Posts Tagged ‘palin’

what you never know

October 19, 2008

I always try to keep in mind that life in the real world is hard to predict, but like everyone I also find myself turning to previous cases that are similar enough to this one, to try to predict anyway. Six months ago I thought McCain had a real chance, and after the RNC I was sure it would be a close race. It was only last week when the polls seemed to just keep getting tougher for him, and Obama just kept cruising along, that I finally felt like maybe we didn’t have to worry that much. But after that last debate and a few positive pop culture appearances for McCain and Palin (Letterman, the Alfred E Smith show, SNL) I could see McCain just being the easy going nice guy underdog, not worrying about it, and Obama trying too hard and irritating everyone with his constant barrage of boring politician-ads. I’m reminded that it doesn’t matter what happened last time or how things go in what percentage of times. All that matters is what is happening right now and how things are going this time.

So it’s a false sense of security to look at 95% likelihood of winning… That site is based on a baseball stat model, which is hardly based on beliefs and psychology at all, and mostly on facts and abilities. BUt politics is all about opinions and group tendencies. It’s a whole different ball game, so to speak. Also, teams actually win and lose multiple times a week, whereas in politics it’s just polls multiple times a week that are providing numbers – the actual “game” only happens once, and could be totally misrepresented by polls the whole time, for a whole host of reasons.

I know the Tribune endorsed him, and that overall more newspapers have gone with Obama. Plus today Colin Powell endorsed Obama. But this is all for people who are following politics on purpose, not for people who just catch sight of things here or there. And Colin is sort of part of the old school anyway. So even with all this I feel like things are less secure now than they were, that McCain has found more of his groove, talking anti-socialism and being a fun guy. Not that it will work, but I think it will be closer.


the right / responsibility of voting

October 9, 2008

I mentioned that Rich Lowry piece the other day about Sarah Palin’s winks knocking his socks off, and came across this possibly comparable piece by a female writer the other day, about how pictures of male candidates holding babies just makes her melt. She admits pretty much without hesitation that her rational concerns are no longer the point; it’s the look on the little boy’s face.

I tend to be a somewhat overly analytic person. To me, Sarah Palin’s winks were kinda cute in a funny way, but completely inappropriate to the context, so sort of surreal and hilarious and just bizarre. They did not make me like her more, though they didn’t necessarily make me dislike her more. They just made me feel like “what the fuck is going on in this ridiculous country?”

As for that picture of Obama and the gleeful little boy, to me it is very sweet, but that’s the end of it – if not for all the commentary, it would have been an “aww” moment, and then I’d forget about it. I guess if you are already really into Obama it is probably more deeply affecting, but even so, I’m surprised how intensely people seemed to react to it (though I wonder if that’s just the immediacy of the internet, and if they’d even remember it the next day).

All of this reminds me a bit of an article that was in the New Yorker this week; only the abstract is online, but Jill Lepore wrote a piece about the history of voting in America, and how much it has changed in the last couple centuries. In the first election, only 6% of the US population had voting rights – only property-owning men were entrusted with not voting for their own personal gain, but only for the common good – and the entire population of the country was smaller than a lot of contemporary cities. They voted in public, by raising hands or saying names in the town hall, and later by handing in hand-written ballots. This ended up being dangerous as people would attempt to stop each other from getting to polling places, so in the mid-late 19th century, after the vote had been widened to those without property and the freed slaves, we switched to secret ballots…

But things still went through the Electoral College, which was a safety measure that kept the polloi from directly choosing the president. Now we still have the EC but it’s not really meaningful anymore, as we are trying to encourage the polloi to please choose the president. Unfortunately we aren’t encouraging them to become more interested or more educated or more thoughtful when making the choice, and it seems as if a lot of candidates are all too aware of how to use various gimmicks to manipulate them.

Consider how upset FOX news was when an unretouched close-up of Sarah Palin was published by Newsweek: if Ms Palin became Ms Plain, she’d lose her whole draw. But it’s not as if the same thing isn’t going on on Obama’s side… Image is … well, a lot.

ok, one last Palin comment…

October 7, 2008

Finally someone in the media describes the debate the way it seemed to me, instead of soft-pedaling to avoid seeming sexist or biased. I guess only female writers in the foreign press, or independent bloggers, can really be critical without looking suspect.*

And it’s not as if the right denies that it’s “the politics of flirting” – it’s just they like it like that

I mean, Kathleen Parker said she should bow out after the Couric interviews… but somehow was supposedly won back by the debate (I have to believe it was some kind of back room, lookbitchyoubetterstop, or, I dunno… I mean, those starbursts can’t have got to her too)

*(e.g., notice how careful Hillary Clinton has been – every time she comments, she switches it to “the McCain-Palin ticket” and how it affects issues)

palin culture

October 3, 2008

It seems like the afterglow of Sarah Palin’s performance wore off pretty quickly – the pundits may have liked it, but the bloggers didn’t; the polls were against her and the internet quickly pointed out her weaknesses – the Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart started making the rounds right off the bat – I must have seen it in half a dozen places, including facebook, my mailbox and the comments section here. Sure, that doesn’t mean it reflects everyone’s opinion, but at least, plenty of people were Not Impressed.

The other thing I found weird, though, was the way she didn’t seem to be all that conservative. She was weak to me for being incompetent, but I wonder if she will still seem strong to the base, considering that she hasn’t fired up the god-talk or the pro-life talk or much else to really get them going, and it seems as if she’s given a few to the lefties. I mean, ok, she did a little “drill baby drill” talk, but it wasn’t all that convincing without a room full of followers to chant with her, especially when Biden had the numbers to back up why the whole idea was stupid. (speaking of, the Economist has a funny moment in this trying to parse that interchange in the debate..)

But she agreed with Obama/Biden on the rights of gay couples to have basic recognition as legitimate civil unions, even if not passing that religious barrier of “marriage” (but that just shows it’s a question of social evolution – who can imagine either party even mentioning gay rights so straightforwardly 20 years ago?).

And as I said below, in the Couric interview, she talked a lot about “choice” when it came to abortion, about the importance of “choosing life”: but not the legal necessity of barring people from having the option of murdering their unborn child or anything like that. She was pretty soft on abortion, it seemed to me, if it’s gonna be a one-issue thing. Maybe that’s what contemporary conservatives are like, but I wondered if she satisfied the base.

And on banking, she seemed to be pretty pro-regulation, and on global warming she seemed ok with stopping emissions, at least in theory, so where was the conservative base stuff? Just the same as McCain, it seemed – the differences were the war, taxes, energy policy, and budget stuff (education, health care)… not the social issues or religious stuff. Or perhaps it’s just having the fake smile and the wink, in the end – Reagan never did anything in particular for the base either, I guess… hmm. I still feel like he was better at dressing up his answers, but I was too young to be paying close attention so I’m just making assumptions.

ok, media, just stop predicting.

October 3, 2008

Apparently the first poll says Biden won the debate 51 to 36. They thought Palin was more likable (54 to 36), but Biden was more capable (87% thought Biden was qualified to be president, while only 42% thought so of Palin, after watching the debate). So maybe the public is less easily fooled than the pundits expect…

Palin’s pro-choice?

October 2, 2008

IN this video between around 6:30 and 6:50, she says she “would counsel” anyone who wanted to have an abortion to “choose life”, but that no one who had an abortion should ever end up in jail, “absolutely not” – it’s not a legal issue, just a personal belief. So in the end it’s not a political issue, just something she’d like to counsel people on. How is this relevant to politics? This is a non-profit organization, a foundation you can start, a newsletter or a support group. But it’s not a political position. If this is what people mean when they say “pro-life”, then we are talking on two different wave-lengths, and the whole debate is meaningless. We really need to start all over.

This issue gets in the way of so many much more important aspects of political discussions, and it’s completely meaningless. I guess it took a completely naive politician to actually say what she meant, rather than carefully step around the proper sound bites…

pre debate thoughts: Sarah Palin

October 2, 2008

This video about Sarah Palin claims that as a mayor she was hard-lined against LGBT rights, banning books, and supporting “reparation” therapy.

On the other hand, at the end of it, someone compares her to Dick Cheney, who has an openly lesbian daughter he’s on good terms with, so that makes me start to question the entire thing. I am frustrated that Cheney is a hypocrite about his private life and his public political stance on gay issues, but he isn’t making it an important aspect of any campaigns to snuff out gay rights or something either. So is the fear about Palin meant to be that she just won’t do anything to support gay rights legislation, or that she would actually attempt to implement an anti-gay agenda?

BBC provides a nice gaffe breakdown of both Biden and Palin – not exhaustive, of course – how could it be, really? – but gives you a sense of tone of their respective blunders if you haven’t been paying attention. But really, it seems as if in a live situation, Palin fares much worse (video compares Supreme Court knowledge)… even if Biden doesn’t always get his facts right, or says something dumb, he rolls along as if it made sense, whereas Palin has that Miss Teen USA problem of just running into words that just stopping fitting together at all at a certain point… She desperately tries to use broad generalities to overcome the fact that hasn’t got an answer, but not being able to get the generalities in place properly, they just get randomly dropped in as complete non-sequiturs.

Of course, she’s been practicing all week. It cannot possibly go as badly as it seems like it will. Which is what they’re both counting on… they’ll have a boring debate and no one will fuck up and we’ll all say, huh, she’s not that stupid / he’s not that offensive, and life will return to normal.

But just one slip on either side will look so much larger than it really is. Saying “what (whoever) doesn’t understand” would be inadmissable for Joe Biden, even though it was McCain’s favorite line. Mispronouncing “Ahmadinejad” would probably have been a whole scandal for Palin, but it was just a sort of silly moment for McCain (though now I have to get all conspiracyish and wonder if he did that on purpose so when she fucks up on some pronunciation thing he can act like the press is being all unfair…)

well. more later.


September 30, 2008

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.

rumors, impressions

September 26, 2008

This claims that rape kit rumor has been debunked, and points out that journalists have been really unreliable in this election cycle… Unfortunately it’s unclear how reliable they’ve been all along, but it’s the bloggers who debunk, because there’s enough of them that at least a few care about the accusations being made, and look into them, and since information is so readily available these days, the truth can be found…

Perhaps the trouble is just that there is so much information in every direction that journalists don’t have time to investigate every single rumor that crops up – I just heard on the radio someone who had looked into this same story and couldn’t come up with a definitive answer on it, though he came up with nothing to support the rumor (seems pretty debunked, actually, since she’s denied it, but he left it at “unknown” – which honestly seems unfair, like “who can say if he’s a muslim”…)

(I watched All the President’s Men on an airplane a month or so ago, and couldn’t help comparing how different research was at the time, and how innocent it seemed to be – reporters always honestly calling and stating they were reporters and asking for statements, and writing things down, all very straightforward. I’m sure in order to get the quotes they had to say who they were, but it really struck me as a whole ‘nother world)

Regarding McCain’s break from debates and so on, as Brian Lehrer pointed out this morning, in a supposed attempt to get away from partisan politics and the presidential race so that real work could be done, McCain only increased attention on partisan politics and the presidential race, by bringing it with him to Washington. He could have let Congress work on the bill in peace, but by focusing attention on it, making the time it gets finished symbolic for both democrats and republicans, there’s now a whole lot of silliness focused on it what wouldn’t otherwise be a deadline (well, not to the same degree, anyway). He’s not helping the situation, and clearly could have provided his input from the road… But this may still give the impression to some americans that he is hard at work while Obama is off campaigning. I hope that isn’t the outcome, but it isn’t the details that get remembered.

daily shifts

September 18, 2008

538’s update today says more about some of those points from the other day, that Obama may be coming back stronger post-RNC bounce, post Palin-fascination (also check out: anti-Palin rally; talk radio response), and now with the economy clearly being taken more seriously as an issue.

This article claims that McCain is actually right about the “fundamentals” of the economy (before he changed his mind, anyway, or decided the fundamentals just meant “people” or something) but that it doesn’t matter: Bush was right, too, that the economy was back on the upswing in 1992 but Clinton still won by “feeling your pain”.

Of course, it seems hard to know with certainty that the economy was on the upswing just because we’d had a couple good quarters before Clinton came into office… isn’t it possible the president has some impact on what happens next? I suppose I shouldn’t pretend to understand economics, so I’ll leave it there for now.