Mojo - September 2008

Fact-Checking Sarah Palin

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Listening to Palin's speech, I was a little awed by how far she stretched, or outright obliterated, truths about herself and Obama. One example: "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change." Did she forget that she ran both her mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns on being different from the incumbent? Here's a nice summary of other untruths Palin broadcast to the nation last night. For the convention crowd, Palin's speech may have been a "home run," but from a fact-checker's perspective, it was a strikeout.

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

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 3:43 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.

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

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 2:22 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 2:07 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?

Clinton v. Palin, Anyone?

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 12:59 AM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

That wasn't Sarah Palin running for Vice President tonight. It was Palin running for President, reaching straight for the hearts of small town America, fists pumping the air, lips blowing kisses.

No matter who wins this year, I predict Palin will be on the ticket in 2012. If Obama/Biden win, Palin has just been groomed to be the GOP pick for 2012. And, if McCain/Palin win, well… she's next in line for the GOP nomination. And who do you think would be the Democrat? A Clinton/Palin fight could present a fascinating and less muddled arena in which the actual views and policies of two women trump their gender.

On the election at hand, progressives should over- rather than underestimate Palin's ability to debate Joe Biden, and concentrate on picking apart the policies she and McCain represent. Palin has shown she is tough enough to stand up to Biden, and that she can figure out what she needs to communicate (probably, even without a prompter). And maybe that's a good thing for all of us. It may bring more attention to the national issues, and less to her personal ones.

Palin's Big Night: A Win for McCain--And a Possible Worry for Democrats

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 12:49 AM EDT

The speech was the easy part. But she did it well.

Delivering the most anticipated vice presidential acceptance speech in modern political history, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accomplished the mission. She talked family, biography, policy, and John McCain. Especially John McCain the POW. And--Democrats beware--she demonstrated she's handy with a rhetorical stiletto and can slice Barack Obama and Joe Biden while flashing a stylish smile.

The 44-year-old Palin did not wipe out questions about her experience. She did not address allegations she had abused her office while serving as a small-town mayor and as a governor. She did not defend her more extreme social positions, such as her support for teaching creationism. But in politics, performance counts for much. And for a little-known politician who had been hunkered down for days, as negative stories and rumors flew about, she had a helluva opening night. Next, Palin will have to face the media--one of the targets of her speech--fielding presumably tough queries about her actions (and life) in Alaska and her foreign policy experience (or lack thereof). But for the night, she held her own--and showed that she has the potential to be a fierce and effective critic of the Obama-Biden ticket.

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Next Time McCain Says Palin Commanded the Alaska Guard, Laugh

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

On Wednesday, ABC News' Charlie Gibson interviewed John McCain. An excerpt:

GIBSON: Senator, since I've been following politics, every single presidential nominee has said that the first quality they look for in a vice presidential pick is the capability and the readiness to take over as president. Can you look the country straight in the eye and say Sarah Palin has the qualities and has enough experience to be commander in chief?
MCCAIN: Oh, absolutely. Having been the governor of our largest state, the commander of their National Guard.

Later in the interview, McCain said, "Governor Palin knows the surge has succeeded. She's the commander of the Alaskan National Guard."

We now interrupt the spin for some facts. After interviewing the service commander of the Alaska National Guard, McClatchy newspapers reports, "Palin has never personally ordered the state guard to do anything." Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It appears she has no command experience whatsoever. The news service notes, "The governor has granted [the service commander] the authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies -- when a quick response is required -- and minor day-to-day operations."

So it's clear: when McCain and his surrogates talk about Palin's experience, the only honorable course is to not mention the Alaska National Guard.

Looking to the GOP's Finale: Too Much McCain?

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 8:50 PM EDT

The McCain campaign has informed broadcast media that they should block off an hour for McCain's acceptance speech on Thursday night. An hour? That's a lot of McCain. Or any politician. Is the campaign expecting his speech to be interrupted by numerous ovations? Does it want to prove to voters that McCain can pull off such a strenuous action?

McCain has never been accused of being a stem-winder. So even when it's time for the most important speech of his long political career, less may be more.

Why the American Dream Is Bigger than Palin or McCain

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 4:59 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

At some point today, (around the time I noticed Lindsay Lohan weighing in), I got hit with Sarah Palin overload.

Then, I realized that Palin's omnipresence isn't about John McCain or Barack Obama, or even this week's RNC. It's not about her experience or stance on issues. It's about the "Pop" American Dream.

The old American Dream is dying. Rampant economic inequality makes the cost of working hard to achieve prohibitive. In a culture where more people vote for the next American Idol than for the next president, no wonder Sarah Palin is the top story: She defines the new American Dream, where leaping to the top against all odds is the end goal in itself. Of course there are voters appalled that someone 'like her' can be a 'heartbeat away from the presidency.' But there are also plenty of voters delighted that someone 'like her' has a shot at the ultimate American Dream—a spot in the White House.

Beneath the Palin hue and cry lie issues that will determine the next American Dream for 99 percent of America.

Those issues include the housing foreclosure and default crisis and the exponential growth in credit card debt. And they include a need to shift the tax burden, health care costs, and retirement risk away from the middle and poorer classes—so that they can afford an American Dream built on dedicated hard work.

That's why it's so important we get back to debating the issues, rather than Sarah Palin's personal life.

—Nomi Prins

Peggy Noonan: "It's Over"

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Love those hot mics! Here's video of Mike Murphy, an old McCain hand from 2000, and Peggy Noonan, a former Reagan speechwriter, talking off camera about John McCain's vice presidential pick. They are, shall we say, less than sanguine about the choice.