Sunday, May 16, 2010
Palin Takes A Hitt
Modern television politics, we are usually told, begins with the famous 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates. If you look back to them, what you see is not merely the first presidential candidate to realize that packaged talking points come off convincingly on television but also an obituary for a lost political style. Critics always note that Nixon looked crummy in those debates—the five-o’clock shadow, the sweats, the sideways glances, the tugging at his infamous dewlaps. But those gestures are not what sank Nixon. They were merely symptoms of what Nixon was doing, and he was the last politician ever to do it on live TV: Nixon was thinking.
...At a recent “tea party” gathering, she leaned over the lectern and sneered, “How’s that hopey, changely stuff working out for you?” It was a great bit, but a great written bit.
Here Palin most resembles Reagan, but cut her loose from her speechwriters and she shrivels into Dan Quayle. It would not be fair to make this case if she’d had only a few frozen moments with television interviewers. But without a tight script or notes scrawled on her palm, she quickly becomes confused. Her itinerant syntax is now legendary, what Bill Maher calls her gift for unspooling the “sentence to nowhere.” You don’t need to be an English teacher correcting an essay to know that the student did not read the assignment and is slipping into classic high school bullshit.
When Rahm Emanuel referred to liberal activists as “retarded” in a private conversation, she opportunistically pounced. Typically, conservatives stay away from the political-correctness angle. But Palin howled that she was deeply offended. Unfortunately. Rush Limbaugh shortly thereafter denounced the retards in the White House. Retard, retard, retard—he said it forty times, with the usual honking, farting, grandmother-horrifying derision that passes for humor on radio these days. The day after that, Palin defended Limbaugh, drawing a meandering distinction between Emanuel’s comments and Limbaugh’s “satire.” The very next day, an actual satirist, Stephen Colbert, made the argument that “we should all come to her defense and say Sarah Palin is a fucking retard.” For once, Palin shut up.