Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quote of the Day (Maureen Dowd, on ‘Sarahcuda’ Palin)

“With [Sarah] Palin and [Donald] Trump, a failed reality star and a successful one, gall is divided into two parts. There has been a lot of talk this campaign season about how women pols bring superior qualities to the table: collegiality and listening skills. But Sarahcuda shows that we are truly the equals of men, capable of narcissistic explosions, brazen hypocrisy and unapologetic greed. She had barely finished the endorsement Tuesday when she began using it to raise money for SarahPAC, so she can take her show on the road.”Maureen Dowd, “Sarah Palin Saves Feminism,” The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2016

Sarah Palin threatens to put out of business Saturday Night Live as a source of electoral satire. After all, how can the SNL parody of her Donald Trump endorsement compete with her own self-parody?

“Just what is it with Sarah Palin?” a relative of mine, by no means a liberal, asked me the other day. What, indeed? After listening to her speech supporting Trump, can you, Faithful Reader, recall another public figure who ever sounded so incoherent without being drunk or high?

Michael Barbaro’s New York Times piece about this landmark in political dissuasion could barely restrain itself in recounting the former Vice-Presidential candidate’s multiple offenses to sense and sensibility. He picked out 10 of the “most memorable lines” from the speech, then, kind soul that he is, translated it for the benefit of readers. This passage is a particular favorite of mine:

“And you quit footing the bill for these nations who are oil-rich, we’re paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries. Where they’re fighting each other and yelling ‘Allahu akbar,’ calling jihad on each other’s heads forever and ever. Like I’ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out.”

It’s hard to know where to start with something like this. Already, “squirmishes,” in all its artlessness, shows signs of becoming a permanent part of political slang. (If Palin had a working cerebellum at this point, she might be squirming at the thought that she butchered a common-enough word like “skirmishes.”)

There once was a time, from one end of our sprawling country to another, when teachers instilled in their students how to build, step by step—words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, all held together by consistency in pronouns, verbs and tone—structures of larger thought. That has gone sadly missing in the three sentences—or what purport to be three sentences—in Ms. Palin’s quote above. 

It is extremely doubtful whether any professional speechwriter would ever want to be credited with having written this grammatically loose, meandering address. The logical conclusion is that Ms. Palin herself winged it, right on the stump. No self-respecting politician improvises in this fashion, lest he or she risk merciless exposure, as Ms. Palin did in this case.

It is, in fact, a dreadful commentary on modern audiences that a speech like this elicited resounding cheers rather than appalled silence. Within my own memory, politicians once delivered coherent addresses. They might be cliché-ridden, they might be even masterfully evasive, but they attempted to present arguments and convince audiences of their value.

What “Sarahcuda” presented last week did not even meet this minimum standard. In fact, it doesn’t even match the level of the 30-second soundbite so derided by so many contemporary political commentators.

But leave aside questions of sound and sense. A woman whose principal national-security expertise derived from seeing Russia from her Alaska home executed, in the sphere of foreign policy, a triple-axel that would have astounded Olympic skaters.

Consider this: In September 2008, then-Governor Palin told a church audience that the “Iraq War is a task that is from God.” More than seven years later, she sounded like Sen. Rand Paul in demanding that the U.S. stop “footing the bill for these nations who are oil-rich.” In the interval between these statements, she never explained her reversal.

Nearly a decade ago, she did not criticize the President who put these soldiers in harm’s way, in a conflict started on faulty premises and pursued without forethought: George W. Bush. Now, shockingly, she blames Barack Obama—who has consistently sought to wind down the disastrous conflict inherited from his predecessor—for the post-traumatic stress disorder she sees at the heart of her son Track’s recent act of domestic violence that led to his arrest.

In that accusation against the President, Palin not only demonstrated that she fails at English and history, but also at logic. Track Palin’s tour of duty in Iraq began in 2008, before Barack Obama became President.  

As for the idea that Obama is “indifferent” to veterans such as Track: The long wait times for veterans' care that burst into public view last year were, according to this article from Mother Jones, known as far  back as 2005, but continued for the remaining four years of the Bush administration. Yet, even as veterans’ problems began to pile high in the second term of George W. Bush, the administration stuck to its plans to cut funding for their  health care, according to this 2007 piece from the Washington Times.

In 2008, Sarah Palin proved to be scandalously uninformed and unprepared to assume the Presidency. The nation dodged a budget when she and the man who named her to the ticket, John McCain, did not win the election. This year, however, reveals a scandal of a different kind: the continuing adulation she still receives from an oblivious portion of the American public. In 1997, William Kristol and David  Brooks wrote an essay in The Weekly Standard calling for "National Greatness Conservatism." Nearly two decades later, Sarah Palin can lay fair claim to leading another, increasingly more sizable, wing of the movement: Clueless Conservatism.

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