Political Deformity

A Handshake of Carbon Monoxide

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:


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

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

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

The McCain Campaign: Redefining Hypocrisy

I was just watching Larry King Live (forgive me), and James Carville was talking to Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann from Minnesota, who has now catapulted to the top of my least favorite people list. The two had an exchange that went something like this:

Carville: Sarah Palin is extremely unqualified to be Vice President of the United States.

Bachmann [with vacuous eyes and a shit-eating grin]: I find that comment offensive to women. Sarah Palin didn’t get where she is by riding others’ coattails.

Um, yeah. Carville was justifiably flummoxed as to how his statement could be construed as sexist. Bachmann seemed to be implying that “unqualified” is sexist code for “can’t do it because she’s a woman.” Thus anyone who points out the fact that, relative to all other Vice Presidential candidates in recent history except Dan Quayle, Palin is inexperienced, must be a woman-hater.

This is mind-blowingly hypoctical. Tell me, if it’s inherently prejudiced to point out deficiencies in the past record of non-traditional candidates, then aren’t Republicans racists for knocking Obama’s supposed inexperience?

And if the McCain campaign is really so concerned with giving women their due, why not choose a more accomplished female, who wouldn’t make such a mockery of the Vice Presidency? Continue reading

September 1, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank You, Politico

“6 Things the Palin pick says about John McCain”

Read it. As I suggested in an earlier post, McCain’s choice of Palin means that he’s on the defensive, scrambling to shake things up, and the Politico article above does a good job of digging into this fact.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , | Leave a comment

Palin: A Sexist Choice

John McCain is no feminist. He doesn’t have a progressive–or really, even a moderate–position on abortion, and he voted against equal pay for women. Even personally, he has a history of less-than-compassionate behavior toward women: he left his first wife after she became disfigured in a horrible car crash and has a history of making sexist jokes and comments, including one instance where he called Cindy McCain a c*nt.

And now, suddenly, John McCain has become concerned with helping women break the glass ceiling? Now, suddenly, he wants a female as his second-in-command? Something’s fishy. Ann Friedman at The American Prospect points out just what stinks:

Palin’s addition to the ticket takes Republican faux-feminism to a whole new level…[It] is in fact a condescending move by the GOP. It plays to the assumption that disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters did not care about her politics — only her gender. In picking Palin, Republicans are lending credence to the sexist assumption that women voters are too stupid to investigate or care about the issues, and merely want to vote for someone who looks like them…it’s akin to choosing Alan Keyes in an attempt to compete with Obama for votes from black Americans.

Well said. Past history has given us every reason to believe that the Palin pick is more about exploitation than it is empowerment.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , | 1 Comment

I Hope It’s Romney

The Christian Science Monitor asks a question I’ve been mulling over for a bit now: would a VP Romney open the door for the Dems to create ads similar to the McCain campaign spots highlighting how Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden expressed doubts about Obama during the Democratic primary?

Probably. CSM points out some of the juicy criticisms that the Romney leveled against McCain, but it misses the one that, in my mind, is the most harsh:

“If you ask people, ‘Look at the three things Senator McCain has done as a senator,’ [campaign finance, immigration, energy] if you want that kind of a liberal Democratic course as president, then you can vote for him. But those three pieces of legislation, those aren’t conservative, those aren’t Republican, those are not the kind of leadership that we need as we go forward.”

That’s Romney on McCain, January 2008. Clearly, there’s something to work with here. But here’s a strategy that would be more effective than just aping the McCain ads: playing up the fact that the McCain-Romney animosity goes both ways.

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, John McCain, Republicans, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment