I belong to a committee of correspondents which includes a number of Democrats who have served in previous Democratic administrations and national campaigns. The following is my contribution, made Saturday, Sept. 13, to the dialogue, in response to comments by others that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's TV interview with ABC anchor Charles Gibson sank her candidacy once and for all.
The language is blunt because we are friends, and that is how we express ourselves. Here it is:
I disagree that Palin's interview with Gibson did grave damage to her credibility and to the Sen. John McCain-Palin ticket. On the contrary, it probably helped the ticket.
First, Gibson's demeanor toward Palin was patronizing: glasses halfway down his nose. Quite literally talking down to her, from an elevated position, as if he were the knowledgeable, substantive authority having to explain things to the empty housewife in front of him. Fact is, when Gibson tried to nail Palin with a "gotcha" on the Bush Doctrine, he was the one who got it wrong. He obviously knew no more than that which was on the crib sheet in his lap — which is about all that most TV talking heads know when they undertake such interviews.
Media hostility toward Palin is helping the McCain-Palin ticket immeasurably. There is a huge populist shift taking place in the country right now. On one side are Palinistas — Reagan Democrats, Hillary Democrats, whatever we want to call them — and on the other are what they regard as smug political/media elites who see them as inferior proles. Palin, at least for now, is the hero of the populists.
I got an e-mail the other day from a Seattle friend passing along a memo by Deepak Chopra, of all people, characterizing Palin as representing reactionary forces of darkness and Sen. Barack Obama as representing enlightened forces of light. New Age nonsense. The people sticking up for Palin are the same people who have abandoned the Democratic Party in varying numbers since 1968. They are not racists or reactionary dopes. They are, characteristically, people who work hard for a living, are saving to send their kids to college and for their retirement, may have kids or relatives in military service, go to church, do volunteer work, and fly the American flag on their porches on patriotic holidays. Typically, they are hard-pressed economically. They see themselves as idealists playing by the rules and trying to live the American Dream. They see their critics as self-involved and selfish snobs, often insulated from hard daily life, with intellectual pretensions not backed up by IQ. Media pundits, according to the populist view, rate a minus-5 on a scale of 1-to-10 when it comes to integrity. Whom the pundits attack, the populists admire — if the attackee fights back.
There is something else going on here. Obama, at the outset of his campaign, excited all of us with his "Yes we can" Message. It was a message that lifted all of us — and millions of independent and young voters, as well. It held out the promise that we could reach across partisan and ideological divisions to address together tough national problems. No more petty politics and gridlock. In fact, the opposite. Yes we can.
Gradually, Obama — I think without recognizing it — has morphed into a Kerry or Edwards clone. His inspiring Denver acceptance speech needlessly contained the usual boilerplate litany of interest-group promises that characterizes most Democratic national candidacies. Obama has defended recently his earlier pledge that all but a few Americans would get tax cuts in his presidency. But if you read his Denver laundry list, you recognize that his promised agenda cannot be attempted without huge tax increases across the board. The GOP has not yet gotten onto this. They are, after all, still The Dumb Party. But it is hard to believe they won't get it and react to it soon.
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