nothin's scarier than a blank page

04 June 2011

Roots of Palin Hate

I began writing this with the intention of examining some of the alleged Palin Gaffes to see if they, like her recent remarks about Paul Revere, were less offensive than the LSM meme.  While googling for blogs or articles that might have a list of gaffes, I found something interesting over at liberal Daily Kos: The Mistake Named Sarah Palin, a Compilation, "which aims to sum up everything we've learned about Sarah Palin, presumptive Republican VP candidate, just within the first 24 hours of her announcement."

Twenty-four hours after her announcement, she was being labeled a mistake.  That's stunning.  The obvious conclusion that I want to make is that the Democrats were scared of Palin, but I'm trying my best to push that aside and look at the evidence amassed by the writer at Daily Kos.  Perhaps it will show something.  According to the Daily Kos, she is a "mistake", but the writer does not say to whom.  I presume it's meant to be a mistake for the Republican VP candidate, and therefore a benefit to the Democrat/Obama ticket.

1. Palin is a "celebrity".  Evidence: she posed for Vogue magazine.
2. Palin's young.  Evidence: Palin is a few years younger than Obama.
3. Palin is inexperienced.  Evidence: She was mayor of a town of 8,000 until two years ago.
4.  1-3 negates the arguments against Obama.
5. Palin supported Romney in the primary. Evidence: none.
6. Palin praised Obama's energy plan. Evidence: link to a Politico article.
7. Palin is embroiled in scandal.  Evidence: link to singular Alaskan scandal article in TPM.
8. Said scandal diminished her reputation.  Evidence: Claim that +90 fell +60, no link.  Mention that +60 is still damn good.
9. Palin is nationally unknown.  Evidence: none.
10. The average person wouldn't want Palin one heartbeat away from president.  Evidence: none.
11. Palin didn't want the job.  Evidence: link to Politico article.
12. Palin didn't "know what it [the job] was about".  Evidence: #11 Politico
13. Palin thought the job would interfere with her work.  Evidence: #11 Politico
14. Palin wanted to use the job to favor Alaska.  Evidence: #11 Politico
15. Palin called Hillary Clinton  "whiny".  Evidence: Newsweek link.
16. Palin is a hypocrite for criticizing Hillary Clinton, since it happened at a "Women and Leadership" event.
17. Palin is a hypocrite for criticizing Hillary Clinton, since she owes her nomination to Clinton.  Evidence: Claim that Palin was chosen "to appeal to the disaffected female Clinton supporter vote".  
18.  Palin was chosen because she is attractive.  Evidence: McCain quote (no link) "I can't believe a guy that handsome wouldn't have some impact", in regards to Dan Quayle.
19. Conservative's reactions to her indicate if she is a good pick. 
20. Some conservatives are gushing like a teenagers, thus their opinion should be omitted.
21. Other conservatives are not happy.  Evidence: broken link
22. Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are not happy with the pick.  Evidence: Washington Post article.
23. Joe Biden is a better VP candidate than Sarah Palin.  Evidence: Two favorable quotes from Senators about Biden.

Ending statement: "Well, I think we've just won the VP section of this campaign."

Going back (and without verifying claims), there's a few things you can do right away.
Delete #1 & #9, since they contradict each other.  
Delete #5, since the game changes after nominations are made.
Delete #6, since it appeals to swing voters and won't be enough to sway Republicans to flip.
Delete #2, since (as noted) she is nearly the same age as Obama and was the same age as Al Gore when he was VP.
Delete #8, since maintaining +60 when "embroiled in scandal" is telling
Delete #10, since it is one person's opinion
Delete #11, since it is no longer applicable and "reluctant leader" is a powerful identity
Delete #12 & #13, since she was made aware of the demands of the job, and prior lack of knowledge does not infer inability to do the job.
Delete #15, since all politicians have criticized one another at some point in time, and many did think Hillary Clinton was whiny at that time.
Delete #18, since good looks are not a reason to discount someone
Delete #19-#21, since there is no evidence and they contradict each other.
Delete #22, since other possible-VPs' disappointment in not being picked does not qualify nor disqualify Palin
Delete #23, since two positive quotes do not singularly qualify a VP

That leaves us with this "Mistake" of a VP candidate:  An inexperienced mayor embroiled in scandal with a history of favoring her homestate is anti-woman and lucked into the job by being a token planted with the intention of stealing would-be Hillary votes.

Yikes!  That's a seriously flawed individual.  Better validate those claims.

3. Palin is inexperienced.  Evidence: She was mayor of a town of 8,000 until two years ago.
Palin was mayor of Wasilla, the 6th largest city in Alaska and the largest borough of Anchorage.  And then... she was elected governor.  There are two different ways to approach this topic.  If Wausilla is considered a small town like the Daily Kos wants you to believe, then it is amazing that she was able to land the governorship.  If Wausilla is a legitimately sized town, that only adds to her experience.  Is a few years of being governor a small amount of experience?  Certainly.  But she had more political experience than Obama had. (Evidence: wikipedia)

7. Palin is embroiled in scandal.  Evidence: link to singular Alaskan scandal article in TPM.
Yes.  Sorta.  There was a scandal locally known with it's own -gate.  In retrospect, it was not a large enough scandal to prevent her from becoming a nationally known figure, nor was it sexy or financial.  (In short, someone may or may not have been fired for unethical reasons.)  The conservative in me wants to jump up and down and say "but at least she wasn't hanging out with Bill Ayers", but I need to reel that in.  "Scandal" is not a quality wanted in an ideal VP, especially a currently unfolding scandal.  I think "embroiled" in scandal is overkill.

14. Palin wanted to use the job to favor Alaska.  Evidence: #11 Politico
Here's the quote: "We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S."  Palin said this a month before she was named VP.  At the time, she had a few things going on.  She was governor of Alaska.  It would be poor PR for her to not mention how her taking the position would effect her constituents.  She specifically noted that her interest in Alaska was an interest in Alaskans accomplishing things for the rest of the country.  Sounds pretty damn patriotic to me.  

16. Palin is a hypocrite for criticizing Hillary Clinton, since it happened at a "Women and Leadership" event.
I'm going to inject my own feelings about feminism here, because this is a pet peeve of mine.  Women are allowed to criticize each other.  Women should treat each other like people.  Palin's ability to speak her mind at this kind of event shows that she is not sexist and speaks what she believes to be true, regardless of the circumstance.  She's not one to alter her opinion to please her audience.

There are two items left, which I need to save for the time being:
17. Palin is a hypocrite for criticizing Hillary Clinton, since she owes her nomination to Clinton.  Evidence: Claim that Palin was chosen "to appeal to the disaffected female Clinton supporter vote".   
4.  1-3 negates the arguments against Obama.

So, now our description changes to a quickly rising governor with a high approval rating and a history of non-sexist, straight-talking.  Yikes!  That's scary for the Democrats. 

As for #4 and #17...
I do think that one of the many reasons McCain picked Palin was that she's a woman.  Personally, I think it is because she wouldn't make him look small while not appearing short herself.  There have only been a few times when the shorter candidate has won an election, especially since the media took over.  Height indicates power and strength.  John Mccain's height is estimated at 5'6"-5'8".  (Obama is 6'1".)  When it comes to politics, visuals do matter.  Romney and McCain simply did not have a chance.  And, really, what were McCain's option?  A taller guy who makes McCain look small, or a smaller guy who make them look like two hobbits...

Frodo and Gandalf
click to enlarge
McCain & Romney
click to enlarge
Ah!  But this is a new era, and it's "okay" for women to be in politics.  And wouldn't that be something, to have a female VP?  Palin wasn't chosen to be the anti-Hillary, she was chosen because McCain is short (AND capable).  Honestly, what's so bad about being chosen in that way?  Daily Kos wants to say that Palin was chosen just because she's pretty and she's a she.  That obviously is not true.  She has a political record and had a high approval rate in Alaska when she was chosen.

As for Palin negating Obama's weaknesses (too young, inexperienced), I think she did the opposite.  During Obama's time in politics, there was little he had to actually show for what he had done.  Palin, on the other hand, was younger than Obama, was a minority like Obama, had been in politics for a similar amount of time as Obama, and had accomplished much more.  She had a record in Alaska that showed she was capable of governance and leadership.  Obama had no record -- just hope and change.

From day one of Palin's time as a VP candidate, she was embroiled with attacks from the left.  You can blame it on the MSM worshiping Obama.  You can blame it on her being a woman, and therefore "attack-able".  You can blame it on lots of things.

This examination leads me to believe that the Democrats did not expect a woman to enter the campaign, and in their own words, they were scared that Palin would appeal to the disaffected female Clinton supporter vote.  Perhaps it was the one piece of the puzzle that had not been anticipated.  And not only was she a woman, she balanced out McCain well, appealing to the more religious voters (etc) in comparison to McCain's moderate Republicanism.

Sarah Palin was a threat.  If she were truly a mistake, then she wouldn't have been a threat, and they would have saved their bad press for McCain.  Instead, Palin got more memorable media coverage than the actual candidate.  When was the last time that happened?  No, really?

The Daily Koz shows us that the most dangerous aspect of Palin was that her record, when juxtoposed next to Obama, made him look that much more inexperienced.  If that were to become a media reality, the Democrats might split their vote (with Hillary-supporters going for McCain/Palin).

Thus, the attacks began.  The only acceptable smear?  Palin's dumb.  That way, no one could use her to emphasize Obama's inexperience, and Obama would safely receive the Hillary-supporter votes.  

Now, what to do to really cinch it?  Hmm... too bad women are known for standing by each other.  Wait a minute.  Women are known for cat-fights!  Score!  How do we make women hate Sarah Palin?...

Say that she's pretty.

Honestly, I don't usually see that in her.  Nor do I think Hillary Clinton is ugly, which is another popular view. I think both are objectively attractive.  (Or, perhaps, not unattractive.)  Their noses aren't weird, they don't have protruding foreheads or saggy necks.  They can style their hair or wear makeup to accentuate features or styles, but I don't think that either woman is stunning or disgusting.

But women are more harsh to women they think are attractive.  And society says that a woman can be attractive or smart, but not both.  

We have a winner!  Emphasizing Palin's attractiveness, particularly her beauty queen history, not only alienates her from the female vote, it reinforces that she's dumb and keeps Obama's inexperience off the table.

Were they scared of Palin?  No.  Were they scared of how Palin would make Obama look?  YES.

Based on the Daily Kos article (and a bit of critical analysis and speculation), I believe the roots of Palin hate stem not from the fear of Palin's strength, but instead from the fear of what those strengths would look like juxtaposed against Obama.

Sarah Palin's mere existence in the 2008 campaign could have shown that the emperor was wearing no clothes.

These are the three key bits from the Daily Kos that most stick out to me now:

Who is Sarah Palin?

People don't know much about her; we can make her be whoever we want her to be.

If Sarah Palin were not an attractive female, would she even be under consideration for the vice presidential post - being unexperienced and undistinguished other than the scandal she's embroiled in?
Sarah Palin is attractive.  If she's also experienced and smart, we're screwed.

Well, I think we've just won the VP section of this campaign.
Crap, we might lose the election.

After all, Palin did have a scandal up in Alaska...  How come that wasn't better utilized in the 2008 smear campaign?  Oh right... doing so would have pointed out that she had experience in government.  Best to just call her a pretty (e.g. dumb) girl, and leave it at that.

Sarah Palin's Ride

Pop Quiz!  Which of the following phrases and descriptions are applicable to Paul Revere's Ride?  (I will use the colloquial terms American and British, rather than the more historically accurate terms British and Regulars.)
A. One if by land, two if by sea.
B. The British are coming!
C. Paul Revere was a lone rider.
D. Paul Revere warned the British
E. Paul Revere warned the Americans
(Answers at the end.)

Ruh-Roh! The media caught Sarah Palin again...  During her One Nation tour, she stopped in Boston and checked out the Old North church, of Paul Revere fame.  A reporter had a chance to talk to her.  Did he ask about her views on the debt ceiling?  Medicare?  Libya?  NOPE.  Did he ask about founding principles (which is, after all, the purpose of her tour -- to educate and energize Americans about our nation's founding principles)?  NOPE.

Actually, we don't know what question was asked.  That's conveniently not included in the video that's been running around the internets like a rat at the county fair.  Presumably, it was a question about early American folklore/history.
“He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.”
(The clip cuts out before she finishes her sentence, but you can catch those last few words here.)

OMG!  Palin said Paul Revere was warning the British?!

Well, actually, yes.

And she's right.

Paul Revere was captured during his ride and did, in fact, warn the British that we were ready to go.  What?  All you know about history is Longfellow's poem?  And you dare criticize Palin for a "flub" on a topic about which your knowledge base is a poem written decades after the event?

If you don't believe that Palin was accurate, try reading Paul Revere's own words here.

This isn't what bothers me, though.  Do people really care if a presidential candidate is an early American history scholar?  If so, then why was Obama never asked these kinds of questions?  The answer is simple.  It's a non-issue.  The media asked Palin a question that they had no business asking her; they might as well have asked her if she knew the Lone Ranger's nephew's horse.  The media likes to watch Palin flounder, so they ask her obscure questions -- obscure when compared to the large amount of information that a candidate must have on the tip of her tongue at any given moment.

There have been times when, caught off guard, I have answered questions about my personal life with stutters and stammers.  It's not that I don't know the information (I mean, it's my own frickin' life), it's that I wasn't expecting the need to flip through the file cabinet in my memory and pull out the story of losing my first tooth, for example.  Palin's biggest crime here is that she was not prepared to answer questions about historical trivia.

Actually, there's one more thing.   I have a deep love of early American history, and one thing I find very satisfying is learning the real stories behind the oral mythology.  Sam Adams lost his brewery, because he was too interested in revolution to manage a business.  There was no George Washington cherry tree.  In 1776, Abigail Adams' husband John was serving in the Continental Congress, and she wrote to him and asked that he "remember the ladies."  African-Americans and women even had the right to vote in many of the colonies.

When I learn something new about American history, the most fascinating things are those that change my previous conceptions of reality.  You know what I'm talking about, those Aha Moments.  New information is exciting, and it takes time to mentally repaint your previous perspective.

So here we have Sarah Palin.  I don't know if she loves American history in the same way that I do, but she certainly loves the founding principles.  Loving the history isn't a far stretch.  The day of this interview, Palin had just visited the Old North church.  Prior to that visit, she might have always known the basics as they were taught in high school and college, cemented into her brain by the Longfellow poem and general American folklore.  (I know I didn't remember that Paul Revere had been captured, and not only have I spent much of my adult life reading about Early Americana, but I've also been to that church.)

Honestly, Paul Revere was never one of my favorites.  I like Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin...  Paul Revere and John Hancock always felt like the pretty boy jocks of the revolutionaries.  That's okay.  You can be enthralled by early American history, hell, you can be a maestro... but that doesn't mean you know everything about everything.

But Palin had been to the Old North church, so the reporter asked a question about it.  I am incredibly suspicious about the framing of this video clip, because we are not shown what question was asked.  If the question weren't clear or was disrespectful, that could account for Palin's uncomfortable oration style.  I think something else was happening.

I think Palin knew the familiar story, and if she had been asked about it prior to visiting the church, she would have been fine.  Instead, she had this new knowledge floating around her head.  Now, put yourself in her shoes.  You can do this even if you dislike her.  (That actually makes it easier.)  You know that the media is trying to catch you saying something stupid every time you open your mouth.  This time, they ask a question about something you learned THAT DAY.  Hells yes!  You can show them.  You can pull out the big guns and tell the story, including the new information you learned that day.

Unfortunately, you only learned it that day.  It's not cemented in your head.  It comes out as if you're searching for words.  And the information you provide does not align with what the general, uneducated public believes.  The reporter wanted the storybook version, and you're giving the f-a-c-t-s.

It doesn't help that you stumble over your words.  Then again, if you had spoken clearly and concisely, it would sound just as bad.  Speaking "lies" with certainty makes one look calculated and cunning.  Speaking "lies" while babbling makes one appear buffoonish.

The nail in the coffin for Palin is her body language.  She looks drunk.  She obviously is not drunk, but she has all those signs -- wandering speech, swaying, eyes a little unfocused.  I don't think anyone's accusing her of being drunk... But let's think about her day.  She had been to three different national landmarks that day, and she's a week into her tour.  She has minimal staff with her, and she has family with her.  With no scheduled press stops, she has to be On all of the time.

I get exhausted going to the Farmers Market.  That's a few blocks from my house, I go alone, and I'm home within a few hours.  I cannot imagine how exhausted Palin must have been during that interview.  Imagine, if you will, taking your family to Disney World and, at the end of a long day, being asked to recite your favorite poem.  You would stutter.  You would sway.  You would look confused as you search for words.  Add on to that being asked to recite a poem you had learned that day.  Sheesh, America.

Watching the Palin video certainly is uncomfortable.  I wonder if, after she spoke, the reporter said "uh... he warned the British??" and she succinctly replied, "Yessirree.  I was surprised when I learned that, too.  Here's what happened... [Much less uncomfortable clip of the Paul Revere story]."  Given that the point of the clip was to embarrass Palin and given that the entire clip (question, reply, reporter saying thank you) was not shown, it is not unreasonable to presume that the omitted portions of the clip could be redeeming for Palin.

We can't know what's not there.  All we know is that people are taunting her for giving an uninformed answer, which she did not.  What people could reasonably talk about is Palin's questionable speaking style.  I provided a detailed possible explanation for her appearing, well, not presidential.  Ultimately, it doesn't matter why she appeared that why.  The issue is that she did appear sloppy.

We don't want a sloppy president.  We want a president that will present herself with decorum while winking at the camera to make us feel special.  With Obama's stumble through Europe and public meeting with Israel's Netenyahu, we want a president who will emit strength while being diplomatic, empathy while laying down the law, intelligence while managing children in Congress.  We want this all of the time, at any time, whether or not she is exhausted from her tour.

Why, then, didn't the media and the public pick up on that?  Yes, for whatever the reason you believe, Palin is now a target for Gotchas, especially those that could make her appear unintelligent.  Apparently it doesn't matter if she's actually saying intelligent things or not.

The much strong argument against Palin's oratory is not that she is unintelligent, it's that she appears unintelligent.  This is a matter of opinion, of course, but it's an easy argument to make.  Everything from her accent to her chosen phrases ("hockey mom", "fight like a girl", etc.) speaks to stereotypes associated with lesser intelligence.  I have no counter-argument to someone who says that they don't want a president who appears unintelligent, even if she's the smartest person in the world.  One of our president's largest jobs is to be the face of the country and communicate with other countries.  I don't want someone in that role that the rest of the world sees as a bumpkin.

The media does not choose this meme.  The public do not choose this meme.  Instead, it's just "Palin's dumb."  From a marketing aspect, that sure is easier to push, but aren't the media supposed to be above marketing tricks?  (I know, I know...)   But there is another way to look at it.

"Palin appears dumb" is the most appropriate meme, and it would be just as effective.  In marketing terms, it's less effective than "Palin's dumb", but since it's impossible to disprove, it measures out ahead.  There's one vital flaw, though.  To say "Palin appears dumb", it is assumed that she has something of merit to otherwise be considered.  Not necessarily that she's actually smart but appears dumb, but something deeper: Sarah Palin is legitimate.  To contemplate how she delivers the message inherently implies that she has a message that  is worth contemplating.

As a previous governor and vp candidate, she obviously has something legitimate to consider.  If the Palin haters were being sincere with their hatred, they wouldn't be afraid to let that something *be* considered.  Instead, they use every attempt to delegitimize her.  On the surface, there's not much difference between "Palin is dumb" and "Palin appears dumb", but use of the latter prevents the possibility and prevents contemplation of the message.

I mean, why even bother listening to the woman's words?  She said Paul Revere warned the British.  She's dumb.

Here's what I want to know: who is calling the reporter dumb for demeaning the country by asking a politician trivia questions.

answers: A, D, E