Sarah Palin, The Right To Choose, And The Rotten State Of American Politics
In a stunning twist of logic that has breathed new life into the once moribund TV series John McCain For President, Republican Presidential Candidate and POW-Tourrette's sufferer John McCain has selected Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin to be his Vice Presidential running mate. During weeks of intense media speculation that can only be described as "compulsory", "not as relevant as the interest in Obama's decision", or "barely interesting", McCain played coy, leading on a number of would-be veeps, apparently even seriously considered choosing his BFF, Droopy Dog Palpatine himself, before waiting literally until the last minute to choose a 1 term governor he’d met exactly twice before, and about whom next to nothing was known.
"Was." Funny word that. McCain timed the announcement, made early last Friday, to take the thunder away from Obama's magnificent acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention and congratulations are in order because, let's face it, Mission Accomplished. The news that the World's POWest Grandpa had finally stopped his senile dithering and selected Tina Fey's Fascist twin sister pushed what might be the finest political speech of our lifetime right off the front page of CNN.
Unfortunately for the Maverick, the announcement went over something like an echo in a Swiss mountain valley - In the less than 1 week since his out-of-the-blue-but-totally-not-insane-and-petulant-we-promise decision was revealed to a disinterested world, an avalanche of interesting information has poured down Mt. St. Maverick and now threatens to wipe out the entire village. Palin, poor thing, went from being a virtual unknown to having all of her laundry, the majority of which apparently hasn't been washed in 10 years, flung out for all the world to see.
********So what have we come to learn about the titular* Governor in the last 5 days?
--She doesn't actually know what the hell the Vice President does.
This is not a joke. When asked about speculation that she was in the Veep pool, she said:
"As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?"
And if that isn't bad enough...
--She has a disturbing lack of respect for the rule of law that makes one wonder just what the hell Republicans mean when they talk about freedom**:
****As Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin threatened to fire a Librarianwho refused to help her ban books she considered to be "offensive".
****As Governor, this disturbing lack of respect for the law continued when she apparently inserted herself unethically (and probably illegally) into a bitter custody dispute between her sister and her soon to be ex-brother in law. Details are sketchy, but it appears that she tried to get said Brother-in-law, an Alaska State Trooper, fired from his job. (One assumes this was intended to derail his custody claim. No job = bad father.)
****When Walt Monegan, the state official with the authority to fire said Brother-in-law refused to swing the hatchet, Palin fired him and replaced him with someone more compliant, and as it turns out, more depraved. Monegan's willing-to-violate-the-law replacement, the hilariously named Chuck Kopp, was himself dismissed days later when it came out that he was being sued for sexual harrassment.
****Now fully lawyered up, she's taking the high road and calling the whole thing nothing more than a witch hunt. Oh wait, did I say "the high road"? I'm sorry, I meant "river-of-shit blvd." Her spokeman, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the concept of Irony so profound that Oscar Wilde himself just came back from the dead so he could have a stroke, compared the whole thing to the Ken Starr pornographic fetish investigation. In case the point hasn't been sufficiently hammered home, it must be noted that Palin, given her "values" and party affiliation, almost certainly supported the Ken Starr investigation.
But it gets even more hilarious....
--She has extremely close ties to the AIP, a bizarre political party whose stated goal is for Alaska to secede from the union. Presumably because they're tired of taxes***. She denies ever having been a member, and they're being nice to her and backing awayfrom earlier statements insisting that she had been a member for at least 2 years. However, given that high ranking party members openly state that infiltration of the major parties is a key part of their long term strategy, one might want to order some salt with their denial steak.
Whatever the truth of her personal membership, two things are undeniably true:
1) She videotaped a greeting to the party for their most recent convention. Not necessarily a smoking gun, though how often do sitting politicians tape happy greetings for rival parties' conventions? I don't recall george Bush's addresses to the Democratic Convention, but I might be missing something.
2) Her husband most certainly was a card carrying member.
Now to be fair, he conveniently changed his registration to independent when his wife got politically ambitious, but let's just think about this for a moment. If Obama were revealed to have been a member of a separatist organization, or at least, to be married to someone who was, the royal shitstorm kicked up by the right wingers would make the dust bowl look like a messy living room. That we're hearing crickets from them over their own candidate says as much about our rotten political culture as it does about the dubious loyalties of America's extreme right wing, for whom no act of treason or even terrorism is too odious as long as the person committing it hates liberals, liberal values, and liberty.****
Unfortunately, while these very important tibits are at least recieving some coverage, the news on everyone's mind is the just-announced pregnancyof Palin's 17 year old daughter.
See, last weekend, even before the ink dried on McCain's invitiation to Palin, rumors started circulating that the baby Palin gave birth to earlier this year was, in fact, actually her daughter's. In this scenario, Palin covered up the embarrassment of a fanatically anti abortion, anti sex politician having a wayward daughter, by faking her own pregnancy (something a lot easier to do when you home-school your kid.) To counter the admittedly far-fetched-but-incredibly-tractable rumor, Palin went ahead and announced that her daughter couldn't have been pregnant earlier this year, because she's 5 months along now and, by the way, she's decided to keep the baby and marry the father. So there.
Republicans were quick to fall all over themselves trying to be the first to announce how awesomely wonderful and jesustastic this news was. John McCain (and other republicans) even resorted to using the rhetoric of "choice" to describe Palin's daughter's situation. It was a sad spectacle, seeing people ardently committed to eliminating the right of women to have any autonomy over their own bodies, using the language of their enemies to minimize what would be, for a democrat, a PR disaster. And it would be nice to talk about the fact that even Pro Lifers know that America is a Pro Choice Country and that the anti-abortion position is deeply unpopular.
Unfortunately, we don't get to have that discussion because as it turns out, said daughter's pregnancy is Palin's equivalent to John McCain's POW deflector shield, an annoying non-sequitor that deflects any criticism of the candidate's views while also doing double duty as a campaign prop.
We've already seen how any criticism of McCain's odious policy proposals or his long record of being a total fucking sellout is met with "But John McCain only had one policy proposal for 5 years. When he was a POW. In Prison." Hell, I'm half-surprised we haven't seen a McCain commericial with a voice-over that says "When John McCain was a POW, he didn't have access to abortion services. Do American women think they're better than John McCain? POW-911!!" Now, we're finding out that any criticism of Palin's abysmal record or suspicious behavior is met with "How dare you make this election about Palin's child and grandchild!"
Of course, as we recently saw with our own governor, Republicans have never met a human shield they didn't like, so why shouldn't Palin use her own daughter to deflect criticism against herself, all the while claiming that she's doing the exact opposite?
Liberals must therefore expect to be accused of making this election about personal, private matters, even when they're not doing so. Case in point, check out this AP Article by Tom Raum. Now, it's true that the AP has largely turned into a sort of print version of Fox, but even so, I didn't expect to read something like:
"Many liberals are belittling the choice, suggesting that as a mother of five children — including an infant with Down syndrome — she has neither the time nor the experience to become vice president."
After the last 15 years, I shouldn't be so surprised to see baldfaced lies and unsourced opinion/commentary in what is supposed to be a straight news piece. Yet I am. As other people have said regarding this passage: "Name one."
It doesn't actually matter that this is total bullshit. It doesn't matter that Liberals, including the Democratic Nominee himself, have been insisting until the cows come home that Palin's daughter is not and should not be a target. Silly liberals, facts are for kids! The point of Palin's sick exploitation of her own child is to get the insinuation is out there that liberals have politicized this poor girl. We're going to have to spend the rest of the election beating back the claim before we'll even get to talk about the horrible policies that McCain has in store for our slack-jawed nation of rubes, if we're actually stupid enough to vote for him.
Logically, it ought to be fair to point out, (respectfully!), that Palin's daughter is actually the living embodiment of everything wrong with the Republican approach to, well, everything. Palin is after all a fundamentalist Christian, a bitterly anti-science global warming denier, and a pro forced pregnancy fanatic who not only opposes almost every kind of abortion, but even as she has advocated for policies that deny women autonomy of their bodies, she actually voted to cut funding to a program designed to provide teenage mothers with shelter and education, an act of unconscionable cruelty that demonstrates once and for all that conservative opposition to abortion has nothing to do with "pro-life", and everything to do with a hatred of consequence-free sex.
But, you know, we won't get to as long as we allow Republicans to deflect real arguments with WATB nonsense.
In his excellent speech, Obama referred to the Republican tendency to make "big elections about small issues". Palin's daughter's pregnancy, and the uncertain maternity of her recent newborn son have done just that. I can't help but wonder whether Palin's uncomfortable personal problems were anticipated, or if their revelation was simply a happy accident. Either way, can you blame them for using them to maximum effect? They know that if the election is allowed to be about the issues, the Republican Party is F'd in the A. How else can they expect to win when the most most important Republican demographic are the people who believe:
--Globs of cellular tissue are more important than an adult woman's health.
--Global Warming is a myth.
--Your ability to process biblical information uncritically is more important than knowing how US Government Functions.
--The Earth is our bitch and we should treat it like the dirty whore it is.
--That the correct pronunciation of the word "nuclear" (Noo-klee-er) is evidence of communist sympathies.
So now at least we know how conservatives are going to go about fighting this thing. I'm impressed. I really am. I just wish I wasn't so terrified.
In the meantime, just keep pointing out that we're not the ones trotting out the father of the baby for a photo-op with Abe McSimpson. It probably won't change your right wing parents' minds, but at least it'll give you some ammo when the sharp uptick in crazy-ass e-mail forwards begins in earnest sometime next week. Then maybe we might be able to steer them away from the moral sewers conservatives love to wallow in, and back into the land of issues, where the shit that actually has an effect on our lives can be debated in earnest.
The sound you hear is me not holding my breath.
UPDATE: huffpo and This Modern World blogger Greg Saunders offers some thoughts on the matter.
* HIoooo! Sorry, I'm sorry, but jesus, it's just so obvious and I had to get it out there.
**Apologies to Atrios for stealing this observation outright.
***Seriously, why is it that the loudest yelps for low taxes come from the states that most benefit from federal largesse and civic corruption? And why are those states always Republican?
****Yeah I said it. Go ahead. Defend the confederacy. I dare you.