Palin: the Perfect Proxy

We know Barack Obama. In two books, countless interviews and articles, we have measured this man.
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Meet Sarah Palin. Relatable and fun, cute but sassy. Her record makes Dan Quayle look like Kissinger, but never mind that, Fox News says. She is one of us. And in this tribal mindset, in a TV instant, the Grand Old Party, once the reliable patron of boring, accomplished white men, ditched decades of tradition for a mascot.

It's sad, really. The party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, of Eisenhower and, uh, Chester Arthur, hijacked again by the lunatic fringe. In Governor Palin, and therefore the McCain candidacy, the retrograde right has its perfect proxy.

Creationism in the schools. Abortion outlawed in cases of rape and incest. Wars as tasks from God.

These are rallying-cry issues for A.M. radio fans, but how many Republicans actually reflect on such policies? American students quoting the Bible over science. Back-alley abortions killing and maiming American women. Endless wars fueled by religious righteousness. For all but the most hopeless zealots, this is a bleak future.

And yet, the reactionary cover girl is melting Midwestern hearts, and John McCain's convention bounce is still rising.

Meanwhile, progressive America is apoplectic, *praying* that the Obama campaign overcomes. Will the press deliver the truth? Likely not. In our corporate fourth estate, dissent is rare. The mainstream media, like the corrupt politicians it was once meant to police, has become primarily concerned with its own profit.

As the Daily Show pointed out, doublespeak is vogue. And for more and more supposedly thoughtful conservatives, a whatever-it-takes game plan is corroding intellectual honesty. Take David Brooks. Oh sad, tormented David Brooks. On PBS, he gushes for Palin. In the Times, he makes a mockery of fine satire. Are his readers expected to forget that, mere months ago, the man was an Obama validating machine?

Politics and hypocrisy are embedded fellows. But when a rookie like Palin is rolled out as an example of uncorrupted honesty, journalists are obligated to the facts. A lie told by a pleasant-looking mom is still a lie.

We are a desperate nation and any cure will do. But as hope and cynicism vie for the win, the bitter lozenge of Republican talking points, administered by a sweet-talking country girl, is going down smooth. In Palin's homespun sarcasm, desperate men have found their voice.

It's all backwards though, isn't it?

We know Barack Obama. His life has been exhaustively documented. Kansas, Africa, Punahou, Columbia University, Harvard Law, Chicago, Michelle, Springfield, the U.S. Senate. In two books, countless interviews and articles, we have measured this man.

Conservative commentators fight this knowledge. We don't know this angry black man, they remind us. He remains exotic, unknowable, dark. Paint him as the Manchurian Candidate for Islamofascists, for the Nation of Islam, for the Black Panthers, Kruschev, the Weather Underground, Iran and vegetarians.

The times are too perilous for a cartoon election. With eight weeks left, maybe someone else can snag a Palin interview.

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