James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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GOP VP nominee not Palin’ by comparison to Biden

Posted by James McPherson on September 3, 2008

From “bullshit” to bull moose: In her speech earlier tonight, Sarah Palin showed that she can not only shoot down and field dress the meat, but she can also pitch that red meat to the Republican base. She has no apparent qualms about doing what good VP candidates are supposed to do, attack the other side. Joe Biden won’t be the only VP pit bull–with or without lipstick–in this campaign.

Palin gave a good speech, with the usual convention-sized helpings of exaggeration and mischaracterization sprinkled with lie or two (she should quit repeating her false-but-appealing “bridge to nowhere” story, or that’s where it the bridge may help take her campaign). Palin did well what she had to do, though now that she’s “out there” without days to prepare for each appearance things may get tougher. On the other hand, Jay Rosen offers this somewhat depressing quote in considering the apparent McCain-Palin strategy:

Strategy: Comes from Bush, the younger. When realities uncovered are directly in conflict with prior claims, consider the option of keeping the claims and breaking with reality. Done the right way, it’s a demonstration of strength. It dismays and weakens the press. And it can be great theatre.

Rosen discusses how the GOP might reignite the culture war (it’s best strategy in the past couple of presidential elections), and elements of that war could be seen tonight. There wasn’t much on abortion–after all, Palin’s warmup act was pro-abortion, pro-gay civil unions, pro-gun control Rudy “9/11” Giuliani (I would like to see Rudy try to wrestle a rifle from Palin). But there has been plenty in recent days from the GOP (and its Fox News mouthpieces) about “elites” (a funny term for a ticket with at least 10 houses between them) and about that old Republican favorite, “the liberal media.”

It also was interesting to hear Palin and other speakers during the evening talk about the need for “change” from Washington politics. They obviously hope that a fair number of Americans will forget that it’s their president–the one McCain votes with most of the time–who has occupied the White House for the past eight years, and that their party controlled Congress for almost that entire time (while holding enough seats to sustain George W. Bush’s vetoes for the last two years, after the electorate kicked many–but not quite enough–of them out of office).

McCain himself was a Senator for all of that time, though he hasn’t showed up for the past five months. Giuliani made fun of Obama for voting “present,” but it has been quite a while since McCain could even say that much.

One media problem the McCain camp is trying to head off, fresh on the heels of the Bristol Palin pregnancy: the latest National Enquirer story about an alleged Sarah Palin affair. This is the sort of story that many of us would consider to be unlikely and irrelevant trash–but the exact thing that many conservatives recently criticized the mainstream media for not following up after the Enquirer reported similar allegations about John Edwards.

Unfortunately, as long as the major media let bloggers and tabloids dictate news selection, the GOP will have a case against the press–but it’s not a case of bias, as Republicans now pretend, as much as it is a case of laziness and sensationalism. And the Democrats can made the same case.

A even more ludicrous complaint from the McCain folks is that criticism of Palin’s obvious lack of experience is somehow sexist. That’s just stupid, especially since the GOP has been citing Obama’s lack of experience for months. Using their own reasoning, one would be forced to assume their criticisms stem from racism.

Tomorrow night is McCain’s turn. Any bets on how many times his years as a POW will come up?

Thursday elitist note: Vanity Fair estimates that Cindy McCain’s outfit from the other night cost approximately $300,000. Most of those “small town Americans” that the Republicans keep talking about that didn’t pay that much for their houses. And most of them only have one house.

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4 Responses to “GOP VP nominee not Palin’ by comparison to Biden”

  1. KT said

    Well said. I only wish that the mainstream media that most people listen to would echo your thoughts. There is so much hypocrisy within the Republican party. It truly makes me sick. Can anyone imagine what the Repubs would say and do if the roles were reversed and, for example, the Obama campaign had a teenage pregnancy to deal with? Senator Obama would be vilified.

  2. Mike Ingram said

    Jim, does the Enquirer have proof? It often does not, except in the John Edwards case where it had plenty. I look forward to these days being over and hearing more Libs/Dems, etc try to critque her on issues and performance, rather than whispers about her family.

    Naturally I liked her speech. She played the traditional role of a Veep as attack dog, and she appealed to the GOP base which is critical for Mac. While I doubt many PUMAs will really switch to vote for the GOP, there are reports of some voters, often women, who say Palin has changed their mind toward Mac. In some tight districts or counties in swing states, that could sway a state count.

  3. James McPherson said

    If I were a betting man I’d wager that the Enquirer has no proof (why I referred to it for many of us as unlikely and irrelevant trash). And I agree that we’d all be a lot better off (and better informed) with a lot less of this garbage. There are plenty of reasons to oppose (or in your case, to vote for) Palin/McCain without muddying the waters.

    Somewhat related to being not as well informed as we could be, however, I agree that Palin did her job well–and especially among a lazy electorate that often votes emotionally rather than based on issues (which is probably why there are so many undecideds at this point), she may swing some folks.

    Like most convention speeches it was long on rhetorical promise and exaggeration, short on details–but she presented very well. And presentation matters a lot: After all, apparently the McCain camp thinks even the one-millionth telling of his POW story will have an effect. Thanks.

  4. Caleb said

    “McCain himself was a Senator for all of that time, though he hasn’t showed up for the past five months. Giuliani made fun of Obama for voting “present,” but it has been quite a while since McCain could even say that much.”

    I don’t think McCain’s Senate attendance record is going to be affected much when you compare that to 26 years. Senator Obama hasn’t had a great attendance record either lately. Since October 2007, Obama has been absent 71% of the time. Here’s my source:
    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400629&tab=votes

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