Of Palin, Politics, and Plot Twists

(a slightly random thought-dump)

Bob Herbert's column today pretty much sums up everything I think about Sarah Palin: decent woman, nice family, but based on all available evidence, absolutely not ready to be president. (Need more evidence? Check out this open letter from a Wasilla, AK, resident, which has been repeatedly verified; that link includes some minor corrections to the original e-mail.) I understand totally how Governor Palin appeals to working moms across the U.S. -- she reminds me a lot of all the sports and church moms I knew in the Midwest (including my own, in her multitasking and balancing of work and family life). But as many commentators have pointed out, I don't want someone "just like me" to be President of the United States (or in line to it); I want someone smarter than I am, better informed, more articulate, more creative and thoughtful when it comes to policy, better able to understand, consider, and integrate multiple viewpoints, all that. And I have seen no evidence that Sarah Palin is any of those things.

(Plus, as I understand it, George W. Bush got elected because he was "just like us," and based on the evidence of the last eight years, that is the worst reason to pick someone for president EVER.)

And of course what is really awful about this is what it shows us about John McCain's judgement -- that he would pick someone who has apparently never thought deeply about foreign or domestic policy, who doesn't even agree with all of McCain's own policies, to be #2 in line for the most influential job on Earth. "Lose a war to win an election"? McCain seems not to care about the world if he can win the election. Oy.

Apologies at the slight tone of hysteria there. This election is making me crazy, like a really good, suspenseful, character-driven novel that I never want to end because I'm loving the drama (and afraid of the ending), but I also desperately want to finish (with a happy ending) so I can have my life back. It's Life As We Knew It or The Hunger Games or Bleak House or The Subtle Knife -- though thank God it's not any of those really -- but the consequences of the conflict are real, and the chance that the person I regard as the antagonist might triumph is nerve-wracking. The Palin pick was a brilliant plot twist on John McCain's part, I have to say; and now we're all awaiting the four big battles -- the debates* -- before the final climax.

Lastly, I just finished reading All the President's Men, the fascinating definitive account of the Watergate investigation, and I was startled to come across these lines from a Nixon White House aide: "We believe that the public believes that the Eastern press really is what Agnew said it was -- elitist, anti-Nixon, and ultimately pro-McGovern." "Elitist" -- just the label the Republicans seek to apply to the press and Obama now. (The new book Nixonland is all about this, according to reviews I've read.) It worked in the 1970s, and it keeps working, I imagine because the part of the brain that feels it's been insulted, the short-term hurt, floods out the part of the brain that is able to reason and think long-term. I felt that happening to me when I listened to Ms. Palin's unnecessarily nasty speech** at the Republican National Convention: The part of my brain that objected to her lies and insults flooded the part of my brain that would have said, "I'm rubber and you're glue and how about an actual policy proposal, please?" That's what Barack needs to do in the debates, particularly if McCain goes after the patriotism nonsense again; that's what all of us need to do, keeping our eyes on the changes we really need given the challenges we face, and which candidate has proven to have the vision and character to make them.

* And oh man, am I excited for the debates. A full schedule here.
** Best line I read about her speech: "Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor."