Monday, September 15, 2008

Playing the Bristol Card

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Recently, a letter to this paper gave me "credit," however grudgingly, regarding my column on VP candidate Sarah Palin. I got credit for "not going sexist or slamming her family." But the next sentence was rather revealing: "I really was expecting that, so I'm very disappointed."

Oh, Dear Reader, I'm sure you were. Because if there's one thing the Right really loves, it's a good foaming-at-the-mouth fit of righteous indignation. And the brouhaha over 17-year-old Bristol Palin's pregnancy has generated plenty of that.

In fact, I've been thinking that the McCain campaign needs to change its slogan from "Country First" to "How DARE You!" It'd be much more in tune with whatever passes for a message these days from the McCainiacs.

But here's the thing: If, as he claims, John McCain Who Was a POW (or, as I call him for brevity's sake, JMWWAPOW) knew about Bristol's pregnancy before he picked her mom for the veep spot, then he knew it was going to draw attention. He knew this 17-year-old was going to be a story. And it's his campaign that's been milking it for all it's worth.

Barack Obama, for his part, took the high road.

"I have said before and I will repeat again," he said. "People's families are off limits. And people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as a governor and/or her potential performance as a vice president."

Which was of course, absolutely right. There's plenty of ammunition to use on the Newest Biggest Celebrity in the World. Like her continuing and shameless repetition of the lie that she "told Washington 'no thanks' to that Bridge to Nowhere." In fact, as numerous news sources have reported, she was all for it -- before she was against it.

Or the fact that Palin, who now campaigns against federal earmarks, once hired indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' former chief of staff as a lobbyist in Washington, to bring some of that federal pork back to the little town of Wasilla, where she was mayor. Or the fact that Palin, supposedly a fiscal conservative, left that tiny city $20 million in debt when she departed the office.

Not that it made any difference, and not that anyone will get to ask the governor about those things. As McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was quoted as saying after the convention, "This election is not about issues," and boy, are they ever running as fast as they can from the issues.

The McCain campaign people have been using their indignation that anyone dared to notice the press release they themselves sent out as not only a club to beat the Obama campaign over the head, but as a shield from even legitimate questions from the few members of the press corps who still regard it as part of the job to do more than take down every ridiculous thing that comes out of the mouth of the Republican mouthpiece du jour.

When asked by Time magazine's Jay Carney about the campaign's unwillingness to have Palin talk to the press, McCain spokesman Nicole Wallace jeered openly at the idea: "To you? Who cares?" She then trotted the Bristol Palin coverage out for the purpose of changing the subject: "The media did something to this family that I've never seen before in my life! And she [Palin] took the stage and made her own points!"

Translation: "You invaded the family's privacy by reporting what we told you, so America only gets to hear what we want them to hear! Nyaah!"

Another McCain supporter whom I heard on the radio went absolutely ballistic over a caller's question about whether Palin had tried to censor books in Wasilla's public library (an attempt which, by the way, was later confirmed by an ABC News investigation).

"I'm not going to dignify that with an answer," she huffed, before taking off on an angry diatribe about the "media frenzy of the last few days." Basically, Bristol Palin has become a human shield for the McCain campaign. I've come to call it "playing the Bristol Card."

No, I don't slam Bristol Palin. And I don't blame Sarah Palin for her pregnancy. Things like this happen, even in conservative Christian families, and it's not always a sign of bad parenting.

I do, however, blame JMWWAPOW. I've actually written quite complimentary things about him in the past. You can look it up. But that was before he dangled that kid as bait, so his supporters could then cry pious crocodile tears about "awful liberals and their awful media" and then use that to hide behind when people brought up Gov. Palin's real problems as a candidate.

Because if there's one tactic the Republicans have learned over the past few years, it's this: "If you can't win on an issue, make discussion of that issue off-limits." Now, it seems, even legitimate questions are off-limits -- so long as they can play the Bristol Card.


Louise Ure said...

It's not the Bristol Card that scares me as much as the Repeat A Lie Until It Becomes The Truth Card.

As yes, Americans really are that stupid.

JD Rhoades said...

As Karl Rove recently said" "you can't trust the fact-check sites."
They really think they can create their own reality.

Anonymous said...

Here's one of the latest entries in "How Low Can They Go?":

Keith Raffel said...

Terrific column, Dusty. Which one of us would have ever had the chutzpah to have written a novel incorporating the elements of this presidential race?

John McFetridge said...

Remember when bringing the family into it meant Billy Carter?

John McFetridge said...

Okay, I just looked at the letter and now I have a question. The letter writer says thinking of Dusty as VP has him looking at moving to New Zealand. In Canada we hear about "liberal" Americans thinking about moving here if the US gets much more conservative. I suppose they could also think about moving to any western European country because they'd all be more "liberal" than America.

So, my question: if the USA gets too "liberal" for people what countries in the world could they move to that would be suitably "conservative?"

Might be an interesting list of countries with shared "conservative" values....

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have we discovered that choosing presidents with little if anything on the ball allows us to feel superior? I am amazed that this ticket could appeal to more than a few. I am heartsick actually.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, McCain is a terrible choice. But it's pretty obvious, and picking on his campaign is just too easy.

So here's some reasons why Obama is no better:

Just in case anyone's wondering, I think either candidate will be a catastrophe for Americna, or I should say, a continuance of a catastrophe.

Anonymous said...

John makes a very good point. The difference between the parties is miniscule. If we "really" wanted change, we'd be behind Ralph Nader. Explain to me how "real" liberals can vote for Obambi rather than Nader. Obambi is a football field to the right of Nader (because the left has been truly marginalized) and what did the Dems do when they had the chance to solidify support behind Obambi 8 months ago? Instead of knocking Hillary out of the race the first time her side injected racism, they backed off and let her run wild.

If (or when) the Dems lose this one, they can backtrack 8 months or so (10 by election day) and remember one more time how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Don't call the part of the country stupid that backs McCain and his obviously unqualified choice Palin ... take a good look-see at your own party (if you're a Dem) and remember how your guys let the unity Obambi had fostered slip through the cracks with an appeal to racism by your next candidate (hillary clinton).

If you lose this one, you just might see there's nothing to feel superior about at all.

You want real change, stop kidding yourselves and vote for Nader ... or maybe next time don't laugh Dennis Kucinich off the debate stage.

John McFetridge said...

Extreme change?

A lot of people see one of America's great strengths as never being too extreme. In the last century when the rest of the developed world fell for wacky Big Ideas like communism and fascism, America never did.

Now, some are saying that what we're seeing is the end of the "frontier nation" attitude.

What a lot of Americans want is the same kind of system that was established when there were far fewer people and far more resources available right in America.

Anonymous said...

If we really wanted change we would have voted for Ron Paul. He's the only one who even talked about monetary policy. And he predicted all this stuff that's happening on Wall Street years ago.

Anonymous said...

Here's video of Ron Paul talking about this stuff:

JD Rhoades said...

John Dishon: I've always found it ironic that the Republicans, supposedly the "conservative" party, took the one real conservative in the race and treated him like a noisy street person.

Anonymous said...

As can be said about the supposedly "liberal" Democrats ... what they did to Kucinich (laughed him off their own debate stage).

You're right, JD ... absolutely ironic. Both parties have their own agenda and it has little to do with most of the poor SOB's voting for them.

Vote Nader ...

Anonymous said...

Especially Kucinich's Impeachment Articles which Pelosi admitted she didn't even read, (though Kucinich is still pushing for this).

It's amazing that Clinton can get impeached for cheating on his wife, yet Bush lies to us and sends us to war, abuses his executive powers, etc, and nothing happens.

Martha Stewart went to jail for lying; why can't Bush?

We have a two party dictatorship right now. Ron Paul might as well be a third party candidate the way the Republican party has changed over the years.

Yet third parties can't get anywhere because the Democrats and Republicans control everything; they put a stop to third parties after Ross Perot got 20% of the vote in 1992.

So now we have basically two parties which are not very different from each other.

Anonymous said...

And had Perot not been a hack (what he did to that poor SOB VP he chose--sending him to that debate), the movement might've gained steam. Still, Jesse Ventura (a freaking wrestler) managed to stir the ire of dissatisfied Dems & Reps in MN and I have to think as things get worse and worse, at some point, enough people will turn away from the joke our election process has become. It'll take money (for the third party) and, probably (and very unfortunately) a depression-like atmosphere to get it done, but Jesse did manage it without either.

If enough people just stick to their guns (or hearts) and vote their conscience rather than the "lesser of two evils" it could shake things up.