Beast of the Month - November 2008
Republican VP Candidate
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"Oh! Oh! Remember the time he picked Sarah Palin? I totally get it now! She's totally unqualified, and he's so old! There's a really good chance she'd be president!"
Stephen Colbert on John McCain's wacky sense of humor
Well, the 2008 election is over, and, for the first time in twelve years, George W. Bush didn't steal it. This, of course, is worthy of celebration, although the celebration so far seems misguided, misguided in a way that seems by design.
The korporate media, which has shilled for Barack Obama shamelessly throughout the campaign, went into overdrive, declaring the election was confirmation of what an amazing and transformational figure he was. Oh, and by the way, did we mention he was black? The two lessons of the election, therefore, were that Obama is totally rad and America is no longer racist (the only reason anyone could possibly be opposed to someone as awesome as Barack Obama.)
It's curious that while the establishment media was so quick to give Obama all the credit for the victory, they failed to point (and give) the finger to the one person who deserves credit for John McCain's loss: George W. Bush. After all, it is really Bush who loomed over the entire election like a frightening specter, and it is Bush who has given the entire GOP a deserved bad name. It is Bush and his disasters that turned both houses of Congress decidedly to the Democrats, and it is Bush in the end who convinced American voters to reject a fairly well-liked former Vietnam POW for an entity whose magnetic charisma couldn't cover how decidedly untrustworthy he is. The impossible hurdle facing McCain was hilariously spoofed on a Saturday Night Live guest-starring Will Ferrell as George W. Bush. Sounding like George Jr., Ferrell declared in a fake ad for McCain: "John was there for me ninety percent of the time over the last eight years. When you think of John McCain, think of me, George W. Bush. Think of this face. When you're in the voting booth, before you vote - picture this face right here. A vote for John McCain is a vote for George W. Bush. You're welcome." With that kind of background, a ham sandwich labeled "Democrat" would've been able to beat John McCain.
This, of course, is no mere trivial fact. If the election was a referendum on Bush and the last eight years, then that would mean the public was demanding economics that serve the middle class, working class and poor rather than mere crony capitalism and Wall Street bailouts, an end to the Iraq quagmire and a rejection of the militarism that has led to potential conflict with Pakistan, Iran and even both Russia and China, and an end to the massive criminality that has led to legalized torture and big brother snooping. If, on the other hand, the meaning of the election is that Barack Obama is just totally bitching, then nothing is demanded of him, indeed, everything is merely demanded of us, that we cry at his transcendental speeches and cheer him on in his sheer perfection.
Aside from George W. Bush, there's another dude who has evaded much of the blame for the loss in the election of John McCain: John McCain himself. From the start of the campaign, he appeared clueless, delusional and desperate, pathetically clinging to every right wing talking point to convince (unsuccessfully) the dwindling hardcore Republicans he was one of them. Meanwhile, he tied himself more closely to George W. Bush on Iraq than any other elected official alive, dooming him to be linked to that gigantic failure. And while the financial meltdown unraveled, all he could do was repeat the same old Republican mantras, mantras that only reminded the public that they've already had eight years too many of this crap. Still, when the election was all over, the korporate media felt sorry for the guy that, until he faced off against St. Obama, was one of their decided BFFs in the GOP. He wasn't so bad after all, they insisted, just a good man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The same couldn't be said about their treatment of Sarah Palin, The Konformist Beast of the Month, McCain's VP pick and the decided scapegoat of the 2008 election.
It didn't actually start out that way. When she was first announced as the pick by McCain, she became a populist sensation, a "hockey mom" turned Alaska governor who could match the celebrity cult devoted to Obama. It didn't hurt that "Caribou Barbie" was an attractive former beauty queen, looking MILFish with her trademark glasses and eerily similar to Tina Fey (something she would soon regret) or porn star Eva Angelina. Though there were nasty sneers about her in the establishment press from the start (for example, during the GOP convention, NBC blowhard Tom Brokaw could barely conceal his contempt for her) she gave an ass-kicking convention speech that cemented her popularity in the public, and suddenly, McCain passed Mr. Rock Star in the polls. This didn't appear to be a mere post-convention bounce, it appeared to be a game changer.
About right now, The Konformist should insert a little point: unlike most of the press which seemed stunned by her selection, we were indeed aware of her and not completely surprised. She was, after all, very attractive and charismatic, as well as the most popular governor in America according to public opinion polls. However, we pretty much dismissed her as a pick because, as any examination of her politics would reveal, she was a far right ideologue who, when exposed for what she was, would become quickly discredited, especially by a public with widespread loathing of the right wing policies of Bush, Cheney and co.
Tellingly, Obama didn't attack her on ideological lines. Instead, with his predictable level of smug arrogance (a decidedly notable trait of the guy) he mocked her as inexperienced, a curious claim from a dude with less than four years in the Senate and no record as either a mayor or governor. Why did Obama avoid pointing out that she was an ultra-right candidate? Perhaps because Obama's modus operandi is to evade all discussion of politics in politics, in hopes of reducing the campaign to a narcissistic cult of personality where issues are ignored.
What then followed from the Obamaheads were the predictable hack attacks, some laced with sexism in politics not seen since, well, since the Obamaheads went after Hillary. They were egged on by Obama himself, who took her now famous convention quote ("What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.") and declared about McCain-Palin less than a week after her speech: "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig." The smirky comment echoed his not-so-subtle middle finger during a speech while referring to Hillary in the heat of the Democratic primary, or this comment from him about Ms. Clinton's political attacks: "I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal." (No reference to female biology in that statement whatsoever!) As with the Hillary comments (which, unlike the Palin dig, were basically ignored by the korporate media, as they were clearly mean-spirited if intentional) Obama would later insist the "lipstick on a pig" comment in no way referred to Palin. (As if somebody using the word "lipstick" in a political context less than a week after the GOP Convention could in any way be referring to her or her speech!) The Obamamaniacs followed in kind, and Palin became a point of almost obsessive derision, leading to charming things like Obama rallies where t-shirts declaring "SARAH PALIN IS A CUNT" were on open display. (Good thing "liberal" politics have removed sexism from the political debate!) Meanwhile, a West Hollywood Halloween display had a Palin effigy in a hangman's noose, something that probably would have been labeled slightly politically incorrect if it was Obama instead. But the multiple cases of sexist insults of Palin were pretty much downplayed by the korporate media, who instead focused on the theme that Sarah Palin and McCain voters were a bunch of racist, hate-filled inbreds.
Indeed, the mainstream press seemed to have a hard-on for destroying Palin from the start, mocking her credentials while latching on to news her seventeen-year-old daughter was pregnant. The message behind these attacks: Palin was a cross-eyed hillbilly with a slut for a daughter who was unfit for office. Unfortunately for the korporate media, Palin-fever was so high after her convention speech, they toned down the criticisms.
This was merely a reprieve. As it turned out, Palin wasn't the big game-changer of the election, it was the financial crisis. As the economic downturn that hit Main Street suddenly swallowed Wall Street, derisions of Palin went into overdrive. The fixation of heaping hatred on Palin was so unhealthy, you'd think McCain's pick for VP had done something like shoot a friend in the face while drunk, or mastermind a pointlessly destructive war in the Middle East based on lies.
Okay, The Konformist no doubt knows what some readers are saying right now: this is the Beast of the Month prize here, you should be burying the bitch and not defending her. Fair enough. And we admit that many of the mockings of Palin were pretty damn funny, starting with the Stephen Colbert quote above. There's also this one from Matt Damon on Palin: "It's like a really bad Disney movie. The hockey mom, you know, 'Oh, I'm just a hockey mom.' And she's facing down President Putin... It's totally absurd..." (Personally, we think this is a pretty good movie pitch, and expect it to be in theaters in 2009, with Ice Cube in a supporting role as the goofy-but-lovable neighbor.) And then there's the increasingly hysterical performances by Tina Fey on SNL as Palin, performances that were so effective in mockery they pretty much trashed Palin's chances as a viable political candidate. Even a good-sport guest appearance on SNL by Palin couldn't stop the damage that had been done.
Still, The Konformist is about honesty, especially when others are being dishonest. So granted, Palin may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but for a party that has had Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle and George W. Bush as previous top two figureheads, is she really at the bottom of the curve? Sure, she looked bad in her interview with Katie Couric (so mock-worthy that Fey and SNL satirized her without changing her many bungled quotes) but did Couric suddenly get street-cred as a legitimate journalist by doing what was essentially a calculated smear job?
Let's compare Palin's treatment to her competitor in the VP contest, Joe Biden, a guy considered to be one of the more intelligent fellows in the Senate. Despite the gravitas he is given for his vast knowledge base, Biden is also known to be a virtual gaffe machine. Probably his most embarrassing one on the campaign trail this fall was declaring "the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs." This gaffe was given a few chuckles in the mainstream press, but no doubt if Palin said the same, it would've turned into "Potatoe-gate II" by the media.
Here's something to give a clue how rigged the game was: a list (courtesy of the No Quarter Blog) of the questions asked by another anchor, ABC's Charlie Gibson, to both Barack Obama (after securing the Democratic nomination) and Sarah Palin:
* How does it feel to break a glass ceiling?
* How does it feel to "win"?
* How does your family feel about your “winning” breaking a glass ceiling?
* Who will be your VP?
* Should you choose Hillary Clinton as VP?
* Will you accept public finance?
* What issues is your campaign about?
* Will you visit Iraq?
* Will you debate McCain at a town hall?
* What did you think of your competitor’s [Clinton] speech?
* Do you have enough qualifications for the job you’re seeking? Specifically have you visited foreign countries and met foreign leaders?
* Aren’t you conceited to be seeking this high level job?
* Questions about foreign policy:
-territorial integrity of Georgia
-allowing Georgia and Ukraine to be members of NATO
-Iranian nuclear threat
-what to do if Israel attacks Iran
-Al Qaeda motivations
-the Bush Doctrine
-attacking terrorists harbored by Pakistan
* Is America fighting a holy war?
Meanwhile, here's a good case against Ms. Palin that could've been presented, but was mainly ignored:
* SHE'S A RIGHT-WING HARDCORE CHRISTIAN: Thanks to George W. Bush, the ultra-right fundamentalist movement is in shambles, and John McCain has almost no influence among them. Palin is the best hope for the "Moral Majority" crowd to remain a powerful voting bloc, rather than become increasingly marginalized and disappear as a force in the political arena altogether.
* SHE'S A BIG PUSSY: Despite being a major media sensation, the McCain campaign was notoriously paranoid about letting her do anything crazy, like, say, speaking to the press. Her only encounters with the media were her VP debate with Joe Biden, and her interviews with Gibson and Couric. (Sorry, Sean Hannity, your softball interview doesn't count.) She didn't hold a single press conference during her campaign. What, is Palin trying to hide that she's secretly an idiot or something?
* HER CLAIM TO BE A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE IS A CROCK: Despite her far right leanings, her boast of being opposed to "big government" is, like it was for Reagan and Shrub, a lie. Under her six-year reign as Mayor of Wasilla, the city's debt grew from $1 million to $25 million (which for a city of 7,000 residents equals an extra $3,500 debt per capita) despite receiving an extra $27 million in federal funds. The city's budget grew 55% during her reign, while taxes increased by 43%, fueled by a 0.5 percent sales tax increase she personally pushed for. As Alaska governor, her 2007 operating budget was a record $6.6 billion, and in 2008 it went up to $11 billion, a 67 percent increase. When she ran for governor, she supported funding the now infamous Gravina Island Bridge, known as the "Bridge to Nowhere" thanks to its dubious merits, for which Alaska received $442 million. As governor, she cancelled the project but kept the money. Later, during the GOP, she disingenuously claimed she said "thanks, but no thanks, on that bridge to nowhere."
* SHE'S A WANNABE BOOK BANNER: This was such a widespread email rumor, it was even featured on the urban legends website Snopes.com. The korporate media, while quick to hack attack her throughout the campaign, were just as quick to dismiss this, even though the facts tell another tale. Here's the story: as a Wasilla city councilwoman, Palin had a hissy fit over the gay-friendly children's book Daddy's Roommate being in the public library. (Curiously, there's no word on her opinion about Heather Has Two Mommies.) When elected mayor, Palin asked Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Emmons on multiple times if she would okay censoring library books with "objectionable" content if asked to. Emmons told her she wouldn't do this: Palin would fire her from the job in January 1997, claiming Emmons didn't give "full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla." She reversed herself the following day after a huge public outcry. So the scoreboard reads as thus: Sarah Palin isn't a book banner, she's merely someone who was interested in banning books, then tried to fire someone opposed to such a move. There, doesn't that make you feel better about her?
* SHE'S FOR A BIG SISTER POLICE STATE: The book-banning is merely part of a bigger issue of a woman who is a petty tyrant and authoritarian. Besides the Wasilla librarian, Palin successfully fired the police chief and the museum director and forced out two others out as mayor. As governor, she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan in what appears to be a vendetta over an ex-brother-in-law. In another political feud while she was Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Chairwoman, she hacked into the computer of a fellow commissioner (a Republican, no less) to obtain evidence of wrongdoing. Add to this her GOP convention dismissal of opposition to abuse and torture of prisoners coming from Democrats like Obama who are "worried that someone won't read them their rights." The pattern emerging is of a woman who believes she is above the law and enjoys destroying her political opponents. Writer Naomi Wolf, who has increasingly warned of the rise of fascism in America, has concluded "Palin Power" is merely a Rove-ian push for a continued Bush-Cheney police state.
Instead of all this, we got the equivalent of "You might be a redneck" jokes.
Why the crude insults of Palin? Certainly a lot of this involves the Obama cult worship which seems to be centered in the mainstream press. If a ham sandwich could beat a Republican thanks to Bush, anyone who gets in the way of Barky becoming prez would be thrashed by the establishment media as well. And it doesn't hurt that Palin is pure white trash, the only racial group that can be mocked without it being labeled politically incorrect.
But perhaps the bigger reason for the hack attacks on Palin has to do with something bigger, namely the Wall Street bailout. This was, after all, the turning point in the election when the cheering for Obama and the scorn of Palin went into hyperspace. This leads to a political fact that many progressives clinging to the Democratic Party must squirm over: though the bailout was proposed by the Bush Administration, it was the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who got it passed through Congress. Indeed, Barack Obama personally took the lead in pushing the bailout through Congress. Coincidentally, even though September was one the worst months in Wall Street history with job losses beginning to explode, it was the same month he raised a record $150 million, more than double his previous record of $66 million. One has to wonder where all this money came from at a time of economic crisis.
Meanwhile, it was the hardcore conservative Republicans who were most opposed to the bailout, albeit only for ideological "free market" reasons. It is this same group of GOPers that looked upon Palin as their answer to "Obama as a savior" in politics. Unfortunately for them, McCain had decided to support the bailout, and Caribou Barbie was forced to defend something completely inconsistent with her politics. (Perhaps that is why when defending the bailout she invariably looked her most clueless.) It is telling to note that after the Wall Street crisis dominated the news, conservative establishment hacks like George Will, David Brooks and David Frum joined the chorus calling Palin unfit and began to shill for Obama. Even a still-devoted neocon like Christopher Hitchens suddenly jumped on the Obama bandwagon. This leads to a simple question: did Colin Powell endorse Barack Obama because he was black (as Rush Limbaugh would froth) or because he knows a good fellow tool for Wall Street when he sees one?
The good news is Sarah Palin may be toast as a politician thanks to Obamamania. It appears Republican competitors are already joining in the backstabbing, as rumors (likely false, and likely spread by the Mitt Romney team desiring to take over the GOP) have been spread that Palin didn't know Africa was a continent. At least we hope she is toast, but concede that political memory is short and if Nixon could comeback in 1968, anything is possible. This is especially true since there are no real charismatic Republicans waiting in the wings with the star power Palin has. (And besides, after trashing Palin for two months, will the establishment media be able to pretend Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal - two GOP governors deemed to be strong competitors with almost identical ideological slants - are any different in politics than Palin in 2012?) The bad news is if she was destroyed, it was for the wrong reasons, the end result of the thorough takeover of the Democratic Party by Wall Street plutocrats.
In any case, we salute Sarah Palin as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Sarah!!!