“Starting in January, in a John McCain-Sarah Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines … build more nuclear plants … create jobs with clean coal … and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative sources.”
This is how a 44-year-old woman, mother of five, governor of Alaska for only two years, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-oil, a mooseburger-eating huntress at war with polar bears who hasn’t traveled outside of the US until last year, introduced herself to America and the world. Meet Sarah Palin, the lipstick pitbull.
She didn’t stroll into the tacky stage at the Republican Convention – more an insurance salesman’s love fest than a plutocrat-cum-rural aristocracy special – clutching a puck, dragging a caribou carcass, or even a baby for that matter. But she positively beamed when she saw the highly choreographed “Hockey Mom” signs sprinkled around the Xcel Center in St Paul. “I love those hockey moms … You know they say what’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Liptstick.”
The first third of her speech was a cross between Opportunity Knocks and A Simple Life – rural, frontier, idyllic life; but then the pitbull bared her teeth and dilacerated everything in sight, from the Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket to the “elitist” mainstream media (booed in unison by the audience).
She does remain under investigation for a very messy, personal affair in Alaska. Her Republican colleague, Senator Ted Stevens, has been indicted for corruption. She’s actively courted the secessionist Alaska Independence Party – of which her husband was a member. And her (white) pastor is a counterpart of Reverend Jeremiah Wright – he also “damned” the USA.
Even after her no-holds-barred speech to the convention, preceding McCain’s big night, Palin remains with no national experience and no international experience – although John and Cindy McCain as well as President George W Bush’s wife Laura Bush swear she’s got it. After all, they argue, Alaska borders Canada and Russia. McCain actually said this week, “Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that. Senator Obama’s never visited south of the border.”
Former US ambassador to the United Nations and notorious neo-conservative John Bolton also seems to believe Palin is a foreign policy heavyweight: “I’m very excited by the choice of Sarah Palin … I’m sure if he [Obama] wants to debate Sarah Palin on foreign policy we can arrange that.”
What good does an affable, provincial, shotgun-friendly Miss Congeniality creationist like Palin bring to the embattled McCain’s campaign? Well, talk about energizing your base. Chicago-based syndicated columnist Roland Martin has nailed it: ” McCain desperately needed to focus on his base – evangelicals, social conservatives, they were not happy at all. He names Palin, they raise seven million bucks in one day, clearly he touched the right nerve among his voters.”
And now for Eye-ran …
As far as Palin energizing international relations, that’s a whole new ball game. Can anyone begin to understand Palin’s position on Iraq? Over two weeks ago, in an interview to Time magazine, she rambled on about “the situation we’re in right now, at war, not knowing what the plan is to ever end the war, we’re engaged in, understanding that Americans are seeking resolution in this war effort, so energy supplies being able to produce, and supply will be a big part of that … the plan for the war, you know, let’s make sure we have a plan here …”
Or perhaps Iraq is a mission from God? That’s what she said in June in Alaska, according to wasillaag.net: “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right for this country. Our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that is what we have to make sure, there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.”
Apocalypticians of all strands are already contemplating the exciting possibility of having a woman’s manicured hands, legs crossed and lip gloss glistening, only one touch away from the nuclear button. Run for cover, Vladimir Putin! This is Palin on national security, muddling through in an interview to Charlie Rose in October 2007: “National security issues. I think, you know, candidates are going to be asked, are you doing … and are your intentions to do all that you can to help secure these United States? And I think every elected official needs to ask themselves that. And I say that, Charlie, even personally. My one and only son, my 18-year-old, he just signed up for the United States Army. He is at boot camp right now and I`m thinking, you know, this kid is doing all that he can within his power to help secure and defend the United States. Every elected official had better be asking themselves, are you doing as much also? Are you doing all that you can?”
And this, finally, is the essence of Palin foreign policy – as redacted to her by McCain’s battery of speechwriters holed up at the Hilton in Minneapolis, and delivered deer-caught-in-the-headlights style: “With Russia wanting to control a vital pipeline in the Caucasus and to divide and intimidate our European allies by using energy as a weapon, we cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of foreign suppliers. To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of the world’s energy supplies … or that Venezuela might shut off its oil discoveries and its deliveries of that source.”
The notions that Russia wants to control the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, owned by BP; that Iran is seeking war in the Persian Gulf; and that Hugo Chavez does not want to sell his “oil discoveries” are ludicrous beyond belief. Anyway, they all fit the neo-con worldview.
A woman in charge
The McCain campaign’s non-stop riff is to show the McCain-Palin ticket has more credentials than the Obama-Biden one. That’s what McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds is doing round the clock, insisting that McCain and Palin, “between the two of them, have far more command experience in the military than either of the candidates on the other side”.
But ultimately this is still not about Palin. It’s about McCain’s judgement. McCain had to send a rapid response team crammed with lawyers to Alaska to actually post-vet Palin. The Republicans at this convention wanted by all means necessary to convince Americans that Obama cannot be trusted. Whether they will convince Americans that Palin is to be trusted is an open call.
Polls with independent voters in Michigan and Nevada, for instance, have shown they were not impressed. On the other hand, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of a nationwide pro-life network of over 147,000 women in 50 states, swears that now Obama and Palin are equally popular even in California.
Former Republican governors, speaking to Asia Times Online at the convention, seem to have convinced themselves that Palin is the real deal. Former Nebraska governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says, “She will not recant, she will not relent … this is not a defensive posture … she has the ball, she has to run with it.”
Former Virginia governor Jim Gillmore says, “She’s a governor … She’s got more executive experience than Barack Obama.” Former New Jersey governor Christine Todd-Whitman – an ultra-articulated New Yorker who could not run for president basically because she is pro-choice – gracefully insists Palin, whom she doesn’t now personally, “has been an executive, she’s actually balanced the budget, which frankly neither Obama nor Biden or even John McCain for that matter have done. She’s delivered. Governors can’t say ‘take a pass’ on a vote, they can’t abstain, they have to deliver.”
It doesn’t require outstanding intelligence to govern Alaska. Despite an oil boom, this is an ultra-subsidized state. Alaska gets US\$1,84 back from Washington for every \$1 paid in federal taxes. Alaska is literally swimming in cash. The state owns most of its oil-producing lands. It gets at least 90% of its budget from oil companies that lease the oil fields. Palin is the US equivalent of a Persian Gulf sheikh.
Power pop Palin
The McCain campaign has been desperate to seduce white, working-class, swing voters, especially women. They believe the election won’t be about national security, or Iraq. It will be about the economy. Does Palin know anything about the economy? Does it matter?
No. It’s all about image. Palin is not Ivy League material. She’s a former sportscaster, married a “production operator” – according to her official bio, her high-school boyfriend – educated four kids while pursuing her career, had a child with Downs syndrome and owns an M-16. She’s a woman of faith. Well, she’s won Alaska’s basketball championship with a last-second free throw – and led all pre-game prayers.
And now, she is also … a pop celebrity (complete with fake bikini pics on the net) – just like Obama, who the spin machine has been incessantly painting as a vapid, elitist celebrity. A hairdresser at the convention floor predicted her beehive and her glasses would unleash an instant fashion craze.
Ersatz “maverick” McCain cannily chose this hyper-American, small-town, former beauty queen to be sold like “one of us” – a sort of “I feel your pain, America” working hockey mom. For a week now she’s been sending Republicans – from neo-cons to evangelicals – to rapture. Is this a movie? Of course this is a movie. Better yet, a TV soap.
The Lipstick Pitbull, disguised as Miss Congeniality, goes to Washington. She has already released McCain himself, who, in a rapture at the closing of the convention, painted himself in a carefully calibrated Douglas Sirk-style 1940s melodrama as an individualistic prisoner of war who discovered his true love – America – in a foreign, “gook”, prison.
That’s McCain’s only campaign theme – his own home (foreign) movie: he knows nothing about the economy and his foreign policy is “the ‘surge’ is working”. Now he can finally pose – again – as McCain the Blessed Patriot and Eternal War Hero while the Lipstick Pitbull bares her teeth. Thus, the Lipstick Bull, disguised as Miss Congeniality, may be on her way to Washington. If, of course, she does not self-destruct on her way there.