Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Packaging Versus Contents, as the Concepts Relate to Sarah Palin and Dana Milbank

If you've ever wondered just what the hell happened with the McCain campaign's relationship with Sarah Palin -- and just what the freaking hell is wrong with her -- here's a great Vanity Fair article by Todd Purdum.

Most of all, I'm struck by how familiar she seems. It's rare, but occasionally I've met a person who denies that the facts are important at all -- they seem unwilling or unable to understand why the rest of us place so much importance on them. Now, I'm not someone who thinks that politicians always lie or never lie, of course. Sometimes politicians see or convey the world in a way that's most convenient for them politically, but they generally recognize some relationship between their ideas and the real world. It may not be so with Palin:
At one point, trying out a debating point that she believed showed she could empathize with uninsured Americans, Palin told McCain aides that she and Todd in the early years of their marriage had been unable to afford health insurance of any kind, and had gone without it until he got his union card and went to work for British Petroleum on the North Slope of Alaska. Checking with Todd Palin himself revealed that, no, they had had catastrophic coverage all along. She insisted that catastrophic insurance didn’t really count and need not be revealed. This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small. By late September, when the time came to coach Palin for her second major interview, this time with Katie Couric, there were severe tensions between Palin and the campaign.
Later in the story, a couple unnamed folks suggest that she's got narcissistic personality disorder -- they'd actually consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on it. Whatever her problem, her behavior at least sounds compatible to that of someone with such a cluster B personality disorder.

On a side note, this is what bothers me most about WaPo columnist Dana Milbank, my Villager of recent pointed interest. He'll find an entertaining metaphor for some D.C. event, and he'll write about the scene, the personalities, the conflict, the drama ... and never get around to the important facts, who is bullshitting and who's earnest. It's not important.

Here's A Siegel riffing on a Milbank column that portrays Al Gore as the mystical Oracle at Delphi handing hazy, impenetrable wisdom on climate change to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee/superstitious ancient Greeks. As with the boxing-match metaphor in his "A Thrilla Near the Hilla," this Oracle frame is a fine way to avoid talking about facts when they matter most. And avoiding global warming facts is a fine way to keep from offending the craziest Republicans.

[Milbank's article:] Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) begged the Goracle to look further into the future. "What does your modeling tell you about how long we're going to be around as a species?" he inquired.

The Goracle chuckled. "I don't claim the expertise to answer a question like that, Senator."

It was a jarring reminder that the Goracle is, indeed, mortal. Once Al Gore was a mere vice president, but now he is a Nobel laureate and climate-change prophet. He repeats phrases such as "unified national smart grid" the way he once did "no controlling legal authority" -- and the ridicule has been replaced by worship, even by his political foes.

The chairman worried that the Goracle may have been offended by "naysayers" who thought it funny that Gore's testimony before the committee came on a morning after a snow-and-ice storm in the capital. "The little snow in Washington does nothing to diminish the reality of the crisis," Kerry said at the start of the hearing.

Really think, Dana, that the issue is whether Al Gore was offended or not? How about dealing with the substance that global warming deniers love to confuse people whenever a weather event works conveniently with their agenda to distort science?

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