Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Who?

He thinks we’re all fools, doesn’t he?

John McCain thinks all women are fools, and that’s why he has chosen Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

He thinks that just because he put a woman on the ticket, women will come running to support his campaign for the White House against Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Well, this woman isn’t falling for it. Not for the blatant tokenism this choice is.

If the choice of Governor Palin weren’t tokenism, if McCain were really committed to putting a woman that can step into the presidency at a moment’s notice- which, after all, is the real reason for the vice-presidency in the first place - you would think he could have found a woman with just a little bit of foreign policy experience. Maybe a woman who is more than two years away from having been the mayor of a very small town in Alaska.

Such women do exist, women with domestic and foreign policy experience. They exist in the Republican party. Can anyone say Condoleezza Rice?

Ah, but she probably turned him down, if he even asked. She has said before that she has no interest in the vice-presidency. And McCain was clearly not looking for a running mate who has actual qualifications for the job.

Although I have to hand it to McCain. At first glance, Palin looks like the perfect token. The obvious first: she’s a woman. She’s a mom. One of her children has Down’s Syndrome. She’s married to a man who is one-eighth Eskimo. He’s also a union member. She’s a member of the National Rifle Association. She’s a Christian who is against abortion and in favor of teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools.

How many interest groups does that appeal to? By my count, that’s at least eight, and there are probably more than I’m not aware of.

But she isn’t the perfect candidate, it turns out.

It seems that Palin has some ethics problems back in Alaska.

As I understand it, Palin’s sister was married to a state trooper, key word being “was”. Apparently the divorce was messy, and Palin wanted her ex-brother-in-law fired from the state police. When the official in charge of the state police refused to fire BIL, Palin fired the official. And it isn’t the first time she’s fired someone who didn’t please her. When she was mayor of that town in Alaska, she apparently fired the police chief and the head librarian of the town because they didn’t support her election. The firing of the state police official hasn’t been resolved yet…the report is due on Halloween, less than a week before the election.

And then there is the experience question. Just how is Palin qualified to be vice-president, much less president if, God forbid, something should happen to McCain? Besides having to foreign policy experience at all, as far as I’ve been able to see, she isn’t even on record with any opinion at all on anything even remotely connected to foreign policy. She’s been a mayor. She’s been governor of a very few state with a very small population. Alaska has a population of less than 700,000. That’s less than the county I live in. And that’s way, way less than the population of the United States. There are significant differences between running an entity with around 684,000 people and running a nation with a population of over 300 million.

Above and beyond the experience issue, where did McCain get the idea that all those Hillary Clinton supporters who were disappointed that Barack Obama got the Democratic nomination are going to come running to support him because he chose Palin to run with him? She’s seriously anti-abortion, something that most Clinton supporters likely are not.
Oh, and then there’s the husband problem. Anyway, I see it as a problem. Palin’s husband works…wait for it…for a multinational oil company. True, his position with the company is reported to be “non-managerial”, but still. What is it with vice-presidents and potential vice-presidents and ties to the oil industry? Is it a job requirement now, according to the Republicans? We’ve been there, done that, and it hasn’t really worked out that well for the nation.

What McCain got in Palin, and probably what he was mostly looking for, was a cheerleader. In her remarks when she was introduced as McCain’s choice for the bottom of the ticket, mostly what Palin did after she introduced her family was how great she thinks McCain is. And like all cheerleaders, she is there to look pretty - she came in second in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984, after all - and make the man in her life, in this case McCain as the top of the ticket, look good and strong and smart.

It remains to be seen whether this choice of McCain’s will benefit him or hurt him. Polls taken since the choice was announced seem to indicate that the key demographic…undecided voters…are not especially impressed. And there is a great deal of speculation that not only is Palin not qualified to be vice-president, she is not prepared to even campaign for the office, in an environment where her every word and action will be looked at under a microscope and analyzed endlessly. That could be a problem for the ticket, what with all the misstatements that McCain has already produced all by himself.

Personally, I feel insulted that McCain thinks that people like me are so easily swayed. And I’m a little insulted, too, that Palin, who must know that she isn’t qualified for this position, is letting herself be used in the way she is by accepting the invitation to run.

Then again, I’m just a heathen Democrat and, according to McCain’s campaign, not qualified to even have an opinion.

Think I’m kidding? After an analysis of McCain’s pick in which several presidential historians criticized Palin’s qualifications to be vice-president, the McCain campaign issued a statement that criticized the scholars for criticizing Palin because the scholars had supposed either worked for or contributed to the campaigns of Democrats.

Interesting. So, the Republicans think they can say whatever the want about Democratic candidates and elected officials, but anyone who has ever contributed to, worked for, or…what…voted for a Democrat has no standing to criticize a Republican?

But that’s another rant for another time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The POW card...

John McCain is playing the POW card.

No, really. Did you see his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno?

Leno asked him a question relating to his apparent inability a few days earlier to recall how many homes he and his family own. Instead of addressing that question directly, McCain went off on a whole tangent about how he was a prisoner of war for five and a half years and that he not only didn't have a house, he didn't have a table or a chair. I really expected fifes and drums to begin playing under his words.

Or, perhaps, the world's smalled violin, playing "My Heart Bleeds for You".

What in the name of all that is holy does his being a prisoner of war have to do with how many houses he (or his wife) owns now?

Nothing, that's what. It was just typical political misdirection, only even more disgusting than usual.

The whole theme of McCain's campaign seems to have become that because McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, he is a) entitled to become President and b) immune from any criticism on any subject.

Both are contentions are, you'll excuse my language, a load of crap.

I mean, I'm sorry that he had to go through that experience of being a POW. I'm sorry anyone who has ever had to go through that, has had to do so. But, mostly, those who have been POWs, in whatever war or conflict, don't go around acting like it makes them somehow immune to any sort of correction or criticism and that it entitles them to get whatever they want.

And lest you think I'm being disrespectful of the experiences he had, let me add that my father was a prisoner of war during World War II, a "guest of the Nazis" as he used to put it. And it was no picnic. He didn't talk about it much, and most of what he talked about made it sound more like an episode of "Hogan's Heroes" than anything. About the worst thing he spoke of was that while he was playing baseball one day, he forgot where he was and chased a batted ball and started to go over a fence to retrieve it and got shot in the leg for his troubles. And he talked about being marched from the camp to another location as the war was drawing to a close and the Russians were approaching.

What he didn't tell me was that the march was several hundred miles across most of Austria (that's where his camp, Stalag 17b, was located), in bad weather and with nearly no food. Or that as the war started going badly for the Germans, the prisoners got less and less food and were treated more and more badly. It wasn't like "Hogan's Heroes" at all. It was a real war, and they were real prisoners, and it wasn't a fun time.

And, although my father went through all of that, he never acted like that experience made him somehow better than anyone else, or that it meant he could do no wrong, or that he was entitled to special stuff or more privilege because of those two and a half years of, well, pretty much hell.

I daresay that, were he still with us, my father would be appalled at the way McCain and his supporters are using McCain's POW experience in the campaign. If there are any small earthquakes centered anywhere around the far northwestern corner of San Fernando Valley in the next little while, that'll be my dad, rolling over in his grave.

But, my dad isn't here to protest the rhetoric coming out of McCain's campaign. So I feel obligated to do it for him.

Mr. McCain, cut it out. The use you are putting to that admittedly horrific experience as a POW which you endured in Vietnam is offensive. You are not entitled to do or say whatever you want, and get away with it without any criticism or questioning, just because you were a POW. You are not ordained from above to be President just because you went through that.

Why should you be entitled to be President of the United States just because you went through that? You know what my father got out of being a POW? Some shrapnel in his leg, and a Purple Heart in consequence. A grave marker. And a certificate signed by President Carter, who was in the White House when my dad passed. Or, anyway, a certificate signed by a machine in place of the then-President.

Well, my dad never wanted to be President. But even if he had wanted that, he couldn't ever have even been president because he was a naturalized rather than natural-born citizen. But he went and fought for his adopted country anyway, and never asked for anything in return. Not even to be treated with kid gloves because of his experience during the war.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Goodbye, Olympics...Hello, Bread and Circuses (aka political conventions)...

I'm sitting here watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and, frankly, I'm glad the games are over.

Not that I don't like sports, or the Games. I do.

It's just that two weeks of nearly non-stop athletics leaves me exhausted, just from sitting and watching all that activity. Not to mention that with the Games in Beijing this year, I've been having to stay up until all hours to see coverage. Last night I was up until 2 a.m. so that I could watch the gold medal game in basketball and the awarding of the medals afterward.

That was fine, since it was Saturday night/Sunday morning and I was able to sleep in until about 9:30 this morning. But there were nights I was staying up until one to watch the swimming or the gymnastics and then having to be up and at my desk working by 7 a.m. There was some serious sleep deprivation going on around here.

At least the Winter games in two years are in Vancouver, B.C., which is in my time zone, at least.

Okay. Now that's just surreal...what in the world is Jimmy Page doing playing guitar in the closing ceremonies while some woman sings "Whole Lotta Love"?

At any rate, I'll probably be wishing the Games back in the next couple of weeks, however, as the political conventions get under way, after which the campaigning will get more serious...and probably dirtier. Those few athletes who got caught doing performance-enhancing drugs are not nearly as icky as the mud that will be thrown as the candidates get serious.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still here...

Just a note to say that, no, I haven't gone anywhere.

Life has been in upheaval around here for the past month and a half or so, and I just haven't had the time or, mostly, the inclination to blog about any of it.

I hope to have this place up and running again soon, however, so keep checking back. I mean, there's a presidential election coming up in a couple of months, so that should be good for some material, at least.