The Empire Strikes Back

I’ve reassessed my view of Sarah Palin.

My first thought about her usefulness to John McCain was that she would be a draw for disaffected Hillary supporters in a close race, but then all I knew about Sarah was that she characterized herself as a soccer, or hockey, mom.

But already I’ve learned more about her than I ever would have wanted to know, and her simple, original description of herself proves disingenuous at best, and there is the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell of her appealing to Hillary supporters.

A dizzying jumble of images and anecdotes now clutters the Internet. There’s a picture of her in a bikini, with an American flag motif no less, holding a rifle, with a loony grin, poolside. There’s another picture in a black leather mini-skirt, high platform shoes, satiny blouse with revealing décolletage, standing at a bar with a wine glass. There’s the head-shot of her looking through the sight of a military weapon, a la Thatcher in her tank. Then there are the many carefully-posed pictures of her dressed demurely in family groupings, sentimental pictures as familiar to me as her flat Midwestern accent, a holdover from Idaho in her case, which just happens to be America’s favourite refuge for survivalists, private militias, and Aryan lunatics.

Then there are her statements about the bloody, illegal invasion of Iraq being “God’s will.” How would she know that? Because George Bush told her? Or does God personally whisper in her ear? If it’s God, I wonder when He (Sarah being a fundamentalist, it could not possibly be a She) takes the opportunity of speaking to her? When she’s poolside in a bikini, toting a gun, or dressed and scurrying out the door with the clan for Sunday school?

She supported Pat Buchanan, poster boy for everything that is wrong with America, in his Junior Brown Shirt march for the presidency in 2000. Before that, she was a card-carrying member of the Alaska Independence party, not exactly in keeping with Stars-and-Stripes bikinis, but definitely consistent with erratic behavior. There were denials about the Independence party, but the records are there, as is her signature.

She has five children, including her most recent, sadly afflicted with Down syndrome. In this day of certainty through tests, it does seem irresponsible to have such a child, which likely will be dependent on family and society for its entire life. Yes, her behaviour is consistent with her views on abortion — about which she once claimed she would not have an abortion even for a raped daughter — but is it sensible? Does such a decision reflect sound, realistic judgment? Our world today is full of such complex situations and judgments, not a world of simplistic rights or wrongs.

She is against gay marriage, against abortion, and against just about anything else you can find in the “anti” repertoire of religious predators along the lines of Jimmy Swaggert or Jerry Falwell. If she accepts war and mass killing as God’s will, why does she not extend that thinking to gay marriage or tests which help us prevent tragic outcomes from pregnancy?

She’s not much more consistent in her other behaviour and thinking. She’s big on commandments and rules, but that did not stop her from trying to have her brother-in-law dismissed from his job in the state police. Nor did it prevent her hacking into an opponent’s computer to get information to secure her election as mayor. And respect for proper procedures did not cause her a moment’s concern when she used paid lobbyists to land pork-barrel projects for her town.

Sarah is almost an American cartoon character, Daffy Duck waving his wings and flapping his beak madly off in all directions.

Her acceptance speech at the convention was certainly competently delivered, but what did it say? It was literally a set of one-liners, Rush Limbaugh barking away on the radio, without any sense of purpose or direction stated other than winning the election and “serving the people.” God, I would hate to be tasked with listing all the monstrous crimes committed in the name of “serving the people,” almost as many, surely, as those covered by “God’s will” in history.

Actually, there’s very little that is new about Sarah Palin. I’ve seen this act before. In tone and substance and attitude, Sarah is Newt Gingrich in drag. But then Newt was almost as irreligious as John McCain. Sarah, though, has a big fat hunk of old Bob Jones tossed in — after all, in the heady ‘60s, the old man had guards with automatic weapons at the gates of Bob Jones’ University — and that brings us to one of her main purposes in this campaign.

Sarah is there to speak to the born-again crowd, people who do not actually trust John McCain as being sympathetic to their views, and with good reason. Born-agains are roughly a fifth of the American population, and the Republicans never can win without their support. So we’ve gone from having the nuttier class of fundamentalists burrowing into every corner of America’s government under George Bush, affecting even the language used in literature at the Grand Canyon, to having one of their own placed “a heartbeat away” from the presidency, and this by a man whose heartbeat just might not last his term.

John Chuckman lives in Canada and is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. Copyright © by John Chuckman. Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. JBPM said on September 5th, 2008 at 8:27am #

    Mr. Chuckman,

    I liked the piece, but take exception to this statement: “In this day of certainty through tests, it does seem irresponsible to have such a child, which likely will be dependent on family and society for its entire life.” Some people, even with the certainty of tests, choose to bring a mentally retarded child to term because they feel that this child is as worthy of life and love as its “normal” siblings. I don’t know if it is a choice I would make, but to say that bringing a retarded child into the world is irresponsible smack too much of eugenics for my comfort. When my wife (whose brother is mentally retarded) was pregnant with our daughter, we both recognized how irresponsible it is to bring more people into an overcrowded world that’s going down the toilet; as I’ve discovered, being a parent involves multiple and sometimes conflicting notions of responsibility. This is one choice Palin made that I respect, maybe the only one.

  2. John Hatch said on September 5th, 2008 at 5:14pm #

    Good article, and I agree with the above.

    These days many Down’s Syndrome children grow up to lead much more normal and independant lives than in the past. And they can be quite happy, and inspirational.

    I’m so sick of this God crap. So God wants Sarah to rain down white phosphorous and burn Iraqi men, women and children to the bone, but he doesn’t want her to support stem cell research.

    I’m really tired of American insanity. It’s all going to end badly.

  3. AJ Nasreddin said on September 7th, 2008 at 3:46am #

    The scary thing here is that McCain at 72 could die and leave us with her. The last thing we need is another president receiving messages from God.

    When she defines herself as just another American woman with the usual family ups and downs, is she really encouraging shotgun (or semi-automatic) weddings? I wonder what will happen if and when her daughter gets a divorce. What’s the difference between her and that religious group in Texas that got under-aged kids married?