In today’s New York Times, Dowd, Friedman, and Rich hold little back in their reading of the construction and marketing of, rhetoric coming from, and misreading by Sarah Palin and the (seemingly vanishing) John McCain:
Dowd’s first sentence in “Bering Straight Talk”:
I’ve been in Alaska only a week, but I’m already feeling ever so much smarter about Russia.
Rich in “The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket”:
The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they’re wearing lipstick or not.
This was made clear in the most chilling passage of Palin’s acceptance speech. Aligning herself with “a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri” who “followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency,” she read a quote from an unidentified writer who, she claimed, had praised Truman: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.” Then Palin added a snide observation of her own: Such small-town Americans, she said, “run our factories” and “fight our wars” and are “always proud” of their country. As opposed to those lazy, shiftless, unproud Americans — she didn’t have to name names — who are none of the above.
There were several creepy subtexts at work here. The first was the choice of Truman. Most 20th-century vice presidents and presidents in both parties hailed from small towns, but she just happened to alight on a Democrat who ascended to the presidency when an ailing president died in office. Just as striking was the unnamed writer she quoted. He was identified by Thomas Frank in The Wall Street Journal as the now largely forgotten but once powerful right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler.
Palin, who lies with ease about her own record, misrepresented Pegler’s too. He decreed America was “done for” after Truman won a full term in 1948. For his part, Truman regarded the columnist as a “guttersnipe,” and with good reason. Pegler was a rabid Joe McCarthyite who loathed F.D.R. and Ike and tirelessly advanced the theory that American Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (“geese,” he called them) were all likely Communists.
Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”
Of course, we’re going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that — with “drill, baby, drill” — why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra “invent, baby, invent?” That is what a party committed to “change” would really be doing. As they say in Texas: “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”
I dwell on this issue because it is symbolic of the campaign that John McCain has decided to run. It’s a campaign now built on turning everything possible into a cultural wedge issue — including even energy policy, no matter how stupid it makes the voters and no matter how much it might weaken America.