Sunday, August 31, 2008

Big Night

To my jaded ears the signal moment in the Obama's masterful speech on Thursday came when he nearly shouted one word after a litany of horrors that is our current economic, social, and political circumstance: "Enough!" It struck straight to the heart, a cry of negation and affirmation, as clear a statement of principle as anyone could ask for. In his acceptance speech, the Obama delivered red meat to the troops, who needed it, slicing and dicing John McCain with surgical precision to reveal him ; he laid out programs for the policy wonks; and he raised the stakes with his peroration. Beginning with a subtle but unmistakable allusion to Martin Luther King--just the right note for a man who wouldn't want to be accused of exploiting a happy historical coincidence--that the Obama was accepting the nomination 45 years to the day after King's majestic "I Have a Dream" speech (everyone knows that by now)--he soared out of the stadium, bringing his audience along for the ride.

It was a gigantic audience, to be sure--84,000 in Denver's Mile High Stadium [I know, it's a commercial field), and another 40 million live, according to the New York Times. Early polls show a considerable bounce that McCain's publicity stunt on Friday, August 29, might actually have bumped up more.

The stunt was his announcement that his vice-presidential nominee would be Alaska's governor Sarah Palin. I say reckless not only because she is untried but also because she has some major deficits that were never checked or, worse, ignored as irrelevant. In effect she wasn't vetted to the extent that a clerical worker is. Here's an Editor and Publisher summary of editorials and stories from Alaska on Palin. Alaska has a human population 670,00 plus or minus, most of whom live in Anchorage or Fairbanks. Wasilla, where Palin began her meteoric rise, lies about an hour north of Anchorage and is best known as home of the Iditarod International Sled Dog Race, although Palin herself seems to prefer snow machines to dogs. I've been to Wasilla; it has a population of 7,000 to 9,000, depending on the season.

An ardent anti-abortionists, who makes no allowance even for rape or incest, Palin nonetheless does not extend her belief in the "right to life" to other species: She disapproves of listing polar bears as an endangered species, approves aerial gunning of wolves, lifting wolf cubs from their dens and killing them, and hunting in general. She's a rabid "evangelical" Christian who believes in Creationsim, we're told, as if we need another anti-intellectual in the presidency--and make no mistake, the odds are not long that McCain with his history of melanoma, his heavy smoking, and god knows what else will live through his term, if he is elected. It appears that McCain chose her as eye candy for the hook and bullet crowd, fashion adviser to their wives, and who knows what to John McCain--at the least a statement of contempt toward the office, the Republic, and anything that doesn't celebrate him. She's also a doll thrown to the media covering the McCain campaign, who drooled all over Palin, and twittered over their boy's recklessness.

I've been to Alaska twice and tracked the Iditarod from Anchorage to Nome, with a side trip across the Nome peninsula to Shishmaref in a Cessna Super Cub flown by a pilot whose mother was Yupik and father was Irish. Like most Alaskans, he'd learned to fly in high school. Absent roads, you fly or snow machine. I love the place, but being a young inexperienced woman politician from Alaska, who won the governorship in November 2006 with something on the order of 120,000 votes--the Obama spoke to 84,000 people live, remember, in Denver and 200,000 in Berlin--and has served without distinction for less than two years, does not qualify you for he presidency.

In fact, Palin's chief accomplishment seems to be the use of her office to pursue a a family vendetta against her former brother-in-law, a state trooper. The Washington Post has taken the lead on this story--bless it--and has a front page story today. Essentially, she is accused of pressuring the public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, in person and through her husband and aides, to fire the ex-brother-in-law and then firing Monegan in July 2008 when he refused. The Alaska state legislature has appointed an independent prosecutor to look into the matter, and he is due to report in October. Apparently the Republicans feel they can tough out this small family affair, given the bigger things they've covered up in Washington for the past 7 years, and they might. But I think they are wrong. I won't even bet on Palin being the nominee.

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