SUSTAINING THE SOAP OPERA, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HER BASE WANTS
I actually think we should be prepared for the possibility that Sarah Palin will give a competent, professional-sounding speech tonight -- she's a glib, fluid speaker, and, hey, if they could make Poppy Bush sound eloquent in '88, surely Republican message-crafters can make Palin look at least semi-ready to take on the VP job.
But if so, will it matter?
I think the whole thing could be utterly lost amid the baby drama of Levi Johnston's appearance at the convention. I think the GOP is making a huge tactical mistake, and doing so only because Christian conservatives want a big display of (in their eyes) sin being transformed into family.
That may be how this will look to the base -- but the rest of the country is just going to see even more soap opera.
I just think there's no way a lot of voters can take Palin seriously until she stops looking like ... well, like suitable fodder for gossipy stories in Us and The National Enquirer. Palin and the GOP had the chance to downplay the tabloid stuff tonight, but Palin's base really wants to see the family, Levi included, in a portrait of family values, so the party's handicapping itself.
Hey, fine by me.
Which brings me to Maureen Dowd. I give her a hard time for turning politics into a very sexist form of sociobiology, but I have to admit that she connects with a lot of readers because they see politics that way -- they see Republicans as irresistible manly rogues worth falling for (until we elect them and they screw up), and Democrats as unnatural hermaphrodites, girly-men apart from the pathetic man-wannabe Hillary Clinton. Dowd ignored the the Republicans in the primary season, presumably because she thought they were men contesting one another like men; the Democrats, on the other hand, were having a big catfight, feminine "Obambi" versus androgynous "Hilzilla." Of course, she wasn't the only one to see the Democrats as preening, squabbling divas -- and that hurt the Dems' chances of being taken seriously.
Well, now the GOP ticket has truly lost Maureen Dowd. From today's column:
...Unable to stop the onslaught of wild soap opera storylines erupting from the Palin family and the Alaska wilderness, McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt offered caterwauling reporters a new mantra: "Life happens."
... As more and more titillating details spill out about the Palins, Republicans riposte by simply arguing that things like Todd's old D.U.I. arrest or Sarah's messy family vengeance story will just let them relate better to average Americans....
When you make a gimmicky pick of an unknown, without proper vetting, there's bound to be a sticky press conference sooner or later....
You don't have to be a gender studies major to read between the lines here: details "spill out"; they're "erupting"; they're "messy" and "sticky."
You see, real leaders (real men) have control -- in the sexual analogy, that's control of fluids. To Dowd, the McCain-Palin team has lost control of the fluids. (That's why Bill Clinton, who you'd think would be regarded as more male than most because of his tomcatting, is lumped in with the non-manly: he didn't keep his fluids under control. In other words, he got caught.)
Whatever you think of that reading, note that this is the first time Dowd's written a truly energized, jokey column -- joking insults are her A game -- that's all about the McCain campaign's faults. In Dowd's eyes, the Palin pick turned the McCain campaign into an operation so pathetic it may as well be Democratic.