakness in the eyes of many Americans, even if the conventions of American politics suggest to politicians that it is a good idea to use the vocabulary of 'choice'. It is still not clear that Palin did anything unethical concerning other employees of the Alaska government, though it's good politics to assume that the other side is guilty before a decision has been made. The book-banning (sic) story is grossly exaggerated, given that she merely asked the librarian some questions on one occasion and never broached the subject again (and, in any case, it is the Democratic party in recent years which has been far more supportive of censorship).

Nonetheless, your exercise is such a useful one that I thought that I would complement your collection of observations with some of my own.

Senator Obama is obviously a bright person. But the most impressive accomplishment of his life is still the fact that he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

Senator Obama is the first black presidential nominee in the US. But, in insisting on the centrality of this fact, he is being oddly disrespectful of mother and her family. Is the 'one-drop' rule still operative?

Senator Obama offers a new brand of politics which moves beyond partisanship. But Obama has never actually worked with members of the Republican Party on any significant issue, and, indeed, has accomplished almost nothing in his legislative career outside of becoming famous.

Senator Obama has re-injected a religious sensibility into the previously rabidly secular Democratic Party. But, for years, he attended a church run by a black radical preacher who claims that Aids was the result of a government plot (among other inanities). The preacher married Obama and his wife and baptized his children, and it is quite obvious that Obama was not unaware of said preacher’s preaching.

Senator Obama passed up a lucrative legal practice to be a community organizer. The kind of community organizers Obama associated with include William Ayers, one of the leaders of an anti-American terrorist organization who still regrets not being able to do more to destroy the US. It also makes it a tad easier to sacrifice a lucrative job when your wife has one that is equally or more remunerative.

(I’ll just take one shot at Biden.) Joe Biden is a refreshingly candid and entertaining speaker. But Biden also seems to believe that he is the offspring of Welsh miners (or is he merely a serial plagiarizer?).

I could go on, but I think that I've taken up half of your page.

Gruntled said...

Halifax, I always welcome your comments. Let me answer a few.

"Reading a speech that someone else has written distinguishes her from exactly zero other politicians."
Reading a speech is not a problem. Refusing to answer questions is.

"Being opposed to abortion is not exactly a weakness in the eyes of many Americans, even if the conventions of American politics suggest to politicians that it is a good idea to use the vocabulary of 'choice'."

I do not fault Gov. Palin's pro-life position. I do think there is a contradiction between her saying that it was proper for her daughter to have and make a choice about abortion, but if given the chance, Palin would make it illegal for everyone (including her daughter) to make that choice.

"It is still not clear that Palin did anything unethical concerning other employees of the Alaska government, though it's good politics to assume that the other side is guilty before a decision has been made."

The jury is out on the abuse of power charge. Three stories does start to look like a pattern, but I can wait to see what the Alaskan government's investigation reveals. I do think she was wrong to promise to cooperate before she was famous, but now refuses.

"The book-banning (sic) story is grossly exaggerated, given that she merely asked the librarian some questions on one occasion and never broached the subject again (and, in any case, it is the Democratic party in recent years which has been far more supportive of censorship)."

According to the former town librarian, Mayor Palin asked her several times, in open meetings and privately, if she would be willing to remove books the mayor found offensive from the library. When the librarian refused, the mayor pressured her to resign because the librarian was not supportive enough of the mayor.

I am against book banning, by the right or the left. I think there is something deeper here, though. When Gov. Palin talks about a "servant's heart," she calls for something I agree with heartily. However, Several of the stories of her use of executive power show that she thinks her subordinates are her servants, and if they are not completely supportive and loyal, that is reason enough to remove them from office.

Anonymous said...

Halifax,

Excellent observations! I was thinking along the same lines but you said it so much better than I could have -- thank you.

halifax said...

I don't doubt that Palin has been a bit vindictive toward those who she sees as opposing her policies. I doubt that she has a fully developed comprehension of the difference between the authority of the office and the person of the office holder. That said, I believe that this particular confusion has manifested itself in a striking way in the Clinton administration and in the Bush administration, as well. Thus, while I’m not defending it, Palin's identification of her own interests with the interests of the office seems to be an almost universal affliction (recall Acton's comment about power corrupting, etc.).

On the abortion question, both sides offer such self-contradictory accounts that it is difficult to identify a coherent argument. In Palin's case, I noted that she has used the vocabulary of choice in reference to her daughter's pregnancy, though, given the whole situation, I doubt that there was much room for choosing. Nonetheless, Obama's public pronouncements on abortion are far more incoherent (and he is the presidential nominee, after all.). Obama has given lip service to wanting to reduce abortions, which certainly suggests that he doesn't consider pregnancy to be analogous to some illness (as more radical abortion proponents, do). However, he also suggested that, if his daughter made a mistake, he didn't want them to be 'punished with a baby'. That is the language of radical abortion proponents (anti-lifers, if you will). Further, he has opposed legislation which would save the life of infants who survived botched abortions. This legislation is obviously not relevant to 99.99% of abortions, but it does suggest that, despite protestations to the contrary, his position echoes the most radical wing of his party. It is unlikely that many Americans actually agree with either Palin's or Obama's position on abortion, but I personally find Obama's both less honest and significantly more morally questionable.

By the way, I'm sure that you'll be excited to know that we in Canada will be having a national election this fall, as well, and it will likely occur before the American one. Should I blog the American perception of Canadian politics, or would that be the classic example of opening my mouth and ending any doubts about my ignorance?

JMott said...

Obama voted against that "Infant-cide" bill in the Illinois State Senate because it was earmarked with irresponsible add-ons. The clean bill that mirrored the Federal bill didn't come along until Obama had exited the Illinois Senate, so he was never given the chance to vote on it in either forum.

I think we're paying too much attention and giving way too much credence to the privatelly funded, "Swift Boat" style ads without questioning the movtivation. The person in charge of that advertisement lost his University position for having a "relationship" with 1 or more 17-18 year old students; gives a little question to his credibility in my opinion.

Katie said...

Halifax,

Lovely city, by the way. I would enjoy reading any blogging about Americans' perceptions of Canadian politics. As an American living in Canada, I find the Canadian system to be both bizarre and liberating.

One thing about Canadians that fascinates me is how rabidly they follow and involve themselves in American politics. I've been surprised by the number of people who have told us that they have previously volunteered in American political campaigns. I simply can't imagine Americans hopping the border to work in support of Harper (or anyone else, really).

tristen said...

jmott,
Nice example of an ad hominem attack. By the way the "Swift Boaters" were telling the truth which is another reason Kerry lost. Live with it.

JMott said...

Ad hominem is used when there is nothing to discredit in the substance of the argument; I believe I addressed that in the first paragraph of my response, but you're probably right in calling me out on walking that line.

Kerry gave back his medals, Bush never earned any, but I digress...

Halifax: an outsider/insider perception on politics of our northerly neighbor would be interesting.

ceemac said...

RE: connnecting having a baby and punishment.

I am only 50 and I can remember when pregnancy was seen as a punishment for engaging in pre-maritial sex.

Punishment with marriage to someone with whom you may not have really wanted to spend your life with if the boy and girl got married.

And I cannot claim to have done a lot of research so am open to being corrected but I have never seen a pleasant description of the old homes for unwed mothers. Those were the places where girls went to have babies before giving them up for adoption. They are always described as being like reform schools which of course were places of punishment.

c3 said...

Late in the game but responses:
1. speech: I believe most every major national politician has speech writers.
2. Answer questions: you mean since her nominations she's not done any interviews. Agreed. Please note she has historically done interviews. She can answer questions.
3. Using office to hurt...:
Can we wait for the conclusion of the investigation?
4. Baby birth/flight: As I understand she consulted her doctor before getting on the flight. Please also note she delivered some ? 8 hours after first leaking fluid. It would not be unusual to have many hours after first leaking fluid without contractions (and I don't know when her contractions began)
5. Daughter's pregnancy and choice: Help me understand the contradiction. "Because some people use cocaine it would be wrong for me to sign a bill outlawing cocaine"?
6. Military and war: A fair question. Of course, we have no idea what discussion mother Palin and son Palin have had.
7. Christian: This statement surprises me coming from you. Has she said that? To pray for a pipeline and getting it doesn't necessarily mean she believes God is with her 100%. I would not be surprised to hear that she prayed for a miracle of a normal baby after the prenatal diagnosis of Down's. There are issues of "praying in everything" and "God is sovereign"
8. "used her power ruthlessly" Isn't that a bit "over the top" I really haven't heard anyone from Alaska, Dem or Rep, describe her as "ruthless". Now the question of higher standards and political standards is a legitimate question
9. Bridge to Nowhere flip-flop: Yes, I'm waiting for clarification on that one also. Having said that its pretty clear she has actively fought an entrenched and corrupt Republican hierarchy in Alaska. It's funny, if this election were about "corrupt Republicans" and Sarah Palin was not on the ticket, I would assume that the Democratic ticket would use her fight as an example of the "corrupt Republican culture"
10. Oil companies... Now this one is interesting. She's actually been asked about this. It appears that she sees it as hard bargaining and not "anti-oil". I actually find that refreshing because it seems we either demonize BIG companies or seek to give them breaks. I have to admit, I haven't seen such a "middle" ground from many other politicians.
11. Ethics, e-Bay. As I understand it, she did "sell the jet on Ebay" but the sale fell through. She did ultimately sell the jet. Obviously the "E-bay" part of the story is to give the vignette that added "something". A white lie, probably. Did she sell the "unnecessary" jet: Yes
12. Small town - big town: Politics. And to be fair you knew someone at some point was going to bring up the "cling to their guns and religion" comment. The comment was a little faux pas by Sen. Obama, but in some ways a disturbing faux pas. (I was "clinging" to my religion today, as I do every Sunday). In the end the comment was politics, no more no less. And certainly no more disingenuous than "Senator McCain will keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years!!"
13. She doesn't seem to have a plan. Huh? Where'd that come from? Plan for what? The vice-presidency? Now she clearly has viewpoints (i.e. energy) and I know we've heard them. I'm pretty sure the "plan" falls back to the person on the top of the ticket.

Frankly, Beau these comments surprise me. I've been visiting this blog for some time and have always been impressed with the thoughtful discussion. Hopefully, you were just reporting what others have said in response to the "positive" statements about Sarah Palin. If these "retorts" were in fact yours then this election appears to have lead you to be deeply partisan.

OK, off the soap box.

Gruntled said...

C3, thanks for a thorough response. It deserves another:

Late in the game but responses:
1. speech: I believe most every major national politician has speech writers.
2. Answer questions: you mean since her nominations she's not done any interviews. Agreed. Please note she has historically done interviews. She can answer questions.

I have no problem with speechwriters. My point is that her convention speech, which she has given several times, is not really a good indication of what she knows, plans, or even thinks. That is why I am looking forward to the serious interviews with her, as soon as she is done boning up on national policy.

3. Using office to hurt...:
Can we wait for the conclusion of the investigation?

I am waiting for the end of the investigation to draw a conclusion about troopergate. I think we already know most of what we are going to know about her firing of the Walissa police chief, pressuring the librarian, and firing most city employees who disagreed with her. I am also relying on the Kilkenny letter.

4. Baby birth/flight: As I understand she consulted her doctor before getting on the flight. Please also note she delivered some ? 8 hours after first leaking fluid. It would not be unusual to have many hours after first leaking fluid without contractions (and I don't know when her contractions began)

I don't think any obstetrician would have counseled her to fly home to have a baby after the water broke. She could have gone to a Texas hospital, or a Seattle hospital, or either of the Anchorage hospital which specialized in high risk births. The timelines I have seen say it was 12 hours from water breaking to birth. If the airline had known her water had broken, they would not have let her board.

5. Daughter's pregnancy and choice: Help me understand the contradiction. "Because some people use cocaine it would be wrong for me to sign a bill outlawing cocaine"?

The analogy would be "I think it's my child's choice whether to use cocaine or not, but I think it should be illegal for everyone (else?)"

6. Military and war: A fair question. Of course, we have no idea what discussion mother Palin and son Palin have had.

It is not the mother and son discussion I am concerned about. It is her position on the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the threatened war with Iran, the saber-wrattling in North Korea, the false defense implications given to Georgia, etc. Private citizens do not have to have opinions on these matters. I would want anyone who could be president next January to have thought long and hard about them already.

7. Christian: This statement surprises me coming from you. Has she said that? To pray for a pipeline and getting it doesn't necessarily mean she believes God is with her 100%. I would not be surprised to hear that she prayed for a miracle of a normal baby after the prenatal diagnosis of Down's. There are issues of "praying in everything" and "God is sovereign"

See my post the next day, "Palin's Religion."

8. "used her power ruthlessly" Isn't that a bit "over the top" I really haven't heard anyone from Alaska, Dem or Rep, describe her as "ruthless". Now the question of higher standards and political standards is a legitimate question

I turn to the Kilkenny letter, the reports of local officials in Walissa, her strong campaigning for Ted Stevens followed by utter repudiation, without any of the known facts changing. I have been surprised how many people think that the new elected executive, at any level, has a right to fire all the executive branch office holders left over from a previous regime. We do not have kings; we abolished the spoils system. I think it is unprofessional to fire agency heads, especially in a small town, just because they supported the other candidate. That is not my idea of good government.

9. Bridge to Nowhere flip-flop: Yes, I'm waiting for clarification on that one also. Having said that its pretty clear she has actively fought an entrenched and corrupt Republican hierarchy in Alaska. It's funny, if this election were about "corrupt Republicans" and Sarah Palin was not on the ticket, I would assume that the Democratic ticket would use her fight as an example of the "corrupt Republican culture"

When the corrupt officials actually print up ball caps and tee shirts that say "Corrupt Bastards Club," I think the criticism becomes bipartisan.

10. Oil companies... Now this one is interesting. She's actually been asked about this. It appears that she sees it as hard bargaining and not "anti-oil". I actually find that refreshing because it seems we either demonize BIG companies or seek to give them breaks. I have to admit, I haven't seen such a "middle" ground from many other politicians.

Oil is a fungible commodity. Brokers buy it from all over and mix it together. I believe it is still true that most Alaskan oil goes to Japan and China. American-drilled oil goes into the world market. It does not free us from dependence on "foreign oil."

11. Ethics, e-Bay. As I understand it, she did "sell the jet on Ebay" but the sale fell through. She did ultimately sell the jet. Obviously the "E-bay" part of the story is to give the vignette that added "something". A white lie, probably. Did she sell the "unnecessary" jet: Yes

I am glad she sold Murkowski's jet. I could understand that she, or her writers, got carried away with a good story for her big speech. She, and the GOP speech-makers, should stop telling that fib now.

12. Small town - big town: Politics. And to be fair you knew someone at some point was going to bring up the "cling to their guns and religion" comment. The comment was a little faux pas by Sen. Obama, but in some ways a disturbing faux pas. (I was "clinging" to my religion today, as I do every Sunday). In the end the comment was politics, no more no less. And certainly no more disingenuous than "Senator McCain will keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years!!"

The bitter clinging comment was a faux pas. I do credit Sen. Obama's subsequent explanation that what he meant to say, in that off-hand comment, was that people embittered by hard times and an unresponsive government cling to campaign issues like religion and guns, because they get no substance from the candidates on bigger issues.

In the same spirit, I understand that when Sen. McCain said we might keep troops in Iraq for 100 years (or a thousand), he did not mean they would be continuously fighting. But he did say, and does still mean, I believe, that we should plan on having permanent military bases in Iraq. That is a precondition to surrendering control of the country that I do not think it prudent for an American president to lay down.

13. She doesn't seem to have a plan. Huh? Where'd that come from? Plan for what? The vice-presidency? Now she clearly has viewpoints (i.e. energy) and I know we've heard them. I'm pretty sure the "plan" falls back to the person on the top of the ticket.

This comment goes back to the point of my original, deleted post. When I look at Gov. Palin's own account of her political career, each step is more of a reaction to an event than the pursuit of any vision of what government is for.

Frankly, Beau these comments surprise me. I've been visiting this blog for some time and have always been impressed with the thoughtful discussion. Hopefully, you were just reporting what others have said in response to the "positive" statements about Sarah Palin. If these "retorts" were in fact yours then this election appears to have lead you to be deeply partisan.

I am partisan, but I am not responding here as a partisan. These criticisms do not apply to Republicans as such -- not to Sen. McCain, for example. I think there is much to admire in Sarah Palin as a person, but I find more to worry about in her personal (not partisan) history as a president.

c3 said...

Beau;
Thanks for the responses. We'll continue to disagree on some of our viewpoints and perceptions of how this is all playing out. I still very much appreciate your blog...keep it up!
Chris