Some things I think about Sarah Palin.

I think it’s encouraging that a woman who is two years older than I am is widely perceived as young and hot.

I think it’s less encouraging that she’s such an airhead.

I think it’s funny and sad that there are still people — not all of them Republicans — who are trying to present her airheadedness as something other than what it obviously is. You know, “folksiness” or “non-Washington-insiderness.” No, guys, Garrison Keillor is folksy. Molly Ivins was folksy. Frances McDormand’s character in Fargo was folksy. Yes, Sarah Palin is folksy. But she sounds like an airhead because she is an airhead, and not just because liberal “elitists” assume that anybody with that accent is unintelligent.

In fact, I think that Palin actually uses her folksiness to cover up her airheadedness. If you say something stupid in plain language, most people notice that it’s stupid. If you say something stupid while using a colorful folk idiom, people won’t be so quick to pick up on the fundamental stupidity of your statement.

I think that she is less boring than McCain. I assume that was his appeal, actually, being kind of dull and safe and familiar. So on the one hand she makes him seem less boring. On the other hand, there goes the reason people would vote for him.

I think her speech at the Republican National Convention was less annoying if you read a transcript than if you hear it in her voice. There is something really annoying about her voice. I think it’s a combination of her accent and her smug personality. It makes me feel like my brain is being cheese-gratered when I hear her talk.

I think that I still don’t get what was supposed to be up with “community organizer” as a laugh line, in either her speech or Giuliani’s, but I do think she sold it better. Still, it seems kind of weird as a talking point, especially when coupled with an ongoing attempt to paint Democrats as elitists.

I think it’s weird to watch Palin in interviews, because it gives me flashbacks to horrible job interviews of my past, and also to papers I’ve written where I didn’t read the material. Some people have said that they “feel sorry for her” in these interviews, which is kind of a weird point of view — maybe it’s because they imagine being in that position themselves, and it’s like a nightmare where you’re suddenly taking a test naked?

But there’s no evidence that Palin feels that way about it. She isn’t just the kid faking her way through a test, she’s the kid faking her way through the test who thinks the teacher hasn’t caught on yet. She seems utterly unperturbed to find herself, naked, on a national stage, playing a part where she doesn’t know her lines.


Couric: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

Sarah Palin: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It’s funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don’t know, you know … reporters.

Couric: Mocked?

Palin: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.

Couric: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

There are several things Palin could have done at this point to come across as something other than an airhead — claimed she was making a little joke, talked about specific dealings Alaska has had with Russia — but she didn’t. She simply doesn’t seem to have recognized why people thought it was a dumb thing to say.

I watched a little bit of last night’s VP debate, but found it kind of dull and got involved in conversation instead. Palin did exactly what I expected she would do: avoided embarrassing gaffes by sticking entirely to pre-scripted talking points. There were a couple of times when she was asked a question, and there was just silence for a moment, and I pictured the gears whirring as she flipped through her mental notecards to find the most appropriate talking point. (Yes, I do like to imagine Palin as a kind of hybrid steampunk robot, why do you ask?)

So it was less embarrassing for the Republicans than it might have been, but, alas, less entertaining for me. (Although apparently if you played the drinking game, which was to drink when anybody said “maverick,” you were in serious danger of alcohol poisoning by the end of it.)

The reaction this morning to the debate — supporters relieved, but not enthused, and nobody new won over — I think is a direct consequence of her talking-points-only strategy. People who already liked those points might have cheered to hear them trotted out again, but other people were likely to notice that she didn’t actually answer the question.

One of her recurring talking points really jumped out at me, though — some variation on accusing Joe Biden of “pointing fingers, looking backwards, playing the blame game.” She trotted it out a couple of times in the early part of the debate when I was still sort of paying attention, and transcripts reveal she returned to it throughout. (Most notably in her baffling would-be zinger, “Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.” Which is, simultaneously, a nonsensical smoodging together of a talking point, a Reagan quote and a completely random pop-culture reference, and also a complete non-sequitor to Biden’s remark about working and middle class people getting the short end of the stick.)

I don’t know how that point played with her base. It might have gone over great, since I imagine that anybody planning to vote Republican right now must be living in a deep chasm of dark denial, because your thought process has to be something like, “Things really suck! All of our policies have ended in disaster! And the only way out is more of the same!

But it seems like kind of a no-brainer, even by the logic of the playground: if you don’t want to play the blame game, it’s because you’re to blame. If you don’t want fingers pointed, it’s because they’ll be pointing at you.


  1. I’ve developed a couple of quips that could be passed around in the hopes that they cross the eyes of a Republican relative or two. One was the result of an email that was forwarded to me:

    > > Who Am I?
    > >
    > > I am under 45 years old,
    > > I love the outdoors, I hunt,
    > > I am a Republican reformer,
    > > I have taken on the Republican Party establishment,
    > > I have many children,
    > > I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president
    > >
    > > with less than two years in the governor’s office.
    > >
    > >
    > > Did you guess?
    > >
    > > Scroll down.

    > > I am Teddy Roosevelt – in 1900

    If you ever get that email, you could respond with:

    What’s the difference between Sarah Palin and Teddy Roosevelt?

    Teddy Roosevelt was a reformer who took on the Republican Party establishment.

    And now you remind me of another old saw that would be useful:

    Insanity is the belief that if you repeat the same behavior you will get different results.

    Voting for McCain is insane.

    I figure that since the majority of simplistic quips like this seem to come from Republicans, why not send some back? It seems to be their language.

  2. Sarah Palin and I have the same accent — oddly, since she never lived in the upper Midwest. I grew up in Milwaukee. Then I lived in Texas for a while, and she’s made me decide to start talking Texan, y’all.

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