Letters, We Get Letters
The other day, I received an email from a reader who was a bit upset with my article about the Sarah Palin supporter who supposedly took her to task, yet kept praising her throughout. He wrote --
"Still obsessed with Palin..She was VP contender in 2007??.Is she ruining our country? Oh yeah she has no power. Why don't you write about the transformation of the country that is going on..Oh i'm sure you wouldnt be critical of your buddies that are calling the shots right now"
Well, first of all, I appreciate that he took the time to write. (Honest.) And I'm equally glad that he even reads these pages, at least on occasion. Since he was interested enough to ask so many questions that concerned him, I think it only fair that I return the favor and answer them.
As I think was very clear, the piece I wrote wasn't, in fact, about Sarah Palin at all, but rather concerned Mark Lewis, the author of the disingenuous article, "You Betcha I Was Wrong About Sarah Palin." Certainly the former half-term governor was important to the story, but she wasn't the point. When people obfuscate the truth, as Mr. Lewis, did in his article, it's important to rectify what's inaccurate. Especially when it gets so much attention and is being mis-interpreted. He was trying to let himself off the hook, covering his rear by saying he was wrong about Sarah Palin -- it was in the very title of his article, after all -- yet never taking any responsibility for helping promote her to the public, never once saying he was actually sorry for being wrong about that. He didn't attempt to make even a bad apology. Well, he doesn't get off that easy. So, I wrote about...him.
That said, absolutely I love writing about Sarah Palin. I really don't do it as much as I should -- she's in the news so often, and generally I ignore it completely or shake my head in wonderment and move on -- but sometimes she just goes so far over the ledge that it can't be ignored, like when a mosquito is bzzzzzzzing in your ear all night. At some point, you just have to swat away the annoyance. But seriously, how could one not love writing about her?! She provides such fodder. She's the gift that keeps on giving. And when you write an article every single day -- in fact, two articles every single day, and sometimes even more -- you're always searching for material. Much as people might think that ideas simply grow on trees, and you merely just have to pluck them ripe and juicy and fully-grown, alas, writing doesn't work that way. You really have to search and research and analyze at great length and think, and think some more -- and I actually don't get paid much for the time (unless you think zero is a lot), so when someone like a Sarah Palin falls into your lap, boy howdy, you don't dismiss that for a moment. God didn't create gift horses for no reason. I expect to be writing abut Sarah Palin for a long time -- she provides that much material, and I suspect always will -- so thank the heavens for her.
I'm not quite sure, however, what my correspondent meant about "2007." It may have been a typo or brain freeze -- I make them all the time. The election was in 2008. And the thing is, that's only six years go. While I know in this fast-paced Twitter World, where what you write is almost-instantly gone, six years might seem ages ago, but it's actually only...well, six years. The candidate who beat her is still in office. That's barely time for a kid to be born and make it to kindergarten. Six years is not only, for most people, "in recent memory," it's actually recent. I know that the Bush Administration liked to ridicule people who looked to the recent past as "pre-9/11 thinking." And many Republicans today hate it when others refer to problems caused by the Bush Administration as "old thinking" and how that's all in the past. But six years really isn't even remotely long ago. It's...actually recent. And in fact, unless you always stay aware of the past, where you came from, you'll never progress. That's how you learn and grow. I get the sense that Republicans' dislike of looking at problems of the past is in part why they're so adept at not fixing things. And re-creating the same problems. (Hint: Trickle-Down Economics doesn't work, no matter how many times you try it. And it screws up the economy each time.)
In fact, one of the more famous quotes on the subject is that by George Santayana -- "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."
So, looking at the past is actually A Good Thing. And six years really is not long ago at all. That's blinking.
Which brings us to the next question about Sarah Palin. "Is she ruining the country?" he asks. No, but not from lack of trying. Happily the country is stronger than Sarah Palin to ruin. (Though thankfully she didn't become President.) But one doesn't have to "ruin" the country in order to do it great harm. And yes, Sarah Palin does the country that much harm. Still. She has a voice on the platform -- a smaller voice by the day, but she still is a former Vice Presidential candidate which will always carry weight. She still has deeply loyal followers. Her words still do get covered. She still takes up airspace in the news -- and since there are only 24 hours in a day, any lost airspace is precious. And if he's not responded to, then her yammerings sit there unchallenged and carry even more weight among her acolytes.
No, Sarah Palin doesn't have power. Partly, that's her doing. After all, she could still be governor of Alaska, but she quit halfway through office. But people who are like her, as I mentioned, do have a base. And a loyal base. And that commands attention, which is a type of personal power. No, not elected power. Not the power to effect immediate change. But definitely still the power to be listened to, and convince those who hang on her every word that up is down, that wrong is right, and that black is in the White House.
But even that misses the point. Does she have power? Did she run six long years ago? Why still write about her all the time? What all these question miss the point about is that the actual thing which prompted Mark Lewis's disingenuous article is that Sarah Palin had just publicly announced she was interested in becoming President of the United States. No, she doesn't have power, but she says she wants it. Why still write about her? Because she still makes news. And headlines. And says she wants to become the most powerful person in the world.
Why still write about her? For the same reason you swat at that bug until it goes away.
That brings us to my correspondent asking why I don't write about the transformation going on in the country. Now, I admit that that had me confused. Because, you see...I do write about it. All the time. Only the other day, I wrote about how unemployment has dropped to 5.8 percent, the lowest it's been in seven years since the economy collapsed under George W. Bush.. I write about how new jobs have increased for 53 straight months. I write that the budget deficit has dropped for six consecutive years, every since since after President Obama took office, decreased by a trillion dollars. That the country now has affordable health care, which 73% say they're satisfied or very satisfied with their coverage. After 50 years we are finally recognizing Cuba. We have pulled our soldiers out of Afghanistan and Iraq. I write about the country's transformation all the time! I'm sorry that some don't appear to give much weight to this kind of transformation, but that's between them and a higher power. It's the kind of transformation that has helped raise President Obama's approval rating to reaching 50% for the first time in two years.
Which finally brings us in the end to, "Oh i'm sure you wouldnt be critical of your buddies that are calling the shots right now". Actually, just to be clear, it's the Republicans who are in control of the Senate and House right now, calling the shots there -- and pretty much all we've seen from there are more attempts to repeat the Affordable Care Act and a new anti-abortion bill. Leadership You Can Count on!
Now, of course, what my correspondent pal is trying to refer to is the White House. I get it. But there are a few reasons I don't write as many criticisms in that direction as I do about the far right. One is that I don't think they have nearly as much to criticize as conservatives have to answer for. Another is that I think the balance isn't anywhere close to equal, and what conservatives are doing wrong is so much heavier and problematic than issues coming from the Administration.
But despite all that, I do criticize the White House and Democrats, particularly when they most deserve it. I've said they ran truly dismal election campaigns last year. I also think they got weak-kneed and didn't push affordable health care as far as they should have, creating a much less-protective bill than I think the country needed and would have eventually accepted. I don't think Democrats have been strong enough in pushing Climate Change protections. I think Democrats have been very slow and should be far more aggressive in creating new laws to compensate for the Supreme Court stripping down the Voting Rights Bill. And I don't like the Democrats who are supporting efforts to weaken Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform. I also think that President Obama should have made more of a personal outreach to Republicans -- not because it would have had any effect (no, Congressional Republicans have made totally clear that they want zero to do with anything Mr. Obama proposes or even touches. If he said 2 plus 2 equaled 4 they'd find some reason to disagree), but they wouldn't have the issue to whine about.
And more. But basically, no, while there's plenty to criticize Democrats, the White House and my "buddies" for, I don't think there's nearly as much to criticize them for compared to the religious far-right agenda of the Republican Party that destroyed the economy, lied the nation into a war, has declared war on women, and helpd crush the middle class.
I hope that answers the questions...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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