In her latest column for Salon, feminist and cultural critic Camille Paglia describes how she became “increasingly disturbed” in the final weeks of the presidential election by what she believes was the mainstream media’s avoidance of both the Bill Ayers controversy and—wait for it—questions about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Disturbing, indeed. The very idea that Obama would rest his entire presidential campaign—to say nothing of his actual presidency—on the premise that he could conceal his non-American citizenship without anyone ever figuring it out is patently absurd. “We don’t need another presidency that finds it all too easy to rely on evasion or stonewalling,” Paglia explained, suggesting Obama could have ended the entire matter by asking his supposed birth state of Hawaii to “issue a fresh, long-form, stamped certificate and inviting a few high-profile reporters in to examine the document and photograph it.” Yes, and he could have settled the issue of his Judeo-Christianity by simply unzipping his pants and inviting a few high-profile reporters to examine and photograph his circumcised penis.
Perhaps inspired by political analyst Michael Barone’s statement to the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges yesterday that “the liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby,” Paglia goes on to compare the absence of xenophobic inquisition in the media to the treatment of the Alaskan governor, who the writer informs us has been “subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.” Really? The right (and Paglia, apparently) would have us believe that the media’s disdain for Sarah Palin is eclipsed only by its hatred for living babies. And here I thought Palin’s real problem was her complete and utter incompetence, her inability to construct a coherent position on practically any important issue, her opportunism at the expense of national security, her mean-spirited and divisive fear-mongering, her worrying readiness to put faith before law, and her general disregard for said law. No one in the media has denied the fact that Palin is, to use Paglia’s term, a populist phenomenon, but for once they did the right thing by calling a spade a spade—and before that spade got elected.
Paglia suggests that those of us who don’t recognize Palin’s alleged smarts “are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma.” But never has there been a more blatantly partisan statement, nor a purer bit of political hilarity, than Paglia’s defense of Palin: “There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist.” Good for Paglia for dogmatically standing up for her gender, but the ascension of a woman like Palin to higher office isn’t progress for all women—it’s progress for one woman (freedom of choice aside, Palin supported McCain’s opposition to the Fair Pay Restoration Act and the 180-day limit allowed by law for filing unfair wage disputes)—and good for Palin for standing up to those anonymous McCain campaign insiders who are trying to deflect from their own failure and misjudgment by calling her names like “hillbilly” (maybe now blue-collar America will finally see that the Republican Party has been poaching their votes and then snickering behind their backs). But whatever compassion or pity one might feel for Palin disintegrates the moment you remember the atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation with which she attacked Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and pretty much all of non-Appalachia America.
If Palin weren’t on a nonstop media blitz in an apparent attempt at mending her obliterated image, and if she weren’t clearly on a quest—God be willin’—for the top of the Republican ticket or a cozy Senate seat next to Hillary Clinton, none of this would even matter anymore. Still, more relevant is the right’s continued attacks on our new President-elect. A few weeks ago Michelle Malkin’s grape-sized brain hypothesized that if Obama won the election, there would be rioting in the streets. But as I’ve already pointed out, it seems Republicans have been the ones harboring the most anger and frustration this political season—this, despite Democrats having suffered through eight years of King George II. Just witness how McCain’s calls for unity and support for Obama at his concession speech last week were met with angry jeers and protests from the crowd, a stark contrast to the somber acceptance at John Kerry’s speech in the wake of a much closer race four years ago. Booing isn’t racist, but it’s a striking contrast to all of that non-rioting during Obama’s acceptance speech at Chicago’s Grant Park later that night.
In the days since the election, there has been an inundation of cynical, envious rightwing mouthpieces sounding off on what they see as an empty movement filled with lots of silly optimism and “childish unity.” There is no bigger cynic than me, but it all just sounds like so much whining, the sound of a party balloon punctured and shrinking, and you’ll have to forgive Americans who endured two much closer losses in 2000 and 2004 and subsequently watched their country be torn apart by neoconservatism for not mustering much sympathy. Though certainly not spokespeople for the Republican Party as a whole, the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have been the loudest voices in opposition to an Obama presidency, warning of an impending disaster and blaming the country’s current economic woes on the man even though, Limbaugh admitted, “he hasn’t done anything yet.” And it should come as no surprise that actual elected officials are getting in on the action too: Georgia congressman Paul Broun compared Obama’s proposed civilian reserve corps to Marxism, Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union—all in one breath. This isn’t meaningful policy debate, or even the kind of angry dissent that finally, thankfully, emerged during George W. Bush’s second term; it’s partisan dogma of the most hostile and, frankly, transparent kind.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.