definitions

I wonder if there is anything the McCain campaign can do to pull Sarah Palin out of the “brainless twit” category at this point… This skit was hilarious, and I totally agree that she came off terribly in that interview, but I’ve seen other interviews with her, before she was in the national spotlight, where she had her act more together – usually about oil, where she knew her schtick better, I guess. Still, clearly she’s able to pull together the right sentences under some conditions, so her inability to get things right in the few occasions where she’s had a national interview seem like partly nervousness, partly inexperience, partly poor preparation, but perhaps overall placing so much importance on so few appearances… As The Daily Show pointed out the other day, Joe Biden has been making his standard blunders, but no one’s paid any attention to it recently… he’s off the front page ’cause there’s bigger fish to fry.

But once things are defined as a joke, it can be hard to change the meaning. That line about Alaska’s proximity to Russia has been completely defined in the media, for instance, and there’s no use in anyone in the Palin camp trying to defend it at this point; it’s marked out as a joke, and there really isn’t any hope for them of reclaiming it, I don’t think. That ship has sailed. And I’m not interested in defending her on it, myself. I don’t think Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience or would make a good president, as must be obvious from previous entries. But it’s not as if the claim were as silly as saying that her name begins with the same letter as Putin’s, or something.

Politics is based on geography, even in the 21st century. Europe is more tentative and concerned about the middle east because it’s right there, for them. America ignores much of what happens on the other side of the planet because it is physically distant. No matter how much we rely on virtual space and immediate contact through technology, physical proximity is still a primary component of our interactions, and nowhere more so than in the boundaries between nations.

Now, this doesn’t mean that someone dealing with the simple issues of border patrol between countries is going to know anything about complicated negotiations of heads of state. In this sense, it’s a little like a carpenter claiming that she does have training in geometry – in one sense, sure, there’s a basic understanding of lines and angles, and perhaps a stronger, more direct and material understanding at that, but in another, the complex logic and understanding of mathematical principles is not reached.

In the same sense that a carpenter is not a sophisticated geometer, so an executive of a state that shares borders with foreign nations is not a sophisticated foreign policy expert. They must be familiar with certain basics to do their job, but they needn’t be aware of deeper analyses. But Palin would occasionally have to deal with the borders of her state, and these were shared by foreign nations, so mocking the very idea that this had any meaning at all just sort of irks me. It reminds me a bit of when the Daily Show made fun of the line about the internet being “a series of tubes” as if it were just the silliest thing ever, and then some weeks later they had to run a cable between the daily show and colbert report, and they apparently saw the 3-block line themselves, and were sort of amazed how the connection between them was just this… tube…

Anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens in the debate on Thursday, if preconceptions are matched or altered at all.

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6 Responses to “definitions”

  1. rushmc Says:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1001/p09s01-coop.html

  2. peacay Says:

    That line about Alaska’s proximity

    It wasn’t a line. It was the tattered little swatch of material she pulled out with the intention of constructing an evening gown. Once, sure, that would be down to nervousness and being caught in the headlights and wanting to avert attention from her paucity of basic foreign policy knowledge. You’d let that go as first-up gaff after having a laugh.

    But with Couric she communicated her shock and confusion as to why she had been mocked originally — ie. she failed to understand why her original assertion was vacuous in all but throwaway senses; something you might forgive some feisty relative during dinner conversation, but totally laughable in the running-for-VP-this-is-my-serious-resume sense — and proceeded to elaborate, with mangled misconstruction of both her new lexicon of policy bullet points and the english language, why the proximity of Alaska to Russia and Canada has any bearing beyond the miniscule surface-y sense when one is trying to assert they have foreign policy experience. It’s beyond insulting to all of us who are interested and curious and read the papers and the web seeking out knowledge. She has the audacity to believe that where she lives is just as important as having sought out information all her life like many of the rest of us. She is Bush’s intellectual daughter. So the whole Russia thing has entered the pop-culture as a standard joke because the second performance highlighted her incapacity for wider perspective and demonstrates that she is bloody dangerous as well as a fool.

    t’s not as if the claim were as silly as saying that her name begins with the same letter as Putin’s

    But it’s closer to the silly end of the spectrum than it is to seriousness. I understand what you’re saying about the geolocation stuff, but it’s flubb; it’s like saying because I live next to a doctor I have a greater appreciation for medicine or the somesuch. It’s always a stretch unless it involves some practical process leading to increased knowledge. She also mentioned the trade missions. But she cut the funding for the Alaskan office from $75K to $15K and never participated. Her natural instinct is to lie and she’s just not used to being fact-checked or challenged. It shows that, not only is she not ready to be a VP, but that she is not to be trusted either.

    I’m not interested in defending her on it

    *raises eyebrow*

    For a while I felt inclined to have some level of sympathy for her, truly. But I’ve come to agree with Rebecca Traister that despite the national and international humiliation Palin may have suffered, it is totally deserved and really really undermines the undeniable advancement for women in general brought by HRC’s campaign this year.
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/09/30/palin_pity/print.html

    Palin is the Tonya Harding of politics.

  3. drinkme Says:

    I understand what you’re saying about the geolocation stuff, but it’s flubb; it’s like saying because I live next to a doctor I have a greater appreciation for medicine or the somesuch.

    I think it’s more like a nurse (working in one specific ward) claiming she has experience as a doctor… she was governing a border state, not just living in it. WHich obviously is not enough to be a real doctor; you have to go to medical school and understand far more than just looking after a few patients and being familiar with the ins and outs of their local needs.

    Anyway, this is silly, I don’t really want to argue over it, I just get irritated that people seem to forget that politics is based on geography, and that the governing of real borders is the origin of foreign policy…

  4. drinkme Says:

    eh, i guess i’m always trying to give people more credit than necessary… this video http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2008/10/01/ac.palin.latest.cnn was pretty depressing!

  5. peacay Says:

    For my crimes against bandwidth I am throttled atm and can’t connect (or CBS victimisation of non-US IP addresses is in play). But I’ve seen a whole lot of Palin video and one more could hardly make my opinion of her (as a ‘credible’ candidate) any worse.

    Sorry if I came across all combatty. I realise you were reaching for the larger points about the borders and foreign policy; I just think it is way beyond believable to think that these historical tenets (and practical implications) operate in any useful way in Palin’s case. It was my ‘kick Palin’ day.

  6. peacay Says:

    cbs = cnn of course.

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