Friday, September 05, 2008

Beyond the Palin
It's revealing that George Bush and Dick Cheney didn't get mentioned by the VP nominee in her big speech last night

Ian Williams, Thursday September 04 2008 19:00 BST

If Obama's convention speech, with the white columns in the huge stadium was grand opera, Sarah Palin's was soap opera. The message was not that we should overlook her inexperience, but rejoice in it. We should vote for her because she was a hockey mom. The content of her speech was dumbed down in a way that was exquisitely handcrafted.

In the hall, the audience was festooned with folksy placards handcrafted by the same sophisticated but ultimately stupid whiz-kids who put the Mission Accomplished banner on the USS Lincoln five long years ago. The crowd is different, however. At a Republican convention there is always an undercurrent of bitterness and anger, a readiness to boo at the mention of, for example, community organising, or Senate democratic majority leader Harry Reid, or chant "Drill baby, drill", as the crowd offers to drive their gas-guzzlers over all obstacles.

Of course, the crowd had been primed for bitterness by none other than New York's own Napoleon, the bitter and vicious Rudy Giuliani who always gives the impression of payback time for perennial bullying in his schoolboy days. However, any crowd that cheers Giuliani for celebrating McCain's response to Putin's Cossack raid into Georgia, "We are all Georgians," is not up for cerebration. Whose big talking got the Georgians into that predicament? And is McCain in a refugee camp with Russian tanks stopping him move about his own country?

Technically, Palin's speech was not a patch on Obama's. I ran it past the reading level test on the spell checker. His had come in at a reading level of fourth grade, with no passives. Hers was a reading level of over ninth grade with six per cent of passives. Strangely, although she was clearly intended to evoke the solidarity votes of small town America, her speech writers, Bush's hand-me-downs, were worried about her pronunciation, and spelt out some difficult words for her on the teleprompter: "habber-dasher" for haberdasher, "new-clear" for nuclear to avert the Bushian "noocoolear."

However, even if the style was higher than Obama's, the content was not. It was aimed at people of faith, who could believe in three impossible things before breakfast. Her speechwriter Matthew Scully wrote a book about the ethical treatment of animals, which is perhaps why his residual ethics eschewed any mention of shooting wolves from aircraft that may have sullied the hockey mum image. Nor indeed did he mention that her enthusiasm for hockey led her to increase the local sales tax – including on food – to build an ice-hockey stadium so that her son could indulge his passion closer to home.

The speech was almost certainly inspired by HL Mencken's thought: "On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron". But that is unfair. Both she and her speechwriters are very clever, and unscrupulous, and they want to make her fit that role. They are basing their campaign on the premise that the American electorate wants a president on the edge of Alzheimer's and a vice-president who is auditioning for a part in a schmaltzy soap opera.

She mentioned, to cheers that her husband was a proud member of the United Steelworkers Union, she glided over pathological Republican attempts to crush unions, and inhibit their organising efforts. But then, nor did she mention her run-in with the town librarian (surely along with the little red school house, an American icon) over censorship, her attempts to promote creationism, her belief that God wants federal funding for Alaskan pipelines, her doubts about global warming, or her pursuit of personal family feuds against public employees. This is a serious omission, and almost perplexing since it could prove that she may indeed be a worthy successor to Dick Cheney as a vice-president, and indeed a better shot, hitting wolves rather than colleagues. But then, Cheney wasn't mentioned either.

Her balancing budgets may have been helped by a $1,000 per head per annum pork-barrelling operation from federal funds for her small town, helped by Senator Ted Stevens, one of the "good ol' boys" she was supposed to have cleaned out, but who is currently campaigning for re-election even as he faces Federal corruption charges.

She complained that Obama did not mention victory. But if pressed, she might have to explain why diverting troops from the search for Bin Laden in Afghanistan to Iraq and bogging down in both places occasioned mention for victory. Almost as eloquent in the deafening sound of silence was any reference to President Bush, which is surely churlish. The USA has had eight years of the policies she was prescribing – and is teetering on the edge of an economic catastrophe, but she just ignored it.

Polls suggest that the American public oppose almost every one of Palin's concealed policies. This speech casts the forthcoming telection as an IQ test for the American electorate. If it fails, I foresee long lines outside Canadian and European consulates as the elite (anyone with an IQ over a 100) tries to get out.

No comments: