It’s now been several days since Sarah Palin took the Republican Convention stage with a relentless ferocity not seen in decades. She struck Obama with blow after blow, shattering all previous McCain pretenses of “reaching across the aisle.” Welcome to the rebirth of scorched earth politics.
After learning on Saturday that Palin used the female rock group “Heart’s” 1970’s hit “Barracuda” against several appeals not to do so by the band’s leaders, I got curious as to how the dictionary would define the word “barracuda.” Here is Merriam-Webster’s second definition:
2 : one that uses aggressive, selfish, and sometimes unethical methods to obtain a goal, especially in business
The Silber.com web site adds “18 species of predaceous marine fish with a sharp set of fangs.” Back to Merriam-Webster, we find that “predaceous” means “living by preying on other (animals)” and “tending to devour and despoil.” Indeed Sarah delivered on every count during her speech. Plus, she added one more insidious touch. She followed every lethal jab with a self-satisfied smirk.
Her well-scripted performance left viewers wondering, “Who is she?” “Where does she come from, and what does she want?” Those questions have spawned the biggest media rush to gather information that the political world has seen in a long time. Don’t be surprised if your local stores run short on popcorn.
Sarah has been embraced with open arms by a segment of the population eagerly willing to believe in her, adapt to her, and indeed rejoice in her arrival. She doesn’t just read a speech or deliver one. She sears her message into the minds of her followers, and implores them to spread the word with a fervor not unlike the radical Pentecostal spirit that grounds her religious faith.
What really matters now is whether the great mass of American voters will come to know the real Sarah Palin between now and the election. Is the infatuation generated by her celebrated acceptance speech backed up by solid qualifications to become a heartbeat away from the Presidency?
The scary truth is…absolutely not.
Very little of what she has claimed since John McCain introduced her has turned out to be factually accurate. She enthusiastically supported the “Bridge to Nowhere” for several years, and ultimately accepted every penny of the earmarked funds to pay for it. The government plane that she allegedly sold on E-Bay failed to generate a sale after three tries. When her office did sell it through a broker, the State took a half-million dollar loss, and the buyer is now in a contract dispute with the State. When asked to explain why Palin had claimed she sold the plane on E-Bay, the McCain campaign insisted, “We stand by her words that she ‘put’ it on E-Bay.”
The ethics legislation that she bragged about was fully drafted before she even took office. And the grand natural gas pipeline that she touted as virtually the centerpiece of our energy future is, at best, …uh… a pipedream. The plans for it are still under negotiation, and it may not be built until 2018, if ever.
A C-Span broadcast this weekend of Sarah Palin’s debate in the 2006 Alaskan governor’s race revealed a state facing critical problems. Many rural areas remain without sewage systems and villagers face a rising crime rate with no police or troopers available to help. When Palin became governor, she taxed the oil companies and gave away the proceeds to the citizens in rebate checks. The biggest question unanswered today is who will reap the enormous profits from the gas pipeline if it ever does get built? Lawsuits, special legislative sessions, gridlock, and corruption have all played in the mix. It’s not over by a long shot.
Palin’s baffling array of misleading statements and false claims in the Vice-Presidential race are not the most troubling. That designation goes to the barracuda-like predatory behavior that she began practicing in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. From the mayor’s office in a storefront building that looks more like a bait shop, she quickly learned the Nixonian skill of “reward your friends and punish your enemies.”
The snowy slopes of Alaska are littered with the remains of numerous disheartened souls who dared to cross her or simply fell out of favor with Sarah Barracuda. She fired Wasilla’s founding police chief because she did not like the way he looked at her during meetings. His expressions did not convey enough “respect.” Even the longtime friend who helped launch her first City Council race got thrown overboard. She apparently found no use for him once in office.
In the November Presidential election, voters will need to get past the disturbing positions that McCain-Palin would impose on the country – a nearly unanimous far right Supreme Court, the return to back alley abortions, the re-enactment of the Scopes Monkey Trial on evolution, the possible end of family planning, and untold other retro “reforms.” Not to mention continued tax cuts for the rich and a rejection of all scientific evidence of global warming. Voters will expect a Vice-President that could handle an international crisis, should anything happen to the President. That requires not only knowledge and experience, but also positive people skills.
The Fox “News” Channel is now repeatedly airing a puffy propaganda piece narrated by Greta Van Susteren, entitled “Governor Sarah Palin - An American Woman.” It drips with sentimentality and cutesy scenes from home movies. At its darkest moment of about 45 seconds, an Alaska professor brushes off “Troopergate” by calling it “an annoyance to Palin that probably won’t amount to much.”
The greatest challenge posed by Palin’s candidacy is utterly biological. Many female columnists and commentators have attempted to alert voters that a woman is not just “a woman.” Their message is don’t make the decision based on gender alone. And yet many strategists on the right are hoping that the same public appeal based on personality and style that brought us eight years of Bush-Cheney will deliver America a new team flown in with the soaring, lofty platitudes of flags, country, and motherhood.
Now, where did I put that album with “Barracuda” on it?