Friday, September 12, 2008

Obama Eats Special Needs Children!

James Taranto has an article in today's Wall Street Journal in which he professes outrage at anyone who would suggest John McCain picked Sarah Palin because she was walked the pro-life walk (as, indeed, she has). The article is worth a read: Taranto distorts the meaning of some of the quotes he uses in a way that's reminiscent of the recent McCain camp excrescences on lipstick and sex education, then whips himself into a fit of righteous indignity:

This is worse than tasteless or even unhinged. It is depraved. It represents an inversion of any reasonable conception of right and wrong, including liberal conceptions.

Holy hyperbole, Batman! But is it really so outlandish and offensive to suggest that McCain picked Palin because of her pro-life credentials?

This is a candidate who has barely set foot outside the country, who has never met a foreign leader, who had never evinced even a rudimentary understanding of or even interest in foreign policy. Her national security credentials are so lacking that her supporters have had to resort to novel theories about the sources of her expertise, such as that she is a national security expert because Alaska is near Russia, or that she has learned foreign policy "by osmosis" because Russian missiles would pass over Alaska on their way to the continental United States. Even McCain can't come up with a coherent defense of his candidate's foreign policy or national security credentials (although he does manage to come up with two #1 issues facing America. For John McCain, nothing is impossible). Watch this painful video and see.

And here's Governor Palin's first interview since being nominated, where, after two weeks of cramming on national security issues, she doesn't even know what The Bush Doctrine is.

(If you're a principled conservative, if you care about national security, how can you accept this? Seriously.)

The humiliating attempts of Palin's supporters notwithstanding, it's simply impossible to believe that McCain chose Palin for her national security credentials. We know he didn't pick her for that.

How about executive experience? The McCain team has tried to focus more on this one because the national security case is so laughable. And it's true that Palin has been a mayor and is now a governor, so she is not entirely lacking in executive experience. But even if you believe that being mayor of a town of 9000 and serving for a year and half as governor of a state of 600,000 is adequate experience to prepare you to be President of the United States, can you really argue it's enough to outweigh the total lack of foreign policy or national security credibility? If McCain wanted meaningful executive experience -- especially the kind that would outweigh the foreign policy deficit -- he had an almost limitless list of candidates who have far more executive experience than Palin.

So we know McCain didn't pick Palin for her national security acumen, which is nonexistent, or for her executive experience, which is slight. And those seem like two pretty key categories to check off for a potential Commander-in-Chief.

So... why did he pick her?

As I've argued before, there are two reasons: (i) to attract disaffected Hillary supporters and women for whom gender is a key consideration in a candidate; and (ii) to fire up the base. Palin's gender was calculated to achieve objective #1. Objective #2 is achieved by Palin's pro-life stance, the integrity of which is proven by her decision to bear a Down's Syndrome child (to her credit -- on this, she seems no hypocrite. Pork barrel spending and reform, not so much).

So of course McCain chose Palin in large part because of her decision to have her Down's Syndrome baby. Her decision served the substantive objective of firing up the base, and even better, today Republicans are able to use the baby, as Taranto does, to inject another dose of bullshit into the news cycle and make sure everyone is talking about the baby, rather than about Governor Palin's utter lack of qualifications to be Commander-in-Chief. The strategy is: "We'll talk about the baby by saying it's outrageous and offensive to talk about the baby."

So get ready for the next wave of McCain accusations, calculated to dominate two or three more days of news and drown out McCain's and Palin's dreadful recent performances. It'll go something like this: "Obama Slimes Trig Palin and Other Special Needs Children!" And rather than press this obvious -- and winning -- point, that of course McCain picked her because of the baby, she's substantively embarrassingly unqualified, Democrats will apologize, as indeed they already, reflexively, are.

Republicans are very good at this game. Democrats, it seems, just aren't. Some thoughts on why in another post.


Mark Terry said...

One of the things I've found interesting, and I wonder if McCain and his flying monkeys expected this--McCain's all but disappeared from the news cycle. As far as the media and apparently the public are concerned, this is now a race between Obama and Palin. McCain and Palin are even traveling together and campaigning together, presumably so some of the excitement the conservative base has for Palin will reflect onto McCain.

The media and everyone else expects it to shift back to Obama versus McCain, but I wonder if that'll actually happen. The McCainsies may have totally miscalulated. The story IS Palin right now, for better or worse, and that may not shift back to McCain in the next 60 days, particularly because the McCainsies keep giving the media so many opportunities and reasons to dig into her credentials, ie., they keep blowing up her experiences and credentials, which pretty much forces the media to say, "Um, how doesn't Palin being a governor of a state that's 50 miles away from Russia make her just as qualified in foreign policy as Obama being a senator from a state that's just across a big lake from Canada? And, oh, by the way, Senator Obama does serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. How do you respond to that?"

Anonymous said...

Not only has McCain disappeared from the news cycle, he's ducking the working press, too.

Like his VP pick, McCain hasn't done a press conference in a month.

I keep hoping that when I wake up each morning that all of this has been a terrible nightmare. The selection of Palin is a sham on the American people... and a shame on himself.

Unknown said...

A great deal of Americans are ignorant, one issue, self-centered voters. That's why we've had eight years of George W. Bush. It's easy to sway ignorant people and Republicans do it very well. Tell them if you don't keep the same president, your children will be slaughtered in their beds by terrorists. The hockey moms all shuddered and cast their votes for Bush. These are also the same people who are now being swayed by John McCain's bio, that being a POW is an important qualification for being President.

I saw part one of Sarah's interview last night with Gibson and when he asked about her insight into Russian policies, she responds with "you can see Russia from an island here in Alaska." That is exactly the kind of response the average American voter would give. I don't know if intelligence and reason will win out in this election either. We could fall short again if enough middle of the roaders fall under the spell of the Republicans, St. John and folksy Sister Sarah.

Spy Scribbler said...

Just what I've heard her say over the past few days, it seems she's applying the old tactics of defending everything in the name, spirit, or memory of 9/11. If not directly, then indirectly.

It worked wonders for Bush in the beginning. Given the polls, it seems to be working for her. It's easy to stand behind someone says, that people are going to kill Americans if we don't do X.

It focuses people on the fear of that an attack could come at anytime, from anywhere, unless we (in this case) elect Palin. Er, McCain.

It's worked in the past. Will it work for her? Is it a strategy, or is she just that mis-informed? And how crazy is it that this strategy of focusing on the fear is exactly what the terrorists are trying to achieve, too?

Anonymous said...

You are indeed a brilliant man, but your venom towards the GOP has clouded your judgment. I'm a Republican and a big pro-lifer, our love for Sarah Palin is has very little to do with her birthing a special needs child. The reason conservatives rave about her is because she is a real conservative and we realize that with time we can actually have a conservative in the White House.
(unlike the last 8 years)

You're talking to a guy that listens to the Hannity, Rush and Beck, every single day. The only day her decision to have Trig was mentioned was the first day she was announced. You are very wrong about what motivates the GOP base. We are excited about Sarah Palin for the same reasons that Democrats are excited about Barak. A fresh face, with new ideas and a unique personal narrative.

I think it is appalling(though i think you approached it in a way that wasn't offensive) for anyone to suggest she was picked because she did not have an abortion.
If abortion was so important to the McCain camp how come Sarah did not mention the issue one time in her acceptance speech at the convention?

Not only that bug McCain has a long record of being pro life, yet conservatives have hated the man for years. Why because he doesn't have the other things we are looking for. I'll let in on a little secret...... HE PICKED HER TO HELP HIM WIN! This is politics, that's what its all about.

The whole experience thing is a crock on both sides, there is no way anyone can be prepared to become president. The pressure, weight and responsibility of the job can't be fully measured until you are in it.

That being said what should we look for? In my opinion leadership, judgment. I'm an African American so i might just end up voting for Barak for the history making element. However the question i must ask is, when has this guy ever led anything? When has he ever been the captain of the ship? The guy with whom the buck stopped? Look at this guy's resume and you'll see the answer is never.

As a senator if you say... vote against the funding of the war, there are no consequences. As President, there is no such thing as a protest vote. Every decision you make has a consequence.

And please tell me why Sarah Palin is receiving more scrutiny than Barak Obama who is actually running for President? What about his associations with William Ayers, or the Chicago slum lord that he purchased land from? Or anything else about the man's background and accomplishments. I actually don't think there would be much there but where's the scrutiny? As far as liberals and the media are concerned the man walks on water.

People like to question Sarah? What about Joe Biden, he has to be the worst VP pick in a long time, does he realize he's supposed to be helping Obama's campaign? The day after the convention Joe said and I quote " Those where some real zingers, I'm glad they weren't talking about me." Excuse me? Way to be an attack dog Joe.

Then yesterday Joe actually said that Hillary would have been a better pick than he. Joe is missing that crucial little thing most of have in our brains called a filter.

Honestly this election has made me question all that i believe about politics, due the hypocrisy of both sides.

Anonymous said...

Read about her record for people with disabilities at

Barry Eisler said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for your thoughtful, reasoned, respectful reply. I disagree with much of what you said, but the way you said it is a model for how people can discuss these issues productively.

A few quick thoughts in response: first, the timing and source of a discussion isn't always the best and certainly isn't the only clue about the subject's importance. In other words, it can be advantageous to let surrogates discuss the baby rather than having Palin herself bring it up. McCain's people do this all the time with McCain's war record, as in "McCain is a war hero, though he's not comfortable talking about it" (though McCain does in fact incessantly play the POW card himself).

As for experience, agreed, no experience can completely prepare you for the job. But some experiences can prepare you more than others. No experience can completely prepare you for the horrors of combat, for example, but I doubt you'd suggest this means we shouldn't bother training our soldiers, and I doubt you'd suggest that untrained soldiers will be as effective, or as likely to survive, as trained ones.

In this regard, to paraphrase some thoughts from previous comments: I'm not arguing that Obama has an ideal amount of experience. Still, he has over a decade of legislative experience (some of which is pretty impressive, as his website or Wikipedia page will reveal). In addition, he's not only traveled abroad, but lived abroad, as well; he's been thoroughly vetted in over a year and a half on the campaign trail; and he built and ran a political organization that took on and defeated the formidable Clinton machine.

It's this far longer time on the national stage, I think, that answers your question about why no questions about Ayers, Rezko and all the rest. Those questions were asked, again and again, during the primary, when Obama's whole life was subjected to a thorough examination. In the end, what was uncovered was... not so much. Voters had a chance to consider it all, the stories went nowhere, and Obama was nominated.

Where has been the even remotely similar level of scrutiny, and when has any of us had an even remotely similar opportunity to consider the results, with Sarah Palin? And the McCain campaign seems determined to keep her away from the press. Are you not concerned they might be hiding something? You said yourself the VP pick is supposed to be helping the campaign; if Palin is an asset, why are they hiding her from the press? Why can't we see how she performs under hostile questioning? McCain's spokespeople say, no access until we think the media will show her the proper "deference". (!) I doubt Vladimir Putin et al will show her deference; if she requires it just to talk to the press, it's not a good sign, no?

So it seems we agree Palin was chosen on the basis of ideology (conservative) and appearances (a fresh face), and despite her lack of national security credentials or executive experience (if I'm misunderstanding you here, please correct me). Your argument is that her ideological appeal to McCain was broader than her powerful pro-life story in that it includes other conservative elements, as well. Here I think I would have to differ. Palin increased Wasilla's debt substantially while she was mayor, so I don't think we can call her a fiscal conservative, and notwithstanding the lies she and McCain have been telling about selling the jet and firing the cook and killing the bridge and all that, it's clear she's not much of a reformer, either. Lately she has been parroting the neocon line, arguing that we should go to war with Russia to protect Georgia, but those views are new and so unlikely to have been part of why McCain selected her (and her one earlier statement on foreign policy -- that we need an exit plan from Iraq -- contravenes McCain's stated positions). So looking at it as objectively as I can, I still can't help concluding that McCain picked her not because of her ideology generally, but because of her pro-life credentials specifically. Also because she's a woman, yes, and also because they thought she would be an appealing receptacle for the folksy, regular-girl, pork-busting, reforming, maverick myth they're trying to create for her. But not for any substantive reasons, because the substance is almost entirely lacking.

Again, thanks so much for the way you've engaged on this. I get tired of having to remind people that you have to recognize the difference between opinions and evidence, that you have to back your opinions with evidence, and that tone matters, and then being accused of censoring their posts because I disagree with their views. I wish more people knew how to argue the way you do.


Natalie Hatch said...

Barry my thoughts are 'why aren't the americans focusing on the issues rather than the personalities?' It seems bizarre to me that personalities matter so much to the American people that they're willing to forget the policies these two parties are pushing as their electoral stance.
Why aren't they talking about National Security, getting out of Iraq, alternative energy, socialise health and welfare? That's where your hard earned tax dollars are going to be going in the next four years, why aren't they more important than a Down Syndrome baby or selling a jet on eBay. I hope that whoever gets elected actually represents the people of America and not a few wealthy oil merchants.

Brian R. Sheridan said...

It seems polls and lipstick have replaced discussing issues in the media. It appears to be out of sheer cowardice. You can't accuse someone of bias when all you are doing is quoting poll numbers. "I am not saying this...someone else is saying this." It is a higher version of the FOX News dodge when they want to smear someone, they use fuzzy phrases like "someone says..." when it really is they who are saying it.

David Farnell said...

Natalie, a few months ago, just a couple of weeks after Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister, I visited Australia. One thing that struck me was that, while PM Rudd's reforms and shakeups were all over the news, I never saw his face once, not on TV, not in the papers--nowhere. The focus was on the issues, not on the man.

Now, I was only there for a few days and maybe they were atypical, but I came away with an impression that you Australians do not celebritize your politicians nearly as much as we Americans do. For a million little reasons, I'm sure, we treat them like they are somehow sacred, and any impurity of character disqualifies them--so that those who support them are blind to any flaws, and those that oppose them are blind to any virtues they may possess.

I know this sounds silly, but maybe it has something to do with our lack of a king. Maybe we are such infants that we still need some perfect sacred figurehead to represent us. I've encountered many people here in Japan who say that having a royal family is the reason Japanese politics is more subdued than American--in America, the President is saddled with the unfortunate double role of actual leader and symbolic leader, and this is why, say, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was such a big deal.

Personally, I think there are many more reasons for the difference, but you folks in Oz might want to think about it before dumping the Queen.

.: hb :. said...

I love the 207 video you referenced - the interviewer does not give McCain a pass, as even members of "the left wing media" have been prone to do. His response to the national security issue is completely incoherent and rambling - "energy!??!" Also, I love how he gave us a preview of the wobbly "I live next to Russia" argument that she tried to advance in the Gibson interviews.

In a related story, have a look at this nonesensical balderdash spewed forth by William McGurn at the WSJ:
"Palin Shows How to Transcend the Culture Wars: A society should be judged by how it treats its weakest members."

He kicks his article off with a paranoid statement about the left-wing media's use of the label "culture wars" to describe Palin's hate-mongering rallies that incited cries of "terrorist!" and "kill him!"

Then, he rambles about Palin's special needs child, along with a throwaway comment about the Press' love affair with Obama...

Then he makes a JoeThePlumberesque reference to a family facing Down syndrome...

Then he tries to call out Obama for not recognizing special needs as a concern.