September 24, 2008

It's a long lost cause I can never win
For the civilized world accepts as unforgivable sin
Any talking out loud with any librarian
Such as Marian ... Madam Librarian.

- The Music Man

It was a brilliant move by John McCain to name Sarah Palin as his running mate. In one swoop, he out-historic'ed the Democrats (and that in a much more comfortable position than that of outright president) and invoked some significant sex appeal (the use of which can never be questioned, lest the questioning be called sexist), while at the same time he drew back to his side many of the hard right Republicans who had been uncomfortable with the idea of so "liberal" an Oval House respresentative. He has the experience to be president -- and, as president, he is the one who has to have it, while any experience she might have is more of a bonus. After all, as his running mate and successor only in a theoretical what-if, she won't need to hit the ground running after the infamous 3 am telephone call, so she can always learn the technicalities of it while in office.

All we really know of her is that she is the governor of Alaska, neither particularly incompetent nor leaving an exceptional legacy. Even now, all that the efforts of all the blogosphere combined have managed to dig up is that there have been some stumbles and some glitches, but no outright fiascos. All the rest comes from a mélange of images and associations. Distant and dimly misunderstood land under the northern lights, land of romance and hardship and the ultimate testament to the validity of meritocracy. Land of strong frontier women who speak their minds and hold family values sacred, as the nature of frontier itself hones pioneer survival to the essentials. (I suspect no one has looked too closely at the kinds of houses they build in upper class Alaska, these days.) She won second prize in a beauty contest: and everyone who looks even once at her can attest to her gifts in that direction. The news of that somehow managed to come out almost immediately, certainly long before the questions of why she might wish to conduct business on a hidden personal e-mail account or what kind of person tells the access codes of an unguarded Internet use to everyone listening to speeches broadcast coast to coast to northern coast, never mind their open accessibility on her Wikipedia page.

(I have always held that much more information was openly available than people thought, or maybe were willing to admit. Most of it does not even require a hack, but lies open to the point that all could see, did they but think to look. Back at the beginning of September when all other news was starting to be drowned out by Gustav, how many thought to check Wikipedia edits, and notice that the entry on one of the darkest horses had been revised extensively in the last 48 hours before The Announcement?)

Toughness and sexuality and family values in one complete package.

Whatever she is, whatever uneasiness she inspires: McCain can always point to the fact that she will not be the president. To those on the other polarity, he can always suggest, in that strange virtual world of politics which makes us play with potentials we never really expect to use, that she will be a significant impact on his presidency (and perhaps even more, should he, among the oldest of candidates, happen to die in office). Much more valuable than the pitbull is the flower held by popular opinion to be delicate. Who dares being seen to be the one to trample it?

How can the tough questions not be asked of a vice presidential candidate? How can sexuality not come up in the context of a former beauty contest runner-up?

Now, finally, a few columnists are cautiously using the call of true feminist equality to ask why a candidate a heartbeat away from the presidency should be so shielded?

I just have one question: where were you people when it was Barack Obama being given the "respectful" pass and Hillary Clinton being lambasted?

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