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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Palin’

“Actual Responsibilities” vs. Actual Responsibilities

January 13th, 2011 No comments

I spent most of yesterday seething over Sarah Palin’s incredible, “turn defense to offense” speech. The woman whose violent rhetoric has poisoned the political discourse by positing the President as enemy rather than opposition spoke from her secure bubble, denying responsibility on any level and positing a false equivalence between her actions and those of the Democrats.1

I’d pored through her text, marking of all kinds logical inconsistencies, and had planned a long post built around the snarky statement she’d made when accepting the VP nomination in 2008: As Mayor of Wasilla, she — unlike community organizer Barack Obama — had “actual responsibilities.” Of course, she has no patience with responsibilities: resigning as governor to line her pockets and enrich the public discourse with Tweets; and now this wholly uncharitable excoriation of those whose search for explanation for the Arizona tragedy dared to point out some inconvenient facts. (That isn’t to say that Palin’s to blame for what happened last week, just that it was proper to consider context — especially the statement that Rep. Giffords had made at the very time the gun sight map was issued. This is the most nuanced discussion of the complexity of the responsibility issue I’ve seen, and it’s from a conservative.)

But no more. After hearing Obama’s speech, I’m going to back away and say nothing further about Palin. (I already wrote more than I’d planned. It’s hard to help it.) Let’s focus on the memorial instead.

Although I thought there was something off-putting and almost creepy about the pep-rally response to this memorial speech — can you imagine a similar response to, say, the Gettysburg Address? — the speech itself was Obama at his finest. (I encourage those who haven’t heard the speech to read the transcript instead, or at least first. Then you get the beauty of the speech without the cheerleading. It’s here.) For me, this complex call to healing through expanding our vision was the highlight:

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together. After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.

Note the brilliant connection between the political and the deeply personal. And then he moved back to the victims, focusing on the only child killed, Christina Taylor Green. As a parent of twin girls not much younger than Christina, I was especially affected by his comments about her:

And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.

Mostly, this just made me want to be a better parent. But maybe that impulse will carry over into my dealings with others. Let’s hope so.

  1. Here I refer to the infamous gun sights that populated her Congressional map; it’s true, as a Daily Dish reader noted, that some years before a map generated by Dems contained targets — but they weren’t gun sights. And even if they were, is that a good defense? Actually, maybe the gun sights aren’t worse than targets in a nation that allows assault weapons but outlaws lawn darts.

What, Exactly, Will Maggie Gallagher and Andrew Sullivan be Discussing?

February 16th, 2010 No comments

Tomorrow’s event at the Cato Institute seems like an intriguing cage-match between Andrew Sullivan, a sort-of-lapsed [small c]onservative and the Ultra-Right wing, virulently anti-gay Maggie Gallagher. The stated topic is whether there’s a place for gays in conservatism and the conservative movement. A more perspicacious question might convert the “and” to “or”: Is there a place for gays in conservatism OR the conservative movement? Because these two things are quite different. (I expect that Sullivan will pick up on this point immediately, as he’s written about how the “movement” has lost its way, and therefore him.)

I’m pretty far from conservative. But reading thoughtful conservatives is vital for anyone with aspirations to informed commentary and discussion. The conservative “movement,” though?  Not so much: Tea Parties, torture defense, hypocritical and indefensible legislative obstructionism, and…Sarah Palin. It seems that Burkean-style conservatives have plenty to do in distinguishing themselves from those who have hijacked the word “conservative” and are trying to make off with it. There’s no room for gays — or anyone else whose concern for community, nation, and world isn’t purely cynical — in that “movement.” The gay question is to some extent a distraction from this broader tension, but the issue whether conservatism can find a place for gays is important as a marker for the movement’s continued intellectual legitimacy. Any “movement” that can find no place for a large and influential demographic group is engaging in the kind of denial — closeting, to use a pointed word in this context — that is destined to consign it to history’s periphery. We’re not going away, but they will unless they can find some way of accommodating us.

Expect the third participant, a UK Conservative party “shadow” secretary (Nick Herbert) to explain how that party has abandoned its attacks on the gay community in favor of the kind of robust, inclusive conservatism that Maggie Gallagher loves to hate.

Who’s Left to Love?

February 15th, 2010 No comments

This depressing article in today Philadelphia Inquirer relates a familiar tale: The poor are being vilified for taking government money, blamed for having made bad choices, called “breeders” for having kids they can’t support (with an icky overlay of moral disapproval for having many of these children out of wedlock). As the story points out, much of the anger is diffused and untroubled by facts: welfare rolls have been slashed mercilessly since the so-called Welfare Reform Act of 1996; the payments are so meager that no one would seek this as a viable means of support (and it lasts five years, max, anyway); most of those receiving assistance are children.

The anger is sometimes startling, as when South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer recently compared the poor to “stray animals who breed,” or when pandering, no-nothing politicians make symbolic shows of making life even more humiliating for people who can’t get by:

Pennsylvania State Rep. Garth Everett (R., Lycoming) has tried for a year to pass a law that would have [Temporary Assistance to Needy Families] recipients drug-tested and fingerprinted, a practice in some states. “People’s wallets are tighter these days, and they don’t want funds going to folks with drug problems,” he said.

Asked to back up his claims, Everett said, “I don’t have evidence that people are using it [TANF money] to buy drugs. I do get feedback from a significant part of my constituency that they have the feeling that folks on welfare are using drugs.” He added that his proposed bill “is not going anywhere” because Democrats oppose it.

His constituents “have the feeling” that folks are using money — some of the very generous $403, per month, for a mother and two kids — to buy drugs. That’s enough for Everett, who can make a political show of his solidarity with the angriest elements of his constituency without having to deal with the consequences. Among them is the likelihood that the money spent on drug testing and fingerprinting would far outweigh any cost savings from denying benefits to those using drugs, and thereby end up costing the state more money. As a bonus, it would feed into the discredited view that  drug addiction is a matter of choice and not a medical, public health issue that requires complex intervention.

Given that the poor take such a tiny percentage of the state’s money, the anger isn’t really about the money. It’s more the product of a deep and justifiable frustration by the broad swath of the increasingly left-behind middle class that they’ve done everything right, but can’t get ahead. Like a tire skidding endlessly on ice during our tundra-like winter here in the Mid-Atlantic, they work harder and harder and fall further and further behind. So to them, anyone who gets anything for “nothing” is bound to be the target of some vitriol. But would they change places with those they condemn?

No, they’d rather change places with the Wall Street bankers and financiers whose complex machinations were a significant contributing factor in the national and global meltdown that continues apace. But they know that’s not possible, and they’re too beaten down — and realistic — to think that people as well-connected as these modern-day robber barons (there! I said it! let the angry responses begin) will be brought to heel, or even asked to cut back by one yacht. Government is detested, but there, too, the problem seems too big and complex for them to have any effect.

This culture of fury and jealousy, whatever its understandable origin, isn’t healthy. I might want to blame right-wing talk show hosts like the morbidly obese Rush Limbaugh who, without apparent irony, recently wailed about how food stamp recipients are spending their money on unhealthy choices (including the outright lie that some of it is going to booze; it can’t), but the most accurate thing to say is that they’re only amplifying resentment and confusion that’s already out there. (If you want to make a symbolic stand against the worst (and most effective) offender, join this Facebook group).

As Sarah Palin understands (and she doesn’t understand much), there’s a fortune to be made in tapping into this anger. Obama, meanwhile, has the more difficult responsibility of connecting with our deeper but often less accessible sense of community and collective responsibility. He’s not always done this effectively, unfortunately, but this is the area in which we really need that “hope-y, change-y” thing. Otherwise, I fear that “the centre cannot  hold.” While I’m on Yeats, here’s a tired but apt close:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Strategy, Responsibility, and…Governance?

July 7th, 2009 No comments

Sarah Palin is an obvious dunderhead whose sell-by date has way passed. (For lots of detail, go to Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.) So first, an apology for devoting this short post to her. So she resigned as governor of Alaska, apparently a state. Really, who cares about her future? She’ll make scads of money preaching to the increasingly isolated far right wing of the Republican party, and provide both useful air minutes to Fox NEWS, and ink to the still-smitten Bill Kristol. Her “political future” is an oxymoron; she has none.

Speaking of her defenders, and of the right-wing true believers more generally….This surreal resignation has laid bare (not for the first time) that responsible governance isn’t their concern. Karl Rove described the decision as “a risky strategy.” Strategy? What about the sheer irresponsibility of resigning your office when the heat is turned up? That’s not Rove’s concern, and never has been. The guy who wanted to create a permanent Republican majority still doesn’t understand that voters can see through “strategy” to something called “substance.” The alter ego of the “boy genius” —  “turd blossom” — long ago became the more accurate sobriquet.

Ann Coulter, whom I’d vowed never to mention because doing so is like publicizing a whoopee cushion, defended Palin on the grounds that she shouldn’t have to continue defending herself against these pesky ethics investigations. In true defense-to-offense fashion, she suggested an ethics investigation against…anyone initiating an ethics investigation against Palin. Coulter decried the sheer number of investigations launched against Palin, confident that her analytically challenged audience wouldn’t stop to think that all of these investigations might indicate serious problems with the subject of the investigation rather than with the investigators, who are mostly of her own party. Here she is, in a mutual gush-fest with Sean Hannity. (You can stop after the first couple of minutes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Here’s a question that we might ask: What if everyone did that? “Well, I’m not going to run for reelection, so I’ll just quit midway through my term.”

Sarah Palin has no future in politics — or, I vow, on this blogsite — but there’s always a warm home for her among the true believers. Now, it’s time to cash in.