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Why People Care about the Palin Circus

My long-time, dear friend, sweetjezebel  commented on my last post asking why someone like me is interested in the garbage surrounding Sarah Palin.  We disagree politically so when something political comes up, I always think of her and try to see things from her perspective.  Without knowing it, she really makes me examine my thoughts and gut reactions to things on the political spectrum and really think them through.  I guess it's god practice for me.  Anyway... when I started responding to her questions, the list of reasons started growing, one thought led to another and my response got longer and longer so I decided to make this a separate post. 

In my original, snarky post, I said that I was shocked that the GOP didn't check for Myspace info on Palin's kids or her soon-to-be son-in-law,  that most employers check Myspace.  sweetjezebel said that's true, but they don't check the kids.  In my opinion, the reason for McCain's camp to have checked the kids is clear-- cover your ass.  Avoid scandal.  We are talking about the race to be the President and Vice President of the United States of America in a troubled time in our history.   Is there anything more important than that?   The difference in the particulars of the comment is that when  becoming a police officer, you're becoming a public official representing government and our laws, but your personal ideas, morals, ideas and values don't come into the picture.  As a police officer, you're a physical manifestation of the law itself.  It's about the job, not the person.

When vetting a VPchoice the party was supposed to go through all the press available about Palin, her family history, her co-workers, her life to see if there are/were any skeletons, to see if the public figure and the ideas/morals/values she represents are really a reflection of the woman herself, if the entire picture is in reality that which McCain wants to respresent for his campaign. The campaign people keep saying that Palin was fully vetted before her name was told to the press.  (Conveniently and strategically, the day after a major speech by Obama and timed exactly to take media coverage from him and shift it to McCain.) 

McCain went way out on a limb, ignoring the advice of top party officials.  It's reported that Karl Rove was pushing Fred Thompson as the running mate, representing the choice of Bush himself.  Someone else was pushing Romney.  McCain went against everyone to pick this woman.  Big deal, right?  Except that he chose a virtual unknown woman in the party with very little experience, passing over other women in the party with more experience, solid backgrounds, strong ideals, like the former governor of NJ, Christine Todd Whitman and others.  It's said that to really have a chance against the momentum of the Democrats, he needed to pick a woman.  Also, in order to court the evangelicals and the extreme right, he needed to pick someone who was staunchly pro-life.  That limited the selections dramatically.  Pundits are saying that those two qualifiers left *only* Sarah Palin as an option.

So by choosing someone that isn't as "famous" or familiar in the realm of national politics, and not really spilling the beans about who she is, it sets the press on a mission to find out about her-- who is she, what does she stand for?  Is she really as conservative as she says?  We couldn't look to her achievements or her record because there simply isn't anything to look at.  How do we get to know who Sarah Palin is?  We look at her life in absence of a long political career.

This becomes a huge factor in her press coverage because of something done by the McCain campaign itself--- they keep running ads saying Obama isn't ready to lead, that he's too inexperienced to be president because he's only served 2 terms in the Senate and 9 terms in the senate of the state of Illinois.  That's a heck of a lot of experience when you compare him to Sarah Palin.  And we have to make that comparison, we're duty bound to make that comparison because of McCain's age and his health history.  She would be his successor if anything happened to him in office.  He's been a POW (how he loves to remind us of that!) and had skin cancer and is old.  It's not too far a stretch to think that perhaps he could die in office.  Then we'd be left with a president who really has no experience except as a mayor of a VERY small town and a short time as the governor of a politicallly insignificant state, her administration rife with scandals.  Is she ready to negotiate with foreign dignitaries?  To define policies that affect millions and millions of people? To be the most powerful person world?

We have no clear way to judge except to look at her life.  It's unfortunate that she has a lot of issues in her personal life that have attracted attention and make me (and lots of other people) second guess her ability to lead our country.

This kind of personal soap opera stuff would be huge even if she were only running for governor of a large, populous state like New York or California.  Think of all the press the CA gov race got when Arnold was first elected.  All of the candidates, national news, magazines discussing the candidates.  All of that even though the election had little bearing on the rest of the country.  An even more direct comparison is that of the national media coverage during the Eliot Spitzer scandal.  It was everywhere that the governor of NY was involved with a prostitute.  Why did the media care so much? Because he held himself up as ethical, a reformer, a person who toed the line and would hold everyone to his own standards.

Americans love soap operas.  They love to see the mighty laid low.  So in seeking to learn who Sarah Palin is the media had to dig deeper than perhaps they normally would because she just hasn't been involved in politics that long and she's holding herself up much the same way as Spitzer.  She's called herself ethical but she's currently under investigation and just hired a lawyer to deal with a situation where she fired someone who wouldn't fire the ex-husband of her sister.

She's being used by the McCain camp as a shining example of motherhood.  Much has been made of the fact that she's a mother of five by the Republicans themselves.  You can't hold up a sign pointing to her as a great mom and then not expect people to take a closer look.  The GOP was very focused on her decision to have baby Trig, with Downs Syndrome.  They said, "See!  Even when she knew that there were medical issues with the baby, she didn't abort.  What a great mother!" and then the press found out that she travelled to Texas late in her pregnancy.  With her amniotic fluid leaking she decided to stay and give a speech and instead of going to a hospital to make sure everything was okay with the baby, she went to the airport and flew to Seattle.  Isntead of then going to a hospital, she waited for a connecting flight to Anchorage, Alaska-- the city in her home state with the best hospitals and despite the thirteen hours since the amniotic fluid stated leaking, she still didn't go to a hospital.  In that situation, the only thing plugging the tear in the sac is the head of the baby.  This is a woman who'd previously had four children.  Ask any woman with multiple children and she'll tell you, after the first one, the deliveries come fast.  She'd already waited 13 hours and put that baby through pressure changes and long flights.  Think about how any adult feels during takeoff and landing, through turbulence.  How does a baby, plugging the hole in his mom's sac, waiting to be born, feel through that experience?  So instead of going to a hospital in Anchorage, she got in a car and had her husband drive her for more than 45 minutes, to a tiny hospital in a tiny town, deep in Alaska.  

What kind of woman does that?  What kind of mother does that?  What kind of mother does that to a child she already knows has medical issues?  These are valid questions I would ask of the woman down the street.  To ask them of a woman who is being pointed to as a shining example of motherhood is absolutely necessary.  It's a question of being made to stand behind your assertions and prove your point.  You can't go into a court of law and call someone a criminal without proof, without hard evidence that leaves no question in the mind.  Our political parties can't offer up someone for us to vote on, call them a good mother and then not be able to prove it expecially when there's evidence that points to the contrary.

So then The Daily Kos speculates that perhaps she's not an awful mother, those flights and the long delay didn't mean much because she wasn't actually pregnant, it was her daughter having the baby.  Her late announcement and non-pregnant appaearance were all just a cover-up to spare her daughter's (and her own) reputation as a fundamentalist Christian conservative.  It's kind of far-fetched but not impossible to believe.  It wouldn't surprise me to learn that that conspiracy theory came from either the GOP or the dems themselves.  Look at what happened as a result, an announcement that Bristol is pregnant.

Later in the day we have Fox News and politicians saying that her family is off limits, that it's too low to bring her kids into the political arena.  Even Obama is saying that and on this point, I disagree with him.   Obama isn't holding himself up as a shining example of good fatherhood.  Neither is McCain.  Palin is.  She's being used as an example and she played to it in her own speech.  You can't talk about your son and his enlistment and deployment (both conveniently on 9/11- a fact she felt compelled to share several times to play on the heartstrings of Americans) and then expect us not to want to know about your other four children.  Both she, and the campaign people who wrote her speeches, brought her kids into the mix, not the media. They just took the information they had and looked deeper.

So when she had her family all gathered together to bask in her political glow and there's poor Bristol, wearing black, her entire midsection covered in a baby blanket, holding a baby in her arms in an uncomfortable and unusual position, there's bound to be questions. Why isn't the baby is a carrier or stroller?  A five-month-old is not light to carry and hold. Why Bristol holding him and not the big strong man that is the baby's father?   (What is Mr. Palin's name?)

Still, I question the judgment of Sarah Palin, and her family, and her ambition for her decision to pursue this campaign only five months after having a special needs baby.  Sure, she has a large family and a support network.  Sure, she went back to work right after bearing her children.  Still, can she be held up as an example mother when she's ignoring her SPECIAL NEEDS baby to campaign? Doesn't he need his mother more than she needs to get to a higher office than the one she already holds?  Doesn't he need his mother more than his sisters or grandmother or father?  It's an archaic notion and mysogynistic, I'm sure someone is going to tell me, but it's true.  I'm sorry.  Children need their mother and unless it's a situation where the mother is unfit, I can't see campaigning as a valid excuse to push your special needs baby off on family members.  I don't have to look past my own friends list here on LJ to see much better examples of mothers who truly love and support their children; mothers who are actively raising their children and teaching them values.

Would I look as closely at a male politician's family life? Don't we always?  What happened to Gary Hart?  What happened to John Edwards? To Eliot Spitzer?  To Bill Clinton?  Their personal lives all came into play in the political arena.  You can't cry sexism just because Palin is a woman.  Across the board, across gender lines, all politicians should be treated the same.

So back to the original question: how is what the applicants child does in their free time any reflection of Palin herself? 

It goes back to putting Palin up on a dais and saying that she's a mother of five, of letting her crow about her family and using it as a political tool to win votes.  Is Bristol's teenage pregnancy a reflection on Palin, yeah, it sort of is because of who Palin is.  She's not your mom or my mom.  Our mothers didn't get in front of a crowd and make decisions for other women.  Sarah Palin wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and take away the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy from the millions of American women who have to face that horrible choice every day.  Sarah Palin wants sex ed in schools to be abstinence only and she's made a point of saying so and working toward it.  So when her teenaged daughter turns up pregnant, the contrast between what Sarah believes and what actually works becomes a media issue.  If Sarah hadn't pushed abstinance-only education as an issue, I don't think anyone would care about her daughter.  People were shocked by Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy but it was almost expected, acceptable, not out of the ordinary.  The irony of the Palin situation makes it newsworthy and enforces the point that sex ed that doesn't teach about birth control doesn't work.  

So if Sarah Palin's abstinence-only teachings don't work at home, how can we expect them to work on a national level, where some/most teenagers don't have the value system that was taught to Bristol Palin?  That is definitely a political issue.

Maybe I was a bit rash in saying that the McCain camp should have checked out Levi Johnston's Myspace page.  Apparently, he hadn't logged in in a year.  Apparently Bristol's pregnancy was a known fact in Wasilla.   Think about how many people are working at McCain's campaign headquarters.  How many political specialists, analysts, secretaries, assistants, interns are there working for him?  Is it seriously too far fetched to think that maybe, before the announcement of his running mate, someone could have taken fifteen minutes to poke around on Myspace?  I believe there is an official McCain profile there.  Would it have taken so long to look up the names of her kids and click on some links.  Bristol had a page.  If Levi wasn't her Number 1, I'd be shocked.  How much media feeding frenzy could they have avoided with two or three mouse clicks?  The campaign says they knew about the pregnancy.  Did they not think to take a look at the father? 

My mind wanders and I have several thoughts on the matter:
  • Did the GOP seek the circus out so that Bristol could be used as a Pro-life poster child? 
  • Who started the rumor of the pregnancy and who first questioned Trig's parents?
  • Will there be a martyr for the cause in the unborn Johnston/Palin baby in that the stress of the scrutiny and judgment will lead to a miscarriage, if there really is a baby? (please don't misinterpret that I wish that heartache on any woman)
  • Who gains the most from any of this? 

So it's not just a matter of a nosy electorate or a pushy media.  Every bit of information leads somewhere else and a lot of it has bearing on who Sarah Palin is, what she represents, what we can expect from her as a leader and what we should expect of her.
 

Comments

purplejuli
Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
Re: The thing is
It's funny you should write about that. I'd forgotten the Lieberman angle.

Sometime yesterday I received an email from one of the political groups I subscribe to about a very "swift boat" type interview done with someone who was with McCain in the Naval Academy and also there (longer) in the Hanoi Hilton. The main thing I took away from it is that McCain has a volatile temper. He's vindictive and petty.

redqueenmeg
Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Re: The thing is
I'm betting McCain's campaign gets him really hopped up on Valium before his debates with Obama. We know Obama can keep his cool, and we know that the American populace has no problem voting for the loser of a debate, so all they have to do is keep McCain from actually lunging for Obama's throat.

With McCain's legendary temper, the obvious solution is depressants.
bredon
Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
Re: The thing is
And they'll probably give him the same little box they were using to feed Bush the answers, too.
purplejuli
Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
Re: The thing is
You can teach a parrot to repeat what it's told, but you can't make it coherent or intelligent.
bredon
Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
True
Lets just hope coherence and intelligence matters a lot more to the electorate this go-round.
purplejuli
Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
Re: True
I don't think that they didn't matter the last two times.

What does it matter if the machines only record McCain votes or if certain segments of the populace are disenfranchised?

It's tough to be optimistic, but I'm trying.

bredon
Sep. 3rd, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
Re: True
Me too. I have to believe its only a small portion of the vote that they can manipulate without it being so obvious that everyone, even the most ardent kool-aid drinkers will call them on it. If we can make the win large enough (10-15 points or more), they wont be able to get away with changing the results like they did last time. To that effect, and inspired in part by your example, I'm going to start working for the campaign on weekends instead of farting around on the net.

Now, we can't do much about voter disenfranchisement, sadly; but I'm in Ohio, and Blackwell's blatant surpression of the African-American vote in '04 was a large factor in costing him the governorship in '06. And we shouldn't hesitate to point out that actions have repercussions to every pol in a position to do the same this time around: "Want to keep having a career? Make sure everyone gets to vote."
purplejuli
Sep. 3rd, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: True
My motivation is simple: fear.

Simple, unadulterated fear.

I have two sons I don't want drafted into McCain's 100 year war.

I want to go back to school and will likely have to rely on federal aid.

I want to buy a house and want to be able to afford one and pay the mortgage.

I want to send my sons to college. Preferably the college I attended (and am still paying for).

I want to be able to survive financially if someone I love gets sick.

redqueenmeg
Sep. 3rd, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Re: The thing is
Oh, undoubtedly. And assuredly the response would be the same. "It's not CHEATING! It's NOT!"