Chiming in on Palin

Expressing my objective journalistic intentions with this favourable press shot of Mrs Sarah Palin

Former Alaskan Governor and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin has been the primary topic of discussion (courtesy of Mark) in three different posts on Criticism As Inspiration thus far:

I remained rather silent (for the most part) regarding my specific views of Sarah Palin.  One might assume that because I typically espouse views that lean toward the left to varying degrees that I despise Palin on the grounds that she is a conservative.  That is simply not so.  Frankly, there are plenty of conservatives that I am far less irritated by.  It is not my goal to lay out with great detail why I have this distaste for Palin, but I will mention several specific things, beginning with the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and inspired this post.

Just this week President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.  Sarah Palin was interviewed by USA Today regarding his acceptance speech.  Several news outlets (including USA Today) have expressed shock at Palin’s comment, “I liked what he said.”  Unfortunately this comment was quickly overshadowed and devoid of all value with the follow-up comment:

I thumbed through my book quickly this morning to say ‘Wow!  That really sounded familiar.’  Because I talked in my book too about the fallen nature of man and why war is necessary at times.

Of course.  I must make sure that this is known: my grievance has nothing to do with my negative view of war.  I could criticise that (and I do, not only against Palin, but also President Obama), but I must acknowledge the very broad acceptance of ‘Just War Theory’ (which was espoused both in Obama’s acceptance speech and Palin’s comments).  The issue that I take with Sarah Palin’s comments revolve around her self-referential statements, which have become extremely familiar.  Ever since she emerged onto the national political scene and into public’s eye it seems as if she has been shamelessly selling herself – and it’s getting really old.  Palin went on to say that President Obama should behave more like President George W. Bush.

We have to stop those terrorists over there…We’ve learned our lesson from 9/11.  George Bush did a great job of reminding Americans every single day that he was in office what that lesson is.  And, by the way, I’d like to see President Obama follow more closely in the footsteps of George Bush and [Bush’s] passion keeping the homeland safe, his passion for respecting – honoring our troops.

I can hand the benefit of the doubt to Palin and assume that this interview was rather off-handed, but could she please use slightly more sophisticated language when speaking about such serious issues (“those terrorists over there…”).  She speaks so vaguely.  What lesson did American learn from 9/11 and how did President Bush do a “great job of reminding Americans [of that lesson] every single day that he was in office”?  I am not necessarily disagreeing with her statement, but I want to know what she means.  I suspect (as evidenced from her interviews and writing) that she doesn’t mean anything, it’s simply her default: empty rhetoric.  Also, how does President Obama fall short of Bush’s supposed passion for “keeping the homeland safe,” and “for respecting – honoring our troops.”?  Once again, maybe he does fall short (though I doubt one could really make a case for that), but how?  Sarah Palin is not here to answer these questions (though Mrs Palin, if you’re reading, please feel free to enlighten us with responses), so I’ll move onto another recent irritation…

In a radio interview last week Palin was commenting on the recent news that former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used poor judgment nearly a decade ago in his granting of clemency to a convict who went on to murder four police officers.  Palin commented,

It was a bad decision obviously, but my heart goes out to Huckabee.  I love him, and I feel bad for him to be in this position.  But I feel even worse for the victim’s families in this situation.  I do feel bad for Huckabee, but it was a horrible decision he made.

Way to stab Huckabee in the back while giving him a hug?  In typical Palin fashion she went on to make sure that the listeners knew that during her gubernatorial service she never once pardoned or granted clemency to prisoners.

I don’t have a whole lot of mercy for the bad guys, I’m on the good guys’ side.

It’s strange for Palin to compare her two-and-a-half year service as governor Alaska to Mike Huckabee’s 10+ year service as governor of a state with more than four times as many people as Alaska.  But strangeness aside, she did it and will continue to make statements like it.  Also, it’s good to know that Sarah Palin is on the “good guys’ side.”  We need more of the Bush-era absolutist ‘good vs. evil’ talk.  I am not denying the existence of absolute goods and evils – they most certainly exist.  What I am saying is that one ought to exercise a little caution and humility when placing other people (and even ourselves) into those two categories.

In the same interview Palin was asked about her political future.  She didn’t rule out the possibility of running as an independent in the 2012 election, stating,

That depends on how things go in the next couple of years…There are enough Republicans who are realizing, ‘Oh whoops, some of us liberal Republicans have screwed up.’  And I’m not including myself in that group, but some liberal Republicans have screwed up.  If the Republican Party gets back to that base, I think our party is going to be stronger and there’s not going to be a need for a third party, but I’ll play that by ear in these coming months, coming years.

Once again, Palin barrages the interviewer with folksy, inarticulate language, vague statements and self-referential moral absolutism (“I’m not including myself in that group, but some liberal Republicans have screwed up…”).  How have “liberal Republicans screwed up,” and what does it mean for the Republican Party to get “back to that base.”?

I’m not suggesting that Sarah Palin thinks that she is perfect, but she is trying really hard to sell herself as such – morally unscathed, fighting tirelessly for the average American! When President Reagan didn’t have an answer he would respond with humility, yet confident in the conservative principles that he embodied.  Like him or not, Reagan was true to his well-established core values.  Palin is a very different story.  The self-referential image she so desperately seeks to sell (her vastly [and terrifyingly] popular memoir is called Going Rogue – how many ‘rogues’ do you know and how many of them are self-professing rogues?) seems pathetic and empty.

W.

This is my [hopefully not too] awkward first post. While I’d like to write about the Gospel or something more strictly theological (since politics have been invading every facet of American existence for the past 21 months), I am choosing to write about the current American President, George W. Bush.

Comedic persona Neil Hamburger once told a joke during a stand-up routine that went something like this: ‘Hey, is it just me? Is it just me or is George Bush the worst president in the history of the United States, huh, am I right? The anti-Bush crowd during this routine—not unlike the national crowd, which according to at least one poll is composed of 70% of Americans—cheered at this rhetorical question. Hamburger continued, ‘Which makes it all the harder to understand why his son, George W. Bush, is in fact the best president we’ve ever had.’ This punchline was followed by a wave of ‘boos’ from the displeased crowd.

It seems possible that we live in a ‘post-Bush’ culture, one that ignores the fact that he exists or at least looks forward to the day when he will cease to. Though I would not consider myself as a fan of Bush’s presidency, I find it perplexing that our culture is so infatuated with hating him. Perhaps we don’t realize that Bush is ten years younger than John McCain, which means that we potentially have another decade or more of Bush in the public eye.

He’s a truly fascinating person. If you’ve not seen Oliver Stone’s W., I suggest you do. It’s a well-crafted caricature of Bush’s adult life and the various people who have surrounded him. I left the theater with a far more empathetic attitude toward the man (the person, not the politician), who is portrayed as a simple guy, caught up in a wave of dirty politics. The guilt of the Bush Administration is really shifted toward Dick Cheney in the film. That may be a cop-out.

But in addition to the empathy I gained toward Bush the man, I was also filled with a sense of mourning; mourning for a man who has been painted as a villain in our culture by not-as-much-fault-as-America-thinks of his own. It seems as if he is already numbered among the deceased presidents of our generation—Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan—yet has been painted with more dishonor than Herbert Hoover. He’s still in office until January, yet we replaced him with an over-publicized bout for the seat of the 44th President of the United States nearly two years ago.

Any conclusion or resolution? Maybe we ought to not view those in the public eye as demigods. Maybe we ought to not expect our political leaders (any other person, for that matter) to make the perfect decision every time. Perhaps his failures are indicative of a more corrupt and insidious political system.