The Palin Talking Point Generator.

24 10 2008
The Palin Talking Point Machine

Behold, The Palin Talking Point Generator!

At the Alaska State Fair, and other craft shows around town, I’ve seen a little device that makes me smile and think, “Only in Alaska.”  It’s the carved wooden likeness of a moose.  The hollow moose body can be filled with jelly beans.  The tail, which is moveable, is used as a lever, which, when operated, dispenses a jelly bean “moose nugget” in the palm of your hand.  It’s beginning to remind me of the Palin campaign.

Their strategy has become obvious.  Crank out a steady stream of half-truths, talking points, wedge issues, folksy filler words, justifications and shiny, sweet flat-out lies.  Do this fast enough, and by the time anyone takes the time to review, research, analyze, debunk, refute, and thoughtfully respond, you’re already five piles of moose nuggets ahead of them.

Picture a five year old who gets a hold of the moose nugget generator, pumping that tail up and down as fast as his little hand can go, watching that big sticky pile accumulate in his hand.  Yum.

It’s hard to know where to start, but let’s start with the interview she did with the Chicago Tribune today.  And which nugget?  Let’s try that nice shiny green one.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin insisted in an interview with the Tribune on Thursday that she did not accept $150,000 worth of designer clothes from the Republican Party and “that is not who we are.” “That whole thing is just, bad!” she said. “Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are.”

Oh, dear.  It sounds like she’s been very misunderstood indeed.  People are so petty!  But, wait a minute….hasn’t she…been..wearing those clothes?  And….that’s the dollar amount that the RNC reported in their own disclosure forms.   If you pay nothing, and get $150,000 in clothing, hair styling and makeup, that sounds pretty frugal to me.  I just don’t get it. She’s not making any sense…WAIT!  Another jelly bean!  Look, it’s pink!

“I think Hillary Clinton was held to a different standard in her primary race,” Palin said. “Do you remember the conversations that took place about her, say superficial things that they don’t talk about with men, her wardrobe and her hairstyles, all of that? That’s a bit of that double standard.”

Hillary Clinton?  Double standard?  Wait a minute.  There may be something to that, but I don’t think Hillary Clinton spent $150,000 of the DNC’s money to buy a new wardrobe.  Her Senate wardrobe was just fine, just like…um….a Governor’s wardrobe should be, right?  And what about John Edwards and that $400 hair cut?  The Republicans had a field day over that one!   Oh….look!  A yellow one!

“I’m not going to complain about it, I’m not going to whine about it, I’m going to plow through that, because we are embarking on something greater than that, than allowing that double standard to adversely affect us,” she said.

We know American’s do NOT like complainers and whiners, that’s for sure.  That’s pretty much the kiss of death for a politician.  So it’s good she’s not complaining, except for saying it’s unfair, and sexist, and there’s a double standard, and people don’t understand the real her, and it’s painful because….heeeeeyy.  Come to think of it, that actually kind of sounds like complaining and whining to me!  That’s pretty hypocritic…..Oooo!  Another one!  It’s red!

But polls suggest that McCain is in trouble, partly because of Palin, who has been criticized as lacking the experience to become president. This week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll suggested more people now think that Palin is hurting McCain’s chances of becoming president than President George W. Bush, whose national approval ratings are in the 20s.

Palin disputed such conclusions.

“I think that those reporters asking those questions should come to some of our rallies and ask some of those in the crowd why it is they are enthused,” she said, adding that the crowds see her as representing “hardworking, everyday American families.”

But the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll isn’t actually made up of questions asked by reporters.  It’s questions asked by pollsters, and it’s done in a pretty scientific sort of way.  I don’t think it would really be appropriate to send pollsters to your rallies to ask them why they are there.  You see, that wouldn’t really be impartial, or be a representative sample of the way the country is thinking, which is why we actually have polls.  And the voters are made up of people from all over, not just “enthused” McCain-Palin rally-goers… Surely, you can’t possibly think that people will take this seriou….

OK, I need to stop now…my stomach hurts.  I think I’ve overdone it on the moose nugget jelly beans.  Anyone on the other ticket got some Alka-Seltzer?

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Is Palin an Albatross?

20 09 2008

Is Sarah Palin becoming an albatross around the neck of John McCain? Two weeks ago, the thought that we would be asking this question seemed unlikely at best.  Alaska’s own ‘hockey mom/beauty queen’ governor had become the overnight darling of the political world.  She had everything – spunk, principles, smarts, beauty, ethics, and an attitude that was just plain “maverick”.  Right?

Never mind that the hearts of progressive Alaskans (and even some Republicans) were gripped with an icy fear that made breathing alone difficult, nevermind shouting, “Noooooooo!”  The rest of the world loved Sarah.  Lipstick became an iconic symbol of political girl power. Her recent stint as a small town mayor, and her journalism degree from the University of Idaho showed us that “anyone can be president”. Her eyeglass frames were sold out at retail outlets around the land almost instantly.  Pitbulls gained an unlikely place in our hearts. And all of a sudden John McCain didn’t have to grovel, and offer to bus people in from miles away to make his rallies look not so embarrasingly empty.  It was a Disney movie – Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington, Cinderella and The Mighty Ducks all rolled into one.

But now, it’s the morning after, and America  is starting to have some regrets.  Sarah, it seems, has been our “rebound girl” after our escape from a disastrous and abusive long-term relationship with our soon-to-be ex, Dick Cheney.  Rebound relationships are normal, but no one expects them to last.

What was it?  Shooting wolves from airplanes? The pastor problem? Abuse of power? The embarrasing interview with Charlie Gibson? Charging victims for rape kits? Being for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it? Her far-right stance on reproductive rights? Todd’s membership in a secessionist political party? New Earth evangelism? Stonewalling an ethics investigation? Leaving her small town in debt? Her love of earmarks?  Her hatred of polar bears? Who knows?  It may be a little of all of these things, or for some people, one is enough.  But, we’re starting to realize, in the light of day,  that the beautiful shiny image of Sarah Palin that swept us off our political feet isn’t the whole story.  I wonder sometimes if there isn’t a portrait of a hideous, wrinkled old woman hidden away in a closet of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, and we’re all living some unexplainable Arctic version of Dorian Gray.

For the rest of America in the thralls of Sarah-Mania, Alaskans have been trying to be your sensible friend. “Are you crazy?  This will never work!”  “At the risk of our friendship, I have to tell you she is totally wrong for you!” “Do not, I repeat, do NOT move in with her!” 

During the last few weeks of this ‘discovery period,’ Palin’s positive ratings have steadily and rapidly eroded, and according to the most recent report from the Daily Kos (excellent visual below) she can now actually be considered a ‘drag’ on the ticket.  Not everyone is ‘there’ yet, but the trend is undeniable, and there are still weeks to go before election day.


America, on behalf of all Alaskans, and as your sensible friend, I want to thank you for hearing us out.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Who are THEY?” asks Palin.

8 09 2008

OK, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a pretty bad gaffe.

The number one issue of concern on people’s minds these days is the economy. Speaking before voters in Colorado Springs today Saturday, Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, claimed that lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.”


Sorry. These lending institutions “aren’t taxpayer funded but operate as private companies. The takeover may result in a taxpayer bailout during reorganization,” according to McClatchy.

As the current administration skips merrily along with their convenient ideology of privatizing profits, and socializing failures, Palin is obviously oblivious to the inner workings of….uh oh….the ECONOMY.

Palin’s statement “is somewhat nonsensical because up until yesterday there was sort of no public funding there,” said Andrew Jakobovics of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “The ‘too expensive to tax payers,’ I don’t know where that comes from.”

“You would like to think that someone who is going to be vice president and conceivable president would know what Fannie and Freddie do,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “These are huge institutions and they are absolutely central to our country’s mortgage debt. To not have a clue what they do doesn’t speak well for her, I’d say.”

Neither does she. But notice that Palin didn’t dodge the question. She didn’t panic and say she’d need to check with someone, or that she needed more information, or skirt around it. She actually felt confident enough to answer, and lay it all out there – and be completely wrong. She had no clue.

At least we now know that McCain, who admitted he didn’t really know much about the economy, decided to balance the ticket by choosing a running mate who doesn’t know ANYthing.

New Pic of Bristol! DON’T LOOK!

6 09 2008

Hat tip to Mudflats reader Drew Brown for this TIVO capture.

You looked, didn’t you. So did I. What do we make of that?

How do we sort out the rumor, policy issues, competence issues, judgement issues and gossip? Where do the lines blur between them? Is it fair to talk about her pregnant teen daughter Bristol? Is it fair to ask questions about her marital fidelity, or if she is Trig’s real mother? When does gossip become a rumor, and rumor become plausible, and plausible rumor become verified fact? These questions are good because they make us at least stop and examine how the media does business, and how we judge our political candidates, and ultimately where we place the only real power we have – our vote.

Is Bristol fair game? Our first instinct is probably, no. Family is off limits. But what happens when family matters demonstrate decision making ability, criteria for judgment, and how the candidate will enact potential policy decisions? That changes things.

Sarah Palin has repeatedly said that having her baby is Bristol’s ‘decision’. And isn’t Bristol lucky to have a decision, and a supportive family, and someone who wants to marry her, and parents who are well-off and willing to help her, and the help of a nanny. Yes, she is. And, frankly, it would be a mistake to question the family’s decision because it is their decision, and that’s the point. The crux of this issue is that Palin believes other girls like Bristol should have no decision – not in the case of rape, or incest, or both. Not if you’re 12 or 20 or 55, rich or poor, married or alone, sick or well, able or disabled.

Palin believes her daughter should not have had a choice, even if she had been raped, even if she had been 12, and even if she had been a victim of incest, or all three. And she doesn’t think any other family should have a choice either. Really. Entitled to her opinion? Yes. Will mainstream America agree? Not if you believe the statistics.

So, given the fact that teens will be teens, and subject to the potential of hormone-induced bad judgment, what is Palin’s solution? Surely, we all want to prevent as many unwanted pregnancies as possible. Right now, because of Roe v. Wade, choice is the law. We know that all across the country, teenage girls, like her daughter, are getting pregnant by accident and having legal abortions. What would Palin propose to do about it? Something that doesn’t work. Her solution is abstinence only. No sex education. No information. No birth control. Just say no. She, herself, can see in a real and clear way, that this doesn’t work. Just ask Bristol. And just ask Sarah, who was pregnant when she married Todd.

So what does all this this tell us? She makes important policy decisions based on religious conviction. She sticks with failed policy, even when the failure is obvious and hard-hitting. She believes in taking away currently available decisions for all of America, despite the fact that the majority of Americans oppose it. Qualities we want in a president?

And yes, I say president, and not vice president. Anyone accepting the role of Vice President stands a very real chance of becoming president by succession. The odds are better than 30%.

When looking at the scandalous pictures, and reading the scads of gossip that is bubbling up in Alaska and wending its circuitous way toward main stream media coverage, we need to ask ourselves how they may demonstrate Palin’s stated policy decisions, decision making ability and the criteria she uses to make them. And we will, no doubt, get caught up in the personal scandals, because we’re human. But let’s watch what else they teach us.

And just for good measure, what does John McCain feel about this?

The Associated Press reported that Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, opposed funding to prevent teen pregnancies, a position that Palin also took as governor. “The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,” she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.Reporters asked McCain in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives or whether he supports President Bush’s policy of promoting abstinence.

“Ahhh, I think I support the president’s policy,” McCain said.

Ahhhhh, I think we’re in trouble.

Palin’s Pitbull Problem.

4 09 2008

Hoo. OK. Before I get out the mud boots and shovel my way through the steaming pile of speech that Sarah Palin deposited on the stage of the Republican Convention last night, let me mention one thing that might be lost to most Americans – a telling little footnote.

Believe it or not, despite the unbelievable political news that’s been happening in Alaska lately (indictment of Senator Ted Stevens, investigation of Rep. Don Young, and all of the Palin antics) there’s really not that much else going on here. If you went throught the Anchorage Daily News wtih a pair of scissors, and removed the stories about politics, you’d end up with a quirky assortment of news that most people in the Lower 48 would consider not very newsworthy. The local news covers the high school basketball games.

Just so you get the idea, here are a few headline, front page news stories from the past few weeks:

Electronic scarecrows haze ravens from utility equipment

Orphaned Bear Cub Eludes Fish & Game Agents

Missing Hikers Found in Denali

In a small community, these are the kinds of things that really ARE news.

So last night, as I watched Palin’s debut on the national stage, something struck me. First, of course, she was polished and poised and handling her new found celebrity with confidence. She even pulled off an ad lib that was her greatest laugh line of the night. In response to the homemade “Hockey Moms for Palin” signs that were being held aloft, she said, “I love those hockey moms. You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick!” (thunderous laughter and applause from the crowd)

Now let me share with you another of those headline stories from three weeks ago:

Child Taken Off Life Support After Pit Bull Attack.

This was the big news story in Alaska for several days that week. A child and her babysitter were viciously attacked by the family pet pit bull. The owner surrendered the dog, waited for the girls father to return from his deployment in Iraq, and watched as his six-year-old daughter was taken off life support after she went into an irreversably vegetative state.

I don’t know how other Alaska residents felt about the pit bull joke, and obviously her audience loved it, but most of us here in “small town America” probably didn’t find it particularly funny.

Cross posted on Huffington Post

Fellow Navy P.O.W. Speaks About McCain.

3 09 2008


In addition to raising important issues of temperament, this also raises health issues that people may not be thinking about. My dad was a P.O.W., and I remember when he got ill during my childhood, my mother quoted his doctor as saying that after going through that experience, he “wouldn’t make old bones”. My dad passed away at 65. John McCain just turned 72.

McCain has said that sometimes he makes rash decisions, and that sometimes they come back to bite him, but he always takes responsibility and lives with the consequences. That’s nice, but what happens when it’s not just McCain, but the world that is asked to live with those consequences?

There has been lots of discussion about John McCain’s judgment in choosing Palin as a running mate. To be honest, I am still amazed that Sarah Palin actually accepted this position in the first place, and what it says about her judgment. I have mentioned before, that many Alaskans, including State Senate President Lyda Green (a long time critic of Palin) have questioned her qualifications to be governor. “She’s in over her head” was a common sentiment on the blog comments in the Anchorage Daily News well before the VP rumors began to swirl.

So, knowing that she was facing investigation, knowing that a significant chunk of Alaskans questioned if she was ‘over her head’, knowing that the media is ruthless in its ‘vetting’ process of candidates, knowing that Alaska is facing some pretty big issues of its own (new pipeline project), and knowing that every waking moment of her time will be spent trying to get up to speed while her family, her friends, and her town are put under a giant magnifying glass…she took it. Knowing that she has 3 school age children, a pregnant unwed teen and a special needs infant that will need a tremendous amount of love and care, she took it. Knowing that she’d only been out of the country once, in 2007, knowing that she held a journalism degree and has no foreign policy background or experience, and knowing that she’d have to be on national television debating Joe Biden, she took it. Knowing that historically, she has a statistical 1 in 3 chance of being the president of the United States by succession, not including the four bouts with skin cancer and the P.O.W. factor, she took it.

Would you have taken it? I’m guessing that most of us would think, “Are you kidding? No way!” And we would be right, and prudent, and we would be putting our country first.