New York Times to America: Wake the hell up!
After Michael Cooper and Jim Rutenberg tiptoed around the word "lies" yesterday, the New York Times is loaded for bear (or moose, if you will) today, with two must-read opinion pieces and a front-page article, the latter of which demonstrates definitively that putting Sarah Palin one melanoma away from the presidency isn't putting lipstick on a pig (which Barack Obama NEVER implied in regard to Ms. Palin, but I am not just implying it, but announcing it), but putting lipstick on Dick Cheney.
The article gathers in one place information that has been written about in blogs all week about the petty, ruthless, crony-riddled, ignorant governance of Sarah Palin. Excerpts/examples (emphases mine):
when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.
Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.
When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.
And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.
“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”
Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.
...in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”
“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”
Ms. Palin entered the 2006 primary for governor as a formidable candidate.
In the middle of the primary, a conservative columnist in the state, Paul Jenkins, unearthed e-mail messages showing that Ms. Palin had conducted campaign business from the mayor’s office. Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.
“I told her it looks like she did the same thing that Randy Ruedrich did,” Mr. Jenkins recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, what I did was wrong.’ ”
Mr. Jenkins hung up and decided to forgo writing about it. His phone rang soon after.
Mr. Jenkins said a reporter from Fairbanks, reading from a Palin news release, demanded to know why he was “smearing” her. “Now I look at her and think: ‘Man, you’re slick,’ ” he said.
Ms. Palin won the primary, and in the general election she faced Tony Knowles, the former two-term Democratic governor, and Andrew Halcro, an independent.
Not deeply versed in policy, Ms. Palin skipped some candidate forums; at others, she flipped through hand-written, color-coded index cards strategically placed behind her nameplate.
Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”
Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated. Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action. Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.
The administration’s e-mail correspondence reveals a siege-like atmosphere. Top aides keep score, demean enemies and gloat over successes. Even some who helped engineer her rise have felt her wrath.
Dan Fagan, a prominent conservative radio host and longtime friend of Ms. Palin, urged his listeners to vote for her in 2006. But when he took her to task for raising taxes on oil companies, he said, he found himself branded a “hater.”
It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as “bad people who are anti-Alaska.”
Does this all sound familiar? It should. The secrecy, the notion that government is not accountable to the people who elected it, the reliance on a small circle of long-time acquaintances and cronies, the vindictiveness against those who are deemed to have "batrayed the Family" -- this is all Bush Administration Redux.
But does it matter? After all, Palin is "just" the Vice Presidential nominee, not the #1 on the ticket.
And that's where Frank Rich comes in:
...if we’ve learned anything from the G.O.P. convention and its aftermath, it’s that the 2008 edition of John McCain is too weak to serve as America’s chief executive. This unmentionable truth, more than race, is now the real elephant in the room of this election.
No longer able to remember his principles any better than he can distinguish between Sunnis and Shia, McCain stands revealed as a guy who can be easily rolled by anyone who sells him a plan for “victory,” whether in Iraq or in Michigan. A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.
The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they’re wearing lipstick or not.
The specifics have changed in our new century, but the vitriolic animus of right-wing populism preached by Pegler and McCarthy and revived by the 1990s culture wars remains the same. The game is always to pit the good, patriotic real Americans against those subversive, probably gay “cosmopolitan” urbanites (as the sometime cross-dresser Rudy Giuliani has it) who threaten to take away everything that small-town folk hold dear.
The racial component to this brand of politics was undisguised in St. Paul. Americans saw a virtually all-white audience yuk it up when Giuliani ridiculed Barack Obama’s “only in America” success as an affirmative-action fairy tale — and when he and Palin mocked Obama’s history as a community organizer in Chicago. Neither party has had so few black delegates (1.5 percent) in the 40 years since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies started keeping a record.
But race is just one manifestation of the emotion that defined the Palin rollout. That dominant emotion is fear — an abject fear of change. Fear of a demographical revolution that will put whites in the American minority by 2042. Fear of the technological revolution and globalization that have gutted those small towns and factories Palin apotheosized.
Obama’s one break last week was the McCain camp’s indication that it’s likely to minimize its candidate’s solo appearances by joining him at the hip with Palin. There’s a political price to be paid for this blatant admission that he needs her to draw crowds. McCain’s conspicuous subservience to his younger running mate’s hard-right ideology and his dependence on her electioneering energy raise the question of who has the power in this relationship and who is in charge. A strong and independent woman or the older ward who would be bobbing in a golf cart without her? The more voters see that McCain will be the figurehead for a Palin presidency, the more they are likely to demand stepped-up vetting of the rigidly scripted heir apparent.
This election is still about the fierce urgency of change before it’s too late. But in framing this debate, it isn’t enough for Obama to keep presenting McCain as simply a third Bush term. Any invocation of the despised president — like Iraq — invites voters to stop listening. Meanwhile, before our eyes, McCain is turning over the keys to his administration to ideologues and a running mate to Bush’s right.
As this campaign progresses and the McCain campaign shows that it NEEDS Palin to be a human shield for John McCain in order to present a ticket that's attractive to those fear-riddled theocratic voters who think they can somehow stop change right in its tracks by creating an American theocracy run by the Assemblies of God. Without Palin, John McCain is just an increasingly doddering old man, still determined to fight and win a war from 40 years ago from which he has never quiet recovered. With Palin, he's an aging king with a smart young knight who can Spread the Word among the heathen, pillaging and looting and seizing land and converting the pagans for the glory of the King -- who has no heir and can be easily convinced to make the young knight his anointed successor. That the young knight is female just adds to the allure.
But people who use the neocortex of the brain instead of just the reptilian one recognize that change is inevitable. Caucasians WILL be the minority in this country by mid-century, and banning abortion won't change that one bit. Climate change IS happening, and whether we are the sole cause, we are ONE of the primary causes, and pretending we are not is not going to prevent larger and stronger hurricanes, the destruction of the reefs that are hotbeds of aquatic life, and the inundation of low-lying and oceanfront parts of this country. The question is whether we are going to recognize this and try to shape this new reality of the world we live in to our benefit, or if we are going to continue to party like it's 1999.
I hate to find myself agreeing with Thomas Friedman on anything. After all, this is a guy who has applauded sending jobs in my field overseas when his job is perfectly safe -- and not really come up with a whole lot of ways to address the displacement of American workers. Globalization may be inevitable, but for all that he prides himself on his forward-thinking, updating your work skills is futile when the motivation for exporting jobs is because overseas workers will work for peanuts.
A necessary component for dealing with change is the vision to create solutions that have not been considered before. When he wrote The World is Flat, Friedman demonstrated a profound lack of vision, falling upon the bromides of politicians of BOTH parties who have bought into the notion of the mythical IT labor shortage and assuming that teaching oneself C# out of a book will magically open the door to new job opportunities for 50-year-old mainframe programmers when someone overseas is willing to do the work for three bucks an hour.
But when it comes to the pressing need for energy independence to come from renewable energy rather than from fossil fuels, Friedman is right on the money:
Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”
Of course, we’re going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that — with “drill, baby, drill” — why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra “invent, baby, invent?” That is what a party committed to “change” would really be doing. As they say in Texas: “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”
Who cares how much steel John McCain has in his gut when the steel that today holds up our bridges, railroads, nuclear reactors and other infrastructure is rusting? McCain talks about how he would build dozens of nuclear power plants. Oh, really? They go for $10 billion a pop. Where is the money going to come from? From lowering taxes? From banning abortions? From borrowing more from China? From having Sarah Palin “reform” Washington — as if she has any more clue how to do that than the first 100 names in the D.C. phonebook?
Sorry, but there is no sustainable political/military power without economic power, and talking about one without the other is nonsense. Unless we make America the country most able to innovate, compete and win in the age of globalization, our leverage in the world will continue to slowly erode. Those are the issues this election needs to be about, because that is what the next four years need to be about.
There is no strong leader without a strong country. And posing as one, to use the current vernacular, is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.
And that is why the election of John McCain and Sarah Palin are a death knell for this country. It's because their party is hopelessly mired in a past that cannot be recaptured because it's a past memorialized in history books and Merchant-Ivory movies; a past in which a few unfathomably rich people employ the rabble as servants in their homes and drones in their factories, working them to death for a few pennies per hour. It's a world of white wealth and privilege, where the rabble are told to be happy for their lot in life and to go to church where they can hear about how much better things will be for them in the herafter.
The question is not whether we are going to return to some state of existence that is mythical, or if we are going to use our intellect to find new solutions to the problems we face. The McCain/Palin model is one that uses fear and loathing in an attempt to turn back the clock that will inevitably fail.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.