Wednesday, October 22, 2008

one would never know how much i don't want her to win

I've been defending Sarah Palin a lot lately. I've been defending her from objectification by her own supporters, from fiercely partisan criticism over Troopergate, and defending the money spent by the Alaskan government to allow her children to travel with her. I would like to say that this is a post criticizing something (and goodness knows there's plenty there), but this is more defense.

Folks are terribly concerned about the fact that the RNC has spent $150,000 on clothes and accessories for Gov. Palin. They say that this belies her "common person" persona. After all, the average person in this country makes less than $50,000 per year. This is three times this in two months.

I agree with that criticism, I guess, but only to the extent that it's kind of silly to buy that she has ever been during this campaign a "regular person." She can drop her g's and wink at us all she wants, but she is one of the political elite she loves to pretend to hate. She's a governor, for goodness sake! A governor can be the best, most in-touch governor in the world, but he or she is not one of the folks. They are not like you and I.

That said, of course the RNC ought to buy her clothes. It is a reality of American political life that women are more thoroughly scrutinized based on their appearance than men. Her clothes and accessories, because of the fact of American politics' gender hangups, are important parts of her campaign. I don't like this state of affairs, but it is the state of affairs.

It's not as if she's just going on a spending spree for stuff she wants. She's buying campaign tools. This is how we judge women candidates. It is sad but true. I think a lot of the media coverage of this, especially the lefty, mocking coverage, buys into the "women like shopping" narrative, situating Palin as a "typical woman" and thus using this, indirectly, as a disqualification for VP. Keith Olbermann tonight said something like "Caribou Barbie went shopping for accessories on the RNC's credit card." The logic behind this statement is Palin=Barbie=female=unqualified. There are plenty of arguments for Palin's lack of qualification for the office she is seeking, but this gender based one is the least compelling.

Media, please stop being sexist so I can stop defending this woman who I really, really don't want to be Vice President.

in her defense

Many people are ranting about the fact that Sarah Palin spent a lot of money during her months as Governor of Alaska schlepping her children around the state. Now, while there may be a legitimate legal issue with her having reported that they were on “official business,” it's more than a little absurd for folks who claim to support womens' presence in politics to complain when a woman (or a man, really) takes her children with her on the job.

Sarah Palin may not be the best example of this (having a generally stay-at-home spouse), but in many cases women may not have husbands at home to take care of the kids (and we know that women, no matter how high their career levels, tend to remain the primary care-givers), and to insist that the state should not pay for her to bring her children along is absurd. Such a policy would not be conducive to greater political involvement by women and mothers.

(I do realize that there are a lot of legitimate corruption scandals surrounding Palin's months as governor. She asked the state to pay her to live in her own home, she sold the state's jet to look good, but then insisted on using the department of public safety's jet for her own use, preventing its actual use, Troopergate, etc, etc, and on and on. But, in this case, I think the criticism is off.)

red scare update

Turns out McCain and Palin don't quite understand what socialism means, either.

just for you danelle

A good friend is someone who goes to the local Republican office to get John McCain buttons for you, even when said friend is more than a little afraid that some sort of liberal-detector will be triggered by her entrance in said office.

Friday, October 17, 2008

the obvious response to this post is "jennifer! you listen to more conservative talk radio than is strictly healthy!"

But, passing that primary point: I am not at all sure that Rush Limbaugh actually knows what socialism means. I'm also not convinced he knows much about tax policy. And I'm 100% certain he has never actually read Karl Marx, not with the abandon with which he throws around the label "Marxist."

Seriously. If a plan in which folks at the top pay more in taxes than those at the bottom is "socialist," then America's been engaging in socialism far longer than Barack Obama has been alive. It's called progressive taxation. (And, hint, it's not socialism.)

(Sorry, I always know I will get frustrated by listening to such folks, but I cannot resist. The situation is not helped by the fact that news/talk radio stations in Denison are few and far between. My conservative radio station is all there is besides the fading NPR that only seems to come in on a cloudy day, drifting up from Dallas. Air America used to be here, but not only is it gone, but the screaming Randi Rhodes was often just as annoying [if sometimes more informed] than the conservative ranters.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

out of the park

My last post expressed my excitement at the prospect of a "pal'n around with domestic terrorists" showdown at the debate tonight. While the topic came up, Obama didn't take the opportunity to lay the smack down in my preferred fashion. I suspect the hardcore McCainiacs were similarly unimpressed with McCain's lack of fervor.

But one of my favorite parts of the debate was the discussion of abortion. (Not the first bit, mind you, the stuff about the courts. I have complex feelings on this that were most reflected by Senator McCain's comments--though, likely not his actions if he were to become President.)

First off, my feelings on abortion*. I am, like most people in this country, opposed to abortion on principle but (some for libertarian, some for, some may say ironically, pro-life reasons) not supportive of overturning Roe. I was glad that Obama corrected McCain's "pro-abortion" line. No one is pro-abortion. I was so happy to hear Obama say that he felt abortion was a profoundly moral issue that we should take seriously, not use as an ideological talking point. I was glad to hear him acknowledge that good, well-meaning folks can be on all sides of this issue--that people can agree that abortion is a tragedy and that there are concrete steps we can take to prevent it from occurring.

If many of the anti-legal-abortion folks were truly interested in preventing abortions, they would support fetal health care programs, anti-poverty programs, adoption programs, sex education programs. But efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and to help women and families to care for children are often met with disapproval. Ironically, such things are most forcefully opposed by those who would argue that they are the true pro-lifers.

I had been worried a few weeks ago when I got an email saying that Obama had voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and that he had voted no against banning late term abortions. I am glad that Senator McCain brought these up tonight, giving me a chance to hear Obama's explanation and a reminder to look up what actually happened. Turns out, the there was already an Illinois law requiring doctors to treat born alive infants, and that Obama voted present** on the late term abortion bill because, while he supported the ban, he did not want to vote for it until it included protections for the health of mothers.

I think if all sides can agree on the fierce urgency of preventing abortions, of preventing unintended pregnancies, and, when they do occur, helping women to feel like carrying the child is something they are able to do, we can make a big dent in the number of abortions performed. Overturning Roe will do little to make such a dent, and will actually hurt more women and children, who will then turn to homemade and back-alley abortions. (Well, if they're rich, they will probably still get a safe, hospital abortion. But poor women will not.)

If folks on both sides are serious about this as an issue of life (rather than an ideological issue, or an issue of gender--i.e., women who are loose deserve to be "punished" by being forced to have the child--that kind of rhetoric that exposes how some*** anti-legal-abortion folks really think about this issue), real progress can be made. I think that Obama's talk on this issue was really helpful in setting a positive tone for such discussions. As a new aunt, this issue (as well as so many others that will affect our future, such as war, the economy, education) has a new urgency to it.

*I was going to go into a long treatise on beliefs about abortion. But I had a feeling I've been here before, so I searched through my blog, and here are other posts where I more fully explain my position on this issue (in a random order): Pro-life feminism?, Pro-life?, How we can be pretty sure it's not about "life", Scary & Illegal, Thank you Missouri, And O'Connor is Gone.

**On a side note, you hear a lot about how many times Obama voted "present" in the Illinois legislature. I think that a "present" vote is lovely. I think our U.S. congress should have it. Often, I imagine, it is the case that an individual supports a bill in principle, but something about the bill (funding, add-ons, etc.) makes it something that one cannot support in its current state. Think of how many times during this election season we hear things like "McCain/Obama voted against funding the troops!" followed by responses like, "I voted against that bill because it included X" or "did not include X." A "present" vote is effectively a "no," but it is a "no" that signals that one might in fact like the bill, but not something in it.
***I emphatically add, not all.

wishin' and hopin'

John McCain has as good as promised that he will bring up the whole William Ayres thing at the debate tonight. I am crossing my fingers that he does. Please oh please. Yesterday he said:
"Y’know, I was astonished to hear him say that he was surprised for me to have the guts to do that, because the fact is that the question didn’t come up in that fashion. So, y’know, and I think he’s probably ensured that it will come up this time. And, look Mark, it’s not that I give a damn about some old washed-up terrorist…"
When he mentions it, he will most likely say that he "doesn't give a damn about an old, washed up terrorist," but he is concerned about Obama's lack of transparency on this issue. I hope Obama has prepped a potential response to it. Such a response might go like this:
"Senator McCain wants to talk about a guy I once served on a board with who committed horrific acts 40 years ago. I am more interested in working on the issues that real Americans are facing today. But, I would be more than happy to take this opportunity to answer any questions that the Senator may have about this if it will help him move past this and join me in focusing on the important problems we need to deal with."
You know what would also be amazing (though, admittedly, less likely)? He should follow that up with something along the lines of, "I was put on that board, incidentally, by the Annenberg foundation, which, in addition to giving around $50 million to Ayres' foundation, also gave money to John McCain. If the Senator takes his own rhetoric about the harm of association with 'domestic terrorists' seriously, I now call on him to return this money and repudiate the endorsement of Mrs. Annenberg."

I am incredibly excited about tonight's debate. If McCain does not bring up William Ayres, I will join some of the most hardcore of McCain's supporters in their disappointment.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

this was going to be a post defending sarah palin.

I'm serious. It was. I was going to complain about all the coverage of Troopergate. I was, firstly, going to point out that this sort of abuse of power is unfortunately the sort of thing one is likely to find in most politicians' past. If we delved deeply enough into the careers of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we are likely to find a case of not-entirely-ethical hiring and firing. Secondly, I was going to mention that the trooper in question had reportedly threatened the Palin family (though the report addresses the validity of these claims--turns out the Palins didn't really take the threats seriously), so while it may have violated ethics laws, I can understand the motivation to try to get rid of him through whatever means necessary.

Third, and most crucially, I was going to detail my annoyance at the blatantly partisan-ness of this issue. I don't mean the fact that it was an issue in Alaska. That was reasonable and driven by legitimate "good government" concerns. I mean, the committee doing the investigating was mostly Republican. I mean the reaction to it. The Democrats talked about how awful and scandalous it was that Gov. Palin was involved in this sort of thing. The Republicans said it was an Obama-supporter-driven attack that was based on nothing. You had pundits on all sides yelling that their way of interpreting it was the only, true way. But, say it had been Joe Biden. You would have the exact same arguments, just exactly reversed, with the Obama camp saying it was a partisan driven investigation and the Republicans decrying Joe Biden's lack of ethical and moral sense.

This post was going to express my frustration with the media for caring so much about this issue that does little to advance the debate about the issues.

And, well, I'm still frustrated about that. But I am more frustrated about Sarah Palin's out and out lying about the report. I understand that she might want to spin it, saying perhaps, "The report found that the firing was well-within my powers as Governor." That is true. But it also found that the pressure placed on Monogan to fire trooper Wooten violated state ethics laws and that Gov. Palin had abused her power in order to "advance a personal agenda." The report admonished the Governor that "Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional." The report clearly states that her actions violated Alaska’s Executive Branch Ethics Act, which says that a public officer’s attempt to ‘benefit a personal or financial interest’ is a violation of the public trust. When she says nothing is unlawful, she's kind of spinning. When she says the report clears her of ethical violations, she is willfully wrong.

Yet what is she saying? She is lying. Not spinning, not exaggerating. Lying. Repeatedly. Enthusiastically. Here is a sample of lies told on multiple occasions after the report was released:

"Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing," Palin said, "any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that." Lie.

"So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all."

"I'm thankful that the report has shown that, that there was no illegal or unethical activity there in my choice to replace our commissioner."

I still think the Troopergate scandal was blown out of proportion. But I am more scared by the prospect of a vice president who has no flinch of conscience about outright lying than I am about an overly-sensationalist media. I know, politicians lie. But usually, it's more of a "weasel," in that they are intending to mislead, but their facts are at least marginally true. Most of the time, it is spinning. (Which, don't get me wrong, is awful--perhaps worse because it's easier to buy. Here, one just has to read the report to know she is lying.)

It's one thing to be honestly wrong about policy. It's another to manipulate voters by playing to base fears and prejudices. And it is something different still to outright lie to the American people.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

any reason is a good reason for more cary grant

In honor of our new up and coming Depression, I have decided to indulge in some screwball comedies. I'm not focusing too much on similarities between that era and ours, though. I'm not going out to buy a fedora or anything.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Answering questions.

As a part of their "Barack Obama isn't like us" strategy, the McCain campaign has been saying that he hasn't been properly forthright about his associations. As Gov. Palin said recently on the Laura Ingraham show,
Laura, it’s so important for your listeners to start asking those questions and demanding answers of candidates. We certainly — John McCain and I — our lives are an open book. We’re called on the carpet every day, demanded of us to answer questions and I don’t see that on the other side. I don’t see the other ticket being asked to be truthful and give these details that American voters are deserving and your listeners have gotta have these questions too.
This from the woman who has been shielded from all sorts of media? Who has yet to have a press conference? Who has taken open questions from the press just once, and for 15 minutes? Open book?

Again, I realize why they are doing it: they are trying to paint Obama as shady and unknown and suspicious--a person who is unwilling to talk about his background, trying to hide things about his past. You have folks like Frank Keating, Obama campaign co-chair, calling Obama a "man of the street," urging him to come out about his youth drug use. This is particularly amusing because the only reason we know about said drug use is because Obama himself wrote about it in his book!

So, I know why this is going on, but I suspect that at some point people will tire of attacks, especially hypocritical (Palin) or self-evidently incorrect and more than a little racially tinged (Keating) ones. But I have been disappointed before at our collective incapacity to detect complete and utter crap.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"a clear slap in the face"

This is absurd. Apparently, Newsweek this week has a cover story on Sarah Palin and her face is featured on the cover, close-up. Megyn Kelly on Fox News, and Republican media consultant Andrea Tantaros are outraged--outraged!--that it was not photoshopped to look better. They are upset that one can see pores in Gov. Palin's skin. After calling the cover a "clear slap in the face," Tantaros urged viewers to cancel their subscriptions to the "elitist, liberal magazine."

"They retouch you to get rid of the normal flaws that human beings have. That's what they do in the magazine business." It seems like that might be a lot of the problem here, that we are encouraged to have unrealistic expectations of beauty on our magazine covers. But, no, the problem here is clearly that we are insufficiently making our female politicians like our favorite celebrities.

If Gov. Palin were a movie star or a model, and she were in a fashion magazine in which all the other models received the photoshop treatment, perhaps there would be a claim of unfairness. But, she is a politician, and this is a news magazine. We don't photoshop George W. Bush or Barack Obama! You can see wrinkles, moles, pores, etc. on Obama's Newsweek covers. Why is there no expectation that male politicians ought to be photoshopped and airbrushed?

I guess at this point, it has to be about distraction and about the horrible media and the secret Muslim terrorist Obama. Because it can't be about the economy. But it's still distressing. Incidentally, I distinctly remember Fox news personalities discussing how Hillary Clinton looked tired, old, and in need of Botox. A clear slap in the face! Right? Oh well.

Anyway, I think Gov. Palin looks, as usual, beautiful. Here is the picture.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

issues, please?

Now, I am no fan of the sort of politics that this campaign is being dragged into. In an ideal world, I would prefer that Obama not be pulled down to McCain's level, that he stay above the fray and trust the American people to be able to figure out the difference between legitimate ideological and philosophical differences and smear attacks not related to the truth. But, history shows that such attacks work (see, e.g., Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, ca. 2004).

Indeed, as McCain's own advisers are saying, they are bringing up things like William Ayres, because if the story is the economy, the issues, they lose. They want to make the story, "ooh, Obama is a shady character. He's different than you and me. *shh--he might be a secret muslim and is black*" rather than McCain's economic policies.

So, William Ayres. Yep, he and Obama live in the same neighborhood, were on a charity board together, and Obama once went to coffee at his house. Is this "palling around"? Nope. And, in the syntax of Palin's accusation, there is an inherent argument about why Obama "pals around" with Ayres. Because he thinks this country is so imperfect, right? So, her argument is that the reason Obama moved to Hyde Park, the reason he went to coffee that day, and the reason he served on that board was his dislike of America. lol.

But, it seems unwise, both from a moral and a strategic standpoint, for McCain to start this "guilt by association" fight. For every thing they can bring up about Obama, McCain has something equally bad, if not worse.

As for William Ayres, there's always McCain's buddy G. Gordon Liddy, who, besides his betrayal of his country during Watergate thinks his country is so imperfect as to tell people how to kill law enforcement officers (shoot them in the heads where there are no vests to protect them) when they come for your guns.

There's also Sarah and Todd's affection for the extremist, secessionist Alaskan Independence Party, which he was a member of until 2002 and which she attended conventions of and recently, as governor, recorded a welcome speech for. Their founder is as anti-American as they come. A sample of examples: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government." or "And I won't be buried under their damn flag. I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home." or "I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions." The AIP persuaded the government of Iran to support its cause of independence. As put it, "Imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama was revealed to have joined a black nationalist party whose founder preached armed secession from the United States and who enlisted the government of Iran in his cause?"

There's also McCain's membership on the U.S. Council for World Freedom, a right-wing group that aided central American death squads. He sat on the board of an organization that supported terrorist activities.

Now, to my point: I have no interest in making a campaign about these things. (Note that I did not include the Keating Five scandal here, because I think that is a legitimate issue in how it relates to the current financial crisis. It actually has to do with public policy rather than vague attacks on someone's character through guilt by association). Do I think that Sarah Palin wants to secede from the union, that she hates America's "damn flag"? No. Do I think John McCain supports killing American officials? Nope. Do I think much of this is relevant, beyond questions of judgment in who one affiliates with? Not in the slightest.

My point is that I believe it is a strategic error for McCain to go this route. It opens up a bunch of doors for Obama (or at least groups that support Obama) to bring up these things. And then the election becomes all about "Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist." "Well, McCain supports terrorist activities." And not about the economy, the war in Iraq, or any other issues that actually make a difference to Americans.

I suspect, of course, that the Obama stuff will "stick" much more effectively than anything Obama could point out about McCain's past associations. You see, the reason that the William Ayres stuff works has nothing to do with Ayres himself and everything to do with Obama. It's something for our doubts about this black man with the funny name to latch on to, something concrete. A story suggesting that Obama doesn't love his country has appeal because it is able to speak to the things that are unconscious and unspoken in our fears about him. So, in the end, perhaps it is a strategically viable route for McCain. Any negatives he gets for not focusing on the issues and for having his own shady background discussed may pale in comparison to the payoff in doubts about Obama. These attacks on him resonate far more than they would with McCain because it taps into a deeper cultural frame about Obama.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

shocking new update:

I am not a good blogger. Happy fall, everybody. I would promise more to come, but that would be lying to me and to you. Maybe there will be more to come. Who knows.