Column for 7 September, 2008
“But our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The only thing worse than a bunch of whiny liberals is a bunch of whiny conservatives acting like whiny liberals. In recent years, I’ve noticed the annoying trend of conservatives adopting one of the liberals’ least-appealing characteristics; an overblown sense of victimization. So, for example, after eight years of accusing Bill Clinton of everything up to and including being a drug dealer and a murderer, Republicans complained with a straight face that critics of George W. Bush were “deranged” and “haters.” Perhaps we were supposed to imagine President Bush crying himself to sleep each night because the mean people said nasty things about him. John McCain got into the act, as virtually any criticism of him was loudly denounced as an insult to all veterans. When tweaked for not remembering how many houses he owns, was it really a valid response to refer to his time as a POW? And now, any suggestion that Sarah Palin’s micron-thin resume might not necessarily qualify her to be one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency is “degrading to women?” Please. The slightest hint by Barack Obama supporters than some of the attacks on him were racist (even the ones that pretty obviously were) have been loudly and derisively hooted down by the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus. Of course, it is sad to see Governor Palin’s children drug into the mess and to be forced to endure self-righteous idiots from both sides of the political spectrum pontificating on whether she is making the “right choices” in how she chooses to care for her infant son. That is sexist; no male candidate would ever be subjected to that kind of questioning. If anything, the father of a special needs child who chose to stay on the campaign trail would likely be praised for his “courage,” much as John Edwards was (generally) praised for continuing to campaign (among other things, as it later turned out) while his wife was undergoing cancer treatment. Palin, governor of an under-populated and remote state might be forgiven for underestimating the level of scrutiny she would face; McCain’s people should certainly have known better or learned better during their perfunctory vetting process. Being surprised that the media is vicious and intrusive is like being surprised that wild dogs will bite you if you rub yourself with pork chops. And, obviously, the GOP would be singing a completely different tune if we were talking about a female Democratic candidate. With all that out of the way, though, picking Sarah Palin represents a pretty gutsy gamble on McCain’s part; trading away his most effective argument against Obama (experience) on the hope that disaffected Hillary Clinton voters will be induced to support positions 180 degrees opposite of hers just because they are presented by a woman (a strategy which, at least so far, appears to be an epic failure). And let’s be honest; the experience debate is over. When your number two candidate admits on live television that she doesn’t really know what the Vice President does and that she doesn’t follow the news in Iraq (which at least gives her something in common with her running mate), and when you are reduced to claiming she has foreign policy experience (despite never having left the country until last year) because “Alaska is right next to Russia,” then yeah, the debate is over. Not even the professional Republican punditocracy can put a happy face on this; despite writing a column promoting the party line that liberals are “scared” of Palin, Peggy Noonan was caught on an open mike proclaiming “it’s over.” And it’s not sexist to point out, experience notwithstanding, Palin’s narrative is a little, to be charitable, inconsistent. McCain touted her opposition to earmarks as a reason for choosing her, but she seemed to have liked them well enough as mayor and McCain himself denounced some of her earmarks in at least three of his annual lists of outrageous pork. It’s not sexist to point out that she did not, in fact, say “no thanks” to Senator Ted Stevens’ infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” She campaigned for it, and only turned against it months after Congress had already cut the funding. It’s not sexist discuss her atrocious environmental record, something that should concern hunters more than her bag limit of moose, including a belief in the outrageous political fiction that the climate change that threatens her state more than many others is apparently caused by gremlins, not pollution. It’s not sexist to wonder why an ostensibly mainstream politician would as governor lend her voice to a radical fringe group dedicated to the secession of Alaska from the Union and founded by a man who stated, “I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.” If Obama is to be pilloried for Jeremiah Wright, then surely Palin at least owes us an explanation for collaborating with the Alaskan Independence Party? So let’s have an election. Let’s have a debate, let’s have a bench-clearing political brawl. But enough with the politics of feigned moral outrage. You can dislike McCain without hating veterans or denigrating POWs. You can vote against Barack Obama and not be a racist knuckle-dragger. And you can decide that Sarah Palin is just not up to the task and not be a sexist.