Happy Birthday, America! Our Modern-Day George Wallace (in heels) is giving up the little power she has


By Joe Campbell
July 4th, 2009


 
Sarah Palin represents the worst of America, in all its attractive yet self-destructive glory. She is ignorant – and does not care to educate herself. She is confident, without much reason to be. She is unreflective, and proud of it. Like a wahhabi among Muslims, she does not consider most of her fellow-countrymen “pro-American.” Like a reincarnation of Richard Nixon (or a classic Marxist) she seeks power through class warfare. Like a second coming of George Wallace, she waves the flag in defense of prejudice and hatred and incites crowds to near-violence.

And  yesterday, Sarah Palin announced she would resign her office. She sounded the same themes she had in her national debut – those themes that I hopefully deride as yesterday’s but fear may be themes again tomorrow. This is no surprise, as as in her first speech on the national stage she accused those examining her record – the media – of being part of the “Washington elite” and looking down on her – and ridiculed her opponent as a crusader for terrorist rights.  And when a comedian made a joke that she saw she could exploit, she talked used this as her excuse to rail against the “Hollywood/NY” elites who did not understand real American values.  Again and again she invoked the same, old tired class warfare images.

The question is, why does this woman – who has a solid shot at the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination – decide to give up her governorship?

As everyone acknowledges – and especially given her tawdry history of small-time lies, personal vendettas, and misuse of public power and funds – she may be trying to sidestep some brewing scandal the press hasn’t gotten wind of. Even Will Kristol, the foremost Palin defender in the country acknowledges this. But if this does not turn out to be the case, there are still significant reasons why she might be stepping aside – in a calculated move to better position herself for 2012.

As Kristol later suggested, she might be – in this instance, “crazy like a fox.”

As Marc Ambinder points out, as Governor of Alaska, she is a sitting duck and marginalized from the centers of power she so desperately wants to be part of. The heady presidential campaign clearly gave her a taste of something she now craves – the attention and adulation of adoring crowds. She seems to believe she is destined for greater things than merely governing a state with a population the size of a medium-sized city.

But as long as she is governor, she is generating a record that can be picked apart and attacked – and she is unable to effectively reach out to the Iowa and New Hampshire Republican primary voters she will need. At the same time, her national ambitions – and her role in the McCain campaign – have hurt her in Alaska – as her popularity has dipped and legislators have begun to feel as if she is looking beyond Juneau. As only 51% of voters in Alaska said they would reelect her as governor, she would likely face a tough campaign.

At the same time, Palin is facing the same problem as many other governors: the states are facing a crunch, and without help from the federal government are going to have to make drastic cuts in services or raise taxes. In Alaska, the downturn – and the drop in the price of oil – has lead to a deficit of nearly $3 billion over the next two years, with little chance of recovery until the price of oil goes back up. By resigning in the middle of this year, she gets to avoid the painful cuts in government services or raises in tax rates that will be needed to keep the state functioning. Governing during this deficit explosion would make it harder (though for Palin, far from impossible) to deride Barack Obama’s deficit spending (most of which Obama himself inherited from another former Governor who liked to cut taxes and increase spending).

Given these two motivations, one can see why Will Kristol suggests this move might be crazy like a fox.

But remember this: by giving up in the middle of her term, Sarah Palin has forever disqualified herself from the presidency. I’m sure she doesn’t think so – and I’m sure her most ardent supporters do not think so either. She may make a solid run for the Republican nomination – and, she may get it. But every reason she gave for resigning would be doubly true if she were to win the presidency. Her family would be under greater scrutiny, and the butt of more jokes. Lawsuits against her would eat into her time – as they did Bill  Clinton’s. If the relatively low-level of scrutiny and pestering lawsuits she is subject to now have intimidated her from staying in office, imagine what pressures she would face sitting in the Oval Office.

The American people will remember that when the going got tough in Alaska, she went. And she didn’t accept any blame – instead, she played the same game she has played as long as she has been in the national spotlight. She blamed the media elite and everyone else who isn’t “proud to be American” and who instead “deride[s] our ideals.”

America can forgive her the class warfare. They can forgive her inciting her supporters to near-violent outrage. They can forgive her betrayal of the man who brought her out of obscurity. They can forgive her for using her children as political props. They can forgive her for all of her small lies. They can forgive her her ignorance. And they can love her for her saucy winks, her baseless confidence, and her faux-religiousity. What the American people cannot forgive and will not look past is a quitter – and the message from yesterday’s events – the message that comes through loud and clear above her strident attempts to distract – is that Sarah Palin is a quitter.

Never again will the Barracuda of Wasilla attain the glory that was hers for one glorious September night – as she strode onto the stage, confident beyond reason and shining with the light of Destiny.

This I hope, and I pray. For our nation’s sake, most of all. But for the moment, what can we do but celebrate that our modern-day George Wallace has stepped down, and the spectre of a Palin presidency is just a bit further away.

[Image by sskennel licensed under Creative Commons.]

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18 Responses to “Happy Birthday, America! Our Modern-Day George Wallace (in heels) is giving up the little power she has”

  1. Troy Says:

    I’m no fan of Palin, but to call her a modern day George Wallace is a bit harsh. The man was an out and open racist from the Deep South. Palin is just an idiot from Alaska.

  2. Happy Birthday America | All Days Long Says:

    […] Happy Birthday, America! Our Modern-Day George Wallace (in heels … By Joe Campbell A blog by Joe Campbell about politics, prose, foreign policy, the rule of law, national security, Barack Obama, and liberalism. 2parse – http://2parse.com/ […]

  3. Joe Campbell Says:

    @Troy:

    I’m not saying that Sarah Palin is a racist like George Wallace – but that she is a similar reactionary figure, a demagogue who incites crowds, engages in class warfare, and attacks the patriotism of those who oppose her.

    George Wallace did so in defense of segregation. Palin does so in defense of christianism (the political enforcement of certain “Christian” values) – along with a number of other issues.

    I could have said Huey Long or Father Coughlin or something – but my key point was that she was an attractive demagogue, like Wallace was.

  4. Bonnie Wheeler Says:

    This woman has been harassed from day 1….She remains true to conservative values and this frighten Liberals so they bringup charge after charge to try to stop her and charge after charge against her has been proven falst charhes. I hope she will run gro president – she’ll get my vote and the vote of many others. The harrassment has worked to her advantage. It has proven just how strong and ture to principles she is

  5. Joe Campbell Says:

    @Bonnie Wheeler:

    This demagogue has been a blight on America since the day she entered the national stage. You clearly do not know many liberals. She does not frighten me because she “remains true to conservative values.” For one, I appreciate conservative values. But if you’re talking about right-wing values – these concern me – and Palin is far from a conservative. She is a right-winger. And what scares me is not the force of her values – but the skill with which she uses the techniques of demagogues throughout history to push these values.

    You say that “charge after charge against her has been proven false.” Like what? She supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it. She did some unsavory things regarding her husband’s sister’s ex-husband, abusing her power – as an official Alaskan legislative report found. She billed the state for every night she spent in her own home (as if it were a hotel.) She’s lied about countless small details about her life and positions. So, what are you talking about?

  6. O'Neil Says:

    Joe, for shame! I hoped you wouldn’t follow those of your liberal colleagues who seem insatiable in their thirst for Palin blood until the woman has not a rock to crawl under.

    I think a psychologist could make a career solely out of studying exactly what it is about this woman that draws such below-the-belt emotionally-charged attacks from the liberal establishment. There are scores of politicians who have expressed exactly the same core views — many of whom have made far worse gaffes and bear scars of much worse scandals — and none have been half as polarizing.

    The only conclusion I can draw is that part of what she represents is a sort of “reincarnation” of the traditional post-war female that scares the bejesus out of liberals for a variety of reasons.

  7. Joe Campbell Says:

    @O’Neil:

    “Below-the-belt emotionally-charged attacks” – you mean like accusing her of “palling around with terrorists” or being a “fascist” (presuming that is the right-wing analogue of “socialist”)?

    Has any other American political figure in your memory stirred up more hatred of their opponents – such that crowds were yelling “Kill him” and “Terrorist” about the opponent? John McCain at least showed the decency to calm them down – and cut off a woman ranting about Obama that he was a good man who he disagreed with. Palin never had such a moment.

    When one comic made a joke – she didn’t chide the comic but the entire “Hollywood/NY” elite. When Katie Couric pressed her for answers – she didn’t get embarrassed she blamed the “elite media.” Now, resigning, she once again blames the elites. As if she were Joe Sixpack herself – which she in fact called herself.

    My problem with her – my reaction to her – is the result of two things: first, I see all these negatives – and second, she is an effective and attractive figure (politically that is).

    I’m not sure what “traditional post-war female” you’re talking about (the super housewife/mother figure of the 1950s? but she would never be in politics.) But my reaction to her – strong as it is – is because I see in her a real threat to the values I hold dear. (I also had a fairly strong reaction to the Giuliani candidacy.)

  8. O'Neil Says:

    She is no more guilty of class warfare for the examples you reference than Obama is for vilifying corporate executives, many of whom are protected against similar high profile abuse from leftists only by virtue of the relative anonymity of the private sector.

    As for the media, the classless jokes are not elevating the ratings for Letterman, nor have Couric’s “gotcha” questions captured a viewership for her program… which is a small measure of relief for people like me who demand more from our media. I don’t view Palin as a study in politics – first, because she lost, second, because she had views that are widely shared in the ‘base’ of the republican party, and now because she doesn’t even hold political office come the end of the month.

    What interests me about Palin is that no one on the left even tried to view her as a policy maker. The hipocracy of a feminist movement that explicitly sought to personally attack a woman who COULD actually provide a positive representative role model for real life young girls growing up is beyond astounding to me. Who are 50% of the young population growing up supposed to relate to – Hilary Clinton? Give me a break. I guess it’s just Britney Spears – and the media is A-OK with that. And bringing Palin’s daughters into it? Doesn’t even deserve a comment.

  9. Joe Campbell Says:

    Palin says Obama is “palling around with terrorists.”
    Obama says he is “outraged” at the high pay and the recklessness and greed of AIG executives. (And then goes on to douse even that measured dose of anger.)

    These are not equivalent.

    (I have a vague memory of Obama saying something perhaps more incendiary – but I also remember that the words themselves were rather mild despite how people took them – so if you remember them, let me know.)

    As to Couric’s “gotcha” questions – these are far from unique to her. I hate that media coverage of politics becomes about “gotcha” questions – it’s asinine. But it is the standard the media holds to everyone – and Palin shouldn’t whine about being targeted with “gotcha” questions when so is everyone else.

    As to Letterman – classless – sure – but it’s pretty classless to then call him a child rapist.

    As to viewing Palin as a policy-maker – she never tried to present herself as one. She never claimed to have unique ideas. Her policy ideas – to the extent she expressed them – were clearly not to be taken seriously. (When Washington was debating surge or withdrawal – she was in favor of withdrawal and surge at the same time.)

    In terms of role models – if the best America can do is Britney Spears and Sarah Palin, then we’re doomed.

    But there’s also Kay Bailey Hutchinson; there’s Meg Whitman; there’s Condoleezza Rice; there’s Susan Rice; there’s Elena Kagan; there’s Sonia Sotomayor; and there’s another 50 or so better women role models out there. But I never really saw you as an identity politics guy.

  10. O'Neil Says:

    Well, both Obama and Palin’s comments fall under the category of political grandstanding. It’s a flat out exaggeration to say Obama was “palling around” with Ayers, but then again, Ayers WAS a terrorist. So take it for what it’s worth (most agreed, not much). If anything, both comments taken together show how politics has become a game of “you need me not for MY qualities, but to protect you from THEM.” A game in which we all lose. As for her political views, Palin was clearly in favor of limited government; THE bedrock American principle, which has become buried in the context of our 21st century politics. (And I don’t want to hear about the “Bridge to Nowhere”… was she REALLY against it? So much ink spilled about a bridge that was never built.)

    As for the other female role models you mentioned, they certainly are admirable women. Unfortunately, many people don’t know who they are. That’s because the media hasn’t cast the spotlight on them like they did Palin (before bringing every negative female stereotype there is to her public crucifixion). The media is a downright destructive tool when you can’t say “shit” on television, but you can insinuate, on a nightly news basis, that a female VP candidate and state governor is a dumb moose-loving bitch who should be home tending to her children.

  11. Joe Campbell Says:

    I think your caricature of how the media portrayed Palin is a bit off. She was portrayed as a moose-killing, ignorant (not dumb) demagogue. Which on all counts are true – at least as true as any caricature is. I personally didn’t notice much of the portrayal of her as a “bitch” – but I wouldn’t be all that surprised. Leaks from the McCain camp did make her out to be a diva. Leaks from the McCain camp also made her out to be erratic – as she disagreed with them and went off message and didn’t want to prep, etc. But I didn’t get much sense that the media was portraying her as a “bitch.”

    As for Palin being in favor of “limited government” – how does this relate to the fact that she governs a practically socialist state? Heck – it seems to be almost the libertarian-socialist paradise that Noam Chomsky goes on about – with limited government in some ways, and massive government redistribution of wealth in others. I mean, she doled out thousands of dollars per person in a kind of welfare system; any state resident gets all their tuition paid anywhere; etc. That isn’t limited government – and Palin had no objection as far as I know.

    And “limited government” is not a bedrock American principle. Liberty, freedom, the consent of the governed, democracy, liberalism (in the traditional sense) – these are bedrock American principles. The idea of a government limited so it does not impinge on these principles does follow. But the federal and state governments have always spent money to encourage commerce. So, what do you mean by more limited government – do you mean less intrusive in the lives of citizens? do you mean less role in regulating markets? do you mean not operating or subsidizing any service-providers?

    My sense is that Palin’s sense of “limited government” would actually involve the government being more intrusive as justified by national security and in imposing evangelical Christian values.

    I disagree that both Palin’s and Obama’s remarks can be categorierized as “political grandstanding.” Obama’s certainly are. Palin’s seemed to me to be beyond the pale – to be dangerous demagoguery, worse than Nixon’s claiming that his opponent had was pink right down to her underpants. Obama did not claim his opponents were anti-American; he did not insinuate they supported violence against America; when crowds started booing McCain – he often chastised them; when people went after Palin for having a daughter pregnant out of wedlock, Obama said his mother was a teenage single mother too; when his crowds started to boo protesters he lectured the crowds on civil disobedience and praised the protesters for following a great American tradition. McCain – who I feel abandoned many of his better instincts to try to win this race the Rove way – couldn’t help himself and tried to calm down one of his crowds as a woman sputtered about Obama being an Arab and a Muslim and a terrorist, saying Obama was a good man who he had a disagreement with.

    Palin offered up red meat for the crowds and sought to incite rather than to calm down. She seemed to revel in it. And she was a hell of a performer. In this way, she was like a latter-day George Wallace – irresponsibly inciting crowds. Every other aspect of her I can deal with. In many other ways she made typical rookie mistakes – and got hammered on them (as she should have – given the position she was running for).

  12. O'Neil Says:

    The leaks from the McCain camp turned out to be overblown and misreported (as confirmed recently, when the media tried to resurrect them for some reason). But they played into the “bitch” stereotype nicely.

    But for an even more recent example, 3 major networks called her resignation “bizarre” – of course feeding into the stereotype that Palin is an unstable female, unfit for the pressure of the presidency. They did this rather than paint the commonsense picture: namely, the relentless baseless lawsuits and media attacks meant she was doing more harm than good for Alaska as governor (playing into the strategy of far left zealots). They’ve even cooked up baseless scandals (ie – she’s pregnant(!), she was steering state contracts, etc).

    She was aggressive against Obama during the campaign, but it seems to me that the “red meat” in her speeches was directed at the issues that motivate her followers (gun ownership, religion, etc). Just as Obama’s strategy – “4 more years of Bush” – played into the passions of his following.

  13. O'Neil Says:

    In case you weren’t sold on the shameless sexism in the media re: Palin, please consider Maureen Dowd’s comments today in the NYT (a publication which I pray someday soon will be silenced by the capitalistic sort of justice it so clearly decries): “Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy. . . . maybe there’s another red Naughty Monkey high heel to drop – there’s often a hidden twist in Sarah’s country music melodramas.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/opinion/05dowd.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

  14. Joe Campbell Says:

    I’m not sure what you mean when you write that it was confirmed or found out that the leaks from the McCain camp were “overblown and misreported.” I thought they had been substantially back up in recent weeks as Schmidt and others put their names to some things.

    What “baseless” lawsuits are you referring to? The Troopergate wasn’t baseless – as it was found she had violated numerous ethical guidelines and acted illegally (http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/10/palin-makes-tro.html).

    Palin’s resignation was “bizarre” – regardless of whether she was female or not. It simply was…

    As to Palin’s “aggressiveness” during the campaign – I think there is a line to be drawn between accusing your opponent of treason, or hinting at that, of questioning your opponents’ patriotism, and the like – and portraying them as a continuation of a past president.

  15. O'Neil Says:

    Re: overblown & misreported McCain “leaks”: http://washingtontimes.com/weblogs/back-story/2009/jun/30/mccain-staffers-push-back-on-vanity-fairs-palin-pr/

    Re: frivolous lawsuits, I’m talking about the 18 cases filed since last August alleging ethics violations such as “wearing her husband’s ski team jacket to a public event.” Of course, all these harassing suits have been dismissed but have cost Paline over $500k personally, as I’m sure was intended by her attackers. “Troopergate” was likewise a political sham brought up just before the election – and Palin was exonerated by the Alaska Personnel Board.

    Re “bizarre,” it’s not bizarre to want to protect your children from a media that makes “retard jokes” about them and laughs at the thought of them having sex with A-Rod. It’s not bizarre to want to recoup the $500k you are out from these baseless suits. In short, it’s not bizarre when there’s such a hysteria about you and what you represent that you can no longer do your job for the people you represent (as was the plan developed by her attackers).

    Re: accusing your opponent of treason & lack of patriotism, you know how it goes in politics. There’s no line. You can say whatever you want. If there’s truth to it, then it becomes a rallying cry. If there’s not, then you end up with egg on your face (as Newt Gingrich did recently when he called Sotomayor a racist.)

  16. Joe Campbell Says:

    re. “truth to it” – The reason things become a rallying cry has little to do with truth and much to do with perception.

    re. “There’s no line” – then why are you complaining about the treatment of Palin?

    re. “overblown” – Randy Scheunemann – one of the 3 staffers quoted – was fired for insubordination for his role in protecting Palin during the McCain campaign – so, he’s not really a good source. The other two are minor staffers.

    McCain’s top aides – Schmidt, Niccolle Wallace, Rick Davis, and others were quoted in the piece being quite critical – and have not refuted the anonymous quotes.

    re. “bizarre” – It’s bizarre to suddenly call a press conference announcing your resignation – without planning to do so beforehand (Todd had to quickly pack up and fly in to get to the conference in time) – and to do so right before a holiday weekend. It’s bizarre to not give a clear reason for doing so – and to keep open the idea of running for president in 2012 at the same time. The whole thing is absurd – as even right-wing bloggers and commentators realized in the immediate aftermath…

    re. “bizarre” – Who in the media made a “retard” joke about her kid? And re. Bristol – she’s attempting to become a public figure in her own right. She’s a spokesperson for an organization. She was on the cover of People and gave an interview. She’s fair game – like Meghan McCain and Chelsea Clinton – and like Sasha and Malia will be if they ever try to become public figures.

    re. Troopergate. “a political sham”?
    The decision to release the legislative report was unanimous – including Republicans. That Alaska Personnel Board that exonerated her was also appointed by her – and their release of their report exonerating her days before the election seemed more politically timed than the release of the legislative report – which was moved up so as not to be an October surprise…

    Of the other complaints (http://www.adn.com/palin/story/838912.html) quite a few seem serious – and she has been founded to have acted improperly in several of them, including being ordered to pay back money to the state…

  17. O'Neil Says:

    re: “truth” (i’m strategically making these subjects shorter so we will eventually have nothing to debate): ‘Perception’ doesn’t become reality without truth backing it up when the perception is promoted by a politician who is acting as his/her own advocate. Which makes a nice transition into…

    re: “no line”: Perception DOES become reality when its promoted by the media, which is supposed to vet candidates impartially as a service to the voting public.

    re: “overblown”: the key word in the reports on Palin is “anonymous.” The real question is, why does the media still care about this? Its like they can’t stop beating the dead horse b/c they don’t believe it’s dead.

    re: “retard jokes”: http://hotair.com/archives/2009/07/03/rock-bottom-huffpo-poster-bids-palin-farewell-with-retard-jokes/

    re: “Troopergate”: The legislative report was released less than a month before the election.

  18. Joe Campbell Says:

    re. “Troopergate” – It was – but it was ongoing before she was nominated and was scheduled to be released on Oct. 31. They moved it to avoid an October surprise.

    re. “retard jokes” – one guy at the HuffPo who then took his piece down does not constitute “a media that makes “retard jokes.” It constituted one guy.

    re. anonymous sources: Process stories always have anonymous sources. (Read any Bob Woodward book.) But it’s an open secret that one of the sources is Steve Schmidt (as William Kristol acknowledged, and as Schmidt didn’t deny when accused.) Based on the details given, it’s also pretty clear that Mark Salter was a source. (He’s quoted a few times – though no one is quoted on the juicier details.) It’s pretty significant that the 3 staffers to go on the record didn’t dispute any specific facts – instead focusing on the “mean tone” of the piece. Check it out for yourself: http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/08/sarah-palin200908?printable=true&currentPage=all

    Of course, there are also many on-the-record denunciations of Palin by conservatives – and Republicans in Alaska who knew and worked with her.

    re. truth and perception: Falsehoods often – due to sheer repetition – become mistaken for the truth.

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