Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sarah Palin and Racism

A journalist named Charlie James has an article in the LA Progressive claiming that Sarah Palin is an open racist. Here's the key passage.

“So Sambo beat the bitch!”

This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

According to Lucille, the waitress serving her table at the time and who asked that her last name not be used, Gov. Palin was eating lunch with five or six people when the subject of the Democrat’s primary battle came up. The governor, seemingly not caring that people at nearby tables would likely hear her, uttered the slur and then laughed loudly as her meal mates joined in appreciatively.

I'm not sure if I believe this particular accusation. I'm interested in the fact that James travelled from Toronto to Alaska to report on Palin. The left doesn't view the media as engaged in any kind of credible coverage of the Bush administration and the McCain campaign. Thus, bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and independent progressives like Charlie James have started doing their own independent reporting and getting it published in progressive outlets like Salon. "Sarah Palin Investigations" looks like a growth area for this kind of journalism.

I'll need more than the evidence of one person before I'll view Palin as an open racist, but I don't have any trouble seeing Sarah Palin's mockery of Obama as growing out of the legacy of American bigotry. The broad put-downs in Sarah's speech work in ways that parallel the mechanisms of racist, sexist, and homophobic ways of slamming people. Another example of a group subject to these kinds of put-downs is white Appalachians who are similarly mocked through images of going barefoot, being uneducated, and speaking lousy English. In all these cases, the point of the clever put-downs is to mock the aspirations of the targeted group to be treated with respect, participate in basic social functions like marriage, enjoy political rights, hold office, and exercise responsibility.

This is exactly what Palin does in the lines below, mock the pretension of Barack Obama to believe that he is a fit person to be president of the United States.

But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate.

This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot — what exactly is our opponent's plan?

. . . In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.

They're the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners, or on self-designed presidential seals.

Among politicians, there is the idealism of high-flown speechmaking, in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things . . .

Given that Barack Obama is African-American, there is a question of whether the put-downs in Palin's Republican Convention speech are racist in character.

I'm not altogether sure.

In 2000 and 2004, the Republicans displayed a similar kind of monumental contempt for John Kerry and Al Gore. Certainly, the GOP cared little about their charges of Kerry flip-flopping or Al Gore being dishonest. The McCain campaign is rife with both. As was the case with Palin's speech on Obama, the main point was to heap so much degradation on Kerry and Gore that it seemed ridiculous to even think they could be president.

In this sense, it appears that the Republican Party and their right-wing core have succeeded in transfering a good of their racist, misogynous, homophobic, anti-immigrant and religious fury onto white liberals. As a result, the right has started to mock white liberals in the same way they've mocked the various minority groups they've historically despised.

Ultimately, I can see where Palin was striking out at Obama in the same way that she would have struck out at any moderate or liberal Democratic candidate. But I would still the animus as an outgrowth of the bigotry that's still such an important part of the Republican Party.

Surprise, Surprise! : They Want Me in the Business College

The Morehead State University academic audit is out. I still haven't figured out what I think. I can see the logic of putting the arts programs into their own college though. The arts programs are successful. They've had have access to Caudill Little money and they've done well with it. They're also good people. The arts faculty I know--Gordon Towell, Paul Taylor, Bob Franzini, Ricky Little, Jennifer Reis, Gary Mesa-Gaido, Lisa Mesa-Gaido, and Glenn Ginn are all open, fun, and interesting people.

However, the proposed new College of Regional and Global Studies and College of Business and Public Affairs look pretty much like complete hodgepodges or mishmashes-- veritable potpourris of programs.

Take what happened to the Government Program for example.

The Government Program was consolidated with IRAPP.

That makes sense.

But then the whole unit was put into the Business College instead of the College of Regional and Global Studies.

That doesn't make sense.

The Government Program is composed of four fields--American politics, Comparative politics, Political Theory, and International Politics.

All of these fields are "Regional and Global Studies" kinds of fields.

The Government Program is also the home for the Canadian Studies Online Program and a large number of comparative public law classes that would have a natural home in a College of Regional and Global Studies as well.

Finally, the Government Program uses a combination of social science and humanities methods that line up well with the sociologists, historians, philosophers, English faculty, and other people in the College of Regional and Global Studies.

The reason why the Government Program was placed with the Business Colege was because the IRAPP faculty wanted to be affiliated with Business rather than the College of Regional and Global Studies.

But maybe the IRAPP faculty doesn't know what their true interests are.

It wasn't like the Government Program was more misplaced than other programs though. The Communications programs were parceled out among three different colleges. Likewise, the Geography Program was placed out with the earth scientists and space scientists.

Likewise, the philosophers are now aligned with the historians even though they have more in common with Government.

Maybe the philosophers would like to join us in the Business College instead.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sleepy RSI's

John McCain's acceptance speech wasn't exactly riveting to the RSI family. Out of the whole RSI clan, I was the only one who stayed awake for the whole thing. Grandma RSI and Miss Teen RSI fell asleep down at Uncle RSI's house. Up at RSI world headquarters, Mrs. RSI was also snoozing away.

John McCain wasn't going to get any votes out of the RSI family, but only keeping one out of four people awake still isn't good.

The delegates were pretty sleepy at the Republican convention as well. Some were yawning. Many looked haggard and exhausted. Three days of hard partying, big-time Sarah Palin gossip, and uninspired standing ovations were just too much for a lot of the older Republicans.

Not that the younger ones were doing any better.

Either the Republican Party needs to do better with young people or they should start bringing in "replacement delegates" from India and China for the final night.

They need the diversity anyway.

Boiling Down John McCain

When all is said and done, John McCain’s best skill is self-promotion. It's also his most important commitment. No politician has been more relentless about self-promotion over the last fifteen years than John McCain. McCain has appeared on Sunday talk shows more than any other politician. Michael Kinsley formerly of the Crossfire show used to joke that McCain and Joe Lieberman were “15 minute” guys who could be ready to be on air within 15 minutes of an emergency call.

Perhaps the strongest sign of John McCain's devotion to self-promotion has been his eagerness to engage in constant conversation with the media. Talking non-stop with the media is stressful in the extreme for most politicians, but McCain was almost completely open to the media for years. It takes an unfathomable commitment to promoting oneself for almost “Straight-Talk.” John McCain has that commitment.

Outside John McCain’s self-promotion, he only has a few authentic moments. There's his conduct as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his commitment to campaign finance reform, and his aggressive neo-conservative foreign policy views. In a life of very little honesty, McCain's commitment to expansive use of the American military is sincere.

The best way to understand John McCain's speech is that he took full advantage of his scarce moments of authenticity for the purpose of self-promotion. By far the strongest point of an otherwise bad speech came when McCain told of living for something "larger than himself" while he was a prisoner of war in Hanoi. According to McCain, he learned the inadequacy of "living for self" from the efforts of his fellow prisoners to help him. That's when he began to "live for country." It was very compelling and McCain did it well

But I imagine that one of the most compelling moments of John McCain's life came when he (and his speechwriting alter-ego Mark Salter) figured out how to employ the selflessness of McCain's fellow prisoners on behalf of McCain's efforts to promote himself. That's what must have spoken most profoundly to John McCain.

McCain/Palin--A Good Looking Political Couple?

I've been struck by just how awkward John McCain and Sarah Palin look when they're posed together for pictures. This picture from next night is a good example. When posed next to Sarah Palin, John McCain looks older than his 72 years. In fact, McCain looks like he's somebody's long-retired uncle. Standing next to Palin also gives McCain a gooberish, "I can't believe I'm with this kind of babe" appearance that doesn't do much to reinforce his top-gun image.
Standing much to John McCain doesn't do much for Sarah Palin either. The fact that McCain's so old makes Palin look younger than she already is. In the picture above, Palin looks more like a grad student getting her picture taken with a politician than someone running for vice-president.
When Palin was speaking, viewers could see her as a leader. When she's standing next to John McCain, she doesn't look any more like a leader than McCain himself.

Palin Losing Her Religion

One of the interesting features of Sarah Palin's speech was that she didn't offer any testimonials to the social conservatism that the right's so enthusiastic about. There was nothing on abortion, nothing on gay marriage, nothing on Jesus, and nothing on the need to teach intelligent design in biology classes.

Maybe the McCain people who wrote Palin's speech (and wrote it well) don't believe they need to kowtow to the religious right now that they've chosen Palin as VP. Maybe McCain wants to focus entirely on "shaking up Washington."

Or maybe Palin's going to lose her religion now that she's in the spotlight.

According to REM, that's a possibility.

"Losing My Religion"
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight, I'm
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you (REM)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cliche Warning! Palin's Speech Succeeds "But Questions Remain"

One of the great media cliches concerning American politics is that such and such public figure accomplished this, but "questions remain." The phrase "questions remain" means that a politician is a state of limbo in which they're currently doing well but still expected to stumble or fail. In this context, the basic "question" that "remains" is when the specter of failure is going to catch up with them.

Unfortunately for Sarah Palin, her speech lands her right in the middle of the "questions remain" cliche and the specter of failure can readily be seen hovering around her.

Well Done. I'm pretty sure that Palin's Republican Convention speech was the speech of her lifetime. It was a very well-written speech that paid extensive tribute to John McCain, hit hard at Obama, and avoided a lot of the Republican, family, and personal landmines in her path.

Palin started slowly but was speaking with a great deal of confidence at the end. She's not as substantial a political figure as Hillary Clinton and couldn't command a stage and an audience the way that Hillary commanded the Demcratic convention.

No surprise there.

But Sarah Palin is at least as good a speaker as Joe Biden and was definitely more in control of her emotions tonight than the veteran Senator from Delaware was during his VP acceptance speech.

And the fact that Palin performed so well only a week after her surprise nomination is a testimony to her quick learning abilities, determination, and courage.

Good for her.

But Did Anybody See It? But "questions remain." One of those questions is whether many people were watching her speech on television by the time Sarah Palin started talking around 10:30.

The big problem was that Rudy Giuliani turned out to be an incredible prima donna. Because of Hurricane Gustav, Giuliani's keynote address was moved from Monday night to tonight but Giuliani made no effort to adjust from being the opening night headliner to being a warm-up act to Palin. Consequently, Giuliani reiterated the story of John McCain's imprisonment as a POW in Hanoi, got out all his attack lines on Obama, and milked every applause line for everything it was worth until he was running 20 minutes over.

All of that might have worked on Monday as a way to fire up the crowd at the beginning of the convention. But that was Monday. Tonight, Giuliani seemed arrogant, smug, and vaguely offensive even as he was defending Palin against the sexism of the media. William Schneider of CNN pretty much has it right:
[Giuliani's] speech is about mockery – and I wonder whether that’s appealing to voters. I really think this tone is going to turn a lot of voters off – it’s ugly, it’s bitter, it’s nasty. There is a bullying tone to this speech . . .
Actually, I think that most people are bored with Giuliani's kind of habitual nastiness. But I've been wrong on these things before.

Unfortunately, Giuliani's grandstanding took up enought of Sarah Palin's time that the last image many people carried away from the Republican convention tonight was Rudy Giuliani smug arrogance and sparkling dentures.

What About All That Clutter? Given the enormous controversy that's erupted around Palin over the last week, her job as a public speaker tonight was to break through the media clutter about her abuses of power in Trooper-gate, her husband's membership in a separatist party, her support for earmarks before she was against them, her daughter Bristol's pregnancy, and the stupidity of the boyfriend's MySpace page.

That's a lot of media clutter and there's evidently more right around the corner.

To break through all of those stories, Palin's speech would have had to be so good that Palin emerged as a lovable public figure beyond questioning. That's what Ollie North did with his appearance at the Iran-Contra hearing and what Barack Obama accomplished with his keynote address at the Democratic Convention in 2004.

But I don't think Palin's speech was that good or even close to being that good. As a result, the shole Sarah Palin mess is still hanging over the McCain campaign. Because she was unable to eliminate all the "questions" about her, Sarah Palin's speech didn't solve the problems that her hasty nomination caused for the McCain presidential campaign. Given that "questions remain," Palin's speech is probably going to be a failure in the long run.

Palin's speech was better than Biden's, but it was less of a success.

Taps for the Republicans

There's just no way around it. The Republican Convention is poorly designed compared to the Democratic Convention and the whole effect is one of tiredness and confusion. John McCain put Rick Davis in charge of the convention because Davis was doing such a poor job managing McCain's day to day campaign. Now Davis is doing a poor job with the Convention as well.

The whole convention atmosphere portrays age in a particularly unappealing way.

David Kurtz of TPM notes that the delegates at the Republican Convention in Denver are older on average than the Democratic delegates in Denver. Make that considerably older. I'm 54 but I'm pretty sure that I would have been considered a young man among Republicans. I think there was actually some "blue hair" in the crowd.

But it's not just the age of the delegates.

The aging feeling was enhance by the fact that the Republicans featured elderly speakers like Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman on Tuesday night. It was enhanced by the pale blue background they used for the speakers. A little brighter than eggshell blue, the background was more of a Carolina blue. As a University of North Carolina Ph.D. and devout Tar Heel fan, I normally think of Carolina blue as a great color. But in this setting, it looked so weak and tired that it reminded me of a nursing home.

Strength in exhaustion--not such a great theme.

The sense of aging and impending death was elevated to a level of excruciating pain by the Republican use of flags in the background. Every once in a while a lone American flag would ripple in the background as the speaker was making a particularly serious point. But the isolation of the flag in back of the speaker was disconcerting and reminded me of military funerals.

But who knows, maybe the Republicans wanted to create a nursing home and funeral effect as a way to appeal to senior citizens like my mother.

It that's the case, they should have gone all the way and made "Taps" the theme song for the GOP convention. Maybe the late Johnny Cash would have agreed to sing it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Republican Dilemna: Doing Well Isn't Good Enough

I'm so biased against the Republican Party that I'm probably a poor judge of whether Tuesday night was effective for them or not.

But I think the Republicans have two problems in putting on a convention.

Credible Spokespeople? Most importantly, many prominent Republicans are no longer credible spokespeople for the Republican Party.

That certainly is the case with the Bush administration. George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice, and others have become such powerful symbols of failure and incompetence that they would always be a negative no matter what they said.

The point also applies to prominent Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney. They all performed poorly as presidential candidates during the primaries and their reputations for corruption (Giuliani), laziness (Thompson), and phoniness (Romney) stick with them even though the primaries have long been over.

Fred Thompson was the featured speaker tonight. In many ways, Thompson gave a rousing Republican speech. I rather think that Thompson's account of McCain's imprisonment in the Hanoi Hilton went on too long. But Thompson got out an energetic version of Republican talking points about Obama. So the speech was generally effective.

But who outside the most committed conservatives is interested in hearing Fred Thompson give a speech of any kind? Hardly anybody I would guess. Ultimately, Thompson was defeated before he started.

And it didn't help that he was upstaged by Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston, and all the mini-scandals emerging around Sarah Palin.

The Message Problem. The other big problem for the Republicans concerns how they are going to deal with McCain's theme of changing the political culture of Washington. When McCain or Sarah Palin take on the "political establishment," it's always the highly corrupt Republican Party establishment that they're fighting. But Republican speakers can't say that because they're addressing a Republican convention in which corrupt figures like Kentucky's Mitch McConnell are prominent delegates.

In the same way, Republican speakers like Fred Thompson have a hard time being specific about the reform policies that John McCain pursued in his battles against the political establishment. That's because all of McCain's efforts were opposed by Republicans in both the Senate (with Mitch McConnell usually leading the charge) and the House of Representatives. McCain's initiatives on tobacco regulation, campaign finance reform, lobbying reform, and immigration legislation have all been overwhelmingly opposed by Republicans. Fred Thompson and other Republican speakers can't say anything specific about what John McCain did or what he accomplished in any of those areas. As a result, much of Thompson's praise for McCain sounded pretty vague.

The only area where McCain took the lead and Republicans agreed with him was the "surge policy" in Iraq. But Thompson could only lean on that so much.

Overall, Fred Thompson did fairly well. George Bush and Joe Lieberman weren't that bad either. But I thought that their decent efforts still fell kind of flat given that none of the Republican speakers were in a position to really advance John McCain's candidacy.

The Destructive Magic of the "R" Word

The Bristol Palin/Levi Johnston pregnancy feeding frenzy is now officially "on." The newspapers, blogs, and everybody else are all over the story.

And the whole issue gets down to one little word that begins with "R."

After everything that John McCain's done to position himself to be elected president since 2000, it looks like his candidacy might be killed by one word appearing in the MySpace page of an 18 year old guy from Wasilla, Alaska named Levi Johnston.

That word is "redneck."

On his now famous "MySpace page," Levi Johnston says "I'm a "f - - - in' redneck" with the New York Post quoting him as liking snowboarding and riding dirt bikes as well.

Johnston goes on:

" . . . I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- - - and just f - - -in' chillin' I guess."

"Ya f - - - with me I'll kick [your] ass," he added.

He also claims to be "in a relationship," but states, "I don't want kids."

But it's Levi Johnston calling himself a "fucking redneck" that I think will blow up John McCain's campaign. What Johnston's "redneck" self-characterization does is undercut everything that the McCain campaign has been trying to promote about Palin's Alaska background and provide an anchor for every criticism of Palin in a widely derided "white trash" stereotype.

The McCain campaign and the media have been promoting Sarah Palin's Alaska roots in terms of an outdoorsy rural authenticity of shooting bears and eating tasty mooseburgers. But as soon as Levi Johnston's macho preening about being a "fucking redneck" hit the internet, all that country chic began to look like "white trash" stupidity, ignorance, and awkwardness. Far from being something that "could happen to anyone," Bristol Palin's pregnancy is now "typical white trash behavior." Here's one internet site to illustrate the point but I started hearing the theme on my Eastern Kentucky campus even before I could check the internet after today's classes.
His name is Levi Johnston, and on his now private My Space page, he describes himself as a "fucking redneck." Nice, this does sound like Jamie Lynn Spears all over again. Maybe Casey Aldridge can give Levi some advice on how to handle things, like how to point guns at paparazzi, and how to throw a white trash barn brawl.
All of sudden Alaska looks a lot less like a paradise and a lot more like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Eastern Tennessee in its Deliverance-like patheticness. If the stereotypes work the way I think they will, Alaska behaviors like carrying guns, shooting bears, and dressing a moose will become emblems of the lack of manners, style, lack of intelligence in Alaska. It's all depressingly familiar from life in Eastern Kentucky and web sites are already reproducing pictures from Johnston's MySpace page as evidence of Alaskan backwardness.

In other words, it looks like "white trash."

It wouldn't be so back for the McCain campaign if Levi Johnston's "redneckness" stopped with him. But Levi Johnston is now connected with Sarah Palin's family and the destructive magic of stereotyping means that Sara Palin has already been pulled into the redneck stereotype just like everybody in Appalachia is pulled into hillbilly/redneck stereotyping whether they like it or not.

The power of the redneck stereotype reaches out to John McCain as well. Whether McCain thoroughly vetted Sarah Palin or not was an arcane matter of "inside politics" last weekend. But that's not the case anymore. McCain doesn't have to worry about being stereotyped as a redneck himself (being a long-time member of the political elite helps in that way). But I would bet that the issue of McCain's vetting Palin is going to be reformulated in terms of McCain avoiding the connection with the Palin family (and Alaska). In other words, people will be thinking that McCain could have avoided the whole disaster of connecting himself with Sara Palin, Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston, and the whole "red-neck state of Alaska" if he'd just done his homework.

If that stereotype gets firmly established, McCain has no chance of winning.

After all of McCain's warmongering, race-baiting, policy flipflopping, and kowtowing to the religious right, it's ironic that his candidacy might be brought down because a clueless kid like Levi Johnston decided to brag about being a "fucking redneck" on MySpace.

A Note on Privacy--Sarah Palin's handlers put out a statement requesting that "the media `respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.'"

Then again, I'm not sure that bringing Levi Johnston to the Republican convention is a way to keep things private.

The Romance of Tropical Alaska

Has anybody noticed all the media reports that make Alaska sound like a paradise where the people are friendly, honest, and eager to talk, the moose are easy to shoot, and the oil money flows hot and heavy?

It all makes Alaska seem like a tropical paradise.

Except for one thing--most of Alaska is unbelievably cold, dark, and depressing during the incredibly long winters. I went to college in northern New York which is one of the coldest places in the lower 48. One of my professors referred to "the North Country" as "The Gulag." But Alaska's even colder. My department at Morehead State in Kentucky interviewed a woman from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks for a chair position. She was desperate to get out. Most people she knew in Fairbanks spend a good chunk of each winter in Hawaii or New Mexico. But she had stayed in Fairbanks to work on her research instead and now the winters were driving her so crazy that she was positively eager to move to rural Kentucky.

Come to think of it, a couple of my social work colleagues moved from Alaska to Kentucky as well.

The other thing that's annoying about the media's Alaska romance is that rural areas in the lower forty-eight get so much nasty stereotyping. When the media pays attention to rural Appalachian areas like Eastern Kentucky, they never mention the friendly people, the great music, poetry, and fiction writing, or the compelling stories of overcoming adversity. Instead, it's all about hillbilly ignorance, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, methamphetamine, marijuana growing and poverty. During the Democratic primaries, the media unfairly portrayed tiny Inez and Clay County as the ground zero of American racism.

Obviously, the election is going to be hot and heavy for the next two months.

But after the election, the national media should give rural areas like Eastern Kentucky the same friendly look they gave Alaska during the Sara Palin roll-out.

I'm sure they'll find that we're a tropical paradise as well.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Palin Family Values: The Plot Thickens

A Tangled Web. There are now two lines of consideration on maternity questions in the Palin family. The first concerns the baby Trigg born in April with Downs Syndrome. The story was that Sarah Palin faked the pregnancy and childbirth and that the real mother of the baby was Pahlin's daughter Bristol Palin. Originating in a Daily Kos diary and promoted by Andrew Sullivan, the phony pregnancy story had not yet found it's way to the mainstream media when the McCain campaign countered by announcing a second big story.

It turned out that Bristol Palin, age 17, is now pregnant.

According to the McCain campaign, Bristol Palin is five months pregnant which would mean that she (most likely) could not have given birth to a child in April four months ago. That set off a fevered round of pronoucements from the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign, reports from Wassila, Alaska, and an enormous amount of blogging and internet commentary.

Nagging Questions. The McCain campaign wants the pregnancy story put to rest, the Obama campaign wants the pregnancy story put to rest, and Time magazine wants the story put to rest.

But I'm not so sure.

The "fake pregnancy" rumor appears to be untrue. Another Daily Kos diarist found a picture of Palin looking obviously pregnant as she was being interviewed on television.

My main question concerns the response to Bristol Palin's pregnancy. Aware that his mother gave birth to him at 18, Barack Obama wants people to drop the story. I understand that. My mother was pregnant with me when she was 18 as well.

But I think it's important to consider how conservative Republicans would have responded if a teenage Chelsea Clinton was pregnant "out of wedlock." Or one of Obama's daughters? Or if Bristol Palin's mother had been a Democrat.

Let's put it this way. Such an event would have provoked a deluge of moral commentary and snarkiness from the right.

Let's start with the snarkiness.

The snark would have started with comments about Chelsea Clinton's appearance. The right makes more jokes about Chelsea Clinton's looks as the left does about George Bush's IQ. John McCain once asked a GOP audience: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

If Chelsea Clinton had become pregnant when she was 16 during the 1996 election, conservative satirists would have had a field day. There would have been endless commentary about the father's taste in women, what it must have been like to have sex with a woman as bad looking as Chelsea Clinton, or how ugly the baby would have been.

Needless to say, Janet Reno would have made a reappearance.

And Republican politicians like John McCain would have loved it--and repeated it.

Would the right have treated Bristol Palin any better if Sarah Palin had been on the Democratic ticket? I don't think so.

If Chelsea Clinton had gotten pregnant at 16, is there any reason to think that the conservative commentatariat would not have hesitated for a second in portraying her pregnancy as a

Conservatives already view teen pregnancy as a symptom of liberalism's advocacy of relative values as opposed to the supposedly absolute values of conservatism. Here's Star Parker writing for the conservative blog

Conservatives, as I stated above, are clear about this. Traditional values we learn from the Bible. We can simply point to the Ten Commandments. And liberal values? The absolute here is that there are no absolutes. Everything is relative, and the only absolute is to welcome and tolerate everything.

Starting from this position, conservatives would have condemned a Chelsea Clinton pregnancy as an example of the failure of both liberal values and liberal parenting on the part of the Clintons. The key is Parker's comment on the only liberal absolute being to "welcome and tolerate everything." Conservatives lament that pre-marital teen sex is no longer condemned like it was in the forties and fifties. They don't like the toleration of teen sex by parents and public opinion and they don't like the encouragement of teen sex that they see in television, movies, videos, and music.

In this context, writers on the right would have hammered hard at a Chelsea Clinton pregnancy for what it said about the liberalism of the Clinton family and the liberalism of American culture.
The same would have been the case with Bristol Palin if her mom had been a Democrat.

It's unfortunate that Bristol Palin is pregnant and it's also unfortunate that her pregnancy has become a matter of controversy during an election season.

But Bristol Palin is lucky that her mom's a Republican.

Otherwise, the right-wing would have made her pregnancy a symbol of everything that was wrong with the Democrats, liberalism, and America.

Hey Charlie, Stay Safe Man

Hurricane Gustav is slated to come ashore near the city of Franklin, LA about 100 miles west of New Orleans. My brother-in-law Charlie Carew is living in Breau Bridge about 50 miles northwest of Franklin where he remodels a house every once in a while. It's not so much that Charlie and his girlfriend Rachel don't work hard, but he's an exacting, artistic kind of guy. So, he doesn't finish very quickly.

Unlike your average politician, Charlie's not exactly a guy who lives for family and he's hard to reach in the best of times.

This isn't one of those times.

So, we'll just wish him the best and keep trying to reach him.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Andrew Sullivan is hinting that Sarah Palin may not have had a Downs Syndrome baby after all. Instead, Sullivan believes that it may have been her daughter Bristol who was actually pregnant with the baby while Sarah Palin pretended to be pregnant and took credit for the birth.

Very weird.

But Enquiring Minds, and who doesn't have one these days, now want to know.

Is Alaska Closer to Russia?

The McCain camp is now saying that Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia. But couldn't one also say that Alaska is closer to Russia than it is to the United States?

UK 27-Louisville 2

The University of Kentucky football team is a good story of a long-struggling program that's finally getting off the bottom. The coaching staff there--Rich Brooks, Joker Phillips, and Steve Johnson--is good at taking medium level recruits and turning them into highly productive players in the SEC. Kentucky gone from three or four wins a season to seven or eight and they've won two bowl games in a row against good teams (Clemson and Florida State).

Even better, the UK coaches do it without being ostentatiou Bobby Petrino-like assholes, Nick Saban-like control freaks, or making a big show of the kind of "intensity" that revolves around humiliating their players.

Today, UK beat the University of Louisville in a rivalry game 27-2. It wasn't the best win in the world. UK's offense wasn't very well coordinated and only scored one touchdown after being handed field position on the seven. The main problem is receiver. UK had three receivers get drafted by the NFL last year--Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson, and Jacob Tamme. The replacements showed some potential against Louisville, but they've got a long way to go before Kentucky faces Florida, Tennessee, and SEC competition.

The UK defense scored two touchdowns off turnovers and got important stops. But Louisville's offense was wretched and they started with bad field position all day. So, it's difficult to get a read on UK's defense. One good sign is that safety Marcus McClinton didn't get much business. As the last line of defense, McClinton used to have to make a lot of tackles on opposing backs bursting through the UK defensive line and linebackers. Today, he was like the Maytag repairman in the defensive backfield, waiting for something to happen.

That's a sign that UK's defense has gotten generally stronger.

Tape-Blogging the McCain/Palin Event

I'm looking at the YouTube video of the roll-out for Sarah Palin in Dayton, Ohio on Friday. Well, McCain certainly looks a lot better hugging Palin than he looked hugging George Bush.

But Palin's speech isn't that great. It wasn't bad or terrible either. It was just ok. Palin delivered the lines that McCain's team wrote for her in a workmanlike fashion. But she talked as though she had just heard a couple of days ago that McCain's theme for her would be "shaking up Washington."

Actually, she probably did hear that for the first time a couple of days ago.

Palin might be geeked up to be McCain's vice-presidential candidate, but her heart didn't seem to be particularly in that speech.

So what's Palin about. According to the Dayton speech, she's about:

Marriage--it's Palin and her husband Todd's 20th wedding anniversary. Todd's a working class guy who's a commercial fisherman, member of the Steelworkers, and a championship snow "machine" worker.

Lots of kids--Palin has five kids, including a baby with Downs Syndrome.

Military--Palin's oldest son, Track, is in the army, serving in an infantry brigade, and is headed for Iraq.

The crowd of 12,000 is cheering and chanting "USA, USA." No surprise there. It's all identity politics among whites. The core of liberal political identity lies in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King and opposition to racism, misogyny, and homophobia they associate with conservatives. The right identifies with the male-headed household, the military, and other traditional institutions they view liberals as rejecting.

Given that white identity politics is about rejecting the opposing side as immoral, offfensive, and repugnant, cheering the military service of Palin's son is mostly a way for white conservatives in the crowd to stick it to white liberals.

"Hockey Mom Politician"--Sarah Palin began her political career in the PTA before getting elected mayor on an agenda of cutting property taxes. She stood up to "politics as usual"--the special interests and lobbies, and the "good old boy network."

Taking risks--"A ship in harbor is safe. The people of America expect us to seek public office and serve for the right reason. And the right reason is to challenge the status quo and serve the common good."

Testimonial to McCain--She's posing McCain as a threat to "business as usual in Washington. This is a moment when principles and political independence matters not just the party line."

This is the core of Palin's "message" in this speech, that John McCain and her will be ready, willing, and eager to take risks to "shake up the status quo" in Washington. This, instead of her foreign policy inexperience, is where the Democrats should challenge McCain and Palin. It's not the "status quo in general" that needs to be changed, it's the status quo created by George Bush, Karl Rove, and the Republican establishment. John McCain might have been an "agent of change" in 2000, but he failed to get tobacco, immigration, and other reform legislation passed. In other words, John McCain is largely a failed reformer. Now McCain hews so closely to the right-wing line that he's become an agent of the GOP status quo.

And that's much of what McCain's nomination of Sarah Palin says, that McCain is now a fully enlisted soldier on the Republican side of the culture wars.

This is where it becomes evident that Sarah Palin is pretty much of a downer as a public speaker. She's not as bad as McCain himself and she's actually doing a decent job of reading the teleprompter. But it's slow, mechanical, and has very little emotional force. Democrats complained pretty vociferously about Mark Warner's speech. But Palin's not even on Warner's level, let alone Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama.

Progress? Now Palin is moving on to women's issues by citing the 19th amendment, Geraldine Ferraro, and Hillary Clinton. This is shaky ground for a conservative like Palin. Much of the reason Palin was nominated was that Palin was a "woman" who could embrace many aspects of women rights without being a feminist or abandoning traditionalism. Palin has been both a star athlete and a beauty queen, a female office-holder and a mother of five children, an avid hunter and fisherwoman and a traditional wife.

The McCain campaign is eager for Palin to embrace both the post-feminist and traditional sides of her life. This is how they want to appeal to disappointed Hillary voters.

But this is where it gets dicey. Palin was booed today in Washington, PA when she gave a little tribute to Hillary Clinton. Conservatives are still enormously hostile to feminism and Hillary Clinton is the most important symbol of "pushy feminists" to conservatives.

I wouldn't be surprised if Palin didn't give up this kind of token nod to feminism and concentrate on stoking the conservative base as a lifelong NRA member, virulent opponent of abortion, and eager promoter of oil drilling.

A woman can only be so many things to so many people.