Sunday, November 02, 2008

One of the People

What is the future for the Republican party? Whether they win or lose on Tuesday, it seems that there are more than a few members of their party who seem to think that Sarah Palin is going to be the face of the party going forward. Many believe that a victory tomorrow means that she will become the standard bearer for the party as she serves an apprenticeship under John McCain, a loss leaves her positioned to run for the Presidency in 2012. The most often mentioned reason for her support is that she's "one of the people". There is a general consensus that she more like "Joe six-pack" than Joe Biden, and that is seen as a positive.

Sarah Palin recently complained that the press criticism of her, may in fact be infringing upon her First Amendment rights. The First Amendment protects the American people from Congress enacting laws that would infringe upon their right of free speech. How does that relate to the press criticizing Sarah Palin? It doesn't, but since when do the facts have anything to do with the popularity of Governor Palin. In her world, the First Amendment would protect the government from the criticism of the press even though the document actually says the complete opposite. In her world, the Vice President is not only part of the Executive branch, but the most powerful member of the Legislative branch as well. It is that lack of basic understanding of the Constitution that makes Sarah Palin not only unqualified to lead this country but highlights one of similarities between her and the current administration.

Governor Palin has said that she never wavered when asked to be John McCain's running mate, but in hindsight, perhaps she should have. I don't believe that George W. Bush always wanted to be President. I think a group of interested parties believed that they could make him President and he went along for the ride. As with President Bush, Sarah Palin's ambition got in the way of common sense. There clearly was no vetting of her before she was picked by John McCain. From her unmarried pregnant teenage daughter, to her ethics violation investigation by the Alaska state legislature to her husband's ties to an Alaskan secessionist party, she was a ticking time bomb when she was tabbed for the VP slot by John McCain. McCain hoped that she would not only excite the base of the party, but bring in disaffected Hilliary Clinton voters as well. While she has succeeded in the former, she has not been able to bring over Hillary Clinton supporters in any great numbers. She knew what kind of baggage she would be dragging with her into the national spotlight (including exposing her children to excessive scrutiny), but that all took a backseat to the chance to advance herself.

She has shown a glaring shallowness of knowledge about national and international politics. Her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric were disasters. She has been abandoned by some of the leading figures in the right leaning press (who are now branded as "elitist" for failing to support her) and many prominent Republican figures have thrown their support behind Barack Obama, while pointing to her selection as a major reason for their decision. None of this has seemed to matter to the base of the Republican party. Sarah Palin is one of them. All attacks against her are viewed as unwarranted and just symbolic of the bias of the "liberal media" (that of course ignores the fact that people like David Brooks and Peggy Noonan are far from being liberals). According to her supporters, she is the perfect face for the Republican Party because of her mistakes, not in spite of them. Her lack of understanding, her misstatements, her outright gaffes, all show that she is a regular person and that is what they value in a leader. Well, that and a committed opposition to abortion.

The standards for leadership in this country have fallen to the point that actual competency no longer matters. Intelligence is now viewed as a detriment. Who wants to hang out with someone who's going to make you feel stupid? We would much rather have a President who we want to have a beer with and talk about the game with than one who is going to bore us with their "elitist" rhetoric. Ronald Reagan started us off down this path, but he was playing a part. While he may not have been a Rhodes Scholar, he spent his entire political career being indoctrinated in Conservative dogma. He learned his politics from Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater, so upon arriving in the White House, he was well versed in the game. He decided that folksy was the way to go and as an actor used to playing roles, he played that one to the hilt. He was Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He was the regular guy who happened to have made it to top, but never forgot where he came from. He claimed to be the champion of the little guy and a true patriot and that's the role he successfully pulled off. George Bush, who followed him into the White House, was as far from a regular guy as you could find, but even he dumbed himself down, so that people would feel more comfortable with him. Bill Clinton (who actually was a Rhodes Scholar) also played the regular guy role. He felt our pain and earned the nickname "Bubba".

This succession of leaders who felt the need to play the role of "regular guy", led to the election of someone who wasn't playing a role. George W. Bush clearly lacks the intellectual capacity of his immediate successors and has led this country to the brink of disaster. He came into office as a "compassionate conservative". His eight years in office have shown him to be neither particularly compassionate (ask the survivors of Katrina) and certainly not a Conservative (how exactly do you inherit a surplus of $200 billion and turn that into a deficit approaching $1 trillion?). He will leave his eight year term having taken almost a full year of vacation time. George W. Bush was undoubtedly "one of us" but the truth is that "one of us" is not qualified for the job.

So now we return to Governor Palin, who claims that whenever she gets a question from the media that she doesn't answer correctly that they are engaging in "gotcha" questioning. If asking a question about what newspapers you read is a "gotcha" question, then every question ever posed to a politician in the history of makind is a "gotcha" question. Sarah Palin is undoubtedly one of the people, but the question becomes, is that who we want to lead us? Do we want someone who doesn't understand the Constitution? Do we want someone who thinks that being able to see Russia from their home state gives them foreign policy credentials (I can see the moon from my backyard, but I don't think that makes me an Astronaut)? Do we want someone who can only talk about issues in soundbites? Do we want someone whose greatest ambition in life was to be an anchor on Sportscenter? Do we want someone who can't pronounce the word nuclear (oh that's right we already have that)? Do we want to settle for mediocrity? If you answered yes to those questions, then Sarah Palin is the person for you. And it seems that a lot of people in the Republican Party would agree.

1 comment:

SJ said...

Governor Palin is the best example of what John McCain and his advisors really mean by "County First"... Which is to say they don't mean anything by it at all.