Sunday, September 14, 2008

the palin worldview

Sarah Palin has lived most of her life in Alaska, living outside the state only while attending college.

[She switched schools
six times during the six years it took her to get her degree in sports journalism. For the record, she attended the University of Hawaii - Hilo, Hawaii Pacific University, North Idaho College (a two-year college in the white separatist capital of the country, Cour d’Alene), the University of Idaho, Matanuska-Susitna College (in Palmer, Alaska), and then back to the University of Idaho where she eventually graduated. She has not released any records of her grades at any of these schools.]

She did not get a passport until last year as governor of Alaska. (What does that say about her interest in the world? When else have we encountered a candidate with so little curiosity about the world? And how did that work out?)

she told ABC News anchor Charles Gibson this week that she has insight into Russia because you can see Russia from Alaska:
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?
PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

Unlike the
lies she has been telling about her past opposition (not) to the Bridge to Nowhere and other Congressional earmarks, Palin is speaking the truth in this case (at least about geography if not insights). Off the coast of Nome, 532 miles northwest of Anchorage (the closest city) is an island called Little Diomede. Little Diomede is 2.4 miles east of the island called Big Diomede, which is in Russia. Big Diomede is a whopping 26 square miles. On a clear day you can see the Island of Big Diomede from the western shore of Little Diomede. However, Palin did not say whether she had actually been to Little Diomede (on a clear day) and thereby gained the ability to negotiate with Putin and Saalkashvili to peacefully settle the violent conflict that has been burgeoning in the separatist enclave of South Ossetia.

A few moments later in the same exchange with Gibson, Palin expressed thanks “that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War.” (The Berlin Wall came down after Reagan left office and the Soviet Union persisted until 1991. Of course, I guess you could say the groundwork was laid for the collapse of the Soviet Union earlier – like during the emergence of the Solidarity labor movement in Poland under Jimmy Carter? Or the Helsinki Accords reached under Gerald Ford that propelled the human rights movement in the Soviet bloc? Or a forty-year bipartisan policy of containment begun by Harry Truman and George Kennan in 1947?)

One thing you can say for the Gibson interview – he spent more time interviewing Palin than McCain did before he selected her as his running mate. One short interview is all McCain undertook. (Someone applying for the position of day manager at TGI Fridays would probably have to go through at least three interviews.)

According to every account I have read or heard in the corporate media (even on NPR!) stated that Palin committed no “gaffes” during her interview with Gibson – the only interview she has granted in the two weeks since she got the VP nod. Makes you wonder how they define “gaffe”.

How do you account for her lame attempt to fake her way through the fact that she had no idea what the Bush Doctrine is? Pretty basic question. The Bush Doctrine, by which we assert the right to attack other countries to prevent what we believe to be an emerging threat (as opposed to the long-standing view that every country has a right to preempt an imminent threat) was the theoretical basis of the Iraq war.

Check out this
video clip:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN (pause … fumbling for a hint from Gibson): In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN (still seeking help): His world view?
GIBSON (finally giving her help): No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
PALIN (filibustering with a bunch of nonsense that has nothing to do with the Bush Doctrine): I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.
GIBSON (finally explaining it to her – although he gets it wrong and confuses “preemption” with “prevention”): The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
PALIN (more meaningless bluster): I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.
I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.
GIBSON (further confusing “preemption” and “prevention”): Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?
PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.
(Of course, the Bush Doctrine has nothing to do with an “imminent” strike “against the American people”. The radical nature of the Bush Doctrine is that it goes well beyond the right of imminent self-defense to include anything that we might consider a possible future threat.)

You really need to view the clip to get the full sense of her random babbling with respect to Pakistan.

In this clip, and throughout the interview she makes references to “the terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying America” – every reference includes the bit about “the terrorists” seeking to “destroy America”. Really? “Destroy America”? Not just, say, getting us to change our foreign policies or get out of their countries? Even though Osama bin Laden has been left unmolested in Pakistan for seven years, how is he going to “destroy America” (except by getting us to overextend our military and economy actively creating enemies around the world)?

Throughout the interview Palin falls back on the importance of “not blinking” – exhibiting Bush’s toxic combination of a lack of curiosity with resolute determination to stick with a course of action.

She also seems shockingly unconcerned about the prospect of war with Russia over Georgia:

GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?
PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?
PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

Of even greater concern, given her apparent willingness to go to war with Russia over Georgia, was her assertion that Russia’s recent incursion into Georgia was “unprovoked”:

GIBSON: Let's start, because we are near Russia, let's start with Russia and Georgia.

The administration has said we've got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

PALIN: First off, we're going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain's running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep...

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there.

[Actually, here again, Gibson gets it slightly wrong when he refers to a desire to “restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia.” There was no sovereignty there to “restore.” South Ossetia has NEVER been under the control of an independent Georgia. Never. The current border of Georgia, which includes South Ossetia, was drawn by Stalin -- a Georgian. Why is that border drawn by Stalin sacrosanct but the borders of Serbia aren't? It's certainly not based on the will of the people living there. South Ossetia has fought every attempt to bring it under Georgian control since Georgia gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has, in all that time, effectively been independent of Georgia. The people of South Ossetia have voted to be independent of Georgia and to join their fellow Ossetians to the north. Russian has been supporting them in their bid to stay independent of Georgia.

I read the comment somewhere that after the Soviet Union collapsed only one side of the Cold War ended -- their side. That is a good way of putting it. The US, with no military rival, is spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined. We expanded our anti-Russian military alliance -- NATO -- to Eastern Europe. Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary. OK. But then we expanded it to the Baltic states. And we proposed putting a missile base in Poland. And anti-missile radars in the Czech Republic. And we put an air base in Uzbekistan (formerly part of the Soviet Union). And we supported independence for Kosovo, redrawing the borders of Europe. And then we began training and arming the Georgians (also formerly part of the Soviet Union). And proposed expanding our anti-Russian military alliance to include Georgia and the Ukraine (also formerly part of the Soviet Union). Then the president of Georgia used some of his US military support to attack South Ossetia (which is de facto independent of Georgia and protected by Russia).

Of course, we also invaded and occupied the largest country in the Middle East against the wishes of Russia (and most of the rest of the world).

Are the Russians justified in feeling that we are encircling them militarily? What have they done over the past 20 years of an aggressive nature? At what point is Russia justified in saying, "Enough. We are not going to allow ourselves to be militarily encircled by the world's sole military superpower. We are going to push back and draw a line."

So who changed the status quo? Georgia’s hothead young president, Saalkashvili, sought to bring South Ossetia under Georgian control by force of arms. Russia took it as an opportunity to give Georgia a swift punch in the nose and to let the US and others know that they are done being pushed around. Certainly we would have done the same -- a LONG time ago -- had we faced similar circumstances.

But, of course, the neocons and other warmongers like McCain and Palin view this Russian pushback as an outrage (how DARE anyone push back against US military hegemony!) and as cause for a new Cold War (which we had been continuing unilaterally anyway).

That Sarah Palin views this simplistically as an “unprovoked” attack by Russia on another country is naïve – and scary if she would actually be willing to go to war over such a thing. In fairness to Palin, however, her views on this subject aren’t materially different than those of McCain.]

When asked if she has ever met a foreign head of state she acknowledged (as part of a nearly incoherent answer) that she hadn’t:
I have not and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you. But, Charlie, again, we've got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody's big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they've had opportunities to meet heads of state ... these last couple of weeks ... it has been overwhelming to me that confirmation of the message that Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing and kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite.

“Somebody’s big fat resume”? After all, we wouldn’t want a “Mr. Know-it-all” running the country “and acting all conceited and everything.”

This is the best she can do in her sole interview after two weeks of intensive training by the Rove junior varsity?

But no one really expects Palin to be knowledgeable about foreign policy. Her purpose is political – to reignite the “culture wars” and polarize the country. And on that score she has been a big success. The Republicans can’t win this election on the issues, but if it is “us” vs. “them” a lot of Americans are going to view Palin as more like “us” than Barack Obama. As Rob Riggle said on the Daily Show, “I want someone I can relate to, who's like me or worse.”

My intention here isn’t to be gratuitously mean to poor Sarah. But, my God, do we really want this woman one cancerous 72-year old heartbeat away from being the most powerful person on the planet? (Statistically, throughout our country’s history, there is a one in three chance she would succeed to office – not be elected in her own right at the end of a McCain presidency, but succeed to office during a McCain presidency. And McCain would be the oldest person ever elected president – and he has had four bouts with cancer – so the odds are almost certainly higher in this case.)

And what does it say about McCain’s 1/ judgment and 2/ seriousness about governing, that he would pick Palin as his running mate? A good political choice? Maybe. We’ll see. A serious choice to run the country if something happened to McCain? Not even remotely. McCain has been using the campaign phrase “Country First,” but the Palin pick makes it clear his campaign is all about cynically “Winning At All Costs.”

Yes, I know Palin is a distraction. The Obama camp should focus on McCain and his positions and record. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t continue to point out what a disaster Palin is.

Here is a sampling of commentary on the Palin interview:

James Fallows (Atlantic):

It is embarrassing to have to spell this out, but for the record let me explain why Gov. Palin's answer to the "Bush Doctrine" question … implies a disqualifying lack of preparation for the job.

Not the mundane job of vice president, of course, which many people could handle. Rather the job of potential Commander in Chief and most powerful individual on earth. …

Each of us has areas we care about, and areas we don't. If we are interested in a topic, we follow its development over the years. And because we have followed its development, we're able to talk and think about it in a "rounded" way. We can say: Most people think X, but I really think Y. Or: most people used to think P, but now they think Q. Or: the point most people miss is Z. Or: the question I'd really like to hear answered is A.

Here's the most obvious example in daily life: Sports Talk radio.

Mention a name or theme -- Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong's comeback, Venus and Serena -- and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.

People who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't identify the names -- they've heard of Armstrong -- but they've never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports -- and politics and tech and other topics -- so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics -- fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (blush) opera -- I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years. …

Sarah Palin did not know this issue, or any part of it. The view she actually expressed -- an endorsement of "preemptive" action -- was fine on its own merits. But it is not the stated doctrine of the Bush Administration, it is not the policy her running mate has endorsed, and it is not the concept under which her own son is going off to Iraq.

How could she not know this? For the same reason I don't know anything about European football/soccer standings, player trades, or intrigue. I am not interested enough. And she evidently has not been interested enough even to follow the news of foreign affairs during the Bush era.

A further point. The truly toxic combination of traits GW Bush brought to decision making was:

1) Ignorance
2) Lack of curiosity
3) "Decisiveness"

That is, he was not broadly informed to begin with (point 1). He did not seek out new information (#2); but he nonetheless prided himself (#3) on making broad, bold decisions quickly, and then sticking to them to show resoluteness.

We don't know for sure about #2 for Palin yet -- she could be a sponge-like absorber of information. But we know about #1 and we can guess, from her demeanor about #3. Most of all we know something about the person who put her in this untenable role.

New York Times editorial (“
Gov. Palin’s World View”):

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.
If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.
It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness.
What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications.
The idea that Americans want leaders who have none of those things — who are so blindly certain of what Ms. Palin calls “the mission” that they won’t even pause for reflection — shows a contempt for voters and raises frightening questions about how Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin plan to run this country. …
Ms. Palin talked repeatedly about never blinking. When Mr. McCain asked her to run for vice president? “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission,” she said, that “you can’t blink.”
Fighting terrorism? “We must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.”
Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.
This nation has suffered through eight years of an ill-prepared and unblinkingly obstinate president. One who didn’t pause to think before he started a disastrous war of choice in Iraq. One who blithely looked the other way as the Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouped in Afghanistan. One who obstinately cut taxes and undercut all efforts at regulation, unleashing today’s profound economic crisis.
In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation.

Maureen Dowd:
An Arctic blast of action has swept into the 2008 race, making thinking passé. We don’t really need to hurt our brains studying the world; we just need the world to know we’re capable of bringing a world of hurt to the world if the world continues to be hell-bent on misbehaving.
Two weeks after being thrown onto a national ticket, and moments after being speed-briefed by McCain foreign-policy advisers, our new Napoleon in bunny boots (not the Pamela Anderson kind, but the knock-offs of the U.S. Army Extreme Cold Weather Vapor Barrier Boots) is ready to face down the Russkies and start a land war over Georgia, and, holy cow, what business is it of ours if Israel attacks Iran?
The trigger-happy John McCain has indeed found a soul mate. Trigger squared. In Fairbanks on Thursday, at a deployment ceremony for her son who is going to Iraq, Governor Palin followed the lead of McCain and W. in fusing Osama bin Laden’s diabolical work on 9/11 and the mission in Iraq. She told the departing troops, “You’ll be there to defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the deaths of thousands of Americans.” …
The really scary part of the Palin interview was how much she seemed like W. in 2000, and not just the way she pronounced nu-cue-lar. She had the same flimsy but tenacious adeptness at saying nothing, the same generalities and platitudes, the same restrained resentment at being pressed to be specific, as though specific is the province of silly eggheads, not people who clear brush at the ranch or shoot moose on the tundra.
… Like W., Sarah has the power of positive unthinking. But now we may want to think about where ignorance and pride and no self-doubt has gotten us. Being quick on the trigger might be good in moose hunting, but in dealing with Putin, a little knowledge might come in handy.

Frank Rich:
No longer able to remember his principles any better than he can distinguish between Sunnis and Shia, McCain stands revealed as a guy who can be easily rolled by anyone who sells him a plan for “victory,” whether in Iraq or in Michigan. A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.
The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they’re wearing lipstick or not. …
The cunning of the Palin choice as a political strategy is that a candidate who embodies fear of change can be sold as a “maverick” simply because she looks the part. Her marketers have a lot to work with. Palin is not only the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket, but she is young, vibrant and a Washington outsider with no explicit connection to Bush or the war in Iraq. That package looks like change even if what’s inside is anything but.
How do you run against that flashy flimflam? You don’t. Karl Rove for once gave the Democrats a real tip rather than a bum steer when he wrote last week that if Obama wants to win, “he needs to remember he’s running against John McCain for president,” not Palin for vice president. Obama should keep stepping up the blitz on McCain’s flip-flops, confusion, ignorance and blurriness on major issues (from education to an exit date from Iraq), rather than her gaffes and résumé. If he focuses voters on the 2008 McCain, the Palin question will take care of itself.
Obama’s one break last week was the McCain camp’s indication that it’s likely to minimize its candidate’s solo appearances by joining him at the hip with Palin. There’s a political price to be paid for this blatant admission that he needs her to draw crowds. McCain’s conspicuous subservience to his younger running mate’s hard-right ideology and his dependence on her electioneering energy raise the question of who has the power in this relationship and who is in charge. A strong and independent woman or the older ward who would be bobbing in a golf cart without her? The more voters see that McCain will be the figurehead for a Palin presidency, the more they are likely to demand stepped-up vetting of the rigidly scripted heir apparent. …
This election is still about the fierce urgency of change before it’s too late. But in framing this debate, it isn’t enough for Obama to keep presenting McCain as simply a third Bush term. Any invocation of the despised president — like Iraq — invites voters to stop listening. Meanwhile, before our eyes, McCain is turning over the keys to his administration to ideologues and a running mate to Bush’s right.
As Republicans know best, fear does work. If Obama is to convey just what’s at stake, he must slice through the campaign’s lipstick jungle and show Americans the real perils that lie around the bend.

I’ll leave things on a light note:
Tina Fey’s absolutely dead-perfect impersonation of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live last night.

My favorite line:
"What an amazing time we live in to think that just two years ago, I was a small-town mayor of America's crystal meth capital, and now I am just one heartbeat away from being the President of the United States."


Doug S. said...

Actually, the line was "Alaska's crystal meth capital", not "America's crystal meth capital".

Michael Markman said...

About Reagan winning the cold war: despite the chronology you cite, that is the canonical view of the Republicans.

Reminds me of comic Jimmy Brogan. On rare occasion when he was bombing he would tell the audience, "You're not laughing now, but in a little while you're going to get these jokes. I know because it happened last night. When I finished, and walked into the bar, I heard the audience laughing at my jokes while the next comic was onstage." (I probably messed up the carefully crafted wording that makes this funny, for which I apologize to Jimmy.

Tony Fisk said...

The radical nature of the Bush Doctrine is that it goes well beyond the right of imminent self-defense to include anything that we might consider a possible future threat.

In other words:
the BEST way to protect yourself AGAINST any ASSAILANT is to ATTACK him before he attacks YOU... Or BETTER... BEFORE the THOUGHT of doing so has EVEN OCCURRED TO HIM!!! SO YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RENDER YOUR ASSAILANT UNCONSCIOUS BEFORE he is EVEN aware of your very existence!

Which is, of course, the (English) 'Palin doctrine'.

(Look you, Daffyd sent me!-)

Matt DeBlass said...

It is kind of strange that people can be persuaded to pick someone "folsky" and "just like us" to run the country.
After all, we don't hire someone to do our taxes, fix our car, represent us in court or design our houses because they're "a regular guy, just like us."

We hire them because we think they know what they're doing.
It's a weird, twisted government we get after a couple generations of TV, I tell ya.

(by the way, another one here who wandered over from that "David Brin" guy's blog)

Bill Liddicoet said...

On a clear night I can see the Moon from my deck, so I guess if being able to see the Siberian coastline while hunting wolves from the air qualifies Srah Palin as a foreign policy expert, then I'm qualified to be an astronaut.