September 7, 2008

Palin's Contradictions

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From the corners of a poorly lit room in Collegetown and rising from the chambers of an art deco style dorm down in our nation’s Capital, we bring you Muckracking for Pennies. Here at MFP, our goal is to bring you the news from an insider’s perspective as Donial Dastgir’10 works from DC and Liz Manapsal’10 writes from Ithaca. We’ll blog about important news and events but also take time out to blog about news that might not make it to the front page of the newspaper but still have impact on college students and the nation at large. This is our first edition.

For better or worse, Wednesday night belonged to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

In a night that saw speeches by former Republican presidential candidates Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Palin, McCain’s newly appointed running mate, held court in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the first time, in front of the largest number of people she’d spoken to in her political career.

Peppered with military references to both McCain’s time spent in Vietnam and family serving overseas, Palin’s speech had a galvanizing effect upon the audience at the convention — her words were often interrupted by applause and cheers, as well as the required booing that followed Palin’s condemnation of the media. It was not at the level of rhetoric as was seen consistently at last week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, but it did not want to be. In fact, Palin was quick to deride Obama (who she referred to only as “our opponent,” without naming him directly for most of her speech) for his rhetoric skill, contrasting him with McCain in a manner that suggested that Obama was all talk, while McCain was focused on action, rather than words.

“We’ve all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers,” Palin said. “But, when the cloud of rhetoric has passed…and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot…what exactly is our opponent’s plan?” George w. Bush used similar columns to address the audience in his own convention speech four years ago.

In Palin’s eyes, Obama promised a more Federalist style of government with a strong center in Washington, and sought to reduce America’s power in the world.

Palin mused, “What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger … take more of your money … give you more orders from Washington … and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.”

Palin also derided Obama’s opposition to increased oil drilling and criticized his lack of experience in his time as a senator both in Congress and in Illinois. But not so fast Palin–it seems as recently as August 27, Gov. Palin approved of Obama’s energy plan according to Versionista, which tracks changes to websites. To see changes made to all campaign-related websites such as those of McCain and Obama, visit Slate.

“Listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform – not even in the state senate,” Paulin said.
She also focused on her life in Alaska, both as a governor and as a mother. She trumpeted her successes as governor, making note of Alaska’s surplus, and emphasized her choices to sell her predecessor’s private jet on eBay as well as her choice to drive to work in her Volkswagen.

Palin made mention of all of her children, noting that her oldest son, Track, was serving in the army and was to be deployed to Iraq (somewhat ominously) on September 11th. She also obliquely referenced her youngest son Trig’s down syndrome, referring to him as a “special” child who deserved “special love.” We’re intrigued as to why she didn’t say outright that Trig has Down syndrome, rather than applying a euphemism to it.

But, even more interesting was her only passing acknowledgement of her three daughters, including Bristol, her eldest daughter, who is 5 months pregnant with her own child. We thought she’d comment on this, as there has been so much scrutiny on her and how thoroughly McCain had vetted Palin. Obama was right to not attack Palin for family, but as she has been chosen to bring her children into the spotlight with this speech, and it is odd to be selective with information that is already known.

Though Palin criticized her opponents for looking down on her time as the mayor of a small-town in Alaska, she was guilty of a similar smear tactic Wednesday night when she said, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.” Her words, mocking Obama’s time as a community organizer, could easily be seen as a disregard for people striving for progress in their community using grass-roots efforts to bring about change.

Her role as mayor of a small town whose population was 6,700 at the beginning of her term in 2002 was vastly different from Obama’s experience as a community organizer of a housing project called the Altgeld Gardens, where “5,300 African-Americans tried to survive amid shuttered steel mills, a nearby landfill, a putrid sewage treatment plant, and a pervasive feeling that the white establishment of Chicago would never give them a fair shake,” an article published by the U.S. News & World Report described. Palin is not right to deride Obama for the time he spent with the people of this project as her position and his deal with completely demographics and set of problems. On other hand, Obama should also respect Palin’s time served as a mayor. clIn economics, we learn that magnitudes matter, which former presidential contender Rudy Giulani seems to have forgetten. According to an article in the AP, in 2005 “there were 7 robberies and 4 rapes in Wasilla, the latest year figures were available. There were 7 murders, 460 robberies and 39 rapes in New York City. Last week.” Clearly, then, Wasilla is not a microcosm of the country Palin may potentially lead. Can Palin engineer policies that accompany the scope and depths of these social realities?

At the end of her speech, Palin sought to emphasize why McCain was a better man for the presidency than Obama: “For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words. For a lifetime, John McCain has inspired with his deeds.”

A nice way to end, but we wonder about the accuracy of what she’s said here, and if she applies the same standard of leadership to herself. To be sure, McCain’s time in Vietnam was both patriotic and brave, but does that alone grant the capabilities of being president? Given Palin’s use of military references in the speech, she clearly thinks so. And, what of Palin herself? Her deeds have been small in number and have only affected a small number of people. Since she could potentially become president (McCain is 72 and running for a job that turned Bill Clinton’s hair shock white before he was 54), does her proven ability to sell airplanes on eBay better equip her for the presidency?