Monday, October 06, 2008

The Dumbing Down of the GOP & Is Picking Palin Backfiring?

The Dumbing Down of the GOP

By Joe Conason [October 4, 2008]

Sarah Palin's debate performance should signal the beginning of the end of her fad. But for the moment it is worth looking at the meaning of her nomination, without the protective varnish of what conservatives usually dismiss as political correctness.

Why should we pretend not to notice when Gov. Palin's ideas make no sense? Having said last week that "it doesn't matter" whether human activity is the cause of climate change, she said in debate that she "doesn't want to argue" about the causes. It doesn't occur to her that we have to know the causes in order to address the problem. (She was very fortunate that moderator Gwen Ifill didn't ask her whether she truly believes that human beings and dinosaurs inhabited this planet simultaneously only 6,000 years ago.)

Why should we ignore her inability to string together a series of coherent thoughts? As a foe of Wall Street greed and a late convert to the gospel of government regulation, along with John McCain, Palin promised to clean up and reform business. But when her programmed talking points about "getting government out of the way" and protecting "freedom" conflicted with that promise, she didn't notice.

Why should we give her a pass on the most important issues of the day? Supposedly sharing the fears and concerns of the average families who face the burdens of mortgages, healthcare and economic insecurity, Palin simply refused to discuss changes in bankruptcy law and proved that she didn't know the provisions of McCain's healthcare plan.

All the glaring defects so blatantly on display in her debate with Joe Biden -- and that make her candidacy so darkly comical -- would be the same if she were a hockey dad instead of a "hockey mom." In fact, the cynical attempt to foist Palin on the nation as a symbol of feminist progress is an insult to all women regardless of their political orientation.

There was a time when conservatives lamented the dumbing down of American culture. Preservation of basic standards in schools and workplaces compelled them -- or so they said -- to resist affirmative action for women and minorities. Qualifications mattered; merit mattered; and demagogic appeals for leveling were to be left to the Democrats.

Not anymore.


Sarah Palin Exceeds Expections--and Still Loses

By Mike Madden [October 3, 2008]

There were two debates going on in St. Louis Thursday night. Joe Biden was debating John McCain. And Sarah Palin was debating Sarah Palin -- at least the version of her that most of America has seen on TV for the last few weeks.

As far as those particular battles went, they both might have won. Biden was ruthless in going after McCain on the economy and on foreign policy, all but ignoring Palin to focus on the top of the ticket and present contrast after contrast between McCain and Barack Obama. (And a few between Obama and George W. Bush for good measure.) It may have been the most disciplined performance of Biden's political career -- though given his proclivity for embarrassing gaffes, that's admittedly a low bar. And speaking of low bars, Palin cleared hers. This was not the Sarah Palin who was stumped when asked, just a few days ago, to name a single Supreme Court case she disagreed with or to list a newspaper she read. Yes, she got a little shaky when the questions strayed too far into the details of foreign policy, and she frequently seemed to be pushing the "play" button on preprogrammed talking points. Still, the meltdown even some Republicans feared ahead of the debate didn't materialize.

But overall, that probably adds up to a win for Biden -- or rather, for Obama. (Undecided voters insta-polled by various networks thought Biden won, by pretty hefty margins.) Palin had so much work to do convincing voters she belonged on the stage that she wasn't able to be as effective a messenger for McCain as Biden was for his ticket. She might have met a basic standard of competence, but only a cynic (or a McCain aide) would say that gave her the edge. With Obama building on his lead in national and battleground state polls every day, another debate -- like the first presidential encounter last week -- that did little to change the overall dynamic of the race wasn't what McCain needed.


McCain's Bid for South Florida Jewish Voters Derailed by Palin Pick

By Tristram Korten [October 6, 2008]

The local retirement community known as Century Village is just one outpost in a statewide network of Century Villages, Florida's largest chain of retirement complexes. It is also a time capsule of the New York Jewish gestalt, circa 1965, transplanted intact to the golf greens of Palm Beach County. If a small, unscientific sampling of the shoppers in the Hamptons Plaza mall, directly across from the complex, is any indication, John McCain's choice of running mates may have pushed the residents of this heavily Democratic enclave back in Barack Obama's direction.

"I was leaning towards McCain," growled Marvin Weinstein, 74, as he strode to an appointment in a doctor's office. "But I think his choice of her has turned me off."

"What I hear is she's an awful anti-Semite," George Friedberg said as he sat curbside in his Escalade. "She won't be getting my vote." Friedberg's wife, Florence, appeared at the passenger-side door, shopping bags in hand. "I was leaning towards McCain, but after he selected her I've ruled him out completely. I find her offensive."

Just a month ago, Florida was not considered top of the list among likely electoral vote pickups for Barack Obama. Since the spring McCain had held a consistent lead in the state, which dovetailed with rumors that many of South Florida's Jews, a major building block of the state's Democratic coalition, were wary of a black candidate with a Muslim middle name.

But that was before Wall Street's meltdown -- and before the full import of the Palin pick began to sink in. A poll from Quinnipiac University put Obama ahead of McCain in Florida by a substantive 51 to 43 percent as of Sept. 29, and cited "Gov. Sarah Palin's sagging favorability," among other things, as an influence.


Doubts about Palin Grow, even among Conservatives

By Linda Feldmann
The Christian Science Monitor [September 30, 2008]

In just a month, Sarah Palin has gone from being the darling of the GOP to a major question mark hanging over John McCain’s candidacy at a critical moment in the presidential campaign.

The appealing, reform-minded governor of Alaska, whose surprise selection as Senator McCain’s running mate electrified Republicans at their convention last month, now faces questions from prominent conservatives over whether she’s up to being a potential president – especially at a time of international financial turmoil. All eyes will be on her Thursday night when she debates Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden, a veteran senator from Delaware.

After some rough TV interviews and dead-on parodies of Palin on “Saturday Night Live” that have reinforced the questions, she risks becoming 2008’s Dan Quayle – the young Indiana senator plucked from obscurity for the GOP’s 1988 ticket, who never overcame early stumbles and a light-weight image. Mr. Quayle did not prevent the top of the ticket, George H. W. Bush, from becoming president. But the times are different: The bad economy, unpopular wars, and an unpopular president all slant the playing field toward the Democrats this year.

One by one, conservative columnists such as David Frum, David Brooks, and Kathleen Parker have come out against Palin, calling her in effect not ready for prime time. Among voters, polls show that initial enthusiasm for Palin has slipped, though the overall race remains competitive.

Still, the willingness of conservative opinion leaders to state their reservations out loud is striking, and may indicate growing doubts among Republican rank and file.


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