Thursday, September 04, 2008
Hiding in Palin sight
I couldn't bring myself to watch the season finale of the Republican convention last night — or is there an anti-climactic thud scheduled for tonight? — but after reading some of the glowing reviews of Ms. Palin today, my torpid political bones were stirred into just enough action to catch some of the instant replay on YouTube.
At first I was sorry I bothered, as she banged on interminably about her family and displayed them like an album of vacation photos. How have we sunk to this? Our presidential campaigns aren't about policies anymore; they're not even entirely about candidates' personalities; they're about candidates' husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, third cousins twice removed, schoolteachers, childhood playmates, pets. By the 2012 campaign, if the country survives that long, the vote will be down to competing Facebook entries.
Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 opening his bid for the presidency by announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, I know we're up to our eye sockets in a Depression, some of you might want to hear about that, and yes, I can see them putting up tents for a new Hooverville there in the second balcony, and the breadlines are winding three times around the convention hall, but wait. I'm first and foremost a family man. My wife Eleanor [pause for applause] is here with me tonight — Eleanor! And that young man beaming in the front row, Elliot — Elliot! Next to him is my pride and joy, my daughter Eleanora — Eleanora! That cute little chap she's holding is our terrier, Fala — toss the folks a bark, Fala! Of course you remember Teddy … ."
I'll give it to Sarah Palin, she's a cracking good speaker. Even when she's saying nothing really, you can look at her, and that causes no pain. But she knows timing and delivery, varying the volume as needed. Either she took acting lessons or she's a natural, gets a lot of mileage out of little bits of "business" and facial expressions.
Other than the standard flag waving, promising a brighter tomorrow, etc. that any candidate has to deliver — it's in their contracts — the best of her speech, or the portion of it I saw anyway, was negative. But in a good way. She took B. Hussein Obama to the woodshed and gave him a right thrashing.
And it was fun, just different enough and clever enough that I wanted her to go into true outrageous mode. She may be the only candidate in our time who could pull off a line like that of Virginia Senator John Randolph (1733–1833), an eccentric boozehound, dueler, and champion of states' rights, who said of an opponent: "Fellow-citizens, he is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks."
It's been so long since we've seen a big-league candidate with stage presence and magnetism that we are entitled to whatever pleasure we can derive from it in this horrid campaign. But we her views are still almost as obscure as those of Mr. O himself. In any case, she is not running for president. Her firepower, for now, is in aid of that rotten mackerel John McCain, who doesn't shine, even by moonlight.