As I was talking to the editor of the LA Weekly this morning about Sarah Palin, I said that I hoped the American people were smart enough to see through this bit of Karl Rove-ian evil genius. Just as I said it, a Ford van, jacked up to monster truck proportions, powered by a 345 horsepower V-8, went barreling down Echo Park Avenue. And I lost some of my hope.
Sarah Palin is stunt casting at its worst. The Rove acolytes working with McCain have foisted a near-bullet proof metaphor upon the American public. How are you supposed to attack Palin, a self-proclaimed hockey mom from rural America who has risen to the top? But attack her is what needs to happen, because she is now the face of the Republican ticket. John McCain can do little, and is expected to do little, to bring the attention back to him. The election, I believe, is now a referendum on her and Barack Obama and who do you think is going to play better to middle America? In one clever trick, the Republicans have turned this election away from the issues at hand and back into the theater in which they have been successful for most of my life — a cultural war upon which reason turns to ash in the fire of emotion.
It sucks because this woman is beyond the pale. She waves the flag and tells her story and says that she has loved America from day one. Yes, she loved America so much she once seriously courted a militant movement to get Alaska to secede from the Union. Hey, I'm not opposed to secession. I wrote after George Bush got re-elected that California should think about seceding from the union. I was only half joking, but the reason I wrote that was so that we could separate ourselves from the kind of people who are taken by this idiotic cultural-war nonsense that has been so destructive to our country.
But on that note, does Palin represent the kind of culture you wish upon this country? It's a culture that believes, really, in Creationism. It's a culture that believes humans were riding dinosaurs a la Fred Flinstone. I'm not joking. There's actually a Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky — a $27 million, 60,000 square-foot theme park in which dinosaurs and humans are displayed frolicking as if in the Garden of Eden. It includes a Triceratops with a saddle on it that kids can pretend to ride. A Stegosaurus is aboard Noah's Ark. Accuse me of lacking a sense of humor, but I don't think its funny that someone who is potentially one heartbeat from the presidency believes this shit.
Some argue that George Bush does, too. I rest my case.
Besides that, Palin has a dismal governing record both as mayor of Wasilla (population about 5,000 when she was mayor), a hamlet that was once flush with money that she somehow left $22 million in debt, and as governor of Alaska. Her record as governor is rife with questionable ethics — including her association with the same fundraising scheme that led to the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska and her apparent use of executive power to grind a personal axe when she allegedly fired Public Safety Commissioner, Walter Monegan, because he wouldn't fire Palin's former brother in law, State Trooper Mike Wooten. He happened to be involved in a custody battle with Palin's sister at the time. That's some family values for you. Oh, then there's the $50 billion Bridge To Nowhere, a pork-barrel project Palin ran for governor on and which she later stopped as it became symbolic of corruption and cronyism. That's real maverick governing, Ms. Palin.
She also believes that we're on a mission from God in Iraq. Not in the Blues Brothers way, but, literally, that it's god's will that we smite the infidels. You want a look into a scary church, forget Jeremiah Wright and check out The Assembly of God in Wasilla, a church Palin has somewhat distanced herself from, but still attends.
For good measure, God also wants a $30 billion federally funded nation-gas pipeline in Alaska. “I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she said.
But in the media orgy following Palin's speech last night, we're being told to behold the “new face of the Republican Party.” She's their Obama, everyone crows, only she has real executive experience. So far, any attempts to vet her as a candidate and a potential leader are thrown back as being a bullying double standard. She has five kids damnit! Hey, that's a miracle, I mean there are only 7 billion people on this planet. How'd she manage that? But I guess wanton procreation runs in the family.
There's something unseemly in the way we're supposed to bow down because the Republicans have taken by decree a place in history that Hillary Clinton busted her ass for. Palin didn't rise to the top, she was plucked by puppet masters. Clinton earned everyone of her 18 million primary votes. She worked and suffered for them. Palin is merely a spokesmodel, a very cleverly chosen one, who is here to dazzle you with her teeth and fool you with the lie that she feels your pain. She's good enough to read a canned, mean-spirited speech that any actress could have read, but she can't even run a small town properly, a job which by some accounts she treated as part-time work.
Of course, if the Obama camp had not succumbed to some combination of hubris and the same irrational Fear of Clinton that has kept Democrats out of the White House for two Bush terms, and possibly a third by proxy, and had simply put Clinton on the ticket, a spot which she, despite what you might think of her, at least went out and earned, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We'd already be talking about plans for the first 100 days of the Obama-Clinton White House.
As it is, we're in a fight we never should be in, fighting it on the same battlefield –the swamps of the culture wars — upon which we never win.