The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Know-Nothing Veep: How the VPILF Broke My Heart

...the trouble is that...the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. - Bertrand Russell, "The Triumph of Stupidity"


I'll admit it: John McCain had already broken my heart--wooing religious demagogues he once denounced, proposing unfunded tax cuts he once decried, and slinging mud he once disdained--such that I wasn't going to vote for his ticket even if he chose a resurrected Mother Teresa as his running mate. But I must say that when I first heard and saw Sarah Palin, I was impressed. Yes, her relatively thin résumé undermined the Republican argument that Obama was "inexperienced," but what a talker! (And what a looker!) She rightfully gave the campaign a fresh, reform-minded, outsider--and, let's not forget it, feminine--jolt of energy.

Over the subsequent weeks, I saw snippets of interviews and, despite her masterful performance at the RNC, a few doubts began to seep in: Was she really up to the job? Or were these just a "gotcha" moments of nervousness?

Then I saw SNL's parody of her interview with Katie Couric. In it, Tina Fey (born for the role) responds to a question about the Wall Street Bailout with a nonsensical talking-point stream of consciousness. Hilarious. It reminded me of Miss Teen South Carolina 2007's much-played YouTube moment. (I'm not the only one.) But truth is stranger than fiction: the line was almost verbatim from the real interview. It was so embarrassing, even Ross Douthat, a thoughtful Republican writer who had suggested Palin as a VP pick early on, cringed.

Noam Scheiber's article put the final nail in my "I love Sarah" coffin. He describes her start in politics on the Wasilla city council, and her meteoric rise to the Governorship. What emerges is a portrait not only of a opportunistic power-grabber (let's be honest: what politician--Obama included--is not?) but, more disturbingly, a spiteful, willfully ignorant ideologue who not only didn't know simple aspects of government but who didn't care to learn. In short, she has more in common with the current President than just saying "nucular": she takes a perverse pride in her simple-mindedness.

It's this shoot-from-the-hip, loyalty-over-competence, don't-think-things-through, we-don't-do-nuance approach that got us into so much trouble under the current administration. Paul Krugman laments that the GOP, once the "party of ideas" has "become the party of stupid...the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise."

It's too bad: I once believed that John McCain was the sort of thoughtful rebel who could buck the GOP's current trend of ideological handcuffs and know-nothing ersatz-redneck stupidity. Alas, whichever way this election goes, we'll have to wait at least four more years to see if the party of Lincoln can live up to its former greatness.

Update: William F. Buckley's son also apparently feels the same disappointment at the "new" McCain.

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