Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

Getting Ready for the Republican Headliners

Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House. November ...

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For the past several months it seems that only the fringe Republican candidates have been able to get any attention. Yet now, Donald Trump seems to be fading and Newt Gingrich seems to be rising in the eyes of the Republican media outlets. Perhaps the seriousness of the success in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice has helped to focus them on more serious candidates.

I welcome this change. Although the past decade has seen me move from the category of Independent to Democrat, I recognize that for democracy to function like it is supposed to, we need two healthy parties putting forth serious and qualified candidates. No one knows which party will win in 2012, so we need qualified candidates on both tickets.

John McCain was a serious candidate, but out of political desperation he elevated Sarah Palin to a position on his ticket that she did not deserve. This act opened the door for people like Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump to entertain dreams of becoming the Republican candidate for President.

From a political point of view, I would be delighted for Sarah, Michelle, or the Donald to run as an Independent. Even better I would love to see the Tea Party form a real party and offer up a candidate. This would siphon off that fringe and better ensure that the winner is selected by more reasonable and informed voters. In such a contest, I believe that Obama would have a better chance for re-election, but more importantly, I believe we would likely get a better Republican president should she or he win.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Rush Limbaugh booking photo from his arrest in...

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Rush Limbaugh perfected the standard defensive strategy for Rabid Right pundits: the best defense is a good offense. His premise that the mainstream media is left-leaning and unreliable inoculates him from any form of criticism, so he chooses not to address any challenges from that quarter. Facts can be ignored once you have denied any credibility to all those who might dare to challenge you. Instead, you can re-characterize such challenges as unfair and as further evidence that the rest of the world is out to get you.

A fair amount of soul-searching seems to be going on in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on U.S. Congresswoman Giffords. Many stories have considered whether this event might be tied to the increasing rancor of public debate in our society. There is always, however, a strong disclaimer that there is no evidence that the perpetrator was in fact influenced by the angry rhetoric on the right or left.

The mere suggestion that public words might have dire consequences has inspired much defense in the form of offense from those on the right who have a history of using “fighting words.”  Rush Limbaugh accused the Democratic Party (Giffords is a Democrat) of “attempting to find anybody but [the shooter] to blame.” Sarah Palin, who put cross-hairs on Giffords on a website graphic, has followed Limbaugh’s lead in her reaction to this tragedy.  She expresses sadness about “irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame.”

Their reaction is pretty standard. Never is there a hint of misgivings or remorse. In their culture, such things would be a sign of weakness. Always is there a paranoid sense that the rest of the world is against them, and they are innocent victims of widespread attack. Never is there an engagement of points made by others. Always is there a cult-like foundation of distrust of outsiders.

This time their argument rests on a debatable issue: they consider the only real sin to be personal sin. Collective sin, on the other hand is the notion that things we do may contribute to evils of the world that do not have a personal author. An example of my own might be how by buying a discounted piece of clothing I support a system of exploitation of workers in foreign lands.

Clearly the assassination attempt is not a classic example of collective sin because there was an easily identifiable perpetrator. However, those who ignore collective sins generally deny any responsibility for the way they influence others to do evil. Limbaugh attacks those who suspect his rantings may have influenced Jared Lee Loughner. He accuses them of trying to provide cover for Loughner’s crime. In Palin’s video she quotes the role-model of the Rabid Right: Ronald Reagan. She quotes, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker.”

My role-model, Jesus of Nazareth said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mat 7:5, ESV). I believe that one should always be cautious about feeling like one is so innocent compared to others. Yes, I believe what the shooter did was a terrible thing. But I think we should not be so quick to assume our own innocence.

Palin seems to interpret Reagan’s words to suggest that society never has any guilt when any law is broken. Merely asking the question about whether crimes of individuals might point to larger problems in society puts her on the attack. Rather than being “irresponsible”, as Palin claims, isn’t such reflection the responsible thing for any society to do?

Furthermore, if Palin and Limbaugh want to apply Reagan’s adage fairly, then why is it okay for the entire society of Afghanistan to be punished for the actions of the lawbreakers on 9/11? I think the answer is that for them it is not really about principles at all; it is really about finding a good offense, any offense to respond to ideas that might put them on the defensive.

Christmas Comes Early for Limbaugh, et. al.

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of mar...

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Now that Congress has agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Sarah Palin will all be receiving a little extra spending money courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers. If Newsweek is correct about their incomes, and assuming they make the same amount next year, then by my calculations, Rush will be getting an extra $2,103,385.20, Glenn Beck will be getting $1,178,185.20, Sean Hannity will be getting $782,185.20, Bill O’Reilly will be getting $710,185.20, and Sarah Palin will be getting $494,185.20.

Let me be clear.  These figures represent the extra amount of money that these individuals will be able to keep thanks to the insistence of the Republicans that the Bush Tax Cuts be extended beyond the income threshold of  $250,000. The Democrat‘s proposal was already set to let each of them keep $4,681.50 more than what the current law allowed.  But why should they be satisfied with America borrowing only $5000 on their behalf when they can make future generations be on the hook for millions?

These millions of dollars are not really a gift from Uncle Sam.  No, each of these individuals worked very hard to make sure that like-minded citizens were elected to office last November.  It is thanks to their success that this windfall is coming their way. This is America, after all, so their hard work should be rewarded.

Family, Faith, and Flag

The title of Sarah Palin’s forthcoming book, “America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag” employs a clever use of alliteration to spell out a set of priorities that seems to capture the standard trio of allegiances of the religious right. Faith is trumped by family, and the flag is not far behind. Each member of this trio has become a code word.

“Family” is short for family values which refers to a dedication to the preservation of U.S. culture as defined by a romantic view of our country from the heyday of what Tom Brokaw dubbed the “greatest generation.” It reflects a longing for a simpler time when men were men, women were women, and all things were right in this country.

“Flag” is code for a special brand of patriotism. It is is both jingoistic and hawkish. It holds in tension two disparate ideas. It is eager to send U.S. troops to fight foreigners who threaten us but resentful of having to financially support the U.S. government through tax dollars. It sees no irony in a profession of love for this country while despising the government elected by the people of this country. It fights tooth and nail through the political process to elect like-minded people, but then imagines that it has no connection to those who run our government.

“Faith” is caught in between these two. It is meant to signal “Christianity” to her clan of like-minded people.  Christian faith is proudly worn like a medal of honor on the breast. It is a stamp of approval that blesses every feeling and emotion as right and righteous. Faith is in service to the individual. Scriptures are cherry-picked and their meanings prepackaged to prop up the preferred cultural and political points of view.

A recent flame war erupted on Facebook that gives us a glimpse into Sarah Palin’s family. Much has been made about the tit-for-tat battle between Sarah’s daughters, Bristol and Willow with some of their Facebook friends. It started with rude attacks from friends about their mom’s new reality show. Because family loyalty comes first, these attacks could not go unanswered. The Palin girls showed that they could hurl insults as well as the next person.  Their faith did not reign in their anger. They responded using the template of an angry patriot rather than the example of the Prince of Peace.  So we were all subjected to the spectacle of two Christians hurling the following insults to strangers:

(Willow): “Haha your so gay. I have no idea who you are, But what I’ve seen pictures of, your disgusting … My sister had a kid and is still hot.”
(Willow): “Tre stfu. Your such a f**got.”
(Willow): “Sorry that you guys are all jealous of my families success and you guys aren’t goin to go anywhere with your lives.”
(Bristol): “You’re running your mouth just to talk sh*t.”

I don’t think it’s necessary to argue that these words do not reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ. These words do not even reflect the romantic view of the good old days in America. These words, for me, add to the many other trashy and rude examples from Sarah Palin’s family that unmask the hollowness of Palin’s claims about her faith.

But that’s not my biggest problem.  I am much less concerned about the authenticity of this particular politician than I am about the impression she gives about Christianity to those who are not Christians.  I am pained by the number of people who have built a wall against Jesus and Christianity because they are so turned off by this sort of behavior from those who claim to be followers of Christ.  Christians are called to make Christ their top priority.  Until we allow our faith to shape us rather than our focus on family, culture or patriotism, no one will see the love of Christ in us.

How Propaganda Can Backfire

Right-wing media has been quite successful in feeding propaganda to an audience hungry for sensational radio and television. Smart individuals spin thin facts into fat assertions that are sometimes positively Orwellian in the way that they misrepresent reality. Other times they just make assertions based on nothing but mythical anecdotes.

Last week the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal ran a piece raising the alarm about inflation. Their thin facts were that wholesale prices were rising and putting grocers under pressure to raise their prices. The article correctly pointed out that so far this year food and beverage prices had risen at a paltry annual rate of less than 0.6%. This didn’t stop the article making the fat claim that “an inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants.”

Sarah Palin took the bait. The Wall Street Journal was so successful in spinning its propaganda, that Palin claimed in a speech that, “everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so.” Inconveniently, another writer from the Wall Street Journal called her out on her false claim.

This isn’t the first time a Tea Party darling has been exposed because s/he was too gullible about believing the spin of the right. Famously in a debate, Christine O’Donnell demonstrated her lack of understanding about what the Bill of Rights says concerning the freedom of religion. The right-wing media loves to prattle on about how the separation of church and state is not in the Constitution. Of course this statement is true if you put quotes around “separation of church and state.” Nowhere in the Constitution does that exact phrase appear.

It’s rather hard to hear the quotation marks when listening to some angry prophet of the right-wing media. So it’s understandable that someone like O’Donnell would be surprised to learn what the first amendment of the Constitution actually says when it is read to her during a political debate. She got caught by the same trap as Palin: she believed the spin even when it contradicted the facts.

The scary part of this tale is that in a Democracy, we need an educated electorate to avoid being manipulated by the rich and powerful. Many voters out there have grossly inaccurate understandings of facts that have been misrepresented by pundits in the media.