2008 - %3, September

Maybe It's Not Sexist, But Let's Leave It Alone Anyway

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 4:43 PM EDT

I don't disagree with Stephanie often, but I guess there's always a first time, and I really don't think it's any of our business how long Sarah Palin chose to take off after giving birth. Who knows what the circumstances were? Whether she was able to bring the baby to the office? What other reasons there might have been for why she felt compelled to do what she did? Can't we hold more than one idea in our heads at the same time: Disagree with Palin's choices in politics (including the ironic choice to deny women a choice... but I digress), without taking issue with her decisions as a person? Can't we fight for every woman's and every man's right to family leave (and flex time, and job-sharing, and the whole work-life agenda that dropped out of the national discourse sometime in the 80s thanks in large part to GOP culture warriors--but I digress again) without worrying that one very prominent working mother's choices will undercut our whole argument? (If our argument is that weak, we have other problems.) For an example of how to do all this better, let's see how France's Minister of Justice works it out--as a single mom, no less.

Oh, and while we're at it: When Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick wonder, in their otherwise excellent Slate piece: "Is it passing judgment to observe that for most mothers, a pregnant teenager is a sign of parenting gone awry?" all I can say is, um, my first assumption would be birth control gone awry. I know it's not going to happen, but I really, really wish we'd just focus on stuff like Palin's global-warming denialism.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Calm Down

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

CALM DOWN....For what it's worth, can I once again plead with everyone to settle down? Since her initial introduction on the national stage last Friday, Sarah Palin has given two prepared speeches. That. Is. It. Two speeches.

Look: maybe she'll turn out to be the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Who knows? But can we at least wait maybe two or three weeks before we declare that liberals everywhere should be quaking in their boots over the resurgent power of culture war politics with a pretty face? Come on, folks.

It's Not Sexist To Talk About Palin As A Parent

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 3:22 PM EDT

Last night during the GOP convention, Rudy Giuliani suggested that the media interest in Sarah Palin's family soap opera was the product of blatant sexism. It's a compelling argument because women in politics are indeed subject to the old double-standards. But in this case, I think Palin's family dynamics are a legitimate issue. Her parenthood reflects on what Republicans kept harping on last night: character. How Palin has conducted herself as a parent speaks volumes about what kind of a human being she is. It's also a fair line of inquiry for someone thin on experience who wants to be a heartbeat away from the presidency--and one not reserved for women.

Earlier in the campaign, pundits questioned John Edwards' decision to run for president when his wife was suffering from cancer. Lots of voters found it disturbing, and the issue only died after Elizabeth Edwards herself insisted forcefully that it had been her choice to continue the campaign. Likewise, it's not sexist to wonder why Palin couldn't be bothered to take even a few days off work to get to know the new, premature special needs baby that she didn't abort. Even most men these days take a little time off to meet their newborns. It's not like she was going to get fired.

More telling about Palin, though, is how she has handled her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy. Palin has said that her family is simply dealing with the types of challenges faced by millions of other families. But in times of crisis, most families tend to close ranks, to create a protective bubble around their vulnerable children. What to make the "hockey mom" who instead turned her daughter's troubles into tabloid fare? Unlike Elizabeth Edwards, Bristol Palin is not old enough for informed consent; her mother hasn't said whether she had a say in all this. But I suspect that if a man had chosen to jump into the national spotlight at the expense of his child like this, the family-values crowd might have eaten him alive. Instead, conservatives are swooning, and those of us who aren't are just sexist.

Peggy Noonan's Chutzpah

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 3:07 PM EDT

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but in all the excitement about Peggy Noonan's off-mic dissing (which she has now clarified--uh-huh), did anyone point out the pot-calling-kettle factor? This is the woman whose speeches helped make Ronald Reagan snickering about "political bullshit about narratives." Then again, it was kind of Chutzpah Night in St. Paul. Could you believe Rudy "Small Town Boy" Giuliani?

Market Update

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 2:43 PM EDT

MARKET UPDATE....The stock market dropped 250 points this morning following last night's speech from Sarah Palin. Obviously Wall Street is terrified, even though the lying liberal media is doing its best to pretend the causes lie elsewhere. Just sayin'.

The Bering Strait

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 2:38 PM EDT

THE BERING STRAIT....Yes, this is possibly the dumbest political argument ever. And that's against some pretty stiff competition. The fact that Republicans have to keep making it tells you something.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Rudy's Ego

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

RUDY'S EGO....Jonathan Martin confirms what I suspected while I was watching Rudy Giuliani's frequently off-script jeers last night:

These extemporaneous comments, many of which drew huge applause, made the former New York mayor's speech run much longer than planned. So much so, that a convention-planner confirms that they had to scrap a planned video ahead of Palin's speech.

If I were in charge of the convention I would be seriously pissed off at Giuliani for this. Sure, he brought the convention hall crowd to its feet, but I'll bet his over-the-top mockery didn't play very well with the home audience. Conversely, the folks at home love those biographical videos. They're really very effective. If they had to ditch Palin's video because Giuliani was busy milking the adulation of the crowd and boosting his future speaking fees, it might end up costing them a close state or two. You never know. And all to feed hizzoner's titanic ego.

Pakistan Update

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 1:30 PM EDT

PAKISTAN UPDATE....Here's the latest news from the border regions of Pakistan:

Helicopter-borne American Special Operations forces attacked Qaeda militants in a Pakistani village near the border with Afghanistan early Wednesday in the first publicly acknowledged case of United States forces conducting a ground raid on Pakistani soil, American officials said.

....The commando raid by the American forces signaled what top American officials said could be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been advocating for months within President Bush's war council.

This is, apparently, all that we know. None of the news reports I read gave even a tiny clue about what this raid was about, whether any high-value targets were killed or captured, or what instigated it.

But I wonder what the political fallout is going to be? In one of those weird inversions that you occasionally get in presidential campaigns, Barack Obama is semi-committed to supporting this kind of action and John McCain is semi-committed to opposing it. Both would probably prefer to stay quiet about this particular raid, but what if the Times is right and this is just the "opening salvo in a much broader campaign"? Then they have to say something. But what? McCain strongly criticized Obama earlier in the year when Obama suggested he might follow actionable intelligence over the border ("Pakistan is a sovereign nation," McCain said), but that's not a winning formula in these latter days of base-appeasing jingoism. So I imagine he'll change his mind on this. There's an election to win, after all.

Quote of the Day

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 1:08 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Dan Schnur, former campaign spokesman for John McCain, on his erstwhile boss:

"He is the best apologizer in politics."

Yeah, I've noticed that. Maybe McCain should spend a little more time actually living up to his vaunted code of honor instead of breaking it whenever it's convenient and then ostentatiously whipping himself for it later in order to burnish his political reputation.

City Mice

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 12:39 PM EDT

CITY MICE....Ezra Klein points to a small panel of Detroit voters who commented on Sarah Palin's speech last night and notes that, of all the groups, it was the independents who were least impressed. Here's a sampling:

It appears that once she makes up her mind, that is the end of it....She was a Republican novelty act with a sophomoric script....I still don't know anymore about this young lady tonight than I did last night....Her speech contained few statements about policy or the party platform....I found her barrage of snide remarks and distortions to be a major turn off....I thought she would appear more professional, more stateswomanly. She's no match for Joe Biden.

Obviously this is a tiny group of people and may or may not represent anything larger. We'll have to wait for next week's polls to find out more on that score. But it does suggest that the snide mockery and withering sarcasm that both Palin and Rudy Giuliani delivered last night might be more of a turnoff to apolitical voters than the GOP thinks. (And, conversely, that just as audiences liked Bill Clinton's policy-heavy laundry lists better than the jaded DC press did, it may be that voters prefer a little more substance and gravitas in settings like this too.)

And me? Well, on a purely personal note, the most grating part of Palin's speech (and Giuliani's) was their reliance — yet again — on the trope that the only true Americans are those from small towns in the heartland. As a native Californian, that stuff just drives me up the wall. This smoldering esthetic resentment, eagerly stoked by the GOP every fours years since at least Nixon, relies on the myth that us coastal urbanites spend all our time looking down our patrician noses at anyone who lives outside the city limits, and it's dangerous, divisive, and annoying as hell. What's more, as near as I can tell, it's completely backwards. Far from criticizing small town life, America celebrates it. Liberals celebrate it. Politicians celebrate it. Everyone celebrates it. I can hardly turn on the TV without hearing that, compared with the hardworking everymen and women who populate the prairies and put food on our tables, anyone who lives where I do is degenerate, suspiciously cosmopolitan, and one step away from turning the country over to the UN.

Feh. I know this is hardly new or uniquely American. And it's designed for specifically political reasons. And it works and it wins elections and that's all conservatives care about. And this is exactly the reaction they're trying to sucker me into. But it still annoys me, and for some reason everyone feels like they have to continue playing this game forever. It's time to stop it.