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Sarah Palin Swings and Misses...

January 13th 2011 19:14
: And President Barack Obama Hits a Homerun
Good Afternoon Friends,

I'm going to start this post with something of a disclaimer: I really, and I mean really, didn't want to write anything more about the Arizona attack. I have strenuously tried to avoid doing so. This comes from a few different motivations on my part.
1-I am extremely averse to the idea of taking advantage of a tragedy. Fashionable trend in media time budgeting is that if it bleeds, it leads, and this is a bleeder class one. Which means that hacks all over the country, and the world in fact, have been all over this like stink on a monkey, driving news viewership and readership through the roof as people search for meaning and narrative to figure out what is going wrong with the world and what the shooter (please refer to the postscript of my last post if you're wondering why I do not name this individual here, or later in this piece.) ate for breakfast on the morning of the attack. There can only be so much legitimate reporting and after that it becomes self-serving sales/gamesmanship, and I didn't want to jump on board.
2-That being said, there have, of course, been temptations. I have watched the coverage spreading into every possible angle of the attack and its motivations, watched the politicos beginning their spin games across the spectrum, and considered a number of valid lines of commentary I could pursue, be it a reprise of the brief discussions of political content and gun control from my last piece, or examining the issue from a new direction. The only problem was, no matter how I tried to look at the event and its repercussions from a new perspective, there were already five other pieces on either side of every argument to be made. Pro gun control vs. gun rights is everywhere, the blame game is exploding all over the place, civility is either a good idea or a violation of the 1st Amendment protection of free speech... it's ridiculous. This is the second reason I've held off. The saturation of articles on the matter has meant that everything is being said, and nothing heard. Business as usual in the Washington game.
3-And finally, I grew somewhat discouraged by the slack of real discussion or change. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I said pretty much all I had to say in my first post. I made my point that the tone in Washington is awful, but likely did not motivate the shooter, and would probably not change. I made my point that I believe in responsible gun laws and regulation, and that I felt that even a minimal ban on assault weapons, like the one that was repealed (or allowed to lapse) in 2004, would have saved the lives of at least some of the dead (although a reader took issue with the satirical way that I presented my argument. For the record, I don't believe the would-be assassin would actually have bought a sword... a light saber seems more in line with his mentality.). I also noted that I thought that the likelihood of this was very slim. Beyond that, nothing that has come out has been more than litigating and re-litigating these points, with the sides having been drawn in advance and the outcomes predictable.
So I said to myself, "What is the point in joining this debate? You've put your best foot forward, others have followed, still others have opposed and, at the end of the day, next week the Republicans are going to try and repeal Health Care Reform. Rest up, get rid of the head cold, finish up the Tea Party piece you're working on for the weekend, and save your energy for when there's something to talk about."
And then came yesterday.
Yesterday was a political observer's version of a kid being told "Hey, guess what, Christmas isn't over... and Santa brought you two big presents." That's right folks, not only was there a 33 minute long Presidential Address, but there was also a new 8 minute Colgate infomercial... I mean Sarah Palin video on the subject! Bonanza! I'm going to deal with the Palin video first, as it was released first, and then move on to the President's speech.
So, as I'm sure you are all aware, following the Tuscon shootings there was an immediate impulse on the left, as well as on the part of the media, to blame the attack on the climate of hatred, negativity and attack politics so prevalent in America today. There was much ado made about the use of violent, militaristic metaphors and imagery, such as Sharron Angle's 2nd Amendment remedies quote and, more famously, a map in which Sarah Palin uses cross-hairs to identify targeted Democratic districts and lawmakers to be unseated, including the target of the attack, Representative Gabrielle Giffords. This unfortunate add, as well as the numerous other attacks using violent imagery and aggressive speech and posturing Sarah Palin has used since coming out of nowhere to become the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008, and the overwhelmingly negative and derisory tone in which she addresses any debate or criticism, led to her being the focal point, along with the conservative demolition media of Fox News and talk radio with which she is aligned, of a raging debate about the tone of politics and the current horrid state of affairs.
So she made a video. And What a video. I can just see the disussion about it now: "Should I put up a Facebook post, or tweet about it? No they've been getting me criticism for speaking without thinking or exposing myself to questions by controlling access that way. Is this email to Glenn Beck enough? Well I'm getting critiqued over this already (although he keeps telling me he's a real journalist, so I don't understand why people don't give me credit for always dealing with him and the other Fox Newsies) so I should probably do something else... What about a video?! Something as overproduced and self serving as my reality show! And I'll prove to Republicans I can read a script! Talk about looking Presidential! Todd!!?? Where's my flag?" Ok, so that was maybe a little overblown. But I think you get the point. In this video, which really has to be watched twice to truly appreciated she manages to go all of one minute and twenty two seconds (out of eight minutes or so) actually speaking about the tragedy itself, before launching into the case in her defense. As David Weigel over at the fantastic Slate Magazine points out, Sarah may have wanted to play possum on this one. She is clearly in a position of weakness. However, as a Momma-Grizzly, she really can't afford to lay low on an issue on which she's being attacked. It's not in her nature. So she comes out swinging. First, she goes right after her accusers. She accuses them of being insensitive, and playing politics directly after a tragedy to take advantage of it. Ok, not too far off the mark (I mean, Democrats got great examples of how to do this by watching Republicans in the post 9/11 world. You remember, when even a GOP candidate for dogcatcher could allude to "soft on national security" to, literally, scare up votes. But that's nothing like this at all.), but what else do you have for us? Oh ok, the "lone nutjob defense", which so many conservative commentators are falling back on now. I actually largely agree with this, namely that the individual who perpetrated the crime was sufficiently unbalanced that we may never know what influenced him to commit this act, let alone be able to logically put the blame on anyone, due to his apparent divorce from reality. This makes sense. I'm actually surprised to have made it this far (over 2 minutes!) into a Sarah Palin video without having to scratch my head and say "You really, honestly think you should be President? and other people do too? Wow." (I think of this as the HSP effect... Honestly? Sarah Palin? It is invariably followed by a head shake). I mean, I will say I think her characterization of "people who listen to talk radio", campaign maps etc. are a bit self serving and simplistic, but I mean, that's not too bad for her. And then, to borrow from one of the greatest broadcasters in the history of sports"boom goes the dynamite". She begins a tangent about post election hand shaking and finding common ground. This from a woman who even attacks such proposals as the First Lady's anti-obesity campaign. She doesn't know how to respect her opponents, let alone work with them. And it continues. She talks about debating, and putting forth counter proposals to ideas of your opponents that you don't agree with. That, to my mind, would require her to, at some point, make a policy proposal in opposition to any one of the numerous ones she has attacked, other than simply letting market solutions have their way, or allowing America's greatness to solve the problem.
And then comes the much reported"blood libel" quote. This has been covered everywhere. Go ahead. Google it. It's all over the place. As much as I think any use of language like this, with such a loaded history, is reprehensible at best, is it really surprising? For one, it was unoriginal, appearing in several conservative commentaries before Sarah misused it. Then you have to really think about this. Sarah Palin? Misuse language or make contextually inappropriate remark? Let's be honest about it. It's exactly what she has led us to expect from her (see this lovely compendium from Slate for more exemplars). It is the one of the reason's she's in this mess, and one of the major reasons for the HSP effect I detailed above (in this case, because you would think that a Presidential hopeful would attempt to avoid sounding like an unserious ad-libbing teenager, but not this one). The blood-libel issue is a large one, but only because, I think anyways, people are giving Sarah Palin too much credit to begin with.
Palin then goes on to riff at length about the Constitutionality of uncivil dialogue and its history, drawing strength from the founding fathers and their recognition of the imperfection of human society (She also admits, starting at 4:13 on the video, that the imperfection of people foments the need for government. Libertarians and Tea Partiers will not e pleased to hear that one.) This becomes repetitive, a joyous exaltation of tension and dissent as American tradition. She claims common cause with Representative Giffords (let's remember who she targeted in November) and derides calls for civility as shrill and counter to first amendment principles. She further calls the Constitution a sacred document (which, as it is non-religious, is really quite blasphemous if you believe in that sort of thing, which she does) and continues to generally deride people whose beliefs differ from hers.
This video by Ms. Palin strikes all the wrong notes. She manages to offend while trying to defend, is unable to restrain her natural tendency to go on the attack when she is attacked, and once again manages to create a gaffe that, despite the speech being prepared, takes away from her message and puts focus, once again, on how unprepared she is to move forward into a larger role than just shrill, sideline, colour commentator on the national political scene and cheerleader of the Republican cause.

Part 2 in a couple hours will focus on President Obama's speech at the Tuscon victims memorial.

Until then, keep on keepin on,

PSRB

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