Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

Bread Bowls, Suspenders and Sarah Palin

How an Elderly Man in 50s Garb Taught me a Valuable Lesson

I had a deeply profound, introspective moment last week, and it occurred in the most unlikely place: Panera Bread.  There I was, picking apart the last little bit of my sourdough bread

Suspenders

Courtesy of Stephen Trendy's Fashion Diary

bowl, when an elderly man wearing suspenders asked me a single, simple question that sparked a torrent of thoughts that tortured my psyche for the better part of a week.

“Are you going to see Sarah Palin speak tomorrow?”

Anticlimactic, right? Well, not really.  Immediately, I became enraged that this man could confuse me with someone who’d actually join the droves of people flooding D.C. for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally.  Though fuming on the inside, I remained calm and unfettered on the surface as I responded “no, not this time.”

The man seemed disappointed, likely realizing that my family had no intention of joining him at his table to discuss the moral decay of America.

Sarah Palin Speaking at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Rally

Courtesy of CBS News

“Oh, I saw her Alaska shirt (the man said, referring to a shirt that my mother bought while on a cruise to Alaska), and thought you folks might have come down to see her speak.”

Unbelievable! This man actually thinks we’d travel more than 4000 miles to see that imbecile complain about more things that she has no idea how to fix?

“No, no, we’re from around here,” my mom said, in a cordial, albeit awkward tone.

As we left the restaurant, my mind was still racing.  “Who does that?” I thought to myself, still unable to get a handle of my emotions.  Then it hit me.  I embodied the quality that I hate most about Tea Partiers.

It was one of those self-realization, venture down the rabbit hole moments that was probably a long time coming.  I have grown to so stigmatize the extreme right, that the mere suggestion that I might be associated with them enraged me.  To be honest, I’m embarrassed and ashamed.

How can I sit here, advocating that our country strive for better cohesion and temperament in our national dialogue, when I can’t even embrace that notion over a cup of soup with an old man?  I had become just as polarized as the extremists I denounce.

Elephant vs. Donkey

Courtesy of Ten Minutes a Week

When was humanity lost in political discourse?  For too long, we’ve forgotten that our political enemies are still people.  They have families.  They own dogs.  I’ll even go out on a limb and suggest that they root for the same sports teams we do.  But the second that someone brings up the national debt or the immigration issue, we forget that we’re dealing with people.  People who deserve the right to have an opinion.

Please know that this does not mean that I will not comment critically on extremism in the conservative movement in future posts.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a fervent, heated debate, but only as long as it ends with the victor buying the less-apt debater a beer after all is said and done.

**Note to my readers:  I know that the blog has been on a bit of a hiatus for about three months now, but I intend to start writing weekly from this point on.  I appreciate the patience you’ve exhibited, and look forward to restarting our dialogue.

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The Word War

Why rhetoric almost drove me away from politics

Have you ever hit a wall doing something you love?  This phenomenon is often associated with runners who have to muster up every bit of strength and intensity they can to breach an invisible barrier that threatens to derail their run.

Health Care Protest

Courtesy of Syracuse.com

Well I hit a wall (metaphorically speaking) a few weeks ago when the health care debate reached a fever pitch.  I’m usually one who appreciates the idiosyncratic aspects of the political game.  I cognitively distance myself from the rhetoric and emotion, choosing instead to observe the often comedic routine that is political posturing.  But the health care fight took all the fun out of political debating – it became downright ugly.

I’m all for using language strategically and effectively; it’s one of the reasons that I’m in public relations.  However, I draw the line at language that drives the public to behave heinously.

I know that my more conservative readers will offer their “proof” as to why I’m wrong to identify the following talking points as inflammatory lies intending to incite nothing less than riots.  Let me offer a disclaimer.  This blog post is intended to be anecdotal.  It was drafted to retell the story of my mounting frustration, so regardless of whether you dispute the validity of my claims, their effects on my psyche were very real.  With that taken care of, lets discuss what had me so darn flustered.

Remember back to the Joe Wilson scandal?  When he screamed “you lie” during President Obama’s health care address to Congress? Everybody flipped.  The GOP demanded he apologize for his inappropriate outburst and the Dems were out for his head.  That anger was fueled by an understanding that political rhetoric is all well and good, but everyone has to play by a certain set of rules in order to maintain public order.

Woman Protests Health Care

Courstesy of BigGovernment.com

Fast-forward six months, and I’ll paint you a gloomier picture where the “disenfranchised” party has determined that it would rather write its own rulebook.  Rather than expound upon some of the more egregious incidents that arose from this new dynamic, I’ll leave the wording to New York Times columnist Frank Rich.

There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. And as the week dragged on, and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the F.B.I. and the local police had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

Yet it’s this bill that inspired G.O.P. congressmen on the House floor to egg on disruptive protesters even as they were being evicted from the gallery by the Capitol Police last Sunday. It’s this bill that prompted a congressman to shout “baby killer” at Bart Stupak, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat. It’s this bill that drove a demonstrator to spit on Emanuel Cleaver, a black representative from Missouri. And it’s this “middle-of-the-road” bill, as Obama accurately calls it, that has incited an unglued firestorm of homicidal rhetoric, from “Kill the bill!” to Sarah Palin’s cry for her followers to “reload.” At least four of the House members hit with death threats or vandalism are among the 20 political targets Palin marks with rifle crosshairs on a map on her Facebook page.

Click here for the full article

Rich goes on to explain the true source of the public’s discontent, drawing the same conclusion that I came to about a month ago – the conclusion that frustrated me to the point of getting out of politics altogether.  This health care debate has very little to do with health care reform.

President Obama in front of symbols of health care

Courtesy of Planetpov.com

Obama’s election unearthed some deep seeded unease felt by much of his opposition.  His election to the presidency radically changed our political social construct, whether we’d like to admit it or not.  It would be too easy to simplify the public’s unrest as being propagated by subliminal racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.  But the reality is that our social construct has undergone significant reforms, and not everyone adapts easily to change.  The Tea Party movement and the fervency seen in health care opposition is merely a backlash against the evolution of our society.

In identifying the source of this feud, I came to the unnerving realization that no matter what argument I brought to the table, my words would fall on deaf ears.  No one wants to debate health care.  They want to debate change.  They want to qualify every policy change as part of a grander socialist plot to destroy capitalism.  They want to polarize our nation as much as possible.  They want to feed this monster.

Health care Bill - Final Vote

Courtesy of NJ.com

But in viewing this from a historical perspective, I was reassured that the storm will subside.  We saw similar passions swell during the inception of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare.  I once told a friend that this health care debate is simply a war of words that I’m losing.  Their party’s rhetoric is more effective than my own party’s, and until we figure out the right way tell the public that health care reform is really a good thing, we can never win this battle.

I was wrong.

The Democrats cannot win the fight for public support on the health care bill.  Rather, they need to win the campaign for change.  They need to construct a message that assures the American public that changes to our society can be scary, but are ultimately for the best.  There are still too many people disenfranchised in this nation.  There are still too many people discriminated against.  There are still too many people whose health care is inadequately covered.  There are still too many people worth helping for me to throw in the towel.

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Best of the Worst for 2009

Rest assured, I am still among the living. I have just been severely overworked.  I assure you that if there were 25 hours in a day, I’d have posted every week this past month.  Despite my hectic schedule, I would be forlorn if I failed to write at least one more blog before we usher in the new year.

And what better way to cap off the year than by doing a “Best of 2009” list.  Sometimes we all need a little help remembering everything that happened in the past 12 months…especially those in the audience who were exposed to mercury as children.  So without further ado, your top five “Best of the Worst” political public relations stories from the year that was.

5. Yay! Our Humvees are finally leaving Iraq… and parking in Afghanistan?

Troops scaling rocks in Afghanistan

Troops scaling rocks in Afghanistan

In February, President Obama carried out his campaign promise of setting a date for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  Anti-war advocates celebrated the announcement, which prescribed an end to the military campaign that has resulted in more than 4,300 U.S. troop casualties and has cost more than $800 billion in taxpayer money.  This euphoria was short-lived, however, as Obama announced plans in early December that would increase the number of troops by 30,000 for 18 months.

Obama’s Biggest Mistake: The war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.  I won’t even pretend that I have come to this conclusion after years of dutiful research studying military tactics and strategies.  Rather, I’ll rely on statistics from the Commander of the U.S. Central Command who rewrote the military doctrine for dealing with counterinsurgencies.  You may know him as Gen. David Petraeus. In the first chapter of his manual, Petraeus describes the necessary “force ratio” for stabilizing a country during an insurgency as being about one soldier for every 40 citizens. The population in Afghanistan in more than 28 million people, meaning it would require more than 700,000 troops to effectively stabilize the country.

Even with the escalation, Obama is about 600,000 troops short of winning the war.  According to Gallup, Americans are split over whether or not goals in Afghanistan can be met.  Most in Obama’s own party want to see a withdrawal, which is never good from a public relations standpoint.

The reality is that we are setting ourselves up for another crisis in Afghanistan.  We supplied Afghanistan with weapons to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  After they had successfully driven the Soviets out, we left the area without offering to help rebuild.  This act birthed the anti-American sentiment that first drove the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to attack us.  The message Obama should be communicating with the American public is the need to help build schools and infrastructure in Afghanistan.  Trying to convince the public that the war is winnable is bad PR, and is simply untrue.

4. You’re going to kill grandma?  At least sit down with her and tell her how you plan to do it.

Obama (left), Palin (Right)

Obama vs. Palin on the "death panel" debate

Who can forget “death panels,” a term first conceived by the ever-eloquent orator Sarah Palin.  Palin first dropped the “death panel” bomb on her Facebook page, the Web site she (and 16-year old girls across America) used to tell her friends why she had quit her job. But don’t give her all the credit for contriving the “death panel” concept.  She simply repackaged former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey’s claim that the health plan would involve senior citizens to have “a required counseling session” that would “tell them how to end their life sooner,” and formatted it into a nice PR-buzzword.  Factcheck.org debunked McCaughey’s and Palin’s claim.

3. Red Scare: Why is Karl Marx giving me my vaccination?

Buzzword of 2009: socialized (fill in the blank).  Nothing like a good red-scare to stir up discomfort in the American populous.  Don’t like what the Democrats are doing?  Just call them socialists, and that’ll turn everyone against them.  This tactic was most heavily employed in the fight against Obama’s health care bill.

In reality, socialized medicine would require that the government controls every aspect of medical coverage, including the distribution and administering of medical supplies and procedures.  Obama’s original plan never claimed to do away with private insurers, doctors, or hospitals.  He simply proposed that a public option could be available that would help the 36 million uninsured Americans afford health care.

Sadly, the false threat of “socialized medicine” proved too frightening for centrist-Democrats, who refused to sign a bill that included the public option for fear they would be labeled as socialists—or worse– if they passed it.  The GOP does it again.

2. Ben Nelson: Even the mafia thinks he asked for too big a cut.

Senator Ben Nelson

Senator Ben Nelson

On December 24, Democrats finally passed the bill that would overhaul the American health care system.  However, news of the landmark passage was sullied by what some called “seedy Chicago politics.”  At the center of the controversy was Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Nelson, a pro-life Democrat with a long conservative voting record, was the last Democrat to agree to the terms on the health care bill.  Nelson’s approval was needed to create the 60 vote supermajority that would break the Republican filibuster.  This put Nelson in the position to negotiate his own terms for the bill.

Polls show that if Nelson were to run against Nebraska’s Governor David Heineman today, he would lose 61% to 30%.  Some pundits believe this poll was the motivation Nelson needed to ask for what’s been dubbed the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which included promises that no federal program would fund abortions and that Nebraska would be the only state in the country to be exempt from any new Medicaid costs.

Nelson’s move was desperation at its finest.  As the adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Approval ratings can only be temporarily revived with a shot of adrenalin when it is administered correctly.  Nelson didn’t even do that.  Only 17% of Nebraskans approve of the deal that Nelson made, and his party is even more furious.  This move sent that wrong message to Nelson’s constituents, and it will cost him in the long run.

1. Somebody has been pouring bourbon in their tea

Nothing like a third party to shake up the system, and 2009 gave rise to a powerful one: the “Tea Party.”  During the election, the Republican Party had taken a more centrist stance, deemphasizing its conservative social positions and turning the spotlight instead on its fiscal policies in an effort to bolster McCain’s presidential bid.  This move alienated the party’s social conservatives, which gave rise to the fringe group known as the “Tea Party.”

The Tea Party sought to reemphasize conservative social values and the fight against big government.  The group organized protests throughout the country to express its condemnation for government spending, taxes and gun policies.  The group was blessed by conservative heavy-hitters such as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

The movement was extraordinarily effective.  Some state elections featured “Tea Party” candidates, and it ultimately threatens to drive the Republican Party back to the right in order to reclaim tea-partier votes.

Despite the group’s success, it represents a dangerous faction.  The group is notorious for misrepresenting the truth.  It helped fuel the “death panel” claim, gave rise to the “Birthers” movement (The birthers deserve an honorable mention on this list.  This group claims that Obama is not a natural born citizen, and is constitutionally ineligible to be president.  This claim is absolutely untrue) and urged citizens to quickly add to their personal munitions stash before Obama and his cronies take away everyone’s guns.

The group relies on fear tactics to promote its political positions and frequently twists facts to further its cause.  These public relations strategies are deplorable and reprehensible, and for that reason, the “Tea Party” gets top honors for the worst political public relations story of 2009.

For those who did not make the list this year, there is always 2010.  We can only hope that next year proves even half as interesting for politics as 2009 was. With midterm elections looming, even better “worsts” may be yet to come.

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Palin’s New Book Goes Rogue on Truth

Where do the fact checkers begin?

Sarah Palin "Going Rogue"

AP Photo/Harper

Sarah Palin’s highly anticipated book “Going Rogue” is set for release tomorrow and it already has the media in a frenzy. Some contend that the book is a symbolic decree that Palin will seek the presidency in 2012, one commentator calling it “a shot at redemption and revenge.”  Others argue that Palin penned the book as a means to generate some revenue from her prolonged 15-minutes of fame.  Whatever her intentions, there is no denying that the book has people talking, and in most cases, for all the wrong reasons.

Palin makes some serious accusations in “Going Rogue,” including the claim that the McCain campaign billed her $50,000 for the cost of her vetting, botched the handling of her daughter’s pregnancy announcement, and refused her access to the media.  She takes shots at certain members of the media, including Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, who both played a role with their interviews in deflating the McCain/Palin popularity surge in the polls.  She does, however, thank certain members of the media in her acknowledgments when she thanks them “for not taking our Freedom of the Press for granted, you bold and patriotic, fair and balanced media folks.”  These “professionals” include Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Kristol, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Hey Sarah, did your nose just grow?

The Associated Press snagged a copy of the book prior to release.  Here is an excerpt from the AP’s review:

“Ignoring substantial parts of her record if not the facts, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer’s dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition.”

Included in the review is a rundown of some of the more “blatant” factual liberties taken in the book.  Among them:

  • Palin claims frugality was always a key concern when traveling as governor.  She fails to mention the four nights she and her daughter spent at a $707 per night hotel in New York while visiting for a five-hour women’s leadership conference.  She also billed Alaska more than $20,000 for her children’s travel, including events where they hadn’t been invited.
  • Palin claims she ran her campaign for governor on small donations, turning back checks from big donors.  Apparently she does not consider the $76,000 donated by Republican Party committees, representing more than half of her campaign funds, to be a big donation.
  • She vehemently opposes taxpayer-financed bailouts, attributing all of them to Obama.  This, in direct contradiction to a statement she made during the vice presidential debate, where she said “it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in.”   In fact, it was McCain who claims to have helped lay the groundwork for the $700 billion federal bailout, which was approved under the Bush Administration.
  • Palin is critical of Obama’s handling of the recession, suggesting he should consider strategies Ronald Reagan used to get the country out of the recession in the early 1980s.  Those strategies, she claims, include “cut(ing) capital gains taxes and slay(ing) the death tax once and for all.”  She fails to consider the fact that the estate tax, or death tax, was not repealed under Reagan, and capital gains taxes are lower now than they were under Reagan.
  • Describing her state as “a practical, libertarian haven of independent Americans who don’t want ‘help’ from government busybodies, Palin expresses her opposition to federal stimulus programs.  She neglects to include the fact that Alaska receives $1.84 for every dollar it pays to Washington in taxes, and is one of the states most dependent on federal subsidies.

Read the rest of the Associated Press report here

Mussolini, Kennedy… Palin?

The cult of personality that is Sarah Palin has blinded too many for too long.  Gone are the days where she can badger media personalities for misrepresenting her words; written statements that have been scanned by countless editors pretty much guarantees that Palin said what she meant to say.  That is what makes this book so disturbing.  It reads like a 400 page excuse. Palin blames everyone else for getting it wrong, yet ironically fails to fact check while casting countless aspersions.

Courtesy of TVguide.com

I find myself dumbfounded that “going rogue” has become Palin’s catchphrase.  Does anyone remember the original context of the attribution?  Palin was said to be going rogue when pundits criticized her off-the-cuff, damaging statements that contributed to the demise of the McCain campaign.  Saturday Night Live satirized it during McCain’s appearance on the show, when Tina Fey (portraying Sarah Palin) proclaimed “I’m going rogue,” and began campaigning for the 2012 presidential election even as the 2008 election was yet to be decided.

Webster’s dictionary defines a “rogue” person as “dishonest or worthless, mischievous, and an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation.”  Palin confounds messages and misrepresents the truth.  Going rogue is not a positive thing in politics for a reason: extremism isn’t popular.  There is a reason only 9 percent say they would definitely vote for Palin in 2012.  Simply stated, she just can’t be trusted.

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This Tea Party Isn’t Very Fun

Why District 23 Might Spell Doom for the GOP

Last Tuesday, conservatives across the nation rejoiced as Republicans Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey won their respective state’s gubernatorial elections.  Despite these significant victories for the GOP, it was a Democrat Cinderella who captured the media’s attention and dominated the headlines.

In a special election, Bill Owens became the first Democrat elected to New York’s 23rd congressional district House seat in 140 years.  Owens, a once significant underdog, garnered momentum after the conservative-right opted to back third party candidate Doug Hoffman over the Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava.  Among those who threw their support to Hoffman were Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh–all heavy hitters from the far-right.

What prompted these political heavyweights to pick a dog in this amateur bout?  The congressional election in New York’s 23rd was a microcosm of a larger war that could, if promulgated across the country, threaten the GOP’s prospects in next year’s mid-term elections.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Boston anymore

Described as “the insurgent tea party candidate,” by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, Hoffman became the rallying point of despondent conservatives unhappy with the GOP’s recent centrist tone.  This group represents a rapidly growing minority within the Republican Party that intends to bring its agenda back to traditional conservatism.  The rift is growing as this group continues to appeal to more and more conservatives who love their God and hate big government.

Health Overhaul Capitol Rumble

Tea Party Demonstrators(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Conservatives have registered the Tea Party as an official third-party in Florida

Most pundits have argued that the gubernatorial losses spell trouble for the Democrats in the upcoming 2010 elections, suggesting the public now favors conservative candidates.  While it may be true that more people are becoming frustrated within the Democratic ranks, even more are aggravated within the Republican Party.

McDonnell and Christie both won elections in states that voted for Obama in 2008.  While Virginia has a long history of voting against the party in power in the White House, McDonnell and Christie both won because they forsook conservative ideological stances and adopted fiscally conservative platforms.  They knew that conservative social stances against abortion, gay rights, and affirmative action are still largely unpopular with most of the electorate.

Palin, Beck and the other prominent tea partiers don’t seem to understand this concept, and threaten to drive us into a three party system.  This could set up 2010 and 2012 elections that eerily resemble this year’s New York contest.  Republicans may find themselves struggling to choose between the moderate majority or the trendy extremists, splitting the votes and leaving the Democrats with a sizable advantage.

GR_PR_091106_Huckabee

Palin, Romney and Huckabee

Bad news gets worse for the Republicans.  GOP pollster Bill McInturff has identified the three leading candidates for the 2012 presidential race: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney, all of whom have strong conservative social agendas.  The GOP has a great opportunity to take advantage of the economic crisis and advocate for conservative fiscal reforms.  These ideas are popular right now, and the public could well support a conservative economic agenda.  However, this is not the time to preach for social reform as the “tea party” does.

Christian Science monitor breaks down every U.S county into one of 12 distinctions.  Needless to say, it’s tough to key in on any specific group

Drinking and politics: Enjoy both in moderation

Conservatives need to realize that their social reform agenda is outdated and unpopular.  McDonnell and Christie understood this concept, and as a result, won the governorships of their states.  The Republican Party was most powerful when it unified in its fight against the Democrats (as I indicated in my first blog post), endorsing a unified message.  This is consistent with one of public relations most fundamental rules: always have a consistent message. Infighting threatens to tear the GOP apart, and as long as the Democrats can figure out a way to band together, they could be sitting pretty in 2010.

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