The Grand Illusion — Shattered?

Guess they should’ve picked someone even younger and more inexperienced.

The GOP thought Sarah Palin didn’t have a record on anything, and that they could shape her like soft clay into the superhuman, genetically-enhanced uber-candidate that would bolster the McCain ticket.

What is becoming clear is that she is far, far to the right of most American citizens in her beliefs, and was so devisive in her tactics as mayor that citizens wanted to boot her out.

Also, some of the books in the local library were apparently not to her liking. According to the NY Times:

Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

In 1996, Ms. Palin suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were “rhetorical.”

Only 17% of Alaska actually voted her in as Governor. It only took 114,697 votes to elect her. That’s about 2/3 the size of the entire population of Astoria, NY, the town where I lived before I moved to Long Island. Before that, it only took over 600 votes to elect her as mayor of Wasilla.

And as much as Joe Liebermann likes to talk about John McCain’s non-partisan nature, he might be interested to know that McCain’s running mate apparently liked to exercise extreme partisanship where none was needed. In small-town Alaska, local races seemed to be friendly, competitive affairs until Sarah Palin got into the fray with her take-no-prisoners attitude.

Do we really need another Dick Cheney in the White House?

The Wrong Side of History

Like most of America, I missed most of the first night of the Republican National Convention. I did, however, tune in to last night’s events and was quite shocked at the contrast between the DNC and the RNC.

Granted, I am obviously biased, but what I saw on the first night of the RNC was a lot of smoke and mirrors and slight of hand.

The first thing I noticed was that the venue seemed empty. One of the reporters mentioned that the setting was actually noticeably smaller than the DNC one in Denver. And yet, there were so many empty seats. So little energy. The Grand Ol’ Party made a grand attempt to make a small gathering look like a big celebration on television. It didn’t work, at least not from the coverage I viewed last night.

The GOP delegates were clearly much older than most of the Democratic delegates. As the cameras panned across the crowd, I couldn’t help but think that this is a party that time has just passed by. Every key person interviewed by the press was an older white man. There were tributes to Ronald Reagan and Bush 41. Then Dubya’s wife took the stage to introduce her husband, who appeared via satellite from the White House and was projected onto a gigantic screen. It looked like something out of 1984. A giant head on a screen speaking to the enamoured masses. While the speech from Bush 43 was supposedly “live,” I sincerely have my doubts. It seemed like it had been taped ahead of time, proabably to make sure the guy didn’t stray from the script and decide to do some ad-libbing which might result in a “fool me, can’t get fooled again” moment. I would bet real money that his appearance wasn’t live, and that it was taped. His reactions weren’t appropriate for the applause and cheers he got at certain moments of his speech. He paused a couple times for loud cheering, but didn’t start up again at the right moments. Some times he stepped over applause. I thought at first this might be because he wasn’t getting any feedback from the crowd — that perhaps this was a one-way thing. But why would they do that? Why not make it friendlier, so Bush could react to the crowd? So he could laugh when a line got a good cheer? No, I think it was taped ahead of time, scripted tightly to avoid any embarrassment.

Then Fred Thompson spoke and at first I thought he was on something or that he had been drinking because he was slurring his words and didn’t seem to be aware where the microphone was as he talked to the left and right of it. Then I thought perhaps he just didn’t feel great because he cleared his throat and coughed through the entire speech (as did Joe Liebermann, who followed him).

His recounting of McCain’s life in Vietnam was extremely moving and almost hard to listen to. I can’t imagine anyone going through that kind of terror and agony for five years. It’s really unthinkable, and the fact that McCain took the punishment time and again is definitely testament to his character. But as Thompson himself said, being a POW isn’t a qualification for President of the United States. And even though he added, “character is,” that cannot be the only qualification for the position.

Of course, the highlight of the night for liberals like myself was turncoat Joe Liebermann taking his turn at the podium. Joe relished his celebrity and notoriety at this convention, and it was clear he was basking in the attention. After listening to him drone on about non-partisanship and about how he was amazed he was speaking at the RNC, I could barely take any more. I know listening to Joe Liebermann is no comparison to being tortured by the Viet Cong, but damned if I didn’t feel my ears start to bleed after he took several jabs at our candidate and decided to directly address all us misguided Democrats. And, of course, throughout the speech he referred to himself as a Democrat, even though there is actually an (I) after his name.

He pleaded with the television audience to move beyond party and to just vote for the best candidate. But what Joe doesn’t seem to understand is that we truly believe Barak Obama is the best candidate. The height of Liebermann’s arrogance is thinking that he holds any sway with Democratic voters. They apparently didn’t want him in 2000, and they didn’t even want him as their Senator anymore in Connecticut a couple years ago, so why should they listen to him now? When you turn to the other side, when you support the opposing candidate and talking about Bush doing the right thing in Iraq, you have shown a lack of good judgment and have made yourself irrelevant to the voters you’re trying to court.

So when all is said and done, here’s the slight of hand that’s being pulled on the American public by the GOP. The neo-conservative wing of the party is trying to convince America that John McCain is a true maverick who stands for what he believes, even though he has now changed his opinion to match today’s GOP on just about every position he had when he ran for the 2000 election. If there was any doubt of his conservative status, he has chosen Sarah Palin — a true anti-choice, gun-toting creationist — to run with him to satisfy the party’s base. According to Newt Gingrich, she has gobs of executive experience. Gobs of it. The GOP is trying to convince America that even though the last eight years have been a total disaster, the GOP is the one to choose if the country wants real change. “Change,” even though this is the same party that has been in power for the last eight disasterous years. America should trust it yet again because now it’s going to “drain the swamp” of, um, of all the people that it has put there for the past decade or so. Huh?

Is America going to fall for this?

I really don’t know. I suppose it could. I have been so wrong before. When I thought Al Gore just killed George Bush in the debates, the media reaction was that Bush had won, and polls said the public agreed. When I thought the country would never choose George Bush for a second term, it did just that.

But my overall sense in watching the convention is that this party is just done right now. They’re trying to prop up these people with helium, toothpicks, Elmer’s glue and magic tricks. It’s obvious to me, but I don’t know how obvious it is to the rest of America, particularly the independents and conservatives.

The party forced its candidate into a VP pick that he didn’t want to make, and did so without any vetting at all. In fact, so much fallout has occurred since Mrs. Palin was chosen — that she was only interviewed one day before being given the job, that her 17 year old daughter is pregnant (proving the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education), that she is under investigation by local authorities for corruption, that her husband was a member of a political party that supported Alaska seceding from the United States — that the McCain camp has now stated unequivocally that there will be no further comment on how she was (or wasn’t) vetted. This pick was made for purely political reasons, and if McCain allowed himself to be bulldozed into making this decision, it doesn’t bode well for what happens if he actually gets in the office.

If John McCain is such a maverick who is unwavering in his conviction, how come he could stand up to the Viet Cong but he couldn’t stand up to forces within his own party and choose his own candidate?

I have said this before — that the neoconservative wing of the GOP views John McCain as its last grasp on government. It will do anything it can to keep this grasp because it believes it is doing the right thing in the world, no matter how evil the results. The Project for a New American Century has been a dismal failure, but those who wrote it only believe it has been so far incorrectly executed, so they’re trying to paint McCain in any way they can to make sure the American sees whatever it wants to see in a leader.

Again, my overall sense is that this desperation will be clear to the American public. There will always be those who believe the lies, and don’t see the strings behind the puppet — and make no mistake, whatever John McCain’s honorable past, he is allowing himself to be manipulated by a party desperate to stay in control.

But hopefully, a majority of Americans will see through this.

I just have this deep feeling that the oft-used phrase is correct — that the GOP, this time, is just on the wrong side of history.

Bristol Palin’s Husband-to-Be is a F-in’ Redneck

Conservative America is standing behind Sarah Palin’s 17 year old daughter, Bristol, who is five month’s pregnant, claiming she’s the poster child for compassionate conservatism and pro-life idealism. According to Sarah Palin, Bristol will soon be marrying the father, 17 year old Levi Johnston, who will be going into his senior year at Wasilla High School.

The NY Post did a little digging into Mr. Johnston’s MySpace page, and found the following:

On his MySpace page, Johnston boasts, “I’m a f – – -in’ redneck” who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes.

“But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- – – and just f – – -in’ chillin’ I guess.”

“Ya f – – – with me I’ll kick [your] ass,” he added.

He also claims to be “in a relationship,” but states, “I don’t want kids.”

Am I the only one that feels overwhelmingly sad for the child that’s about to come into the world?

This is the real-life cost of abstinence-only education, which Sarah Palin supported wholeheartedly in Alaska.

Senator McCain himself supports the same policies:

“Sen. McCain believes the correct policy for educating young children on this subject is to promote abstinence as the only safe and responsible alternative. To do otherwise is to send a mixed signal to children that, on the one hand they should not be sexually active, but on the other here is the way to go about it. As any parent knows, ambiguity and equivocation leads to problems when it comes to teaching children right from wrong. Sen. McCain believes that there are many negative forces in today’s society that promote irresponsible and dangerous behavior to our children. The public education system should not join this chorus of moral equivocation and ambiguity.”

I’ll leave you with this quote from Thomas Schaller of the Salon War Room:

What’s galling is this: When the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, minority teenage mother growing up in some (presumably Democratic) urban area, that pregnancy becomes fodder for lectures from conservatives about bad parenting, the perils of welfare spending and so on. But when the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, white teenager from some small town in a Republican state, that pregnancy is…a celebration of the wonders of God’s magnificence–and choosing life!

RNC Lockdown

Wow. Some crazy stuff going on in Minnesota. Glenn Greenwald over at Salon says that St. Paul currently looks more like a military state than Manhattan after 9/11. The Uptake is covering all the action, complete with video and Google maps. Pepper spray seems to be flying from law enforcement at will.

Apparently, the “Free Speech Zone” is two blocks from the convention, which is part of the problem. People aren’t content to have their free speech confined. Imagine.

God Hates Republicans

I’m about to get religion. I know it’s hurricane season and all, but how do you explain the National Weather Service currently tracking three hurricanes in a row about to hit the southern United States, setting up a Monday through Friday constant hurricane watch specifically coinciding with the Republican National Convention? There has to be some divine influence. I’m not giddy about it, I understand that there could be massive damage and loss of life, I’m just fascinated by the coincidental timing of it all.

Gustav has already hit Louisiana and has now been downgraded to a Tropical Storm as I write this. Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna sits over the Bahamas, and is expected to hit Florida right about the time when John McCain will be giving his acceptance speech at the RNC. Right behind that is Tropical Storm Ike, currently halfway between the Lesser Antilles and Africa. It’s expected to hit the United States sometime early next week.

I’m currently watching “Geraldo At Large” in Louisiana on FOX, and the coverage is just cringe-worthy. A grand escape he runs from waves barely splashing over levees, then he’s hugging a rescue worker, telling him, “I don’t know this guy, but I *love* this guy!!” Yipes. This guy is a perfect fit for FOX. The drama. The embarrassment.

Meanwhile, another storm hit the Republican National Convention when it was revealed that the unmarried seventeen year old daughter of Republican VP Candidate Sarah Palin is five month’s pregnant. Guess that abstinence-only program didn’t work too well for the Palin household. The McCain camp, of course, noted:

They are now conscious that their daughter will have to address the great challenge of raising a child sooner than they might have hoped,” McCain’s policy director, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, told reporters at a Monday lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “They’re being supportive of her and the man that she will marry. And they’ve asked that we respect her privacy, and out of respect to that request, I think that’s all that we should say.

Barack Obama was asked about Palin’s daughter, and he said:

I have heard some of the news on this and so let me be a clear as possible: I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits, and people’s children are especially off limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin’s performance as governor, or her potential performance as a VP. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories.

You know my mother had me when she was 18, and how a family deals with issues and you know teenage children, that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that’s off limits.

Since the McCain team didn’t seem to vet Palin for the job, the blogosphere is doing it fairly well. The pregnancy announcement was released in reaction to detailed speculation that the family’s four-month-old son, Trig, was actually the teenager’s son. The Palins had to release the fact that their daughter was pregnant to dispel that allegation. Obviously if she’s five months pregnant right now, she couldn’t have a four-month-old son.

According to the NY Times, Palin has also now hired a lawyer to represent her in the ongoing Troopergate ethics case up in her home state. That article also mentions that McCain has sent a team up to Alaska to look a little more into Palin’s background. Um, isn’t that supposed to happen BEFORE you pick the candidate? Guess these things are liable to happen when you make a totally political choice for your VP, rather than a qualified one. The Times piece also shines a little more light onto McCain’s selection process. Apparently, he wanted Liebermann or Ridge, but when word got out that he was considering these pro-choice selections, he was “bombarded by outrage from influential conservatives who predicted an explosive floor fight at the convention and vowed rejection of Mr. Ridge or Mr. Lieberman by the delegates.”

It sucks to be beholden to the religious right. In fact, it just might single-handedly end up losing McCain this election.

Some more from the Times article:

In Alaska, several state leaders and local officials said they knew of no efforts by the McCain campaign to find out more information about Ms. Palin before the announcement of her selection, Although campaigns are typically discreet when they make inquiries into potential running mates, officials in Alaska said Monday they thought it was peculiar that no one in the state had the slightest hint that Ms. Palin might be under consideration.

“They didn’t speak to anyone in the Legislature, they didn’t speak to anyone in the business community,” said Lyda Green, the State Senate president, who lives in Wasilla, where Ms. Palin served as mayor.

Representative Gail Phillips, a Republican and former speaker of the State House, said the widespread surprise in Alaska when Ms. Palin was named to the ticket made her wonder how intensively the McCain campaign had vetted her.

“I started calling around and asking, and I have not been able to find one person that was called,” Ms. Phillips said. “I called 30 to 40 people, political leaders, business leaders, community leaders. Not one of them had heard. Alaska is a very small community, we know people all over, but I haven’t found anybody who was asked anything.”

The current mayor of Wasilla, Dianne M. Keller, said she had not heard of any efforts to look into Ms. Palin’s background. And Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chairman, said he knew nothing of any vetting that had been conducted.

State Senator Hollis French, a Democrat who is directing the ethics investigation, said that no one asked him about the allegations. “I heard not a word, not a single contact,” he said.

Is this the kind of good judgement we can expect from a McCain presidency? Oddly enough, it sounds remarkably just like something that Bush would’ve done. Make a choice based on one or two elements, ignore all the others, and then hope there’s no additional fallout after the fact.

Is this leadership?