190. Conventions and rallies – Sarah Palin and the US Open

andrew-murray-us-open-flushing-meadows-2008-c-bbc-co-ukThe news this week from America was electrifying.

After a titanic struggle, the young pretender had seen off the hot favourite. Now only destiny and history awaited.

The crucible of battle beckoned – a chance to banish the incumbent powers through destroying the old master.

And no, I’m not talking about the US Open tennis, even if for just for one moment in the second set it looked like Andy Murray might almost have the game to beat Roger Federer, just as he had swept away Rafael Nadal.

It was the American party conventions and the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain which intrigued. After glowing coverage of the Democratic bash in Denver, the Republican affair attracted little comment here initially.

Flicking the channels for a glimpse of Flushing Meadows last week, I came across a speech by Fred Thompson. The Senator’s deadpan style might almost have been compared by The Guardian to the dullest and most plodding rhetoric offered by our own Gordon Brown, but Thompson gave it a passable attempt.

The speech set out John McCain’s credentials, recalling his suffering and extraordinary courage during the Vietnam war. McCain was a principled and dignified statesman, he said, willing to stand up for what was right, and to fight the establishment machine. Willing to take risks in support of his beliefs.

sarah-palin-john-mccain-republican-convention-2008-by-newshour-flickrI might not agree with McCain, I thought, but America does have a proper choice, this time.

A Republican leader able to summon up another kind of change, offering measured wisdom and long experience as practical alternatives to Obama’s vision and idealism.

Two strong candidates – and each of them presenting a pathway into the future.

The case for McCain was made, and Thompson should have stopped there.

Sadly he didn’t. What America doesn’t need, Thompson continued (and forgive me if I paraphrase) is a leader who is popular in Europe. What America doesn’t need is a President who apologises for the damage of these past eight years. Not when our enemies are all around us, pressing fast at the gates of republic.

Well, excuse the world for disagreeing, Senator, but that’s exactly what America does need. To rejuvenate her strongest alliances, to step back from confrontation and isolationism, and to re-engage with the world. To rediscover her friends and to create no more enemies.

How could a tortured prisoner of war like McCain not regret Guantanamo? It beats me, as the inmates of Abu Ghraib and Camp Delta might also have said.

But as instructive as it was, Thompson’s speech is a memory now. An unpleasant ripple, long forgotten in the choppy wake of Sarah Palin. A woman, no less.

It’s well past high time to shatter the glass ceiling. Despite so much progress, prejudice remains ingrained and pervasive, all around us.

Just this week, in telling us that Andy Murray could be the first British winner of a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry in 1936, had our own British media forgotten how Sue Barker took the French Open four decades later, or that Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977? It seems that they had.

So yes, let’s see a woman into the White House, and soon. But surely, it’s insulting the intelligence of women to assume that any woman is the right woman. Even if she’s feisty. Because behind the undoubted charisma and the hockey-mom branding, it doesn’t look that good beneath.

sarah-palin-republican-convention-minneapolis-st-paul-2008-by-newshour-flickrPalin is an evolution denier. A climate change denier. An opponent of AIDS education in schools. A woman who is so in tune with her environment that she lists shooting wild animals as one of her favourite pursuits.

McCain isn’t a healthy man. He’s run a brave race to get this far, but he looks exhausted and lacklustre in the spotlight now, relying on negativity and wild distortions of policy to back his campaign case.

And what of his judgment, and his trumpeted triumph over the party machine? Because measured risk-taking is one thing, but in propelling a trigger-happy Sarah Palin to within one ageing heartbeat from the Presidency, the Republican party seems happy to risk the world far more than this election.

The news from America last night wasn’t good. The brave young pretender was finally foiled by the sheer brilliance of the old campaigner. Andrew Murray will have to wait for another day, and he’ll need to find another level before he can challenge a redeemed Roger Federer. But that day will surely come.

And far beyond Flushing Meadows, will Obama find the poise and the power to dispatch McCain and his gun-toting firebrand of a sidekick, all across America?

It’s hard to predict the future, in politics and sport. But a smile at the net isn’t enough, John and Sarah. Because the ball has gone past you. And running in reverse won’t help hit it back.

190. Conventions and rallies - Sarah Palin and the US Open : : 190. Conventions and rallies - Sarah Palin and the US Open : : 190. Conventions and rallies - Sarah Palin and the US Open : : 190. Conventions and rallies - Sarah Palin and the US Open : : 190. Conventions and rallies - Sarah Palin and the US Open : : 190. Conventions and rallies - Sarah Palin and the US Open

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18 responses to “190. Conventions and rallies – Sarah Palin and the US Open

  1. President Palin leaves Jon Taplin in dark mood …

  2. Good points, and your concern about a White House that actually knows we need friends abroad and must appreciate them is shared by many here, but they tend to be Democrats. No surprise, but baffling.

    McCain seems to think we women vote with our ovaries and not our brains. If that weren’t bad enough, there are right-wing women enthused about that ticket now simply because Palin is so strongly anti-choice — no abortions ever, not even in cases of rape or incest. And for all her self-righteous “morality” she has a knocked-up teenager to show for it who obviously paid no attention when mom preached abstinence.

    (aside: Imagine the size of my teenage eyes the first time someone in England asked me what time I’d like to be knocked up in the morning.)

    There are some who pooh-pooh concerns about McCain’s health because his 4 incidents of cancer were “only” skin cancer. I remind them that Maureen Reagan died of it in her mid-50’s. She was, by the way, part of Republicans for Choice and I wish she were still around to champion reproductive rights.

    Finally, Palin might have shattered a Republican glass ceiling, but the Democrats had a female vp candidate decades ago. Geraldine Ferraro, a congresswoman, was Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984. I suppose Mondale knew nobody could beat Reagan, so why not? That might have been McCain’s thinking too, but now it’s becoming frightening because Palin is attracting support.

    Sorry this was so long!

  3. Thanks very much for those insights, Ella. Straight to the point, as always.

    Yes, I remember Geraldine Ferraro. At that time, we had our own glass-ceiling breaker in Margaret Thatcher, of course. She was no emancipator of women, though.

    Appealing to the Republican core base is something McCain has struggled with. Before choosing his running mate, there was talk here of a distinct unease in the party. Not now he has Palin alongside him.

    How Palin’s selection plays out with the wider electorate and with the swing voters is a different matter entirely, and the opinion polls in the next few weeks will tell us more. But from this distance Palin’s arrival appears to have added real energy and some real entropy into the contest.

  4. Roads, I know you might not be into this sort of thing, but I have an award for you at my site, for your exceptional writing on this blog. Keep ’em coming.

    Btw, hunting is fairly common in Alaska – which is a very unusual state in many ways. Hunting for wolves from the air has been banned – it is only used now by the state or by Fish and Game when trying to keep the wolf population from getting so high that the caribou herds start decreasing. Wolves have no natural predators in Alaska except for man.

    Some people go to Alaska from Outside to hunt for sport, but for locals it really can be a major source of food, if they are into it. All other meat is shipped into Alaska from Outside. Personally, I just get into the fishing, which is also a great source of food.

    Alaska Natives have considerable hunting and fishing rights (sometimes called ‘subsistence’), which may seem out of place or archaic in other parts of the world, but it would be worth visiting their villages to see the strange in-between-old-and-new world that they live in.

    There is a lot of middle-of-nowhere country in Alaska, places that can only be gotten to by sled or snowmobile in winter when everything is frozen. Most other places can only be gotten to by plane, by rafting down rivers (a sport not a great way to travel since it’s only one way), or by hike/canoe trips across marshy, soggy ground and lakes. Very few actual roads…

  5. Thanks very much for the award, Silver Fox – warmly appreciated.

    Alaska sounds fascinating – real wilderness. I’d love to visit. The scenery and culture you describe has echoes in Norway perhaps, where hunting, fishing and whaling have long (and sometimes troubled) histories.

  6. Hi Roads, with the worldwide interest in the upcoming US elections I think you can like this: http://iftheworldcouldvote.com/

    The site is independent from political parties, and it was made as an exercise to see who would be the next president of the US if the whole world could vote. You can vote or only see the results.

    Of course, the people that made this webpage are not suggesting that everybody should vote or participate in a foreign country’s election, it’s made for entertaining and so far the results are interesting.

    I know you have been discussing this election in a very serious way and I’m not trying to be disrespectful at all but sometimes a lighter perspective can also be good.

    Anyway… the result so far shows
    Obama 85.7%
    McCain 14.3%

  7. Thanks very much for that link, Patricia. I’ll make sure I try it out.

    The results of the international poll are very interesting. They equate well with what people tell me here on the streets of London.

    I think it’s healthy that so many people abroad are interested in this US election. We’re going to be enormously affected by the results of that vote.

  8. I looked up the results, Patricia. 1800 people have voted in the UK, with 91% of them favouring Barack Obama.

    Amongst all the nations in the world outside the US, only Georgia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Macedonia show a majority of votes for John McCain. Votes in Oman, Haiti, Kenya and Namibia are equally split, but every other country would elect Obama, who scored 85% of the 47,500 votes cast.

    How fascinating! I wonder how many people worldwide would vote for our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown? He’s far from popular at home.

  9. More on the Caribou Barbie.
    And there’s lots more great coverage over at Barry Obama, too.

  10. I loved the whole ‘lipstick on a pitbull/pig’ thing going on between Obama and Palin. Brings the whole thing back to playground level, which is where i feel McCain would like to have the fight.

    Obama may be policy-light but I can’t see how such a great nationa can effectively endorse the past 8 years of domestic and global mis-management. Of course, we face similar dilemas here in the UK. The problem is the only people talking sense have little or no chance of getting into power.

    I’ve always believed our law-makers should be dragged, kicking and screaming, into office. Anyone that keen to get their hands on the tiller should be sent to Arkham.

    I like the idea of a war-time cabinet, an all-star bench if you will, bringing the best of all parties in their particular field. I don’t see why we need the threat of global apocalypse to achieve this. Party politics constipates intelligent debate. Problem solving is almost always most effective (if not quite as efficient) when all considered views are considered.

    McCain and Obama aren’t as far apart as they’d have us believe. Wouldn’t it be cool to sit them on the same team? It would mean we could forget about the Republican joker, too.

  11. Thanks, Sweder. I’m concerned that Sarah Palin looks increasingly like a a contestant on American Idol.

    And I’m even more concerned that this kind of approach might one day prove successful at the polls.

    Not this year, let’s hope.

  12. Prophetic words, Roads. Before I’d got back here and read this I googled images of Sarah Palin – purely for research purposes you understand; I’m not entirely sick! – and found this: http://www.squidoo.com/vicepresidentsarahpalin

    American Idol indeed!
    Sadly (and I’m not about to defend the woman) I fear we’ve not seen the best of Palin in recent weeks. She has that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look, still unsure if the world stage she stands on will prove riddled with trapdoors. As a result she’s unsure of her footing, skittish, brittle and snappy. Having researched her work in her home state she has more to offer than we’re getting to see.

    I still think she’s mad as a wasp-stung badger and I don’t want her bony finger anywhere near the Big Red Button.

  13. ‘America’s hottest governor’ ? So that’s how it looks in Alaska magazine, at least.

    Picking the cover photo must have been a close run thing there. Especially with such a strongly competing second story: ‘Homing in on halibut’.

    No wonder there are reports of fishy goings on under the Governor’s command. She may not be hooked yet, but Palin’s judgment is clearly on the line. It’s looking reel serious, and she might be netted sooner than we sink.

  14. I’m sure many GOP fans wish she would Palin to insignificance . . . sorry, I’ll stop that right now.

    Not sure if you saw coverage of the classic faux pas at a recent Palin rally? The Great Lady was giving forth in her increasingly whiny tone on the subject of supporting ‘our military’ when a secton of the crowd at the back, unaccustomed as they were to picking up sounds usually only audible to dogs, started chanting ‘louder! louder!’

    Palin mistook this for Barracking (see what I did there?!) and asserted her fervant hope that the ‘protestors’ appreciate the sacrifice made by the brave boys fighting overseas to ‘preserve free speech’. Mr Palin leant in to explain the reason for the chanting and the Whitehouse wannabe visibly paled yet further. Priceless.

    Meanwhile stock and shares continue to behave like corks overboard in a force 10. Frightening times.

  15. Yes, Sweder, the Palin bounce is truly over after Troopergate.

    It’s revealing that the dark (and in my view, totally unjustified, inappropriate, racially motivated and reprehensible) attacks on Obama have stepped up to a new level.

    This article from the Guardian lays out the ground very well.

    The adoption of the Brookline Ryder Cup chant of USA! USA! by the Republicans was a repugnant feaure of their convention, embodying the worst kind of narrowly patriotic myopia in American attitudes to overseas diplomacy. We’ve lived through 8 years of the ‘Let’s whip their Muslim ass’ approach as adopted by George Bush. And just look where that has got us.

  16. Madrid Masters: Murray avenges US Open defeat by Federer:

    Murray masters Federer to join elite

  17. The numbers seems to be closing as polling day approaches. This isn’t a great surprise as the same thing happens here in the UK, but I truly wonder if America can and will vote in their first black president in 2008?

    Virtually every American I’ve spoken to on my travels recently has expressed admiration or at least respect for Obama, though not all have committed to giving their ultimate approval. Palin has weakened McCain to the point he’s throwing sticks and stones left and right, yet the pollsters say the gap is staying steady at around 8 points.

    Personally I think it’s a big ask. Young voters could hit the home run for the Democrats but will they get out and vote?

    As ever there are more questions than answers.
    Judgement day looms, and here in Lewes we stand ready to salute that day with our traditional pagan enthusiasm on November 5th.

    If there’s any way you can get down there Roads let me know – it’s quite a spectacle.

  18. A closing of the poll numbers is certain, but it’s disquieting all the same.

    I read this week how Gore had a double digit lead in October 2000, and went on to lose by a few hanging chads.

    It’s interesting to think about a Presidency which might have been. But the world really can’t afford another close-run and disastrous outcome like that one.

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