Thursday, December 11, 2008

Will 2012 Be "the Elephants' Graveyard" of American Politics?


In the recent presidential contest this nation experienced one of the most cynical and reckless political misadventures on record. We refer to the erratic, ill-conceived Republican campaign that from Day One was doomed to a failure of monumental proportions. Because an indecisive John McCain lacked a coordinated long-range strategy, his team of handlers and speechwriters scripted each day’s activity in impromptu fashion.

The publicly mild-mannered Mr. McCain, who initially promised to conduct an ethical and high-minded contest, turned out to be ill suited to the role of snarling attack dog. Determined to win at all costs, his unfocused campaign became so mired in pathetic personal attacks on his opponent that the prime issues on the minds of the electorate were ignored and excluded. The irony is that the McCain campaign embraced the very same shameful tactics used by George W. Bush that torpedoed an earlier McCain bid for the Republican nomination in 2000. Given that his dithering effort faced a superbly organized opposing team in the tightly controlled Obama organization, defeat was almost inevitable.

An Irresponsible Selection
Even more rash was Mr. McCain’s irresponsible selection of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate--a person he had met briefly only once and who was subjected to the most cursory vetting procedure ever accorded any candidate for high office. By doing so, he revealed himself to be capable of the most blatant political gamesmanship at the expense of the interests of both his party and this nation. His subsequent frantic latching onto another unvetted nonentity he dubbed "Joe the Plumber," making him the linchpin of his fast-fading campaign, was an exquisite example of both his desperation and his impetuosity.

In spite of having a remarkably thin resume, Sarah Palin, the surprising McCain vice-presidential choice, was a long shot plucked out of political obscurity. A former beauty queen and later mayor of a tiny and insignificant suburb of Anchorage, Alaska, when tapped by McCain operatives, she had been governor of that state for less than two years. In initial TV interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, Governor Palin became a master at evading answering a question by responding to a question that had not been asked. She exhibited such massive ignorance and lack of knowledge of or interest in the world outside Alaska that her handlers abruptly cut off future planned press conferences with the media.

Don't take our word for her abysmal ignorance. Here's the CBS Evening News account of the first of the Republican vice presidential candidate's interviews with anchor Katie Couric. Several times Couric asked Palin whether or not she was aware that the interviews were being taped, and that "other people would see them." Palin reportedly told Couric that she was indeed aware, but then asked Couric what she meant by "broadcast."

"I was concerned, after one of the times where she seemed to be answering a question I hadn’t asked," Couric said. "It didn’t seem possible that she would intentionally answer the question that way, knowing people would see it. So I stopped the interview, and I said, ‘Governor, are you aware that this is the actual interview? What we’re doing right now? That this isn’t a rehearsal?’ She said she was aware. I said, ‘Okay. Just so you know it’s being recorded and parts of it will be broadcast.’ And then she said, ‘You can’t blink, Katie, because we share a narrow maritime border with Russia and it has to be all about job creation.’ I didn’t understand it, but we just went on with the interview. I was pressed for time."

Ms. Couric said she became equally concerned during a session following a speech Governor Palin made, which preceded the second phase of the interview. "In one part of the interview, I asked her what newspapers and magazines she read before being asked to be John McCain’s running mate," Couric said. "And she couldn’t name any. So again, I turned to the crew and I said, ‘Hold it, guys.’

"I went to the Governor privately and said, ‘Governor Palin, did you not understand the question? I’m asking you to name some newspapers or magazines you read. You can’t come up with any? I’m just trying to make sure you’re clear and to give you a fair shake here.’ And she said, ‘Okay. Nightline? Is that a magazine?’ I said, ‘No, that’s a television show.’ She said, ‘What about Lou Dobbs? Isn’t that a newspaper?’ And I said, ‘No, that’s a man. Lou Dobbs is a man.’ And there wasn’t much more I could do. I’m not a miracle worker."

McCain's Monumental Task
Sarah Palin quickly demonstrated by her mangling of the Engish language and rules of grammar that she was little more than an unfunny version of comedian Professor Irwin Corey, "the world's gratest authoruty." Presidential candidate McCain’s monumental task was to attempt to convince voters that, should the ticket be elected, a nonentity ignorant of even the most rudimentary facts of civics or government was the best Republican candidate to stand ready to assume the presidency in an emergency. His casual selection of an inexperienced poser with a self-deluding personality that almost borders on compulsive lying is inexplicable. That his virtually unknown running mate might become president by an act of fate is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this whole shabby affair.

Nevertheless, Sarah Palin became an instant favorite of the fundamentalist religious right, while the usually aggressive mainstream media cut her an enormous amount of slack. Their acceptance of this totally unknown and unknowing woman as a serious competitor is an indication of the depths to which subservient press and TV reportage has descended in these United States. That Sarah Plain’s name should have been placed on a presidential ticket in a nation whose president is the leader of the free world was the height of irresponsibility and an insult to the intelligence of every voter.

The realization that a befuddled Senator McCain and his unqualified and virtually unknown choice would extend and perpetuate the catastrophic eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, another incompetent, uncurious and hopelessly uninformed individual utterly out of his depth in foreign policy or national affairs, was especially troubling. The prospect was awful enough to send a collective shiver down the spines of a majority of voters.

A Frightening Statistic
The very fact that Sarah Palin and her witting sponsor garnered 46 percent of the vote is by far the most frightening aspect of the whole charade masquerading as the Republican presidential campaign. It is scary to think that such a large percentage of voters in these United States in A.D. 2008 was willing to risk the possibility of an unqualified ignoramus becoming president simply because she embodied their own narrow ideology.
One has to wonder how many of those voters were aware of her anti-science attitudes and her belief that Alaska is one of the refuge states for the "End of Days" or that God intervenes in the selection of candidates for election.

Not only were we treated during the campaign to the spectacle of Sarah Palin, a glib mannequin spiffed up with a $180,000-plus wardrobe furnished by the Republican National Committee, but her every public appearance became a three-ring circus with her entire family on stage handing around her blanket-wrapped Down syndrome baby from family member to family member like some sort of a rented theatrical prop.

John McCain’s impulsive selection of a dressmaker’s dummy as his running mate and his attempt to fob her off as a serious candidate remain the most disquieting events in recent political history. In retrospect, her candidacy was an absolute farce. It still remains an unbelievable travesty, a nightmare from which this country thankfully is only now beginning to awaken.

What Next?
Despite all that has happened to her and the clear message from the electorate, Sarah Palin doesn’t get it. Refusing to accept that she was roundly rejected by a comfortable majority of voters, she is still basking in media attention. She pops up on cable shows as frequently as the ubiquitous Donald Trump. She was the featured speaker at the National Governors Association Conference in Florida. There is talk of a book deal for what will surely have to be the work of a ghostwriter--just like all her speeches.

Unbelievably, Sarah Palin is being touted by Republicans as a future leader of the GOP and a presidential candidate four years from now, when she will again be trotted out because she is naïve and malleable, a blank slate that can easily be manipulated. Dutifully, she will go anywhere and utter any words written for her. She has a strange appeal for the dying breed of Republican undiscouraged by the succession of gross failures during the two dismal terms of the Bush administration and his legacy of what will now have to be called "the Bush recession."

The elephant has been the longtime symbol of the Republican Party. Conventional wisdom holds that when elephants feel they are about to die, they head for a remote area known only to elephants. If Sarah Palin should become the standard bearer around whom the GOP builds its next national presidential campaign, then 2012 may indeed be "the elephants’ graveyard" of American politics.

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments: Post a Comment | Postscripts Homepage

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?