Having it Both Ways

People have been questioning Sarah Palin’s ability to be a good mom to her five children, one of whom has Down Syndrome, if she’s busy being the Vice President. Others have criticized those critics as sexist, suggesting that they wouldn’t think of asking such questions about a male candidate.

And yet, every time I see Republican talking heads and McCain’s surrogates talking about Palin, her status as a “super-mom of five kids” falls somewhere between “former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska” and “former PTA president” in their lists of her qualifications to be the President of the Senate. Now, maybe she doesn’t promote herself as such, I haven’t seen much of her speeches, but if she’s saying “don’t put my family on my résumé,” her surrogates aren’t getting the memo.

From my perspective, you can’t have it both ways. If she’s going to use her family as though it’s a qualification for being Vice President, then questions about said qualification are fair game. It’s precisely the same as John McCain’s years as a POW or Rudy Giuliani’s involvement in 9/11–if they weren’t continually brought up as (often the prime or sole) qualifications for being President, they wouldn’t be subject to nearly as much scrutiny and criticism.

And yes, if a male candidate were running a campaign where “#1 Dad!” was on his short list of executive experience, I think it would be absolutely fair to question whether or not he actually is “#1.”

Sarah Palin is a hilariously underqualified candidate, and the Republicans are doing their best to make up for that. Some are trying to pad her résumé with experiences that are irrelevant to the job she’s applying for; others are hoping that what she lacks in experience she’ll make up for in vitriol and radicalism. But it seems to me that they’re trying to run her–as they’re trying to run McCain, as they ran Bush–on a narrative. In 2004, Bush was the normal guy that the voters would want to have a beer with; Kerry was a foppish elitist with no integrity. In 2008, they’re trying to force-fit the Kerry narrative onto Obama, with limited success, largely because McCain fits it far more obviously than Obama does. Their other recourse against Obama is to paint him as inexperienced…more on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to play up the “Maverick McCain” story that made him so popular before the 2000 elections, despite the fact that he has since changed his position on nearly every one of the issues that made him a “maverick.” They’re running McCain as a war hero with a sense of humor, who is very much in touch with the common people. Again, with limited success, as the counter-narrative of “McCain is an old fogey who promises four more years of Bush” gains traction.

Sarah Palin represents the infusion of a great new apple-pie-American narrative into the McCain campaign: “She’s a super-mom! She’s a strong woman who can accomplish anything and still retain her femininity! She’s young–but she’s got plenty of experience!–and she’s the governor of Alaska–but she’s totally in touch with the concerns of average Americans! She’s Hillary, only younger and better!” It seems that the McCain campaign hopes they’ll be able to win over enough disenfranchised Hillary supporters to make up for the loss of their best argument against Obama.

I’m curious what their next step will be. It seems like everyone is caught off-guard by Palin’s nomination, even McCain. It seems to be the only way to explain some of the idiocy coming out about her. PTA presidency as experience to be Vice President? What, her position on the High School Cheerleading squad wasn’t important enough? Alaska’s coast shares an ocean with Russia, so she’s got foreign policy experience? Really? I guess that means Obama’s only qualified to protect us from a Wisconsonian invasion force, and Dick Cheney has the necessary qualifications to send a diplomatic envoy to Boise. The Palin campaign so far has been laughable, and combined with John McCain, I’m wondering if the Republicans are just trying to pull the biggest practical joke in American history.

9 Responses to Having it Both Ways

  1. db says:

    Maybe sarah palin is really andy kaufman. I think she even sang the mighty mouse song at the Wisconsin rally.

  2. Genewitch says:

    i haven’t watched either national convention, but i’ve been listening to the radio regarding both and their aftermaths. Evidently, Palin was using some obscure song that was called or just contained the word “barracuda”. The band that wrote the song is saying “we don’t want the GOP using our song. they didn’t ask for permission, and even if they had, we wouldn’t have given it.”Nevermind the GOP stance on software and IP piracy “it’s like stealing it from the store!” – break rules when it suits you, and have a nice excuse ready – “it’s fair USE!”I was wondering if every generation before mine (i’m 27) has felt this way near their 30s about an election. that it’s just a circus, and it doesn’t really matter. Is this where the “party lines” are drawn? when people turn 30, they start to vote for the party that makes them want to leave the US the least?–genewitch

  3. Doubting Tom says:

    DB: Kaufman had a tendency for fighting women, but not for fighting as one, so far as I know.Genewitch: Heart’s “Barracuda” isn’t an “obscure song” by any metric. The guitar opening is iconic, and chances are if you’ve ever listened to Classic Rock radio stations for longer than a half hour–or played “Guitar Hero III”–you’ve heard it.This isn’t a new problem for Republicans; seems like every time they try to use rock music, they end up getting a bit burned. Either the artists deny them permission, speak out against them, or let them make themselves look like idiots–see also Ronald Reagan, “Born in the U.S.A.” Heck, every episode of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show puts money into PETA’s pockets–he pays royalties to The Pretenders for using “My City Was Gone” as his theme song, and Crissie Hynde donates the money. The fact is that most rock musicians are liberals of one flavor or another, which limits the GOP’s ability to use music with permission. So they figure they can steal it, I guess. It’s not like the rules apply to them.

  4. Akusai says:

    I’ve heard a hypothesis that McCain is trying as hard as possible to lose the election, realizing that he can’t possibly fix any of the problems of the last eight years. It’s doubtful, but a funny thought.Regarding the music, why don’t they just get something from knee-jerk uberconservative Ted “The Nuge” Nugent? He has the amazing ability to pretend to be a rebel while supporting the neoconservative, religious right power structure and the military and fighting for harsher drug laws and against homosexuality. You go, rebel! Rebel against the future!

  5. Doubting Tom says:

    It’s because “Wango Tango” sends the wrong message. Yeah, there’s a point at which most Republicans are forced to realize that they need to look to the Nuge and the occasional country music star to provide their soundtracks. But eventually even Republican voters tire of “Cat Scratch Fever” and the Charlie Daniels songbook.

  6. Flavin says:

    What about Damn Yankees? Nuge did the guitar for them, right? (Checking extended consciousness…) Yep.

  7. Akusai says:

    He sure did. And he could deflect bullets with the power of his rocking.Thank you, Patton Oswalt.

  8. quantumberry says:

    Man, you shoulda been there when Carkner was touting my qualifications for VP: President of the robotics boosters, ran a physics dept with a budget of $x, was a maverick – aka a thorn in the side of the dean and her colleagues, … Quite amusing. He didn’t say anything about me being a supermom, though,so he must not have thought of that as part of the Palin resume. Either that or he doesn’t think that I am super-mom, but that can’t be – he’s met my sons! And neither of them has yet become pregnant out of wedlock, either!I’ve decided that one reason Palin was chosen was to bring out the small-town vote. Being from a small town myself, I picked up on some vibes she was sending out – things she didn’t say expicitly, but sure planted in the minds of us small-town folks. For example, she didn’t need to come right out and say that Obama was so out-of-touch with small-town America that he actually thinks that a town of 9000 is small! Haha! She and I shared an inside-joke laugh on that one! A town so small you don’t have your own post office, so your postal address is the nearby town of 700. That’s small.

  9. larryniven says:

    Yeah, there’s this odd phenomenon among Republicans wherein they hold up their exaltation of Palin as a woman as proof that they aren’t sexist. This is the same group of people, incidentally, who just a few months ago both implied and said aloud that Obama wouldn’t be so successful if he weren’t black and that therefore liberals are all secretly racist. I know that I shouldn’t expect anything better from the official political party of cognitive dissonance, but it’s just so disheartening to see the double standards play out.

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