Sunday, September 07, 2008

Suicide by Palin

On November 5, when the votes are in and Obama has won, pundits will look back and see what all the bizarreness and hysteria are occluding now: John McCain lost the election when he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate.

McCain's strategists hoped choosing Palin would accomplish two objectives: bring in more women, and fire up the theocrat base. The first objective will fail. The second will succeed, but only in a "the operation was a success but the patient died" sense.

Objective 1: bring in more women. The number of women who would vote for someone with Palin's views on reproductive rights (let alone her scant experience) -- that is, who, as The Daily Show put it, who would put gynecology over ideology -- is small. To suggest otherwise, as the McCain campaign implicitly has in making its pick, presupposes that there are significant numbers of women who are even more gullible than men. There aren't.

Also, the few women who might vote for McCain only because his running mate is female have to be balanced against the voters McCain will have lost by his choice. Among the lost will be voters (many of them women) appalled by the cynicism of the move, by Palin's obvious lack of readiness for the job, and by the recklessness McCain has demonstrated in his failure to vet his pick.

Objective 2: fire up the Christianist base. From what I've read in the news and judging from some of the mail I've been receiving, I think this objective will probably be achieved. But again, you have to balance the gains you make in firing up the base against the potential voters you drive to Obama by adopting this strategy. The rally-the-base strategy worked in the last two elections. After eight years of disastrous Republican incompetence, the base won't be enough. You need the independents, too -- that is, the very voters who are thoughtful enough to correctly evaluate a choice like this for what it really is.

If this is all so obvious, you might ask, why did McCain's team adopt a strategy that's sure to fail?

Two reasons, I would say: inertia, and the fear of looking stupid.

When I was competing in wrestling and judo, I learned that you have to be careful about relying too much on a particular money move (there are exceptions, like Japanese Olympic judo heavyweight Gold Medalist Yasuhiro Yamashita, but even there Yamashita had three money moves, each of which complemented the other two, and countering one would by design set you up for one of the others. Plus, Yamashita was abnormally talented. But I digress). If you get known for a signature move, your opponents will work hard to figure out a way to counter it. Then, when you go up against such an opponent and your money move doesn't work, it takes a while for your brain to accept that the surefire thing isn't working anymore and you have to do something else. Eventually, you'll catch on, but there's resistance, and in the meantime you'll probably lose the match.

Now, multiply that resistance across an entire entrenched bureaucracy, and you start to get an idea of how hard it is for an organization to abandon techniques that have worked in the past, even when all the signs indicate that the current contest is different.

Compounding the inertia factor is the fear of looking stupid. I think fear of looking stupid is one of the most powerful motivators in human behavior. It explains why people are willing to do conventional things even in the face of plentiful evidence that the thing in question is a mistake. Because if you buy gold at $1000 an ounce and it tanks, you can always hide behind the fig leaf of, "Well gosh, everyone was doing it! So sure it was a mistake, but at least it wasn't a stupid one!" Whereas if you fail doing something original or otherwise daring, you'll be open to charges of, "What were you thinking? No one's ever done that -- why didn't you do what's tried and trued? What are you, stupid?"

Fear of looking stupid has two components. The first, described above, is largely unconscious and emotional. The second is conscious and calculated. If you're a McCain or RNC staffer and you know the tried-and-true approach is going to fail this time, what are your incentives for trying to adapt? You're apt to lose against the higher-ups, anyway, who are gripped by inertia. And even if you prevail organizationally but your daring new strategy doesn't win the election (highly probable, given the fundamentals of this race), people will hit you with the, "What are you, stupid?" charge, which will damage your career prospects. Whereas, if you lose the election doing what's always worked before, you won't look stupid, you can blame the brutal 2008 election fundamentals, and you'll have a job working for the Republican nominee in 2012.

So the Republicans have by reflex adopted a fire-up-the-theocrat-base; spiced it up with an attempt to lure women sufficiently gullible or gender-obsessed to vote against their ideological and common sense interests; and undergirded it with the usual tribalist, culture war appeals we saw in most of the Republican convention speeches. I almost can't blame them -- not just because, after all, the bullshit has worked before, but because the Democrats are still so inept in combating it. At least the Dems can rely on outsiders like The New Yorker.

For me, probably the most fascinating aspect of McCain's pick (aside from watching Republican heads explode as they try to defend it) has been watching the way the glandular right has fallen in love with her. In fact, I received an email from a guy the other day who proclaimed, "I love Sarah Palin!" I wrote back that it must be love at first sight. And these are the same people who accuse the left of surrendering their judgment on Obama, of falling in love, of believing Obama is The One, blah blah blah...

Let's assume too that Sarah Palin, because of her looks, her religious views, her personality, or whatever, seems like your kind of person and you really, really like her, or even love her. I don't understand how you get from there to "and therefore she should be next-in-line for the presidency." In what other field do people make decisions this way? "...and therefore she should operate on my child." "...and therefore he should run a billion-dollar company." "...and therefore she should repair my car."

"and therefore she should be next-in-line for the presidency." And the people saying it call themselves "conservative!" It amazes me.

The good news is, she won't be.


AJ Llewellyn said...

Aloha Barry,
I admit at first, I thought dammit, McCain is smarter than I thought, picking a woman. And then the truth started coming out and I was relieved. I have been loving the truth machine about McCain's er...'third wife' and I, like you look forward to Obama-Biden winning. I would like to have seen Hillary on the ticket (I know you're not a fan but I am) with the big O, but you can't have everything, right?
A.J. Llewellyn

brian said...

Barry, how do you get from being a 3 year US Senator+7 years State Senator to the President of the United States? Your argument referencing Palin's experience and preparedness goes against Barack as well.
Also, surprised you stooped to the level of using the "Daily Show" as a source of "news."

Anonymous said...


The Daily show is truly the only real source of news in this country. I mean where have you been? Jon Stewart is a master of satire and the news is almost dead on correct!

BTW - Barry, I agree completely with your assessment!



Anonymous said...

As an owner of "funbags" and whatnot, I am gonna have to go with my first choice, which was never Hilary. Palin cheats at hunting (aerial hunting) and has abused her authority to attack a relative's ex hubby. What next? Poisoning illegal immigrants and sending young women with the poor luck of needing a pregnancy ended to Guantanamo?
Obama is, at the very least, a sensible HUMAN BEING.

Barry Eisler said...

Brian, a couple things come to mind in response.

First, I'm not arguing that Obama has an ideal amount of experience. Still, as you've noted, he has over a decade of legislative experience (some of which is pretty impressive, as an even cursory read of 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. You might not like his policies and he might not feel like your kind of candidate, but he's well-known and no lightweight.

(Before you tell me that time in the state legislature is somehow not relevant, please make the same argument for a state cop who's now applying for a job at the FBI).

By contrast, the very people who have excoriated Obama for his alleged lack of experience are now extolling Palin's tremendous executive experience as the mayor of a town of 9000 and 18 months' time as governor of a state of 600,000. The hypocrisy involved is stunning. And unlike Obama, Palin's overseas experience is almost nonexistent: she applied for her first passport about a year ago. Nor is she on the record as ever having said anything about foreign policy, or evinced any interest in the subject, either. Again, whatever you think of Obama, he's at least not afraid to take questions from the press, and has even appeared on Fox, no fan of his. Palin is so manifestly unready that McCain's people are still keeping her under wraps almost two weeks after she became the nominee -- not a single interview, not a single press conference. If she were so ready, would she not be an asset out on the campaign trail?

Imagine what Republicans would be saying today if Obama's VP pick: (i) had only just received his first passport; (ii) had never said a word about or expressed any interest in foreign policy; (iii) was a member of an organization that seeks to secede from the United States; (iv) had a teenage daughter who was pregnant and unmarried; (v) belonged to a church whose pastor ranted about how God was going to deliver a mighty blow to the US (well, that last one isn't hypothetical, is it); and (vi) following his speech at the convention, went into hiding and refused to take any questions from the press. And what would they be saying about Obama's fitness and judgment, if he had selected such a running mate without vetting him and indeed having met him only once? Again, even against the background of the kind of political hypocrisy one expects from both parties, the latest from the Republicans is stunning.

As for my references to the Daily Show, I don't understand your point. Were any of the facts cited in the course of the Daily Show clips inaccurate? Was any of the video involved, such as that of Karl Rove saying completely contradictory things depending on whether the subject of his commentary was a Republican or a Democrat, inaccurate? If none of the facts in the Daily Show clips was inaccurate, what exactly is the basis of your complaint?

Again, the most fascinating aspect of the Palin pick is the way it's revealed just how co-opted and corrupt "conservatives" have become. The word itself has become a sad joke, and "conservatives," through their own breathtaking partisanship, tribalism, and hypocrisy, have made it so. If you don't call Republicans on what they've become, you're not helping them anymore than you would be helping an alcoholic by offering him another bottle of booze.

-- Barry

P.S. None of this is to say there are no real conservatives left. Check out Daniel Larison, for one. But there aren't many.

Spy Scribbler said...

My first reaction was worry: a woman? Could McCain really get the Hilary-supporters?

Ten minutes later, I was elated, because I felt sure this would be the moment Obama had won.

And then I started to feel deeply insulted. I don't know what he was thinking, but it does seem he was making a bid for the Hilary supporters. The number of women more qualified than Palin is enormous. It's such a ridiculous choice I couldn't stop it from crossing my mind: was he thinking with his dick? Was he hoping his male voters would? Like that librarian wrote, men "love her," supposedly.

Or worse: does he believe women are so irrational we'd vote for any woman he picked? Does he really believe we are that brainless??

And what concerns me most of all: his advisers agree???

I say all this, but I don't know or understand why he picked Palin. I've googled it for hours. I'm completely perplexed. Stunned, as you said. I hear all the reasons, but they still don't make sense to me.

Is there any possibility he was committing suicide, in a way? Giving up?

I did follow your argument, and it makes as much sense as anything. Even so, I still wonder: how could fear of not looking stupid inspire them to choose her? Sure looks stupid to me!

PS: Cool about Mr. Yamashita. Yielding is strength: sounds like something I need to learn. I've been youtubing him. My foot finally seems to be healing after two years. I'm chomping at the bit to learn more TKD.

An Inspiring Agent said...

Oh Berry, I love Jon Stewart just as much as I enjoy you posts!!! Let me tell you that after speaking with my European friends the reaction was intensified to the boiling point!!! I still can’t believe that women across America will find themselves in position of seeing Sarah Palin as a role model or something to be look at.

It is true that she has move herself up the ladder in a men’s world but maybe it has too do more with that pit-bull lipstick and her cut throat approach of get on board or get out of my way!!! But all she has done with her life and the issues she stands behind goes against that entire woman has fought for all our life.

Sarah Palin is like one of my friends like to call her a prehistoric figure, the embodiment of what we use to be long ago. We as a society have come so far, controlling deadly diseases by using protection and educating our citizens and she is against it. We find that in Alaska, we don’t only find the biggest state but also the highest high school student STD rate in the nation.

Another thing that really worries me is her judgment when choosing to get pregnant at the age of 44, hence exposing an innocent child to come to this world that is already a tough proposition, with a physical impediment that will make his life even more of a challenge.

In all, Sarah Palin seemed to be driven by, the notion that if you have good intensions, God will intervene and somehow make it all better for you. In my opinion people can believe whatever they want to believe, but I want my President and my Vice-President to rule following the foundation of our nation, state and religion separation. In doing so, they can rest assure that everyone’s rights can be protected and that on the day of our final judgment it is us, not our state who will be condemned or redeemed. But I fear that it is not Obama who feels that he is bestowed by God to “turn the waters” or “heel the world”, it is she who thinks that teaching children to obey by abstinences in order to protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, will safe our world. It is Sarah Palin that somehow seem to have a problem with the idea of helping our batter communities to get back on their feet and it is Sarah Palin that thinks that drilling our untapped oil supplies, will some how solve our financial crisis, and hence stop global warming.

I believe that Barack Obama was right when he said that McCain was out of touch with the American people and in my opinion he is completely out of touch with the American woman. But as democrat and as a feminist, I am glad McCain made this mistake, it just goes to show you how prehistoric his vision of the world is and how much it will hurt our free world if we allow the republics to continue destroying our empire. I see an apocalyptic vision, when I imagine what will be of us if they were to take the White House hostage and I pray that people of America can see beyond her intoxicating red lipstick and her long legs and make the only violable alternative that is Obama and Biden.
It was very scary to see the hatred, the archaic world views and the bully personalities of the speakers at the republican national convention and if that is a preview of what it is to come, God help us….because that is a recipe for a disaster that will put us in a path of self destruction and outer failure for decades to come.

Thanks for your post….

J L said...

Good posts on a fascinating subject. I think we're all seeing the intersection of fiction and politics here, aren't we? I have a friend who lives in Alaska and she paints a completely different picture of SP than what is being spun. As an author of fiction, I find it interesting ....

I wonder: if Obama wins, in 4 years will we see Obama vs. Sarah Palin?

If Obama loses, will we see Hillary vs. Sarah Palin? SP will probably be groomed and sanitized by then to look like a viable candidate.

The GOP needed a woman to take on Hillary and other strong female Dems. I think the GOP realize McCain is a one-term pony -- he's too old and too sick for more than that. I think they're looking to the future and that's why Palin is on the ticket (besides her appeal to the evangelicals in the bunch).

I wonder how the other GOP women leaders feel about this? And if I was a GOP moderate, I'd be spitting nails right now because I was so angry.

I have to admit, this fired me up. I've never donated money to a political campaign before, but I donated to the Dems. And I did it because of Joe Palin. I saw him on Meet the Press and I was so impressed, I went to my computer and donated.

So there's one counter-balance to the pendelum, at least.

Mark Terry said...

To my admittedly biased POV, the Palin choice indicates:

1. McCain likes to gamble and this was a huge gamble. He met her for the first time in February, I believe, never worked with her, did not properly vet her, and if rumors are to be believed, chose her pretty much without the support of his staff.

2. Politics over sense. Another reason the Palin choice seems so bizarre is because her apparent decisions have so little agreement with McCain's. People have commented on how her positions on the issues are diametrically opposed to Hillary Clinton's, but come on, her positions are diametrically opposed to Senator McCain's.

3. Taken on her own, Gov. Palin's resume is impressive. But it's very much a case of: "your resume is impressive, but we are looking to fill the second most powerful position in the country, if not the world, so we're looking for someone even more impressive. You have some serious weaknesses. So thank you, Ma'am, please consider us again in four or eight years."

As you commented about a physician, Gov. Palin's experience resembles that of a recent graduate from medical school. Now we want to fill the position of Dead of Harvard Medical School. Who do we pick?

Anonymous said...

Whether Palin turns out to be the second coming of Dan Quayle remains to be seen. Count me among those who see little or no difference between Obama and Palin when it comes to their qualifications for the presidency. I think anyone with a semblance of objectivity would admit that neither has a resume befitting the job. On the other hand, both display the strength and intelligence needed to acquire those skills.

However, one thing we know with certainty is that polls are currently moving in McCain’s direction. Of course, this is subject to rapid change but the USAToday/Gallup poll from today is stunning: the McCain/Palin ticket now leads by 10%. I’m shocked (but admittedly pleased). Rasmussen has it tied, CBS has it tied. CNN from a week ago had Obama up by just one point. Perhaps most telling, the Intradrade Real Time Quotes now shows the race tied at 50%, whereas just three days ago 60% were betting (real money) that Obama would win.

Barry, you may be turn out to be right. Palin may kill this ticket when all is said and done. But against the backdrop of a lousy economy, continued war, and social discontent, today’s USA/Gallup’s poll showing Republicans with a 10-point lead should give you pause (yes, it’s only one poll, but 10 points is very large margin).

You may not like Palin (I do), but despite the early attacks against her, she seems to be adding strength to the Republican ticket.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of your arguments, if not necessarily the tone, but I'm not sure about the conclusions. The latest Gallup poll shows McCain up by 4 points -- a week ago he was down by 6. This will be a VERY close election and the selection of Palin, in my opinion, is not going to hurt McCain at all.

Anonymous said...

time will surely tell and we we'll only have to wait 60 more days. I love to see feminists beating up Palin shows there true colors. BET also shows bias as they did not even show the mccain speech and he still had more viewers than Obama. All Obama can do is say that Palin and Mccain are just like W because that's all he can say. Flip flops on both sides and Obama even picked a running mate who said that he's not fit to lead...where are your comments about his judgement?? Biden looked lost yesterday on meet the press. Olberman was relieved of his duties at MSNBC becuase he's biased. The wheels are coming off and I see fear in the writings of Dems afraid of losing. The policies of Obama are not ones that speak to the heart of America especially when yesterday Chavez snubed his nose at us and he's planning Oil exploration with Russia. The world is becoming increasingly more dangerous and instead of blaming it on Bush why don't we blame it on the people who are actually making it worse like Chavez, Putin and Ahmadinejad. Bush has alot of failings but Obama is not one to make quick decisions and in time of national security I want someone who is ready to make those decisions. McCain can do that and I it seems that Palin is a quick study and has a steely disposition as well. My aunt is a liberal feminist and wrote a book "no more nice girl" about women in the workplace. She should be backing Palin but isn't...oh well. Palin may not be nice at times but politics is not a nice world as seen by the lefts attacks and smear campaign. Time will tell and in November we can have a discussion to see which point of view resonates with the American people.

PBI said...


Great post - I hope your optimism about the outcome is justified. The newest daily Gallup tracking poll has McCain up significantly on Obama for the first time since May. I'm not particularly worried about the convention bounce itself - it's to be expected - but I'm concerned about the magnitude of the bump and the fact that there are only two months until the election.

My overall assessment, however, mirrors yours; Palin is a cruel joke and, under the surface anyway, should only be appealing to people who think our current president is a great one. She is a Bush Republican through and through.

Sensen No Sen

Anonymous said...

When you write about Palin's effect on this election--and currently it might best be described as a tectonic shift, if only temporarily--you should at least acknowledge the speculative nature of your comments. And Barry, your speculation rings false to my ear.

In my view, it's not about McCain presupposing "that there are significant numbers of women who are even more gullible than men," nor is it simply a matter of "the glandular right has fallen in love with her." (by the way, Barry, those statements by you are incredibly arrogant, but that's another issue)

I think that Palin has taken hold because she is an everyday person who most Americans can readily identify with. For the first time in long, long time, we have someone on a presidential ticket who is not an Ivy League attorney, or former CEO of a large corporation, or owner of a baseball team, or 25-year Washington insider. She cooks dinner for her children, drives herself to work, buys her own groceries, goes fishing and hunting with a husband she appears to truly love. (disclosure: I'm paraphrasing from a recent article I read, but I also claim these thoughts as my own)

Of course, being an everyday American doesn't qualify her for a place on the ticket, but her experience as governor and proven reformer closes that gap considerably. And, like it or not, many Americans (including myself) appear to share her views about family, the sanctity of human life from conception, the need to win the war in Iraq (which appears to be happening, despite your faulty proclamation that the surge had failed), and other commonly-held conservative values. It may be many more Americans than you think, Barry. Come November, we'll see.
I find the often sexist and nasty attacks on Palin and her family to be especially curious, and I suspect that this has something to do with fear on the Left. I may be wrong in this but I can't come up with another plausible explanation for why so many Democratic pundits and bloggers are willing to expose the hypocrisy of their so-called feminist beliefs by launching attacks that border on misogynistic.

Speaking only for myself, Sarah Palin has also taps into an earnest need to once again believe that we citizens can take back control of this country. It's time to clean house in Washington--that goes for both democrats and republicans. Palin is the first politician in a generation who gives me hope, and hope is a powerful motivator.

I don't think I'm alone in these beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Eisler, you wrote:

“In what other field do people make decisions this way? "...and therefore she should operate on my child." "...and therefore he should run a billion-dollar company." "...and therefore she should repair my car."

"and therefore she should be next-in-line for the presidency." And the people saying it call themselves "conservative!" It amazes me.”

It isn’t really so amazing, though. A hundred years ago, Mark Twain observed:

“In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”

OK that’s my quota of irony for this week. On a more serious note, I’d like to disagree with your assessment that Obama will win by pointing out two things about the electorate.

First, except for Bush senior, every President we’ve elected since Carter (1976) has been a Southern or Western governor regardless of party affiliation. Palin on the Republican ticket might just be an attempt to capitalize on that little fact, since we have two senators running.

Second, during the economically properous years of the Clinton administration, the Republicans held both houses of Congress for more than half that time. Americans seem to prefer a divided government. Ordinary people who have commented on this seem to think that if the legislative and executive branches are occupied by different parties, the resulting gridlock will encourage compromise re-branded as bipartisanship and prevent either party from damaging the economy or country too much. The backlash against Republicans in the House and Senate in 2006 resulted from the worst features of single party control of both branches, mirroring the loss of legislative control for the Democrats in the 1990's for largely the same reasons.

Best Regards,
The Long Haranguer

Unknown said...

Don't know about you, but I am really tired of the deification of both candidates. Obama is a human being who puts his pants on one leg at a time, he doesn't walk on water. And as for the Saint John and Sister Sarah show? With lines like "beat back Evil" it sounds more like he's running for head knight of the Round Table instead of president.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure Obama is going to win. I was talking to my brother & he & many of his co-workers, union members all, are thinking positive for McCain. They don't like him so much, but really like Palin. He thinks she's a great pick - pro-NRA (as he is) & pro-union (at least somewhat). If other union members feel like this, in spite of union hall support for Obama, McCain might win.

PBI said...

Anonymous Three,

You wrote "It's time to clean house in Washington--that goes for both democrats and republicans. Palin is the first politician in a generation who gives me hope, and hope is a powerful motivator." While you certainly have every right to back whomever you want to back - whether for emotional or policy reasons - I don't understand this logic. The best way to address the ravages of Bush Republicanism is to elect more Bush Republicans?

Also, would you please cite some of the "nasty and sexist attacks" on Palin that you mention? I keep hearing about them, but haven't been able to find any myself. Perhaps our definitions of the terms "sexist" and "nasty" are different, but I'd still like to know what you're referencing - I haven't seen anything targeting Governor Palin like what was pointed at Hillary Clinton. (e.g. Chris Matthews, McCain's acceptance of a question on "How do we beat the bitch?", Dick Morris in the 2nd video in Barry's post, etc., etc., etc.) What are your thoughts on what was said about her?

Sensen No Sen

Anonymous said...

PBI, you miss my points on several counts, whether intentionally or not. Palin has shown she has the character to clean house even when the wrongs come from her own party (ala the scandals she exposed in Alaska). So yes, I trust her to speak out about problems in a more non-partisan manner than almost anyone currently working in Washington. McCain is similar in his willingness to stand against his party, even when it makes him an unpopular figure among Republicans, so they're a good team. But where in my comment did I say that the problem that needs addressing is "the ravages of Bush Republicanism?" I didn't. I specifically suggested that both parties are to blame. Shame on you for changing my premise.

Regarding nasty and sexist attacks, again you knowingly introduce a false premise. Where did I say that the attacks need to be nastier than those directed at Hillary Clinton in order to qualify? Both Clinton and Palin have been unfairly treated by the press and Democratic pundits, which is a sad irony, don't you think? And to your question, John Roberts on CNN started down this road on the day of Palin's nomination with a simple (and clearly sexist) question: Is it appropriate for her to accept the vice presidential nomination given the magnitude of her current family responsibilities? Howard Gutman, an Obama fundraiser, jumped into the gutter when he stated with obvious sarcasm, "If my daughter had just come home at 17 years old and said, 'Mom, Dad, I'm pregnant, we have a family problem,' I wouldn't say, 'You know what we're going to do? We’re going to take this private family problem...I'm going to go on the international stage and broadcast it to the world.'"

Stop and think about that last quote for a minute. Here is a man drawing attention to this candidate's pregnant teenager--"broadcasting" it--and he has the audacity to claim that it's the candidate who's to blame for this unwanted publicity. It's so outrageous, so utterly nasty, that Obama immediately stepped forward to distance himself from those comments by someone connected with his campaign.

There are many more examples, PBI, if only you are willing to look at the evidence objectively.

Natalie Hatch said...

I think if George W can be president then it shouldn't be soo hard to get a woman with 'very little' experience to be a VP.
Interesting reading the posts so far. I hope for the sake of your country that who ever gets in can get you out of debt to China and reduce your reliance on oil.
America seems to be slipping from it's superpower role to become just another in debt nation.

David Farnell said...

Dear Barry,

Hajimemashite! I've just discovered (and devoured) the John Rain series, and then I found your excellent blog. Your assessments of the state of American politics are usually spot-on, although this recent surge in Palin popularity is a bit worrisome. Hopefully it is only temporary...people can't really be THAT blind, can they?

What am I saying, of course they can. Sigh. Well, I'm glad to hear you're back in Tokyo. As a longtime Fukuoka resident, I'm hoping Rain makes a visit down here to Kyushu someday.

KSR said...

Barry, et al, a few thoughts/comments:
Firstly, I’d like to make a request that you no longer accept “anonymous” posts. I can’t tell if there is one person with multiple entries or several. It’s not hard to make up a handle, for goodness sake!

I’m with PBI here: I haven’t seen any real sexist commentary about Palin. Her simple refusal to answer questions (any questions!) leads people to ask more of them. I think you find the questions objectionable, not the commentary. But please remember a very essential fact: the McCain campaign brought up the subject of the child with Down’s Syndrome and her pregnant, unwed, 17 year old daughter. Since when is it not “fair game” to want to ask follow up questions to talking points that the candidate releases? And why can’t we ask tough questions. McCain’s staff should have done this already. They didn’t, so now the job is put on the shoulders of everybody else.

I’m in the financial/investment world, and was speaking to one of my clients today. With all the recent economic calamities befalling our nation, this client commanded me to sell out all of his investments about 2 months ago. His position being that we are headed, potentially, to another “great depression” and he didn’t want to be invested during this unfolding of economic doom. I was surprised, then, when he said that he can’t vote for Obama because “he scares me,” he said. I asked, how he could support the very team that is responsible for the policies that have lead to the predicament that have lead him to “go to cash.” He said that with the addition of Palin, McCain has shown him that he can play differently. He believes that McCain will be a different kind of Republican.

Isn’t that the definition of insane? When you repeat something and expect different results? It wasn’t my place to try and convert a client to change his vote, but it was illustrative of a line of thinking that likely isn’t limited to simply him. Here is a guy that firmly believes the world is going to pot, and he will vote for the guy that supports all the economic policies that have gotten us into this mess in the first place. Honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of it.

The argument that Palin (and/or McCain) is a gal/guy you want to hang out with strikes fear into my soul. Never mind that the last president who was a regular guy turned out to be a disaster for the entire world. What is wrong with wanting…demanding that the president be smarter than you? Quite frankly, many of the Americans I’ve met aren’t all that smart. McCain graduated near the very bottom of his class. He may have been a senator since the invention of the telephone, but he doesn’t impress me with his intelligence.

As far as the recent polling is concerned, all of it is “national polling.” Let’s not lose sight of that very important detail. Presidential elections are not national, but state-by-state. The first candidate to secure 270 electoral votes is named the next president of the United States. Markos at the Daily Kos does the best job consolidating state-by-state polling that I’ve seen (his most recent was: ). You can see there that it’s currently at about 309 Obama to McCain 229. My prediction for the final outcome will be about 320 for Obama. As Palin finally gets to go off on her own (anybody notice that McCain is always behind her staring at …what exactly?), she will show off her neophyte skills. Nothing against her personally, but it’s a tough roll to play, what with being thrown on the national, ney, international stage like that. Eventually, she will have to start to answer some of the “nasty” questions that we really need to hear. Joe Biden will ask her to name the capitol of Namibia, and she’ll just fold. Either that, or “trooper-gate” (assuming it gets a fair investigative review) will not go her way. She’ll resign in disgrace, saying “it’s for my family.”

By the way, my theory is that John McCain doesn’t really want to win. So he’ll have a great time on the campaign trail and go out in a blaze of glory. I believe that just winning the nomination was enough for him.

Joshua James said...

Excellent analysis, Barry. I'm linking today.

Joshua James said...

A friend forwarded me this newspaper story in which Palin refers to Obama via a racial slur - here's the link:

Mark Terry said...

What I don't seem to hear, but am afraid will happen (and I have the in-laws to suggest it just might):

A lot of Americans who will vote for McCain because they can't ever find themselves voting for a black man. Period.

That's not my view, but once I start pinning people down, it sort of jumps out at you. At its core, the U.S. may very well be more of a racist country than it is sexist.

PBI said...


I'm not sure how Palin has shown anything resembling a reformist bent. She supported the Bridge to Nowhere until it became a political hot potato, at which time she came out against it. Then, of course, when the earmark for the bridge was removed and the funds freed up, she accepted and spent those dollars anyway. (This is well documented; the idea that she was always against the bridge is - flatly - a lie from the McCain campaign.)

Likewise, then-Mayor Palin assumed office with zero municipal debt; she left Wasilla $22 million in the red having spent lavishly on a multi-use sports center that was built on land that is still tied up in court because the town didn't have clear ownership. Further, she strongly appears to be every bit the crony capitalist she claims to decry, replacing civil servants with patronage employees and firing (and attempting to fire) people - like the city librarian in Wasilla - who wouldn't "show loyalty" by censoring books. Oh, and then she has - again provably - lied about these things, claiming for instance in the case of the librarian that she hadn't fired her, a story to which she stuck until the termination letter from Mayor Palin was produced. I'm not sure how this qualifies her as a reformer; this is the head-long, I'm-always-right, loyalty/party/cronies-above-the-public, no accountability Bush Republicanism we have seen coming from Washington since 2000. If that's your bag, so be it, but it sure isn't reform, it's more of the same, and from many of the same people.

I fully realize that you didn't say anything about the ravages of 8 years of said Bush Republicanism; I make that characterization because, with the exception of the last 2 years, the GOP has been completely in control of both the White House and the Congress. Given the lack of a filibuster- and veto-proof majority in the Senate, despite the Democratic House majority and the 51-49 majority in the Senate, Republicans effectively remain in control, having blocked more billls in this Congress through procedural tactics than any other Congress before them, by orders of magnitude. Shame on YOU for trotting out a premise that "both parties are to blame;" it is unsupported by fact or history.

So I return to the question as to why John McCain - who has said himself that he voted with President Bush 90% of the time and is therefore a "maverick" only 10% of the time (not to mention the fact that his campaign is absolutley rife with big name lobbyists) - leads the right ticket to undo the damage he has helped inflict. When a bunch of drunks drive a car into a ditch, you don't give them back the keys. As KSR points out, that's the definition of insanity. Why should we trust these poeple? Because they say we should? Are we to ignore what they have actually done and simply swallow fabrications - like the Bridge to Nowhere and Maverick narratives?

With regard to sexist comments, the Palin family - NOT the media - announced that Bristol Palin is pregnant; is your contention that no one can question the wisdom of that decision? Because that is what Mr. Gutman is doing in that quote, and even if you argue that such a decision shouldn't be second-guessed, it hardly qualifies as "sexism." I think the John Gibson quote is indeed inappropriate, but one comment doesn't make a trend, and - in all honesty - I have looked for more. I have found nothing that even marginally compares to the number, breadth and severity of comments about crying, hiding behind the apron strings, being able to play with the big boys, etc. that were leveled at Senator Clinton.

I raise the issue of Mrs. Clinton - and asked for your thoughts on it - because, within the 2008 campaign, the manner in which she was treated is pretty clearly the benchmark for sexism, at least in this cycle. I never said that you claimed the alleged sexism aimed at Mrs. Palin was worse than that pointed at Mrs. Clinton, but given what's come out in public about "sexism toward Sarah Palin," the idea that she is being treated any worse than anybody else is pretty laughable. And to be completely crass for a moment, even if it was every bit as bad, the bar was set by Republicans, so what is good for the Dems would seem to be good enough for the GOP. To borrow your phrase, Republicans jumped in the gutter on that issue - and many others - first; so they don't get to claim victimhood if their own methods are turned against them, especially when it is far from demonstrated that those methods are even being employed.

I am more than happy to look at anything objectively; that's what I do and it's why I'm an independent. In fact, that appears to be at the root of our disagreement; I'm looking at things critically, rather than simply accepting talking points.

Sensen No Sen

Anonymous said...

IT's not very respectful to accuse your opponents of supporting a candidate because of "her looks." That's not only insulting but a little sexist. I don't think you would say that about a man. You haven't said it about John McCain.

Ms. Palin's looks are irrelevant and you should be more respectful even if you don't support her or agree with her.

Barry Eisler said...

Cozycrime, I don't understand why it would be insulting, disrespectful, or sexist to suggest that people might support a candidate in part because of her (or his) looks. In my everyday experience and observations, a person's looks have a tremendous impact on the way he or she will be treated. Why would this widespread reality be suspended for presidential candidates?

You claim Palin's looks are irrelevant. I can't imagine this is so, any more than I could imagine McCain's looks or the looks of any other politician are irrelevant. The very opposite seems true. For example, there's evidence that the taller candidate usually wins the election:

This is all so obvious that you'd have to be unusually biased to assume I believe, or would only claim, that only a woman's looks matter.

A couple questions:

1. Do you believe Pallin's looks were irrelevant to McCain and his team when they were considering her?

2. Can you provide any evidence for your assertion that Palin's looks are irrelevant?

Do us both a favor -- next time you want to accuse me of disrespect, insults, or sexism, think a little bit first. And in the process of that thinking, consider your own biases.


Anonymous said...

I did think about my remarks before I posted them. I know this is your blog and I'll respectfully depart once I'm through with this, but it's not very polite to tell people to "think a little bit first" before they share their opinions. That's arrogant, suggesting that people who disagree with you must not have thought about what they were going to say.

It was my belief, and after reading the post again I still believe, that you made your statement in an attempt to dismiss Ms. Palin's supporters (of whom I am not one; I'm a lifelong Democrat) as shallow and unthinking. Just as you're trying to do to me in your comments here (suggesting I haven't thought about my opinion).

I can see that contrary views aren't welcome here, so I shall not be posting again. Good day.

Barry Eisler said...

"I did think about my remarks before I posted them."

Accusations of insult, disrespect, and sexism leveled in the face of such obvious evidence to the contrary do suggest a lack of thought. And you still haven't provided the evidence I asked for regarding your assertion that looks are irrelevant. Your failure to do so suggests, again, a lack of thought, or at least of effort.

"I know this is your blog and I'll respectfully depart once I'm through with this, but it's not very polite to tell people to "think a little bit first" before they share their opinions."

Do you think it's polite to accuse people of sexism on such flawed and flimsy evidence? You seem to demand more politeness from others than you're willing to extend yourself.

"That's arrogant, suggesting that people who disagree with you must not have thought about what they were going to say."

Not at all. I relish reasoned disagreement. But when people advance opinions here -- particularly in the course of accusing me of sexism etc. -- without support, in the face of obvious contrary evidence and indeed in contravention of everyday common sense, and particularly when such people decline, as you have, to provide evidence in support of the opinions they've advanced even after being asked to do so, I'll call that behavior for what it is. Thoughtless at best. Lazy on top of it.

"It was my belief, and after reading the post again I still believe, that you made your statement in an attempt to dismiss Ms. Palin's supporters (of whom I am not one; I'm a lifelong Democrat) as shallow and unthinking."

Please read my post again. I do not suggest that all Palin's supporters are unthinking; in fact, my remarks were confined to the subset of her supporters who "really really like her, or even love her." I also mentioned additional factors that might produce this kind of adoration for a politician on such short notice -- "religious views, personality, or whatever." You're the one who has chosen to focus on looks alone (ironically, in the course of accusing me of sexism. Projection?), and to apply that category not just to fervid adherents, but to all Palin's supporters.

Do you not see that my point deliberately applies *precisely* to shallow and unthinking supporters? As in, "even if you like or love a candidate for such shallow, unthinking reasons, how does it follow you that you then support her for president?" If you can't see this, it can only be because you're blinded by your own biases -- the very ones of which you accuse me of harboring.

"Just as you're trying to do to me in your comments here (suggesting I haven't thought about my opinion)."

But you obviously haven't. At least not in any meaningful way.

"I can see that contrary views aren't welcome here, so I shall not be posting again. Good day."

You can see that? How, exactly, when there are numerous contrary views in the comments to my posts, including the very one you're responding to?

So again, Cozycrime, you've advanced an argument contradicted by evidence that this time is literally right in front of you. And you want me to give you credit for thinking? I'm sorry, that's something you have to earn by thoughtful argument.