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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Railin' against Palin

Sam Harris, the famous atheist, is not everyone's cup of tea. But this essay in the latest issue of Newsweek makes an excellent case against Palin (though I can't imagine why they titled it "When Atheists Attack" - that's not a fair description of the content, since he spends very little time on her religious perspective and none at all on his):

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

Anna Quindlen also got into the act in her essay:

A presidential election is a game now, and we're not playing, we're getting played. With very few exceptions—hats off to you, David Gergen—nothing being said has much to do with the future of this country or the well-being of its citizens. As a wise woman said to me the other day, talking points and talking are two very different things.

It can't possibly be that we've become so insecure about our power, our primacy, our place in the world that we can't bear a person who stands on principle. It can't really be that America has become a nation so small-minded that intellect must be belittled. It can't really be about likability, can it? I don't need the president to be my friend. I have friends. What I need is someone to clean up the mess George W. Bush has made of the country I love.

At a moment like this, to discuss who is the pig and who the lipstick in a shopworn simile is a sign that you've gone down a dark road and wound up in a cul-de-sac. Who cares if you like Sarah Palin, if your kid plays hockey and so do hers? Here is the only thing about anyone's kids that matters now: every time you vote you make your kids a promise. It's a promise that you will look past cheap slogans and lazy alliances to try to find a way to make America worthy of a new generation. And if we keep that promise in November, we not only keep faith with our children, we keep faith with the country.

My favorite of course is Matt Taibbi, who is even more enraged than usual in his RollingStone column:

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she’s a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power. Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she’s the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV – and this country is going to eat her up, cheering every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.



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