I am not easily shocked by anything politicians do, especially those running for president, and especially current-era Republicans. After all, I have watched them all my life. Having just endured eight years of the worst administration in history, I wasn't quite expecting Mr. Smith to come back to Washington.
So when John McCain reinvented himself as a clone of the people who had once slimed him, I wasn't particularly surprised. Nor have I been startled by Public John McCain's resorting to unbelievable lies about Barack Obama — especially perhaps the claim that Obama was in favor of teaching sex education in kindergarten.
Months ago, I steeled myself for the McCainiac revelation, presumably on Election Day, that Obama has fathered two black children, and has sex with a lawyer. That's what you expect these days. Last week, I talked about the opportunism and cheap cynicism of choosing the woefully inexperienced and undereducated Alaska governor as vice president.
That's all that was merited saying about Sarah Palin, I thought. At least for a while. Then I saw her interviewed by ABC-TV's Charles Gibson, and was incredibly shocked and angry.
It wasn't that she didn't know anything, though she knew damned little. Her handlers had worked hard at teaching her how to pronounce the last names of the leaders of Iran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and Georgia (Mikheil Saakashvili) and she proudly showed off her parrot-like linguistic skills.
But apart from that, she was not only ignorant, but defiantly arrogant about her lack of knowledge and experience. She exhibited total contempt for those who are competent and, uh, think before making decisions that could possibly blow up the world. No, she had never met any foreign leaders, but asserted that Americans "don't want somebody's big fat résumé maybe that shows decades and decades" of Washington experience.
Obnoxiously calling the interviewer "Charlie," over and over, she said that she never hesitated when offered the vice presidency. Not for a second, even though she had a newborn with Down syndrome and a pregnant, unmarried daughter still in high school. Not for a second, though her highest-level educational experience was three semesters at the University of Idaho, where she got a BA in communication.
The fact that she was essentially an ignoramus didn't faze her. As she told old Charlie, "You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission that you can't blink."
Huh? Was she being asked to parachute into France on D-Day? No, she was being asked to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, from having her finger on the nuclear button.
This comes at a time when Russia is flexing its muscles again, acting like the old imperialist Soviet Union. Russia, which remains the world's only other major league nuclear power.
Now while Our Sarah has never been to Russia, she had a great answer when her new pal Charlie asked her, tongue presumably clenched in molars, as to what special insights into Russian actions she might have. "They're our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." Indeed, her state's northern permafrost is only 90 miles from Siberia's permafrost.
All this provoked perhaps the most strongly worded editorial I have ever seen in the august New York Times. You could almost hear the glasses of sherry smashing on the floor.
"As we watched Sarah Palin on TV ... we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking. If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, it was frighteningly irresponsible."
That was just for starters; they went on: "The idea that Americans want leaders who are so blindly certain ... that they won't even pause for reflection shows a contempt for voters and raises frightening questions about how Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin plan to run this country."
What most troubled the nation's best newspaper "was the sense that thoughtfulness, knowledge and experience are handicaps for a president in a world populated by al-Qaeda terrorists, a rising China, epidemics ... and deep economic distress at home."
To counter her nonexperience at, well, anything, the Republicans have consistently explained that, unlike any of the other men on either ticket, she has executive experience, as governor. That was sort of a myth to begin with. She has been governor for a year and a half of a state with far fewer people than Macomb County. Before that, she spent six years as mayor of a town slightly smaller at the time than Huntington Woods.
But what kind of governor was she? Then on Sunday, Sept. 14, the New York Times published a detailed and comprehensive examination of her statehouse record, written by three reporters whom the newspaper had dispatched to Alaska.
What it revealed was a "highly personal" style of governing, with stylistic resemblances to the way in which Don Corleone ran his fiefdom. She likes to appoint childhood friends to jobs. For example, she made a high school classmate director of agriculture. Her qualifications? As a little girl, she liked cows.
The conclusion was that Palin has a lot of fans in Alaska, though "throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her, and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews," with a vast array of Alaskan officials.
Laura Chase, her first campaign manager, summed up: "I'm still proud of Sarah. But she scares the bejeebers out of me," said the woman who was present at her political creation.
She should scare the living shit out of the rest of us.
The more you know about her, the more it is clear that Palin resembles nothing so much as a more poorly educated, less intelligent and even more reckless version of George W. Bush.
For the next seven weeks, preventing her and her reckless running mate from being able to do this nation even more damage ought to be a top priority of every intelligent American.
Save Andy Dillon: Last week, a federal appeals court ordered a recall Michigan Speaker of the House Andy Dillon placed on the November ballot. In a sense, this is low farce. Dillon is likely to be recalled, all right. Almost no politician can survive a recall once it is on the ballot.
But he will also almost certainly be re-elected, and return as speaker in January. He will get the holidays off, in short.
However, removing a politician for casting a difficult and honest vote for something he believed in sabotages representative democracy, and gives power to single-issue bullies, like little Leon Drolet, the Macomb County Commissioner, and his pink fiberglass pig.
Defeating the recall would send a dramatic signal that his voters aren't intimidated, and maybe worry little Leon, whose most mortal fear is not higher taxes, but that he will be exposed as someone who depends for a paycheck on a government payroll.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]
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