A Very Long BOW Award Post

September 6, 2008

What a week!  In all the time I’ve been giving away the BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award, I don’t think I’ve ever had more deserving nominees.  Idiocy, it seems, was in the air, helped no doubt by the fact that the Republican Party was holding it’s quadrennial hate-fest (also known as the Republican National Convention) in St. Paul, Minnesota.  So, without further ado….

 

Much of the foolishness this week revolved around the Sarah Palin nomination for the Vice Presidency.  I’ve blogged about Palin pretty extensively over the past week, and I won’t get into the various issues and non-issues here.  I will say that there were moments when the press acquitted itself poorly, jumping on leads that turned out to be far less significant than they seemed at first.  For instance, there was a rumor going around to the effect that Palin had at one point belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party, which has called for Alaska’s secession from the Union.  Turns out this wasn’t true.  She has always been a Republican.  She and her husband attended the AIP convention in 1994, and she addressed the group at the start of their convention via taped message earlier this year, but that seems to be the extent of her connection to the party.  It shouldn’t have been reported the way it was.  But for the record, the rumor originated with members of the AIP

 

Then there was the article in the Washington Post that claimed she had “slashed funding” for pregnant teens — a seeming irony given her current family situation.  This also turned out to be less than accurate.  She didn’t actually cut funds for the program in question, but rather cut a planned increase in funds and stretched the appropriated amount out over several years instead of giving it in one lump sum.  

 

And there was a report that she tried to ban books at the Wasilla Library when she was mayor.  Technically this isn’t quite true, though the actual story is still deeply disturbing and reflects poorly on her judgment, not to mention her understanding of the United States Constitution.  Parents in Wasilla expressed concern about the content of some books available to their children in the public library, and they went to their new mayor and asked her to have the books removed.  Of course, she should have said, “I’m sorry, but this is the United States of America, and we don’t censure the arts or limit the availability of such things at public institutions because a vocal, backward minority doesn’t approve of the content.”  Instead, Palin asked the head of the Wasilla Library to look into honoring their request, and when this woman refused (just as she should have) Palin fired her.  I really don’t see how the actual events reflect well on Palin, but her supporters seem to feel it’s important to get the story right.

 

Finally, there was the media’s intense focus on the revelation on Monday that Palin’s 17 year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant.  Many Republicans wanted to know why the press was paying so much attention to this when it was clearly a personal matter, a family matter.  I would argue that Palin’s support for abstinence-only sex education makes it somewhat relevant.  I would argue that the way the McCain Campaign, with the complicity of the Palins, dragged Bristol’s boyfriend into the family tableau that they used throughout the convention was disgustingly exploitative of a “private matter.”  And, as I’ll show in a moment, the right-wing pundits have been incredibly hypocritical about this.  But I’ll grant that the media frenzy on Monday was a bit much.

 

So anyway, the press gets a nomination.

 

But then Palin’s supporters started going on and on about how the press was out to get her and was sexist because it was vetting her in ways the McCain Campaign clearly hadn’t, and things just started getting silly.  Thank goodness we had Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” to set matters right.  Some of you may remember that in last week’s BOW Award post I referred to Karl Rove’s attack on Tim Kaine’s qualifications to be Vice President.  Rove was convinced that Kaine would be Barack Obama’s VP choice, and so he made a point of saying that Kaine’s three years as Governor of Virginia and his time as mayor of Richmond, which is not even one of the hundred largest cities in America, didn’t qualify him for the VP slot.  The choice of Kaine, Rove concluded, would have been purely political and would have shown dangerous disregard for the question of whether Kaine was actually prepared to be President.  Stewart played that same clip on his show this week, and then showed Rove going on and on about how wonderful a choice Palin is for VP, though she’s been governor for half the time Kaine has been, and despite the fact that Wasilla is one twentieth the size of Richmond.   So, that’s one nomination for Karl Rove for being a world class hypocrite.  

 

There’s more:  Bill O’Reilly of Fox News has been outraged — outraged, I tell you! — by the treatment of Sarah Palin in the wake of the pregnancy revelation.  These are the types of problems all parents have with their teenage kids and certainly Sarah and Todd Palin can’t be held responsible.  Enter Stewart again.  Remember back in the spring when it was revealed that Britney Spears’ younger sister, Jamie Lynn, was pregnant?  Well, not surprisingly. Bill-O had a slightly different response to teen pregnancy then.  The pregnancy was a tragedy and it was entirely the fault of Jamie Lynn Spears’ “pinhead” parents.  So, one nomination for Bill O’Reilly for being a world class hypocrite (not to mention a world class jackass).

 

And yes, there’s even more:  Dick Morris, once Bill Clinton’s pollster, now a commentator for Fox News, spent much of the week castigating the press for their sexism in the way they were looking into Sarah Palin’s past, her experience, and her qualifications for the office.  So did Nancy Pfotenhauer, McCain’s Sr. Policy Advisor.  And of course, so did Palin herself.  And thanks to Jon Stewart, we have tape of all three of these people — Morris, Pfotenhauer, and Palin — criticizing Hillary Clinton for complaining that sexism was hindering her campaign (“whining” about it, to use Palin’s word).  So, one nomination each for Dick Morris, Nancy Pfotenhauer, and Sarah Palin, for being world class hypocrites.

 

All of these acts of stupidity are rooted in the simple fact that John McCain did not probably vet Palin for the position, leaving the media little choice but to do the job for him.  And, of course, they did this by immediately and legitimately asking questions about Palin’s foreign policy experience.  Steve Doocy, also of Fox News, made the remarkably stupid argument that because Alaska is so close to Russia, Palin knows how to deal with Vladimir Putin.  (Stewart’s response?  [Paraphrasing]  Yes, and because Alaska is so close to the North Pole, she also knows Santa.)  But what is totally inexcusable is that McCain used the same ridiculous argument to justify his choice of Palin in an interview with Charles Gibson on ABC News!!  This is the guy who is supposedly the most qualified person ever to seek the Presidency (that’s the tripe they were peddling at the convention Thursday night) and he believes that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives Palin the foreign policy expertise necessary to be Vice President?!  That’s a nomination for John McCain.

 

We do have one nomination from outside of the Republican Convention bubble, and it’s a doozy.  Representative Lynn Westmoreland, Republican of Georgia, said that Barack and Michelle Obama are members “of an elitist-class . . . that think they’re uppity.”  Asked to clarify if he had actually called the Obamas “uppity” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”  For those who don’t know, the word “uppity” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Westmoreland’s hometown paper) has its roots in the Jim Crow Era, and is “a word applied to African-Americans who tried to rise above servile positions.” I guess you kind of have to admire the guy for coming out and saying what the Right has been hinting at for months.  No more closeted racism.  It’s right out there in the open now.  Westmoreland claims he didn’t know that the word had racist overtones.  He grew up in the South.  I’ve lived here for sixteen years and I knew it after the first month.   That’s a nomination for Lynn Westmoreland.

 

So who wins?  Well, actually none of the above.  At the beginning of this (now very long) post, I referred to the RNC as a “hate-fest”.  I probably offended some of my Republican readers by doing so.  Too bad.  That’s what it was.  Last week at the DNC in Denver, every criticism of John McCain’s record was predicated with praise for his life story and his service to the country.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Democrats did this because they thought it would play well on television, and it did.  But that was the tone Barack Obama set for the convention, and his surrogates stuck to it.  Republican speakers, by stark contrast, were dismissive of Obama’s life story, insulting and derisive in how they spoke about his experience, and offensive in the way they continued to harp on Michelle Obama’s alleged lack of patriotism.  Tuesday night’s theme at the Republican Convention was “Honoring Service.”  Wednesday night’s theme, it seems, was “Ignore All That Stuff We Said Last Night About Honoring Service, Unless That Service Happens To Have Been Performed By A Republican.”  First Rudy Giuliani and then Sarah Palin spoke of Barack Obama’s years of work as a community organizer with condescension and contempt, and the GOP delegates were practically frothing at the mouth they enjoyed it so. 

 

Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School very near the top of his class.  He was the first African American ever named Editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He could have done anything coming out of law school.  He could have gone to Wall Street and made enough in his first six months to pay off all his student loans AND start working on a collection of houses to rival McCain’s.  Instead, he went back to Chicago and started working in the streets to help unemployed steel workers.  He worked on behalf of the poor and downtrodden, homeless families and kids in trouble with drugs.  That’s service.  That should be celebrated, not mocked.  Republicans oppose most government programs aimed at helping the poor.  Now, apparently, they also look down their noses at people who give their time and effort to helping the poor.  Perhaps it would be more convenient for Republicans if we simply got rid of the poor.  That way they wouldn’t even have to think about them.  The fact is, my Republican friends, you may not understand what a community organizer does, but you have no more right to ridicule that chapter in Barack Obama’s life than I would have to ridicule John McCain’s decision to go into the Navy.  You may not like Barack Obama, you may not want him to be President, but you should have the decency and honesty to acknowledge his accomplishments.  By belittling him, you diminish yourselves.  By resorting to ridicule and mockery you make yourselves seem petty and small.   That’s what your convention delegates did.  The Republican base might have been fired up by what happened in St. Paul, but so was the Democratic base, which is why the Obama Campaign raised nearly $10 million in the twenty-four hours following Palin’s smug acceptance speech. 

 

There were plenty of deserving nominees this week, but I’m giving this week’s BOW Award to the delegates of the Republican National Convention for their vitriolic displays of partisanship.  Take a BOW there folks, you’ve earned it.  And then by all means, tell us more about how you and your candidates intend to end the partisan bickering in Washington….

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14 Responses to “A Very Long BOW Award Post”

  1. Frank said

    Great Work, as usual.

    I am inclined to give Westmoreland a pass on “uppity”, though. I have lived in Tennessee for thirty years, and I know of several words or phrases which started out as racial or ethnic slurs, but were in such common usage, sometimes well outside of their original context, that a well-natured or naive person may very well not know that they were giving offense.

    I was a full grown adult before I realized there might be something wrong with going to the flea market and trying to “jew down” the price on something. My Grandmother, and many others, used that phrase with such innocent-seeming intentions, that I never associated it with malice toward anyone. It was only when I went to work for a guy who happened to be Jewish that I was set straight. Pointedly.

  2. Alex Pendergrass said

    I see Mr. Stewart offered a lot of material. 🙂

    Great blog!

  3. Steph said

    Wow, the hypocrisy was rampant, wasn’t it? Stunning, since we live in an information age where everything any high profile person says is recorded and can be instantly located, replayed and spread throughout the world. Do they not think of this?

    Also want to thank you for taking the time to post the BOWs. At the moment, I’m getting my house ready to sell, getting ready to move to Florida and taking care of my almost-3-year-old by myself, so I have almost no time to keep up with the news. But I do read this every week 🙂

    Steph

  4. Brian said

    Great summary of the recent buffoonery at the RNC and all the hypocrisy it spawned.

  5. davidbcoe said

    Thanks very much for the comments, folks, and the support. Frank, I’m less inclined to be generous than you are with respect to Westmoreland. Then again, this is the same guy who not so long ago thought it was crucial that the 10 Commandments be posted in courthouses across America because they were so fundamental to who we are as a people. But then he couldn’t name all the Commandments…. So maybe he really is stupid rather than malevolent.

    Steph, glad to know that the BOW Awards are serving some purpose beyond my own entertainment. And Alex and Brian, I appreciate the kind words. Thanks for reading the post.

  6. Frank said

    Well, I believe one doesn’t have to choose between stupidity and malevolence. He could be both. Like some other government officials I could name.

    Once again, Great work!

  7. Alex Pendergrass said

    Just wanted to once again say just how much I enjoy this blog. From the writing tips/in-the-life-ofs all the way to the political discussions and BOWs, this blog delivers quality every time. Thanks.

  8. davidbcoe said

    Thanks so much, Alex. I really appreciate the kind words.

  9. Brent said

    Wow, what a great write up! How refreshing to hear with such fairness and clarity a summary of the depth of Republican hypocrisy of the past week. I love how you clearly place great value on civility in debate.

    I couldn’t stop watching that video this week. Nor could I stop wondering how these chief demagogues, Rove and Morris etc., maintain credibility or any sense of self righteousness while committing such felony acts of hypocrisy. Jon Stewart and crew come off as heroes for exposing it so effectively and so widely (over 3 million views).

    In the past, I’ve liked and respected McCain for not being a mindless soldier of the hard core Republican conservatives, but when he made such a cavalier choice for VP, I really questioned his “service” to the country and his “common sense” values to use some common Republican talking points. Still, I wanted to be fair and give the new revelation 24-48 hours before I came to any conclusion about my own vote.

    Was she really so inexperienced as it appeared? Weren’t there better women candidates in the Republican party and better candidates in general? Couldn’t McCain of picked someone more capable of pulling in moderate voters? Given McCain’s age and health wouldn’t it be extra important for any VP to be able to take over on day one should something happen to him?

    What scares and disappoints me most is how the Republican talking heads needed less than an hour to swagger onto message supporting an obviously risky VP decision. Clearly what was best for the country was less important than what was best for their own party. Talking points were instantly repeated without fact checking as they defended Palin. They don’t even seem to have any concern for their own reputation, as if they know it won’t matter.

    When did it become so old-school and so uncool to give such important matters at least a day’s consideration before making up one’s mind?

    Maybe this is the reason democrats have been so unsuccessful of late. They wisely reflect on decisions and attempt to take positions that will be defensible over the long haul instead of just pushing blindly forward with a hard facade of confidence regardless of context or fairness.

    I guess that’s really the difference: Democrats seem to feel this responsibility to justify what they say and do, making fair and sound decisions based on facts and wise reflection.

    Republicans have developed a much more effective campaigning technique which plays beautifully but uniquely to blind loyalty. Taking the time to think about a decision has somehow become un-American within the Republican party. Hmmm… Reminds me of a technique widely exploited by another mean-spirited ambitious congressional politician of the 1950s.

    One last point…you’re right about this firing up the left. I’ve not been this angry for some time. Before the Republican VP selection, I was going to vote for Barack, but I figured I could live with McCain. Now I’ll likely be out there working for his campaign and agressively as possible against the RHP (Republican Hypocrisy Party).

  10. davidbcoe said

    Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comment, Brent. I’m glad you enjoyed the post — I do these BOW Awards every week, so I hope you’ll come back to see more of them. I do think that Democrats are waking up to the fact that we’re in a for a long, tough fight the rest of the way. The Republicans can’t govern worth a damn, but they sure are good at winning elections…. Thanks again.

  11. Hunter said

    I really enjoyed reading your work. Especially the part about many Republicans playing-down Obama’s accomplishments. I’m the only person out of my family, including cousins and such, who plans on voting for Obama. My Aunt refuses to vote for him because he is “Muslim and a terrorist” and my dad refuses to vote for him simply because he isn’t white. With such trivial hate and ignorant dislike going around, it’s good to know that there are some people who agree with my own reasoning for voting for Obama.
    And what about the lipstick comment and how the Republican Party is freaking out about it??

  12. davidbcoe said

    Thanks for the comment, Hunter. Good to hear from you. Yeah, there are a lot spurious rumors about Obama out there, many of them helped along by the republicans. But, of course, as soon as Obama makes a comment about lipstick and a pig, they get all offended, as if they’ve never said anything bad about anyone. No one feigns indignation like the righteous right. Obama wasn’t even talking about Palin when he said it. But I have to admit, I think she’s a bit of a pig, and she does wear lipstick…. If the cloven hoof fits….

  13. Graham said

    G’day,

    As an Australian, watching from afar, but also a visitor to the USA last year (2007) I am always impressed by the erudite commentary by the citizens of your country.

    On politics and the concepts underpinning democracy you certainly have much to be proud of. Challenge is fundamental to any “good” democracy and dissent is fundamental to that idea. (Think John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” in that regard)

    My view/expectation/hope is that Obama will win, but, I believe, by a very close margin. The next coupla’ months will be interesting to see when, and how far, the dirty politics comes to the front of campaigning.

    The challenge for him, though, will be can he actually put in place a different direction for U.S. policy? (Both foreign and domestic)

    Our change of government here in Australia merely exchanged a conservative monarchist for a a conservative republicanist. Policies are the same and the result for working families is the same.

    Policy change will come, though, off of the back of enviro/ecological imperatives, me thinks.

    Regards

    Graham

  14. davidbcoe said

    Thanks for the insights, Graham. I agree that even an Obama win will bring slow, incremental change. But I believe (as I know you do) that a McCain win will bring no change and will almost certainly make our current problems even worse. Hmmm, well I guess that’s change of a sort….

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