Say They Aren't So

Ironies of 2008

Once one decides to unite the oppressed people of the universe and save the planet, a number of ironies arise in such megalomaniac responsibilities. Here are five that bothered me this past year.

1. Class

Sarah Palin perhaps flubbed the interview with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, at least in the clips that were edited for TV. She also drops her g’s and says things like “you betcha” and “pal’in around”.

She surely didn’t give snap answers on foreign policy matters. In no short order, a woman who had five kids, a 16-year political career, and a successful governorship was reduced to a white-trash hack, the mother of a promiscuous teen, as awful rumors, trafficked in by liberal professionals, swirled about her own most recent pregnancy.

The mainstream media’s narrative was thus that glibness matters, 16 years of Alaskan politics don’t quite cut it for national office, and a candidate’s personal life is fair game, as the moose-hunting ex-mayor of Wasilla and her life-story attest.

Or is that entirely true? I could make the hypocritical contrast with the gaffe-o-matic Joe Biden, but instead read below.

These same egalitarians in the media, however, do not seem to have a problem with Caroline Kennedy, soon perhaps to be anointed Senator from New York.

But on the basis of what? Political experience—zero.

Past elections? Zilch.

Eloquence? Nope. Ms. Kennedy drones on with “you know” and “I mean” dozens of times per minute. In comparison, Sarah Palin sounds like Demosthenes or Cicero.

Full disclosure? Hardly. We know nothing about Caroline’s vast fortune—where it exactly came from and how it is used. We learned far more about poor Mr. Palin’s decrepit old prop airplane than Ms. Kennedy’s stock portfolio and past contributions.

Perhaps the difference is good citizenship? I doubt it. Palin ran for offices; Kennedy often passed on voting entirely.

Is it doctrinaire politics? Again, I doubt it. Palin has taken on Republicans in Alaska, entrenched males, and indeed, on matters of energy, her own running mate John McCain.

Kennedy? I don’t think there a liberal dogma or progressive politician she has ever questioned.

We laugh about Palin’s Idaho work-your-way-through-college sports journalism degree, especially perhaps in comparison to Kennedy’s Ivy League pedigree. But the latter is too often affirmative action for silk-stocking East Coast grandees. Take away money and nomenclature, and I doubt Kennedy would have gotten into such schools on her own merits. I offer such an unsupported generalization on the basis of her elocution: I turned out about 100 classics majors and MA students during 21 years at CSU Fresno, and without exception every single one (mostly poor or minority students without parents who went to college) in interviews sounded far more knowledgeable and grammatical than does Ms. Kennedy.

The irony in all this? Too obvious to state…

(Maybe a tiny bit is due to the fact that Ms. Kennedy affirms she is “pro-choice” while the Palins bring to full term an illegitimate teen-pregnancy and a Down-Syndrome child.)

2. Islam

I confess this war on terror business is coming down to fear or no fear. A film maker, a novelist, or a comedian dreams publicly of killing George Bush—and he wins a big book contract or an arts award. A cartoonist does a sketch of a Mohammed and he faces death threats. Liberal contrarians honor the former and abandon the latter.

We are told terrorism bad, democracy good. Really? Every terrorist Hamas rocket is aimed at a Democratic civilian; every Democratic IDF air -to -ground missile is aimed at a terrorist.

The common denominator in all this? George Bush or an IDF colonel is not going to show up at your editorial office in New York or Madrid or Paris with a suicide vest on. Write a novel about Bush deserving to die, as did Nicholson Baker, and you win a Knopf contract; write one about the Prophet as did Salman Rushdie and you go into hiding for a decade.

Fear is about all I can come up with. (And easy guilt as well.)

3. Bush Did It

George Bush, Ashcroft, Halliburton’s Cheney, Feith, et al, remember, shredded the Constitution.