Sarah Palin is dangerous. She is self-confident and incompetent. She represents the worst of the American right-wing nutjobs. I’m not alone in thinking this.
So far as I can tell, Sarah Palin has four core beliefs:
1. Things go better with God.
2. Yay, Alaska!
3. Let’s drill that sucker.
4. Curse you, political establishment.
Palinisms occur when Palin expresses one of these views in her idiosyncratically involuted syntax (“It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia”); when she expresses two or more of them in combination (“God’s will has to be done, in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that”); or when she says anything at all in her imitable my sentence went on the Tilt-a-Whirl and got nauseous way (“And I think more of a concern has been not within the campaign, the mistakes that were made, not being able to react to the circumstances that those mistakes created in a real positive and professional and helpful way for John McCain”).
But the best Palinisms of all result when the huntress encounters something she wasn’t hunting for—that is, when Sarah Palin comes into contact with most anything to do with domestic, foreign, or economic policy. It is this situation that generates those priceless let me tap-dance and, also, sing for you a little song while you think of a different question moments. One such was the juncture in her mind-boggling 2008 interview when Katie Couric asked Palin to name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with, other than Roe v. Wade. Surrounded by hostile forces, out of cartridges for her Remington, she bravely held her ground and kept pulling the trigger, to no effect:
Palin: Well, let’s see. There’s—of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others. But, um.
Couric: Can you think of any?
Palin: Well, I would think of any again that could best be dealt with on a more local level maybe I would take issue with. But, um, you know as a mayor and then as a governor and even as a vice president, if I am so privileged to serve, I would be in a position of changing those things, but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
Tina Fey’s caricature of Palin as an unprepared high-school student trying to bluff her way through an oral exam by mugging and flirting hit its mark not merely because of the genius of the mimicry, but because of its fundamentally accurate diagnosis of Palin as bullshit artist. Palin’s exuberant incoherence testifies to an unusually wide gulf between confidence and ability. She is proud of what she doesn’t know and contemptuous of those “experts” and “elitists” who are too knowledgeable to be trusted. This curious self-regard echoes through her book, Going Rogue, described by the critic Jonathan Raban as “a four-hundred-page paean to virtuous ignorance.”
The issue is not that Palin, thrust upon the national stage with little warning, still doesn’t know all the details. That’s understandable. The issue is that she rarely appears to have the slightest grasp of what she’s talking about even when she’s supposed to know what she’s talking about. For instance, in one of the 2008 campaign’s most surreal examples of rhetorical excess, John McCain said Palin “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.” A few days later, she offered a sample of her expertise in a town hall meeting: “Oil and coal? Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. … So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here.”
Bushisms, which I collected for many years, often hinged on a single grammatical or factual error. Palinisms, by contrast, consist of a unitary stream of patriotic, populist blather. It’s like Fox News without the punctuation. It is so devoid of content that it hardly deserves the adjective “truthy.” Let’s call it “roguey.” Palinisms do not have to contain actual evidence of rogue thinking, though; they just have to capture the rogue spirit. It’s “Yes, we can, in spite of Them.”
The non-Sarah Dittoheads among us have to decide whether to regard this babble—favoring creation science, aerial wolf-shooting, and freedom of the press, so long as the press is “accurate”—as scary or funny. During the 2008 campaign, when there was a real chance that Palin could become the automatic successor to an impulsive, elderly cancer survivor, I found it more scary than funny. After McCain lost, and after Palin terminated her governorship in the effusion of furious gibberish known as her resignation speech, I have found it mostly funny. To be alarmed by Palin today presumes a Republican Party suicidal enough to want her to do more than run its weekend paintball games.
So the spirit of Palinisms is something to be enjoyed. And we can be sure it’s a gift that will keep on giving, for, as she says in her book, “God doesn’t drive parked cars.” Be warned: The one driving her pickup onto the Fox airwaves and into the Twittersphere is hungry for red meat, hard to reason with, and in a big hurry to get going.
This is adapted from the introduction to Palinisms: The Accidental Wit & Wisdom of Sarah Palin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). © Jacob Weisberg 2010.
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Friday, May 14, 2010 23:15 ET
Maine Tea Party: Worse than you think
State GOP apologizes after conventioneers vandalize an eighth grade classroom
By Joan Walsh
Tea Party defenders like to accuse Tea Party critics of focusing on a tiny minority of racist, crazy or potentially violent freaks, and ignoring the vast majority of sensible, respectful law abiding folk who just support smaller government. Why, just the other day, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal pointed to the Tea Party group that played by the rules and took over the Maine GOP’s convention, to push lovely and constructive Tea Party ideas into the party’s platform, as an example of the productive role the movement plays.
Of course, a day later I wrote about how many crackpot ideas they got into Maine’s constitution. But hey, one person’s crackpot ideas are another person’s political brilliance. I get that.
Is vandalism likewise in the eye of the beholder? I’m not so sure.
Thanks to Think Progress, I learned Friday that their ideas weren’t all that was crazy about the Maine Tea Partiers. The state GOP just apologized to Portland’s King Middle School, because conventioneers – who gathered at the Expo, but used the middle school for caucusing – unbelievably, vandalized an eighth-grade classroom. Relying on reports in the Portland Press Herald, Think Progress describes what the Tea Party caucusers did to eighth-grade teacher Paul Clifford’s class:
– For seven years, Clifford has had “a collage-type poster depicting the history of the U.S. labor movement” on his classroom door. He uses it “to teach his students how to incorporate collages into their annual project on Norman Rockwell’s historic ‘Four Freedoms’ illustrations.” When Clifford returned to his classroom on Monday, after the GOP caucuses, the poster was gone; in its place was a sticker reading, “Working People Vote Republican.”
– Republicans opened a “closed cardboard box they found near Clifford’s desk” and later objected to the fact that it contained copies of the U.S. Constitution donated to the school by the American Civil Liberties Union.
– After the caucuses, “rank-and-file Republicans who were upset by what they said they had seen in Clifford’s classroom” began calling the school, objecting to student art they had seen and a sticker on a filing cabinet reading “People for the American Way — Fight the Right.”
* Continue reading
When Clifford got to work and saw the poster had been replaced by the “Working People Vote Republican” sticker, at first he laughed, he told the Portland Press Herald, thinking, “‘All right, that’s funny, But then I go inside my room thinking the poster will be on my desk – and it isn’t. And so now I’m like, ‘You know what? This is baloney!”‘
Clifford started trying to get his poster back, but meanwhile, Tea Partiers were calling the school to protest what they found in Clifford’s classroom. Never mind that Norman Rockwell was once synonymous with mainstream American values. Never mind that the “Four Freedoms,” as articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union speech (as what became known as World War II raged on) are enshrined on a cherished monument in Washington D.C.
Here’s what Roosevelt actually said in his famous speech:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
Sadly, you can see what the Tea Partiers, and too many Republicans, would find objectionable: Freedom from want and freedom from fear. Because most of them believe in want and fear, as necessary to animate the corporate national security regime. (Sadly, too many Democrats seem to support that too.) And of course, the Republican right objects to the “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way,” so a whole lot of the GOP is against three out of four freedoms. So much for the party of freedom and liberty. True patriots would likely rise up against the state propagation of want and fear, but that’s really not what the Tea Party is about.
Whatever. It’s not my cup of tea. This is America, they’re entitled to their beliefs.
What I can’t see is how anyone would defend trashing a public school classroom to symbolize their objections to whatever they believed was going on there. And yet the Press Herald received email from Tea Party activists defending what happened (even as the Maine GOP, to its credit, apologized to the students and teachers of King Middle School.)
Clifford’s students quickly responded. Simon Johnson, a graduate of Clifford’s eighth-grade class blogged:
I am an unapologetic graduate of Paul Clifford’s eighth grade English class at King Middle School. I participated in the “Four Freedoms” expedition, and I made a poster decrying war quite similar to the one with which the Republicans took issue.
I am not brainwashed, I am not a puppet, I am not anti-American or anti-religious, and I am certainly not stupid. Paul Clifford’s class taught me to think critically, to deductively reason and, if anything, to appreciate America for all the freedoms with which I am ensured on a daily basis.
Clearly, the Knox County Republicans — who took a cherished, pro-Labor poster from Clifford’s room and who now are making slanderous and uninformed claims about Clifford — have a different agenda.
Eighth-grader Lilly O’Leary emailed the Press-Herald: “I am not being brainwashed…I am being told that I have the right to my own opinion.” She added, “These people were adults and they were acting very immaturely.”
But hey, the Tea Partiers are the best of American values and the future of the Republican Party, Lilly! James Taranto of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal vouches for them. Get with the program!
Lilly O’Leary and Simon Johnson are patriots. The Tea Party cowards who vandalized an eighth-grade classroom are not.
7 Gay Sex Scandals of Career Anti-Gay CrusadersFrom white supremacists to right-wing politicians, we have watched an impressive number of vehemently anti-gay folks get caught up in gay sexscapades.