Like most people, I was startled by the choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate. My first reaction was that it was a bad choice, for reasons that I wrote extensively about earlier. (See list of ‘Recent Entries’ on the right.)
My misgivings with her were mainly because there are too many potential hazards with thrusting an unknown and unexamined person suddenly into the media spotlight. Although I have never been a fan of Joe Biden, his selection did not set off similar alarm bells because he has been around so long that there were unlikely to be any unpleasant surprises surfacing during the campaign
I also knew when her selection was announced that there was an ongoing ethics investigation (‘troopergate’) into Palin’s attempts to fire her ex-brother-in-law and I did not believe that McCain would choose someone with something so potentially serious hanging over her head right in the middle of a campaign
It was not that I did not think she was competent for the position of vice president and potentially president. There are probably many unpolished gems among the population, who could turn out to be great leaders if given the opportunity. I simply did not know enough about her leadership qualities to make such a judgment.
But now the evidence is in. Subsequent events have made it pretty clear that far from being an uncut diamond, she is pure rhinestone, all flash and no substance. Her two interviews with people like Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, well-known for conducting celebrity-style interviews and hardly noted for their aggressive questioning, revealed someone completely out of her depth even in responding to boilerplate questions. She seems to be lacking in curiosity, and unable to string coherent thoughts together or even speak in understandable sentences. Since then she has retreated to the bosom of sycophantic followers, giving interviews only to people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Hugh Hewitt.
She has not held a single press conference, an astonishing thing for someone who aspires to the second highest office in the land.
But what has really turned me off is that she has revealed personality traits that are unbecoming in a leader. They show that she is a petty, small-minded, and vindictive person, who has few if any scruples about attacking her perceived opponents, willing to sink to depths that are deplorable even by partisan political standards.
She seems to not care about truth and seems comfortable constructing an alternative reality to shield her from it. One sign was her willingness to repeat over and over again to her adoring fans the lie about her saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the ‘bridge to nowhere’, even after that assertion had been thoroughly documented to be false.
Another was her recent assertion that the troopergate report released last week completely cleared her of any hint of ethics violations when it explicitly stated: “Finding Number One of the report says: “I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.”
Such things are amazingly brazen and show a disconcerting disconnect either from reality or from truth. Is it any wonder that the Anchorage Daily News describes her response as ‘Orwellian’ and that it was “an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation”?
The troopergate report also revealed a degree of startling degree of vindictiveness and abuse of power. The extent that she and her husband went to get her ex-brother-in-law fired, even to the extent of firing his boss for not firing him (which would itself have violated civil service rules), shows a creepy obsessiveness that is disturbing.
The newspaper went on “They had no sense that the power of the governor’s office carries a special responsibility not to use it to settle family scores. They had no sense that legal restrictions might prevent the troopers from firing Wooten. They had no sense that persistent queries from the governor’s office might be perceived as pressure to bend state personnel laws.”
People who abuse their authority over others should never be put in a position of power.
Her casual use of language to suggest that Obama is some kind of dangerous and unknown person who ‘palls around with terrorists’ suggests a reckless disregard for the basic elements of decency. In watching those clips of her saying such things, one did not get the sense of someone performing a distasteful task because of orders from the campaign. She was acting like she thought it was perfectly acceptable, even enjoying it. She actually seems to revel in the muck.
It should also be remembered that the alleged ‘terrorist’ William Ayers, whatever his past, is still alive and living in Chicago as a professor of education at a university there. He is not some fugitive in hiding. Repeatedly and publicly calling him a terrorist in these inflamed times is to encourage some crazy person to try and harm him.
The Republican Party has a range of people from old-style establishment conservatives to right wing extremists. The establishment conservatives tend to value knowledge and expertise and know that one has to deal with reality. They clung on to their party even when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove systematically set about creating an alternative reality, manufacturing ‘facts’ to suit their needs, shredding the protections of the constitution, plunging the country into disastrous and immoral wars, crating skyrocketing budget deficits by massive tax giveaways to the rich, and using torture on prisoners.
But Sarah Palin has proved too much even for these loyal establishment conservatives. They see her as beyond the pale and one now sees a steady stream of them announce that they cannot support her and are either calling for her to be dropped from the ticket or saying they are going to vote for Obama, even as the rabid base calls upon her to increase her vicious attacks.
It is too late for McCain to drop her, of course. The two are now joined at the hip, for better or (more likely) for worse.
Sarah Palin has become the bridge to nowhere for the Republican Party.
POST SCRIPT: John Cleese on Sarah Palin
He finds her even funnier than the other Palin.