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September 04, 2008

On Sarah Palin's Speech (and a few others from last night)

Warning: Liberal

So, what did we think?

When she was talking about her family, I was thinking "Hm, she's not so bad. Don't think I'd want her in charge of the country, but she seems like she could be fun to hang out with, or watch on TV." That's pretty much how I feel about Mike Huckabee too, actually. I was feeling fairly positive about it all during that section.

But then she got to the second part of the speech, and all that warm fuzzy feeling went away. My overwhelming feeling was "Wow, she's so mean. And nasty. And disrespectful." Yes, the Democrats said some negative things about the Republicans last week, but I honestly don't think they were as nasty and petty and sarcastic and spiteful about it as the Republicans are being this week. They showed respect for McCain's service and for other accomplishments. The entire Republican strategy seems to be to hurl every random (true or untrue) insult they can think of. Don't they have any better ideas?

Random questions/thoughts: When did "community organizer" become a bad thing? And did she ever actually describe what she did as mayor, after the community organizer laugh line? How many hockey moms are there? It's lucky she was in Minnesota and not somewhere less ice-friendly. Why did they keep passing that poor baby around? The kids? Totally adorable. McCain on stage with the Palins really looked weird generationally - like the slightly dotty old great-uncle who sits in the corner. That effect was much more pronounced than when the Bidens and Obamas were together - maybe because the multitudinous Biden clan evened out the generational stuff. Wait, why don't we ever see McCain's grandkids? Will they be there tonight?

I thought Huckabee was fun to listen to, as always. He at least seems earnest and genuine, and therefore I respect him even when I disagree with him. And he was the only speaker who seemed to have any respect for Obama or his historic accomplishments. Romney and Giuliani both made me want to throw things. They were both whiny, and Giuliani really seems like a bully. Really, it's kind of hilarious that the former governor of Massachusetts hates all the "eastern elites" and the former mayor of New York is all anti-"cosmopolitan" places. Do people actually buy into this? I just don't get it. Oh, and I still don't get what the big deal is about Carly Fiorina - before this, wasn't she primarily known for running HP into the ground? Why is she a good example?

"I just don't get it" might be a good summary of my reaction to all of it, actually. Time after time, I found myself asking myself (and the poor friends receiving my many e-mails and IMs) whether people (not necessarily the speakers, but the intended audience) actually believed that these things they're saying are true. I just... can't conceive of it. A lot of it was like, oh, when I try to read French, even though I never studied it, but based on my knowledge of Latin and Spanish and Italian. I could get the gist, but it just didn't quite make sense. Statements being presented as causal seemed completely unrelated.

Okay, here's an example of something that just seemed absurd. Palin said that one of the things Obama seeks to accomplish is "to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world." If she had said that his other goals would have that effect, then okay, she could make an argument, and I probably wouldn't agree with it, but I could understand it as a point of view. But no. She said that that, in itself, was his goal. As in, he wakes up in the morning and thinks "Now, what can I do to make America weaker today?" Do people really believe this? That's not entirely rhetorical. If any of you do believe this, please say so. I want to understand. It's driving me crazy.

As I said, I just don't get it. I've never really bought into the whole red/blue America, two different countries, blah blah blah thing. I believe things are more mixed, more complicated, more nuanced. But after last night I'm wondering if that was just me being idealistic. Because my Republican friends (friends! people with whom I have a lot in common, in many cases!) found last week's speeches as incomprehensible as I found last night's, maybe the country really is more impossibly - and irreparably - divided than I ever wanted to believe.

Posted by Kat at September 4, 2008 12:44 PM

I think the only time there's a red/blue divide is when the Republicans are doing everything they can to drive wedges between us. Their insistence that anyone who doesn't agree with them and look like them is not only wrong, but unAmerican and going to hell is what drives this mind numbing culture war. That's why Obama's 2004 speech captured so much attention. We coach Little League in the blue states and we have gay friends in the red states.

I grew up in a small town too with blue collar friends and family who hunt and fish although we don't eat moose stew. (We would if there were moose in Indiana, I'm sure.) And I get annoyed when the "cultural elites" deride "fly-over country". But I never think that those "cultural elites" hate America or are trying to destroy truth, justice and the American way.

I agree with you on Palin's speech. She seemed nice enough talking about her family. But for her to make fun of Obama's service to the country is ridiculous. Does service only count if you're getting a government salary?

Posted by: Sonya at September 4, 2008 01:50 PM

I find it hard to fathom, also. But my BIL, the lone Republican in a family of Democrats, and an otherwise intelligent man, believes this stuff to be the truth.

Posted by: Marlyn at September 4, 2008 02:02 PM

I wouldn't say that Obama wakes up in the morning wanting to weaken America, but I will say that a strong America as I see it is not one of his priorities, and that his policies in general will tend to make us weaker. Which, honestly, I'm sure is what Palin was getting at.

I can't get that Democrats don't see that they are just as divisive as Republicans are -- after all, you know, we are those anti-choice warmongers who want little boys and girls to be without healthcare, and, yes, who cling bitterly to our guns and our religion (hey, *he* said it, I didn't). Yes, we find Democrats' speeches just as repellent as Democrats find Republican speeches. You also have to consider the audience, in both cases. These are people trying to motivate the people in their own camp -- it's a pep rally. You don't go to a high-school pep rally and shout, "Well, you know, that other team *does* have a really good defense." It's not that you ignore their defense when you're planning the game, or refuse to acknowledge that they have any skill when talking rationally in mixed company, or get in mud-fights with the parents of the opposing players if you meet them on the street. But the point of a pep rally is to sing your own praises and get your people really, really excited. That's what the conventions are for, too.

I loved her speech. I agree with her on every issue where I've seen her positions and I think she's an awesome human being. And yet I'm an intelligent, educated, thinking, compassionate, loving, tolerant, patriotic American -- living, by the way, in a blue state my whole life. Just as I know that Kat is all those things as well, and sees things differently.

Posted by: Rachel at September 4, 2008 02:59 PM

We watch these speeches with our own filters-- I am not accusing you of not having an open mind, but if you feel strongly about something then it's a lot harder to take in the opposite.

This is not intended to sound like an indictment and I apologize if it does. The jabs at the Republicans during the DNC probably didn't seem as petty or rude to you as those thrown at the Dems during the RNC, because you most likely agreed with them. Schoolyard politics-- it's a lot easier to make fun of someone you don't like than it is to make fun of someone you do like. And why would anyone be insulted by a comment made by someone you like and agree with, about a group of people you disagree with, no matter how offensive and untrue it might be?

On a more personal note, I've been told that I'm unpatriotic, that I'm a neo-Nazi, that I'm not a good feminist, that I'm not an intelligent person, that I don't deserve to keep what I've worked for & earned, that I should just "go back to where I came from" (yes, I ought to be deported to Massachusetts!) etc etc... because I don't vote Democrat. I laugh a little when liberals-- allegedly the more tolerant, caring, accepting group-- resort to ad-hominem attacks. If someone really thinks their opinion is correct, why won't that person show me with facts instead of beating me over the head with the "I'm-better-than-you" stick?

Sorry for the tangent.

Posted by: ali at September 4, 2008 03:04 PM

I'll respond to some things more specifically via e-mail later, but I wanted to say...

Rachel (and Sonya), I do see that both parties are divisive. What I was trying to get at was more that a) the tone seemed nastier at the RNC than the DNC and b) both were clearly trying to get the bases excited, but it seemed that DNC was more "Yay us!" and RNC was more "Boo them!"

And Ali, yes, we totally all have our own filters. But I hope that I would be offended by untrue, offensive insults even if they were against people I didn't agree with. Do you have examples of these from the DNC? I don't remember the same kind of personal attacks, but as you said, maybe I just missed it.

And Ali and Rachel, I hope it is clear that I am not trying to call anyone stupid or unpatriotic or anything. I really am trying to understand a viewpoint very different from my own.

Posted by: Kat with a K at September 4, 2008 03:23 PM

Although I consider myself a Democrat, living in New Hampshire has put me in touch with my inner conservative/libertarian. Taxes should be as low as possible, but economic stability and high standards of living demand a certain amount of government control. Pro-choice, but can see why someone might consider abortion murder.

I get upset when Democrats distort, like when Obama says McCain "wants" us to stay in Iraq for 100 years. And the smarmy "Bush - oops, I mean McCain, I can't tell them apart!" jokes got old real fast.

Attacks are fine - as long as they're legitimate and substantial. Claiming Obama hates small towns is neither. Calling people "elites" is an empty insult that means nothing. Referring to Democrats as "Big Brother" is laughable given the current administration's wiretapping and detention policies. Outright lying and ridicule is not acceptable just because you're trying to excite your base. A convention is NOT a pep rally, because an election is NOT a football game.

Posted by: Jack at September 4, 2008 04:17 PM

Don't miss this Jon Stewart video piece on the pre-Palin/post-Palin difference in the conversative right's opinions on the various situations:


(If that link doesn't work, it's on youtube.)

Posted by: Nita at September 4, 2008 04:17 PM

I'm probably going to sound a bit crazy here, but I think this sort of nonsense is why the "Great Experiment", which is what the founding fathers called democracy, might be failing.

Read the inaugural addresses of George Washington. "On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies." What humility. What class.

In fact, the whole speech is right at http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres13.html Compare that to what we have today. We're degenerating. We're moving from high oratory to schoolyard taunts.

The rhetoric of politics was once one of policy and vision. Read this lovely speech from a prior RNC, one where the selected candidate was a gentleman named Abraham Lincoln. http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/house.htm Nothing said this week can be set beside this, except to pale miserably besides Mr. Lincoln's words.

Posted by: Ivy at September 4, 2008 04:55 PM
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