Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Palin’


TelePrompted

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in HBO’s “Game Change,” a dramatized version of the story of the McCain campaign’s selection of Sarah Palin in 2008. But as someone who spends a lot of time sorting through the mythologies and shibboleths of both the liberal and conservative blogospheres, what most caught my attention was two references to TelePrompters.

If you’re not up to speed on why this would grab me, allow me to lay out perhaps the silliest of the tribal markers currently in vogue on the American right. It is taken as a truism by many conservatives that Barack Obama is dumb and not much of a speaker, and it’s only through the aid of a TelePrompter that he’s able to come off as so eloquent. Without the TelePrompter, he’s just a regular guy, or maybe not even that. This is part of a larger, racially driven narrative that suggests Obama only got into the universities he attended because of affirmative action, or at times that he actually didn’t go to either Columbia or Harvard. Offhand references to TelePrompters have been big laugh lines in conservative speeches for the last several years, despite the fact that every national politician since the invention of the device has used it.

What I hadn’t put together previously, was that this weird obsession might derive from some cockeyed Sarah Palin origin myth. Until “Game Change” got to Palin’s convention speech, I’d forgotten that the TelePrompter supposedly died on her halfway through, meaning she just winged it the rest of the way. I don’t buy this — the Palin portrayed earlier in the film doesn’t seem like the sort to be able to memorize her entire speech, and the Palin we saw in real life doesn’t seem like the sort to be able to string together a coherent 10-15 minutes to fill out her time slot — and Politico disputed it at the time, but a myth is a myth. Later in the film, Palin demands the opportunity to give her own concession speech and orders a campaign staffer to “load it in the TelePrompter,” and of course she and every other national Republican are frequent TelePrompter users.

Several years later, cue Rick Santorum calling for the outlawing of presidential candidates using TelePrompters. Why? “Because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.” Presumably President Santorum will have no speechwriters.

Filed: We R in Control || 15:31, March 12 || No Comments »


Some thoughts on violent rhetoric

In the wake of the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (and the collateral murder of half a dozen others), much discussion has turned to Sarah Palin’s infamous target map, the gun-heavy campaign events held by Jesse Kelly (Giffords’s 2010 opponent) and various examples of violent campaign rhetoric that have come from candidates and opinion-leaders on the Right over the past few years. This is pretty predictable, as is the response: There’s no evidence that Jared Loughner is a Palin supporter, a Kelly supporter or a Tea Party supporter. He’s just a lone nut! Well, maybe. His seemingly insane rhetoric about grammar and mind control strongly recalls that of David Wynn Miller, a prominent figure in the far-right “sovereign citizen” movement. Maybe Miller is insane, too, but the ideology that underlies the sovereign citizen movement has popped up before.

But focusing on Palin’s map — which she ridiculously now wants to claim has “surveyor’s marks” on it — and allowing people to just dismiss Loughner as crazy misses an important, bigger point. For the past two years, conservatives have made their case primarily by stoking fear. They have repeatedly claimed that Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress are going to kill people, trash the economy, let foreign terrorists have the run of the place, etc. This isn’t an exaggeration of what they’re saying — they’ve taken the rhetoric of “genocide” from the far-right anti-abortion movement and scaled it up to their entire platform. So let’s say that Loughner is unstable, as various armchair psychiatrists have already diagnosed him as schizophrenic. A hallmark of this sort of mental illness is the perception of grand forces conspiring against you, or of someone or something being out to get you. Palin’s map is disgusting as campaign rhetoric, but it doesn’t say to an unstable person, “Hey, here’s a reason to go after this person.” But telling your followers that the government is going to pull the plug on grandma or that it’s deliberately setting murderous terrorists loose in America is different. Referring to an abortion provider as “Tiller the killer,” as Bill O’Reilly did repeatedly, is different. When that kind of rhetoric is tolerated, we shouldn’t be surprised when someone murders Dr. George Tiller, or tries to murder Democratic officials.

As much as this behavior, as well as more explicit threats — Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies,” the Tea Party’s “We Came Unarmed This Time” t-shirts — seems to be majorly cresting right now, this is part of a pattern dating back at least to early in the Clinton Administration. In 1994, both Sen. Jesse Helms (Clinton “better not show up around here [Fort Bragg] without a bodyguard”) and Rep. Bob Dornan (“The Second Amendment is…for hunting politicians, like in Grozny, and in the colonies in 1776, or when they take your independence away”) made violent threats against President Clinton. The difference then was that those comments were scandalous, and they were condemned by Republicans and media figures along with Democrats. Now, the conservative media machine allows this type of rhetoric to percolate and largely hide from the mainstream. Most of our officials and media figures now probably have little idea what’s happening in conservative social media, or even much of talk radio and Fox News; meanwhile, there’s much more of it than there was in 1994. To understand the implications of this type of violent and delegitimizing rhetoric, we first need to understand just how prevalent it is and how ingrained it has become in a particular segment of the population.

Filed: We R in Control || 16:56, January 10 || 1 Comment »


What is the value of political celebrity?

After getting home from voting this morning, I found myself gazing across my bookshelf for no particular reason, when my eyes stopped on Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason. In a 2007 blog post called “Why Gore Will Run” (which was to be followed by another called “Why Gore Won’t Run,” I should add), I discussed how Assault read like an alternate-universe campaign book. In the spring of ’07, Gore was the hidden heavyweight of the Democratic Party, and probably could have sapped a lot of the anti-Hillary left-wing energy that Barack Obama ultimately corralled. Instead, he has spent the past three and a half years largely out of the public eye, popping up occasionally to get divorced or be accused of sexual assault. His signature issue was taken off the table in 2009, after health care and the stimulus drained the party of its will, but you wouldn’t know it by looking Gore-ward for signs of consternation or calls to action.

With the Democratic base apparently disheartened and staying home — in record numbers, if the polling gap between likely and registered voters is to be believed — why hasn’t Gore been marshaled to campaign for his party-mates? To parachute into Milwaukee and Philadelphia and Las Vegas to make the case against apathy? To follow the Gingrichian path to both partisan and traditional media outlets? Only Bill Clinton, the relentless and preternatural campaigner, has been so dispatched for the Democrats, venturing into the Blue Dog territory where Obama is least welcome. But if progressive disinterest is the key stumbling block today, sending a centrist to persuade southern, conservative Dems to stick around isn’t going to get the job done.

There are many potential reasons Gore isn’t out there, of course, the foremost among them being that maybe he doesn’t want to be. He’s done running for office. He may be looking at the model of the Clinton Global Initiative as something he can replicate, and that’s a model that’s largely divorced from electoral politics. And he’s famously not a great campaigner, of course. But compare Gore to another base-pleaser: Sarah Palin. Whether she’s running for president or just looking to cash in, yes, she has her own motivations for inserting herself into the 2010 campaign as much as she has. And yes, plenty of Republicans don’t like her or think she’s qualified to be president (at least according to those anti-dentite bastards at Politico). But she — along with others like Gingrich and Glenn Beck — is using her private citizen celebrity to bring attention to an array of candidates who couldn’t attract it themselves, particularly during primaries. She hasn’t had a 100% success rate, of course, but she has succeeded. She’s not going to be president, she’s not going to be the GOP nominee, and she’s probably not going to even make a serious run, but she is going to get richer and she is going to help get some conservative extremists elected. In 2012 there will be a fairly prominent Democratic figure spending a lot of time on the campaign trail, but in 2014? Like this year and all others, broad fundamental factors (primarily economic) will foretell most of the results in the general elections, but primaries are another story. After the success of conservative primary candidates this year, now is the time for progressives to begin thinking about how to approach those primaries, and to think about the potential value of the transferred credibility and interest that political celebrities can bestow.

Filed: Super Special Questions || 14:15, November 2 || 1 Comment »