Now that the Vice Presidential debate is over, it’s about time I get over Sarah Palin too. As a matter of fact, I am no longer interested in dedicating any significant amount of space on this blog to the Republican vice presidential nominee. Nevertheless, I will end by saying this: Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin performed very well in last night’s debate. Joe Biden proved himself informed, capable, and uniquely situated to rebut John McCain’s claims of maverick grandeur. Furthermore, he instilled confidence in his ability to act as the nation’s steward.
At the same time, Sarah Palin did not crash and burn. She sounded confident, outperformed the low expectations, and hit all of the major talking points she had crammed in recent weeks. She was aided by the debate format where she was never asked to elaborate, explain her position, or specifically cite anything (Supreme Court decisions or newspapers she’s read). Rather, she was permitted great leeway to avoid answering the questions altogether and go straight to her talking points: Obama equals more taxes and bigger government, Alaska, Ned Flanders English, hockey moms and mavericks, and war. It didn’t matter whether what she said made any sense, what mattered was that these were words that average Americans could relate to.
My fundamental problem with this approach is that it treats “average” Americans as idiots — as Pavlovian dogs who will salivate at the very mention of key words. She didn’t care that being against government spending and investing in infrastructure (in the same breath) were mutually exclusive. What mattered was that both sound good. In other words, she thinks these Joe Sixpacks are too stupid to logically follow the nonsense. Small towns are great, big cities are bad. We must fight to protect the small town values (even though the U.S. is not a country of small towns, most Americans don’t want to live in small towns nor do they believe in small town racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and smallness; our nation is about mobility).
(Hey, don’t the Republicans also argue that Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington, DC because they were representative of American values? But aren’t those the corrupt and greedy places, the places that don’t represent American values? Does Sarah Palin think that next time Al Qaeda attacks American values, it should do so Alaska?)
Isn’t it ironic to see how the Washington outsider coming to town to bring those down home, small town values and shake things up won’t answer questions straight forward? In the interviews, this is obvious. Take this exchange with Katie Couric, for example,
Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?
Palin: I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.
Couric: What, specifically?
Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.
Couric: Can you name a few?
Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, “Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?” Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.
Either she is doesn’t read newspapers (or can’t remember their names) or believes that it is politically irresponsible to cite the newspapers she reads. Are we to believe that these non-committal answers are characteristic of small town values? Or is not answering simple questions being a tough pit bull? Is asking a follow-up question gotcha journalism? Personally, I’d be scared to play gotcha with a pit bull.
While those tactics in interviews may make Sarah Palin look unintelligent and unprepared, her debating strategy showed that she was a very capable apprentice and quick study. It also told us that her view of the average American was someone who would rather hear and settle for Ned Flanders responding to direct questions with unrelated talking points than straight policy answers. She takes Americans for dumb. Golly Jeepers, betcha she done said so herself,
I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people.
And that’s enough on Sarah Palin.