Apparently I wasn’t the only one who noticed John McCain’s stroke face during his brief press conference yesterday afternoon in which he announced the inexplicable but temporary suspension of his campaign. I don’t think one’s age (or skin color or lack of a penis, for that matter) impedes him or her from doing the job of President—in fact, those traits could be viewed as strengths in the 21st century. It’s McCain’s health, and the fact that the person he chose as his proxy should anything happen to him is completely unqualified—intellectually, principally and otherwise—that is most frightening. This fact is confirmed further each and every time that person, Sarah Palin, opens her mouth and let’s out a drone of rehearsed soundbites or an incomprehensible string of improvisations, the latest examples of which can be found in droves in her interview with Katie Couric, which concluded tonight on CBS.
When asked about ties between McCain campaign manager Rick Davis and lobbying firm Freddie Mac, Palin said, “My understanding is Rick Davis recused himself from the dealings in that firm.” When pressed, she paused like a broken robot or a telemarketer who’s been thrown off her script. She wracked her brain (for what? An answer aside from the ones she was spoon-fed by the campaign? An alternate version of the talking points she was instructed to memorize? Perhaps the reasons she agreed to be McCain’s VP pick in the first place?) and then slowly regurgitated the exact same answer, right down to the verb “recuse.”
For days, even weeks, I’ve been feeling small pangs of sadness every time I hear Palin answer a question. It isn’t quite pity (she could have said no to the job offer, after all), and it certainly isn’t empathy. Simply put: I feel bad for her. I feel bad because of people like me, who harshly but passionately and justifiably pick apart her every move and statement—or lack thereof. She had no idea what she was getting herself into; indeed, she wasn’t even sure what the Vice President did, let alone what he or she needed to do to get there. Of course, later in the interview with Couric, she suggested that Barack Obama’s position on the current financial crisis is to wait and see which way the political winds blow by licking her finger and wagging it in the air, and my sympathy for the woman was overpowered by a whiff of sarcasm and condescension—the stench of which we first smelled during the Republican National Convention.
Keeping Palin out of the clutches of the lecherous media like overprotective parents locking their virginal daughter away from the horny neighborhood boys could be viewed as sexist, but it’s obvious that her gender isn’t the issue here. When asked by Couric to explain her citation of Alaska’s proximity to Russia as evidence of her foreign policy credentials, she simply restated the obvious: Alaska is close to Russia. (And George W. Bush was apparently qualified to be president because the state he governed is next to Mexico.) The expression on Couric’s face was one of a teacher who sees the best even in her most underachieving pupils; she desperately wanted to find a way to give Palin a gold star in geography when the quiz covered foreign policy. And Palin’s justification for Congress’s $700 million bailout was so thoroughly nonsensical that it needs to be seen to be believed:
Perhaps the McCain campaign’s obvious strategy of keeping Palin as far away from reporters as possible is sparing me pangs and whiffs. As Greg Sargent points out: “McCain advisers know that letting her answer even the most elementary questions in an uncontrolled environment is so dangerous that it’s worth weathering the current media drubbing they’re taking in order to prevent it from happening at all costs.” But while I disagree wholesale with almost everything Palin stands for and believes in, what the campaign is doing to her, McCain supporters and the American public at large is, on a purely unbiased political level, inexcusable.
McCain has become increasingly cranky and unpredictable in recent weeks—the downside of a maverick personality, I guess—and his latest stunt of attempting to postpone the first presidential debate is transparent at best. Aside from the fact that in his ostensible attempt to not politicize the financial crisis, he has completely politicized it, throwing the debate schedule out of whack and thereby delaying Palin’s face-off with Joe Biden threatens to further paint the Alaskan governor as unable or unwilling to meet with public scrutiny when, in fact, it’s Daddy McCain who’s keeping her locked up in the attic. So maybe it’s time for Palin to let her hair down and allow some knight in shining armor to come rescue her from this farce. Wait, that’s not sexist, is it?
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.