Best Line of the Day

November 5, 2008

Quoted from Wonkette, quoting from Newsweek:

A disgusted McCain aide calls the Palins “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.”

It seems that the Palins spent a lot more than $150,000 for clothes.


McCain’s Early Fairwell

November 3, 2008

McCain’s recent appearance on SNL was the beginning of his path to regaining acceptance by the public and even more importantly — by the media — after the drubbing he is about to take in this election.

The long opening sketch made McCain look good while mercilessly drubbing Sarah Palin (she did an aside to camera promoting “Palin in 2012” t-shirts). McCain came across as the old, media-friendly ham he’s been for years, rather than the desperate to win, Rovesque character assassin he’s been the last months.

McCain will be a lonely man starting on Wednesday.  He’ll be reviled by the dominant, right wing of his party for not being tough enough and leading his party to ruin.  The moderates and liberals, who had once made McCain their favorite Republican, are unlikely to soon forgive him for the very low road he’s taken on the campaign.

By appearing in a skit that attacked the ambitiousness and duplicity of his own running mate, McCain was laying the groundwork for a mea culpa to the moderates and Dems (while further alienating him from the Republican right wing).  He’s making his pitch for relevance in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

My sense is that the Dems will be magnanimous in victory.  The more seriously they take McCain in the Senate, the more they’ll divide the Republican senators, and the Republican circular firing squad will continue through 2012.

Rats & Sinking Ship

October 26, 2008

There are two interesting articles out now about the McCain campaign’s experience with Palin.  First, from CNN:

“Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic,” said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the “hardest” to get her “up to speed than any candidate in history.”

Well, ok, no surprise there.   The real question is, how did this situation happen?  The mere cynic would assume they knew she was an ignorant candidate and chose her anyway to get some response from the base.  However, the mere cynic would be wrong.  From the New York Times Magazine:

The following night, after McCain’s speech brought the convention to a close, one of the campaign’s senior advisers stayed up late at the Hilton bar savoring the triumphant narrative arc. I asked him a rather basic question: “Leaving aside her actual experience, do you know how informed Governor Palin is about the issues of the day?”The senior adviser thought for a moment. Then he looked up from his beer. “No,” he said quietly. “I don’t know.”

Mere cynicism isn’t enough.  The McCain staffers never asked Palin about what she knew.  Either they assumed she must know something, because, hell, she’s a governor, or they were caught up in naming an attractive, right-wing woman on the ticket, they never bothered to ask.

That’s no way to run a campaign, much less a country.

Beaten to the Punch

October 23, 2008

The editors of the New Republic have beaten me to the punch and officially predicted that Sarah Palin will be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012:

Palin is wildly popular with the Republican base, in the same stratosphere as George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Normally, I trust the GOP elite’s ability to steer the base toward a more electable nominee. But the party elites seem almost as smitten by Palin as the base. Social conservatives, many neoconservatives, and economic conservatives have fallen for Palin. Grover Norquist, who knows the GOP base, said, “Palin draws large crowds and has energized Reagan Republicans, gun owners, women and people of faith. … She is an asset and the most consequential VP candidate in a generation.”

Traditionally, the losing VP nominee is always the front runner for the top spot in the next election, so in that sense, there’s nothing unusual about claiming the same about Palin.  But Palin’s laboring under 2 burdens: top Republican opinion-makers (David Brooks, George Will, etc.) think she’s an insult to the conservative cause, and Democrats and Independents have a very low opinion of her.

To gain the Republican nomination, Democrats and Independents don’t count, so although she might be toxic in a general election, that doesn’t matter for getting the nomination.  Also, these opinion-makers who despise her are literate pundits. The illiterate pundits (radio jocks and Fox news guys) adore her — and they are much more important for saying Republican votes than mere newspaper columnists.

I think her real challenge will be her location — Alaska is very far away, and to prepare for a 2012 run, she’s going to have to spend a lot of time on the hustings, campaigning for other candidates, building a network, and otherwise laying the groundwork for a 2012 race.  She could continue to spend a fair amount of her time away from the state and get away with it (being governor of an oil-rich state is about the easiest governor gig one could get), but she would really have to not run for relection in 2010 in order to campaign full time for 2012.

So if she doesn’t run for reelection, we’ll know she’s going for the brass ring.

One might expect if she wins the nomination, the election itself would be a disaster, and she would bring the Party to ruin. Actually, that makes sense, too.  The last swing of the pendulum was in 1968, when Nixon beat Humphrey.  The Democrats responded (with some help from the Nixon campaign’s dirty tricks) with their most liberal possible candidate, George McGovern.

True believers tend to respond to failure with even truer belief (“McCain didn’t attack enough”).  It’s only after a second abysmal failure do people start questioning their beliefs and looking for alternatives.

Even more reason for Palin in 2012.

What a Waste

October 19, 2008

Sarah Palin’s appearance on SNL did great things for their ratings, but I think it undermines the show. It defangs their satire; it tells us it’s all a harmless joke (a joke that she’s in on).

SNL has been in decline for decades, once it became part of the mainstream and lost its purpose.  The original SNL was the sixties generation and their immediate descendants attacking the staid, the conformist, the faux satire of TV shows like Laugh In.

Laugh In will always burn in hell for making having Nixon do a cameo on the show (“Sock it to me?”).  The cameo made Nixon seem like he had a sense of humor, and gave him degree of coolness for the under-thirty crowd — a way of disarming the youth vote when they were mad at the Democrats for the Vietnam War.

That idiotic line enormously helped Nixon to win a very tight election in 1968 — which, of course, led to the needless deaths of thousands of Americans as the war was extended another four years.

Comedy hurts.

I’m not suggesting that Palin’s appearance will do for her what Laugh In did for Nixon (although giving any legitimacy to an unqualified reactionary is a very bad thing).  But it does tell us a lot about SNL.  They had a run of genuine satire this election; for the first time in a long time, five minutes of every episode was important.

But that was just a lucky accident, and not a new direction.  In a few weeks, SNL will go back to being safely irrelevant, all about celebrity imitation and creative exhaustion.

What a waste.

Laughter Hurts

October 11, 2008

According to an article in Showbizdata, SNL’s Sarah Palin skits, while enormously helping SNL’s ratings, are hurting hers:

Friday, October 10 2008 Digg!

A national study has indicated that the “favorability rating” for Sarah Palin drops when viewers watch Tina Fey impersonating her on Saturday Night Live. Among a group of 314 Democratic, Republican and independent voters, Palin’s favorability rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent after they watched Fey’s parody of the vice-presidential candidate. As expected, the rating fell more sharply among Democrats and independents than it did among Republicans, who were virtually unaffected by the SNL skit. The study was conducted by Flemington, NJ-based HCD Research and Allentown, PA-based Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

Becoming a laughingstock in the mainstream media is political death.  I’ve always thought Chevy Chase brought down Gerald Ford, and Bush, of course, exists purely as a pinyata for the last few years.  Ultimately, though, these characterizations stick because the public believes their tagging something true about the politician.  Moreover, TV satirists more reflect public opinkion than cause it.  Politicians aren’t really ripped apart by TV comedians until their numbers were already sinking.  As with the evening news, the media exists to reaffirm what we thought, rather than to wander very far outside that box.

A Few Questions for Sarah Palin

October 7, 2008

Are you now safe from witchcraft?

How often have you been a victim of witchcraft previously?

Are Israelities now just like they were then, or are they sneakily different?