Political Deformity

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Palin’s Interview Report Card

So the first part of Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson just aired, giving fresh meat to the pundit class. Here’s how I think her performance fared in a few key areas.

Poise: B-

Okay, this may seem pretty inside baseball, but bear with me here: Palin’s body language made it clear that she’s not ready for prime time. She began the interview surprisingly calm, but as Gibson–who seemed amusingly underwhelmed the entire time–asked tougher questions, Palin began to get tense. Nothing overt or over the top, but she began to slouch a little bit; she leaned forward too much, her hand gestures became almost comically expressive, like she was trying too hard. Check out this screen grab I pulled from abc.com and see if you can get a sense of how Palin slowly scrunched down into defense-mode:


Continue reading


September 11, 2008 Posted by | Media Coverage, Sarah Palin | , , , , | 2 Comments

Exclusive: Leaked Early, Different Draft of Palin’s RNC Speech

With the help of some super-inside GOP operatives, I managed to snag the first draft of Sarah Palin’s speech from the RNC last week. It’s thematically identical to the speech she actually gave, also some of the language is a bit less nuanced. This unedited draft provides good insight into what Palin’s true platform is, before politicos get their hands on it to try and slicken up the message. Full text follows.

Thank you, thank you. I’m so honored to be here, and to run alongside someone like John McCain. For a small-town, gun-loving, baby-keeping hockey mom like me, this is just a dream come true.

I want to begin by asking you–all of you, from the folks in this hall to the American people watching at home–one important question: did you know John McCain was a POW?

It’s true! He was captured and tortured by the Vietnamese. It was a really, really harrowing experience, and it taught him everything he needs to know about helping a country of 300 million people avoid economic recession and lower health care costs.

But enough about John McCain, let’s talk about me: I’m from Alaska! How friggin’ cool is that? I’m just like you, only more backwards! I shoot moose for fun. It’s so awesome. I love guns. Like, seriously, I just love them.

And hey, you know who I’d really like to shoot? Barack Obama. What a fucking loser! What a turd! What a nobody! Harvard Law, community organizer, state senator, full Senator, and winner of a rough-and-tumble Democratic primary? Please! What’s he ever done? He’s a poopface. Do you want a poopface for president? No! All he does is talk–blah, blah, blah. But we all know that speeches don’t make good leaders!

Hey, isn’t this speech so great? I am totally qualified to be second-in-line for the presidency because this speech is so good. (Barack Obama is a poopface!)

Let’s talk about something serious for a second: e-bay. Did you know that I put the state jet up for auction on e-bay? Isn’t that bad-ass?! Think about all the other things I can hawk to the highest bidder if I’m vice-president, like America’s credibility.

Let’s be clear about something: John McCain is ready to lead because he was tortured in Vietnam, and I am ready to lead because I tried to sell something on e-bay and my son plays hockey. Barack Obama is not ready to lead, because he is a poopface. The choice is clear.

I mean, come on! He wrote two books! Two! Do we really want someone who’s thoughtful and reflective in the White House? There’s an old saying in Wasilla: thinking is for Communists, terrorists, and fags. This has been scientifically verified by my pastor. Let me tell you, when I’m out in the woods looking for moose or cheering alongside the hockey rink and calling for the blood of teenagers to be spilled in a bare-knuckle brawl, I’m not doing a whole lot of thinking.

Look, I know that America is a crossroads. We’re entering a recession and our health care costs are skyrocketing, as are the ranks of the uninsured; our international credibility is at an all-time low, and we’re fighting multiple wars; faith in Congress and our leaders has hit rock-bottom; and so on. That’s exactly why you need to vote for me: I am totally, 100% pro-life.

With so many problems in the U.S. right now, there is nothing more important than demanding that women who become pregnant give birth to children who will likely grow up in circumstances not conducive to their welfare and healthy development. We cannot lose sight of our priorities! Like electing a hockey mom who tried to sell something on e-bay, and who is not a poopface like that fucker Barack Obama. Asshole thinks he can just come from nowhere and make a big splash on the national stage? That’s ridiculous! His kids don’t even play hockey!

Think fast: what’s the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom? Dogs can’t use computers, and thus can’t put items up for auction on e-bay. Barack Obama is a poopface.

In closing, you don’t want Barack Obama to be president. He is a poopface. I am not. I am one tough-ass bitch, and if you fuck with me I’ll body check you, shoot you, or put you on e-bay. Think about it: I am so hot and yet such a bad-ass. Don’t I just give you a huge boner? This November, vote with your boner.

September 7, 2008 Posted by | Humor, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selective Headlines on Biden/Palin

So the media, which spent so much time needling through the seedy underbelly of Palin’s life before last night’s speech, has now fixated on a new narrative, moving from “what was McCain thinking?” to “My God, she’s fantastic.” This of course, makes for a great story: Palin is now the underdog that blew away naysayers; the down-home American who took on the big boys; the Ms. Smith gone to Washington.

News outlets are so oddly fixated on this new arc of Palin as the come-from-nothing -heavy-hitter, that they’re even undermining their own reporting. The New York Times has a story titled “Biden on Palin: ‘Whoa'” The suggestion here, of course, is that Palin impressed Biden so much he was speechless. But here’s what Biden actually said about Palin’s speech:

“It was a very skillfully written, very skillfully delivered speech. But there was not a word about the middle class or health care or how people are going to fill up their gas tanks or a single word about how we’re going to get our kids through college.”

Even though the Times reported this comment, they chose to grab their headline from the following:

“I thought ‘Whoa,’ ” Mr. Biden said [about Palin’s zingers toward Obama]. “They’re good, funny lines, but I’m glad they’re not about me.”

Biden’s not speechless about Palin’s skill or competence, he’s just saying “hey now, that’s harsh.” That’s not what the headline suggests, however.

Other major newspapers are also playing up the ‘Biden’s blown away’ angle. The Wall Street Journal blog has a piece headlined “Biden Praises Palin for ‘Amazing Speech’.” Here again, Biden says the speech was good, but utterly lacking in substance. Why not have a headline saying “Biden: Palin’s Speech Has No Answers for America” or something similar? The Washington Post also says that “Biden Acknowledges Palin’s ‘Great Night'”, even though, in the same article, Biden says that “I was…impressed with what I didn’t hear. I didn’t hear a word mentioned about the middle class.”

You can tell a lot about the story that the media tries to tell from events based on the headlines. It seems that they’re dead-set on the “underdog breaks out” arc for Palin, emphasizing how she’s impressed a 36-year veteran of the Senate. That’s an exciting tale, but the truth is that Biden’s just being civil.

Oddly enough, after doing its best to eviscerate her before her speech, the media now seems eager to trump Palin up into some sort of phenomenon.

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Media Coverage, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palin As Obama? Heck No

The site Right Wing News has compiled some reactions from right-wing bloggers to Palin’s RNC speech last night. Naturally, they’re thrilled by it. But perhaps the most disturbing reaction that I can find comes from William Lobdell, who was a reporter for the L.A. Times for 14 years:

Palin has just hijacked the presidential campaign. I’ve got a skeptical, Obama-loving wife and some liberal sons, and they all think she killed it...Palin has managed to make Obama look insignificant, McCain appear heroic, and herself: a grassroots American who won’t back down from a fight.

…I wasn’t prepared to like her, and I don’t. I LOVE her.

Governor’s jet on E-Bay? Classic.

Do you hear that? It’s America falling in love with Sarah Palin.

So far, she’s killing it.

Why so disturbing? Because Lobdell was an actual reporter, not just a blogosphere wingnut. And he’s falling for Palin’s “I’m a tough mama, Obama’s a pussy, and that’s all you need to know” act, hook line and sinker.

So, apparently, is Chuck Todd over at MSNBC, who says that “Conservatives have found their Obama.” Oh, come on. Her speech was competent and decently delivered, but so what? I agree with Timothy Noah that there’s no way this speech wouldn’t go over-praised if it was delivered with even the merest hint of gusto (which it was).

Why? Because expectations were set so low for Palin. Continue reading

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Strategist: “It’s Over”


September 3, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , | Leave a comment

The Culture Wars Return

As we all know, Sarah Palin was picked in part because of her strong social conservative credentials (she’s staunchly pro-life and a lifetime member of the NRA). Now, according to Politico, the shockwaves of her entrance onto the campaign scene are being felt–the culture wars are back, in a big way:

The campaign of Democrat Barack Obama put up an ad in at least seven key states Tuesday lambasting GOP nominee-to-be John McCain as an enemy of abortion rights.

At the Republican convention here, former Tenn. Sen. Fred Thompson took a shot at Obama’s stand in favor of legal abortion…

…“The choice of Palin is going to bring some of these issues, like abortion, same sex issues, the teaching of evolution in public schools, the whole role of what religion plays in public life, back to the campaign,” said Rob Boston, a senior analyst for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “Culture war issues reflect a real divide that is evident in society today.”

Before Palin, the match-up of Obama v. McCain didn’t throw a whole lot of red meat to conservative culture warriors. Obama has smartly focused on the performance of the Bush Administration and compromise rather than social issues like womens rights or gay rights; as Senator, McCain has been famously moderate on gun rights and immigration, and used to think that abortions should be allowable in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother. McCain has done his best to veer to the right on all of these issues, but still, he’s made a less-than-convincing point man for the far-right culture crusade.

But Palin changes all that. The culture warriors now have their figurehead. Indeed, when Palin was first announced, Politico reported that the GOP base experienced a collective joygasm of monumental proportions:

“I woke up and my e-mail was just going crazy,” said Charmaine Yoest, head of the legislative arm of Americans United for Life and a former top official in Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. “And then when it was announced — it was like you couldn’t breathe.”

“My wife and I watched an MSNBC special on her last night,” [said James Muffet, head of Michigan’s Citizens for Traditional Values]. “My wife knew nothing about this woman. But she was in tears listening to her articulate the views she had.”

It really saddens me that the culture wars have been re-ignited. Consider the reactions of activists above. They’re just so divorced from the practical reality of the presidency that it’s scary. 99.999 percent of being president or vice president has absolutely nothing to do with abortion. Is it really so heart-stopping to be presented with a candidate who agrees with you on an issue that comprises about .0001 percent of her job?

And yes, I do understand the rudimentary logic at work here: if a candidate agrees with you on the issues that are important to you, you feel that you can trust them. What I just can’t understand is how people can put so little stock in the actual nuts and bolts of governance–of leading, of managing, of understanding complex problems that pop up in reality, not just in tidy religious doctrines.

I don’t want that mindset influencing this campaign. With George W. Bush, we’ve seen the sort of candidate that it benefits; and we can’t afford to have another incompetent, conservative panderer in the White House again.

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

McCain to Drop Palin?

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow thinks that it’s in the cards: Think Progress has a clip of her saying that “it is becoming less likely by the hour that Palin will still be John McCain’s nominee even by the end of the week.” Joshua Green sheds some light on how the Palin-dropping process might work in The Atlantic:

At any point before tomorrow night, McCain could simply replace Palin. But once she formally accepts her nomination, he’ll no longer have the power to do so unilaterally. According to Ben Ginsberg, the former general council at the Republican National Committee, Republican rules stipulate that the 168 members of the national committee would need to ratify any replacement to make it official…

…such a vote would almost certainly be a formality. “The members of the Republican national committee would be overwhelmingly inclined to follow the wishes of the nominee in any situation in which this rule got invoked, unless it were someone completely outside the mainstream of the Republican Party,” [said Ginsburg].

Still, I don’t think McCain will drop Palin. To do so would be political suicide, as it’d be an admission that McCain’s first big test of judgment–picking a president-in-waiting–was an absolute disaster.

Okay, I guess the one thing in McCain’s corner is that Palin has a great excuse for stepping down: she’s a mother of five, has one child with Downs syndrome, and has a 17 year-old daughter who’s pregnant. This is quite a hectic and demanding personal life–one that could easily be cited as a reason why Palin can’t run.

“I do not think that I, in good faith, could give the position of vice-president the time and attention it deserves because of the responsibility of caring for my wonderful family,” she’d say. This would be a one-two punch, as she’d ostensibly be putting family first (because she wants to care for her kids) and country first (because she thinks the U.S.A. needs a fully committed VP). Family values and flag-waving conservatives would probably admire such a narrative, whether it’s baloney or not.

If Palin is going to make an exit, that’s probably how it’ll go down. McCain could still pretend that he was right about her and that, like him, Palin selflessly puts others before her own interests. Bullet dodged, right?

Not quite. No matter what fairy tale is spun around a Palin departure, McCain could never talk his way out of the fact that he should have vetted her to acknowledge any and all potential conflicts with her candidacy before he picked her. Regardless of whether or not he’s right about her character, he needs to be right about her readiness to be Vice President. And if she leaves, it’ll be proof that he wasn’t. There’s no way that dropping Palin can be anything but a catastrophe for McCain.

So here’s hoping it happens.

September 3, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , | 1 Comment

Most Offensive Moments of Tonight’s RNC:

Okay, to be fair, I actually think that tonight’s Republican speeches were generally well-delivered and got the job done. Bush didn’t screw up everything, Thompson threw the base a lot of red meat and a colorful biography of McCain the war hero, and Lieberman made a measured appeal to Democrats and Independents.

But, outside of my fundamental ideological animosity toward these folks, a few things really cheesed me off tonight:

1. Applauding George W. Bush as he came on screen to give a live video address. I understand this is a formality, but come on people–he screwed you over just as much as he did we liberal-minded citizens.

2. The fact that people cheered and hollered maniacally when Fred Thompson said that Sarah Palin “is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose.” I can see this warranting a chuckle, but the crowd went wild. God help us all.

3. Thompson’s suggestions that Barack Obama has only “talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit” rather than governed anything effectively. This is just untrue.

4. Fred Thompson’s assertion that McCain is someone we “know” who can “be trusted with the presidency.” This isn’t just a statement on McCain, it’s also a nod to the fears that Obama is an un-American outsider who is so different–and possibly dangerous–that we don’t know if he has our best interests at heart. Way to surreptitiously play the race card, Thompson.

5. Joe Lieberman trying to co-opt the Obama campaign narrative by calling for unity, cooperation, and an end to partisan bickering. This from a guy who’s M.O. has been sowing the seeds of discord within his party on some of the biggest issues of our time. Oh, and his claim that McCain will “stand for what he thinks is right regardless of politics” is just laughable. John Kerry said it best in his DNC speech last week:

I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.

Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.

I’ve posted a video of Kerry’s speech below as an antidote to tonight’s RNC nonsense. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t seen it–this was really one of the best performances of Kerry’s long career.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

McCain Campaign Hates Journalism

So apparently John McCain has canceled a long-awaited appearance on Larry King tomorrow night in order to punish CNN for being too inquisitive toward McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. The NYT recounts the exchange that cheesed off Camp McCain:

“Can you tell me one decision that she made as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard, just one?” [CNN reporter Campbell Brown] asked.

Mr. Bounds responded, “Any decision she has made as the commander of the National Guard that’s deployed overseas is more of a decision Barack Obama’s been making as he’s been running for president for the last two years.”

Ms. Brown pressed again, saying: “So tell me. Tell me. Give me an example of one of those decisions.”

To which Mr. Bounds said, “Campbell, certainly you don’t mean to belittle every experience, every judgment she makes as commander.” The argument devolved from there, with no real resolution.

Brown’s question was fair. McCain has lauded Palin as “commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard” and talked about how her oldest son is about to be deployed to Iraq–presumably to play up her familiarity with military and security matters. Yet, according to the AP, the picture is a little muddier than McCain would have us believe:

Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, considers Palin “extremely responsive and smart” and says she is in charge when it comes to in-state services, such as emergencies and natural disasters where the National Guard is the first responder.

But, in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, he said he and Palin play no role in national defense activities, even when they involve the Alaska National Guard. The entire operation is under federal control, and the governor is not briefed on situations.

You can see why there might be some confusion as to what decision-making capacity Palin really has when it comes to the 4,000 member Alaskan National Guard. Yet McCain’s campaign says that Brown’s question was “unfair.” Hrm. I guess it’s unfair because it’s trying to clarify exactly what happened in the real-world–and as a great man once said, “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Man, whatever happened to the straight-talk express?

September 2, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Barack and Biden on “60 Minutes” Part I

If you haven’t seen the clips of Barack/Biden on 60 Minutes, I’m posting them here, with some commentary. Part I is below, Part II to follow.

Watching this interview, my overriding thought was this: I really like the way that Obama and Biden interact. They seem genuinely friendly with one another, and also have a good fire & ice thing going, what with Obama’s serenity and Biden’s bluster. The one word that I would use to define the Obama/Biden dynamic would be “complementary”–not just as candidates, but also as potential colleagues. They just click.

This isn’t something we see that often in Prez/VP dynamics. In recent years, Republican presidential candidates have picked stooges (Quayle, Palin) or evil geniuses (Cheney). Jack Kemp was neither, but he and Bob Dole were antagonists–as Time magazine pointed out in 1996, Kemp was “partly responsible for the single most painful political betrayal in Dole’s life.” The point is this: the GOP President-Vice President dynamic has always had a deep undercurrent of artificiality to it. They’re rarely collaborations between two like-minded equals.

Democrats have tended to be less extreme in the extent to which they plug in a polarizing VP, but there’s some definite incongruity between Presidents and VPs on the Dem side as well. Kerry and Edwards always had a strained relationship, and that awkwardness came through in their campaigning. And it’s hard to imagine two people who’d relate to each other less than smooth Bill Clinton and dour Al Gore.

But Obama and Biden really seem to be on the same wavelength. Obviously, all presidential tickets are a marriage of political convenience, at least to some extent. But I like seeing this kind of instinctive harmony between a President and his Vice President.

The ease and comfort with which Obama and Biden interact is particularly striking in contrast to McCain, who has partnered up with someone who he met all of three times before choosing as VP. The fact that McCain feels the need to make clumsy assertions that Palin is his “partner and soulmate” really drives home how inorganic that political union really is.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, Joe Biden, John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment