Monday, October 6, 2008

The Week Just Passed: Palin Did Well Despite Team McCain’s Fumbles and My Misspelling. Tina Fey the Real Loser?


P-a-l-i-n. See? I can spell her surname right—Palin. Sorry about that. Put it down to senility or…if you choose to be charitable…my having no proof reader to peruse these things after my fingers fly across the keyboard between Biden with an “en” and Palin with an “in.” Thanks to E. A. and the 11,245 others who flooded by email on it.

Sarah Palin triumphed by doing what she had to do in the vice presidential debate. I wouldn’t say she won in stuffy debaters’ terms but she did something far better: her appearance guaranteed the confrontation scored a valuable knockout in the TV ratings, reinvigorated the McCain campaign and certified her bouncy 21st century style of debating and speech-making will become de rigeur in the future. I’m tempted to say the real loser in the debate was Tiny Fey—but nothing will stop the Saturday Night Live crew of liberals from mocking Palin anyhow.
The veep debate totaled a 45.0 overnight meter-market household rating—42% higher than the presidential debate between McCain and Barack Obama which means she was responsible (no one particularly tuned in to see Joe Biden). Clear evidence that Palin set aside any doubts about her abilities came when Obama chief strategist, Chicago’s David Axelrod walked into the spin room following the debate and exclaimed only that she hadn’t satisfactorily separated McCain from George W. Bush. The fact that Axelrod skipped commenting on her effective performance vis-à-vis Joe Biden is the highest praise that can be won from the Enemy.

Her triumph is all the more astounding in view of the near-mismanagement Team McCain made of her after her nomination. Rather than send her on the media road first to adulatory conservative audiences where she could further shore her confidence…getting her on conservative talk radio and on Fox-News…a group of esthete ex-Bush wonderboys hunkered down with her and allowed her only three major appearances in three weeks while they “prepped” her for two major TV appearances—on liberal broadcast venues. Charlie Gibson on ABC-News ran a three part series where he behaved as an Oxford tutor, his spectacles down on his nose, judging her responses, hitting her with a “gotcha” through inaccurate question on the Bush Doctrine (there are 4), exhibiting Stand Tall in Georgetown hauteur. Katie Couric, the host of CBS-Evening News, is so cross-eyedly pro-Democratic that when Joe Biden regaled her with the story that after the 1929 stock-market crash FDR took to the television to rally the country (ignorant of the fact that FDR wasn’t president and TV wasn’t around), her only comment after Biden’s misstating of history was this: “Relating to the fears of the average American is one of Biden’s strong suits.” U. S. history evidently isn’t however. Predictably Couric savaged Palin. Her obvious liberal bias is one reason why CBS ratings are the lowest of the once “Big 3.”

Palin had been so cautioned not to volunteer information by the pathologically defensive Bushies, she didn’t even volunteer to Couric what newspapers she reads every day—following their passive line that she had to crouch into a defensive mode. Anyhow, Overcoming all, Palin scored big in the debate. Still, given the overwhelming odds against McCain-Palin…economic melt-down, unpopular war, lowest ever rating for a president…it is problematic the team can win except for another unforeseen “events, my dear boy, events” that Harold Macmillan talked about as governing politics. At the same time, it amazes me that McCain is only a handful of points behind. Running with the handicaps he has would ascertain he would be double-digits in the rear. This may mean that Obama’s race is a deterrent no matter what the liberals have said.

Be that as it may, this much is sure: Sarah Palin has risen to formidable presidential contender for the future no matter what happens in 2008—equal to if not surpassing in popularity the likely inheritors to a future GOP presidential nomination: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal et al.

Palin’s New Style.

Carding the debate, initially I made a mistake—attributable to being an old geezer. Inured to senate-speak, I started giving too many debater’s points to Biden. Wrong. As one who has covered or participated in politics for 50 plus years…listening in the gallery to Everett Dirksen, Hubert Humphrey, the Kennedys et al… I had become accustomed to the old-fashioned, 19th century form of orating which Biden has mastered to a fare-thee-well. That style—heavy in oracular performance—was pioneered by William Jennings Bryan and carried throughout most of the succeeding century—and Biden is his most notable imitator.

FDR and almost all his presidential successors including JFK continued the bloviating style. Here’s JFK: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe…” See what I mean? Ronald Reagan brought that heavy-breathing strum und drang to an end when he said calmly to President Jimmy Carter in debate, “there you go again.”

His most notable speech commemorated the 40th anniversary of D-Day where he said in a semi-conservational tone yet dripping with subdued emotion he said: “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs…”

Sarah Palin has brought to political discourse more than Reagan’s well-honed conversational radio style but added something he never could used because of his senior citizen status-- the refreshing immediacy of youth and its slang—“you betcha,” “get down to gettin’ business done” and “doggone it!” She was down-home with a vengeance, dropping her “g’s” and even coming up with a twang (do Alaskans have a twang? Never mind, she produced a fetching one).

Referring to her grade school teacher who spent a lifetime with kids, she exclaimed “God love her!” She told kids in the viewing audience they could get extra credit for tuning in. She described the hard-up $4-a-gallon people as urging “drill, baby, drill.” She broke tradition with past traditional pro-Wall Street Republicans by telling moderator Gwen Ifill “darned right it was predator lending!” as explanation for the mortgage meltdown. She called Biden after he performed an oracular senatorial moment: “Oh, man, it’s so obvious I’m a Washington outsider!...Someone just not used to the way you guys operate. Because here you voted for the war and now you oppose the war.” She zinged him with “say it ain’t so, Joe. There you go again, pointing backwards again!”

In doing extraordinarily well in the debate, Palin had great outside help. First, her persona had been so unjustifiably ripped by the mainstream media—including “Saturday Night Live’s” satirical comedienne Tina Fey-- she would gain on points if she merely showed up and didn’t wipe her nose on the auditorium drapes. Second, thankfully McCain fired Palin’s Bushie handlers who drilled her on avoiding mistakes not making points--ultra-cautious bureaucratic types from earlier George W. Bush campaigns.

Third, the moderator, Gwen Ifill, an unreconstructed PBS liberal who had earlier written a gloriously pro-Obama article in Essence a black pro-Obama magazine, was forced to be on her best behavior. Reason: she had “forgotten” to tell the presidential debate commission she had written a book with a laudatory Obama title due for release on Jan. 22 2009, Inauguration Day, meaning she has a financial stake in Obama’s winning the election.

But All the Same…

Still, Palin’s emergence from the debate as a 5-star asset to the McCain campaign doesn’t meant she didn’t miss valuable opportunities to score. She did. I chafed when she let Joe Biden get away with outrageous statements—akin to political malpractice--that misstated the record. Notably that Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri el-Maliki agree on the details of troop withdrawal and “the only odd man here, one left out, is John McCain.” It was one of those Biden statements that cry to heaven for clarification.
Obama, Palin could well have said, has promised to withdraw the troops within 16 months of taking office (which would mean mid-2010). Bush and Maliki have agreed on no such withdrawal and McCain is by no sense “odd man out.” She never mentioned Biden’s own formula for ending the war which would have involved a partition of Iraq which was almost unanimously shouted down as hugely impractical. Again, she allowed Biden to muddy the issue of Obama’s having voted to cut off funds for the troops by the slippery debater’s charge that McCain voted the same way. McCain opposed any funding connected with a withdrawal timetable.

While she defended McCain adequately in most instances she never did take the battle to the enemy on the real culprits in the subprime-related bankruptcies. In obedience to Political Econ 101, she joined Biden in blaming the free market system for “greed” instead of citing the Clinton years for creating the market for the high-risk loans now infecting like a virus the balance sheets of many of Wall Street institutions. (Attribute it not to Palin directly but to McCain’s wish to be perceived as a latter-day Theodore Roosevelt. If he knew more about the real TR of history—a vain silver-spoon-at-birth blowhard who sought to “tame” trusts while conferring on John D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan a wink that meant he was doing it for his own self-aggrandizement---he’d not relish the comparison).

The Failings of Team McCain.

Failure to follow up aggressively on Obama-Biden is not Palin’s strategy but evidently that of Team McCain that constantly has flubbed the all-important economic issues which will determine the election. Team McCain has never pounded home the fact that in the Clinton years Democrats made clear to banks and other lending institutions that if they did not do something, and quickly, to bring more minorities and low-income Americans into home ownership there would be a heavy price to pay. Democratic party hacks running Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae including Obama pal and ex-adviser Franklin Raines became multi-millionaires by greasing their own salaries. Obviously McCain-Palin have determined that too much truth –telling in this regard would run the risk of Republicans being called “racist” since many of the poor are black as is Raines. Thus does political correctness and timidity cause the GOP to allow Biden to continue unchallenged.
Team McCain has made very slight mention of Obama adviser, Raines who as CEO of Fannie Mae form 1999 to 2004 is the individual most responsible for the sub-prime mortgage fiasco: it was on Raines’ watch that Fannie Mae went bankrupt. He has been accused of manipulating earnings statements so he could get bonuses to which he was not entitled in the shadow of its $6.3 billion accounting scandal. Nor did she refer to another Obama adviser, Jim Johnson (the son of a Minnesota DFL speaker of the house), another former CEO of Fannie Mae, one of three tapped by Obama to vet vice presidential candidates and who stepped down when it was revealed he in turn finagled earnings report so he could step down with billions, a man who bundled huge sums of cash for Obama’s campaigns.

Perhaps now that Palin did wondrously in the debate and has her sea-legs, she will move on to these juicy items soon.

The Rocky Road Ahead.

The value of the Bush-Paulson $700 billion rescue bill was always problematic. There is no doubt the meltdown itself soiled the Republican brand as being the more prudent party to manage the economy. Politically the safe stance to take initially seemed to be in opposition which guided the House to reject the package. Then with the threat that the entire banking system might explode, there was a change in heart with many voters. Also the pols on both sides loaded the original package with outrageous sweeteners. Ergo: it would be have been much better to pass the original bill than the one that finally got through the House last week.

Its passage could mean that the financial markets will be calmed, allowing the presidential campaign to continue along accepted lines. Still in all, economy will remain front and center as the issue and Palin’s triumph notwithstanding, the onus is on McCain to turn the race around. Democrats are optimistic of victory and not just the popularity polls but the vital Electoral College numbers show how difficult it is for McCain-Palin. The reliable poll of the College shows at this writing with needed to elect 270, Obama has 264, McCain 163 and 111 tossup. Already McCain has pulled his forces out of Michigan—once regarded as a possible for him—due to rising unemployment which has detonated his chances. He can’t prevail without holding onto most of the states Bush won in 2004 but McCain is virtually tied or trailing in at least ten of them—Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
The Sleepy Eye.

If one characteristic of this campaign has been the Macmillan factor that makes the candidates playthings of events, another is the one about the electorate’s Sleepy Eye. The axiom goes that unlike us political junkies, the great American consciousness still dwells on such things as the baseball players, the World Series, Friday night high school and college football games (this factor alone diminished the Obama-McCain debate viewership since it was held on a Friday night). Only occasionally will the Sleepy Eye of the U. S. will open and fasten for a short time on the presidential race. What it sees and registers before it snaps shut is, the legend says, determinative. There is no doubt that the Sleepy Eye opened for a moment and drew a favorable response to Sarah Palin (the whole debate was about Palin and Biden was not much of a factor). There is no doubt in my mind that the Eye opened and drew unfavorable vibes when McCain decided to put his campaign on suspension and chuck the first debate…coming back to keep the debate date after all. Obama’s masterful comment: we ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time may well have caught the Eye’s approval and register favorably for Obama. It did mine.
There is no doubt the Sleepy Eye opened during the credit meltdown and deduced the Republicans, being in control of the White House, must take the blame. The next time the Eye should open will be Tuesday’s debate No. 2 between McCain and Obama. As with all debates, likeability of the participants is a key factor (in the veep debate, Palin proved eminently likeable). The Sleepy Eye seems to deduce that coolness of approach is equivalent to presidential leadership—at least it so concluded with John Kennedy who was composed and calm during the first crucial 1960 meeting in Chicago in 1960.

Barack Obama is so cool that it can be doubted he would raise a sweat even if he were wrapped in towels in a steam sauna. John McCain on the other hand is often frenetic and rostrum-pounding. Whether the Sleepy Eye will once again pick the cool cucumber no matter his cerebral attainment…or the maverick ex-POW who can make his case with passion… we don’t know. Give me your view.

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