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Sympathy for Sarah Palin’s self mockery

Even with the official CBS transcript cleaned up, the Couric-Palin interview remains a riveting embarrassment. Fortunately online videos have archived poor Sarah Palin in all her Bush-league ignobility, if you can bear it. Don’t the Republicans appear to be unfathomable mockeries of themselves? Yet they elicit sympathy as they are seen being mocked.

If a person says something so irresistibly stupid that a bystander cannot fail to laugh, even if it’s embarrassed laughter, and if a third party characterizes the laughter as mockery, who comes out the winner?

(I once watched someone walk out of the bathroom with a tail of toilet paper sticking from his pants. Wherever he turned people were stifling their laughter, especially as he looked into our faces for what we found so funny. Finally he discovered the toilet paper, and I still ache at the memory of anticipating his next eye contact. I have no question who emerged the loser.)

But let’s resume our previously scheduled laugh track:

1. The Interview

COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada. […]

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our — our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia —

The entire world has got to be referencing Miss South Carolina’s famous “US Americans, SUCH AS” essay answer. But these days who can doubt Ms. Upton was plenty qualified to be Miss Teen USA. It seems so long ago now, what was it? Early 2008? Now she could stand in for GOP running mate.

I’ll address the […] in a moment.

So now even some media talking heads are piling on, as if they cannot bear NOT TO call Sarah Palin on her obvious lack of qualification beyond the wading pool. I think the moral outrage is refreshing, and I love watching Wolf Blitzer for example, cling to the party line in the face of a colleague’s truth talking.

But I have to wonder, where were the dissenters when George Dubya was performing his interview follies? Did these now-malcontents think George Dubya was doing just fine? Were his answers making them proud? Was Dumbya’s imbecility just opaque enough that these same pundits could reassure us in good conscience that they thought Bush was the right man for the job?

2. The Debate
For yet other TV news personalities, next week’s Vice-Presidential debate cannot come soon enough. I’m sure their eagerness matches overwhelming public anticipation for Palin’s moose-in-the-headlights face plant. Oh My God is that going to be some Reality Television! It’ll be the Special Olympics, in the Roman Coliseum, costarring the Honorable Senator from Delaware as the lion.

I do not envy Joe Biden as he tries his best to be a kindly Ray Bolger Lion enlisting Dorothy’s help to find his heart. (Do you doubt that’s a task tailored for him?) While everyone knows he’s expected to eat her.

No, I think Senator Biden is going to prove his worth as a politician if he can pull this off. It’s hard enough for a man to play a woman in tennis without being seen as ruthless cad, or worse, a ruthless patronizing cad. You have to lob your serves, declare long balls to be in, spoil your swings, take foolish risks, fall behind in the score, and still rally for the win. Or not. To win.

I’m intending here only to contrast stronger athlete versus weaker, against a duel of experienced versus fish-out-of-league. But certainly sexism is going to be an elephantine domestic hazard for a rich white male, if not likely an imposing statesman chauvinist.

But mostly I do not envy Sarah Palin. She may be stupid. She may be stupid as a pit bull, as her hockey boast turns out to be more than literal. In a dog, Palin’s quality describes tenacity, in a human it distills into temerity. To judge from her interview performances so far, Sarah Palin doesn’t know much. I think it’s also clear, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, Sarah Palin knows what she doesn’t know.

Would you have the courage to ascend a stage knowing what Sarah Palin knows? I’d sooner go up against Mohammad Ali.

* […]
Here’s the unexpurgated snippet:

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It’s funny that a comment like that was kinda made to caric– I don’t know, you know reporters…

COURIC: Mocked?

PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.

3. “Mocked”
It was the worst acting I’ve nearly ever witnessed. Sarah Palin didn’t want to be seen accusing reporters of mockery, because a proper victim doesn’t point the finger. Nor could she be seen choosing the precise word which she wanted Couric to interject. So Palin started the word “caricature” but interrupted herself and then waited for her interviewer to finish the sentence.

Now if Couric was genuinely trying to fill in Palin’s phrase, she would have had to suggest “mock” in the present tense. Not “Mocked.”

And if Palin had really intended to use the word “caricature,” she would have had to preface it with something like “paint a caricature” to make sense. Although, should I presume to straighten Palin’s English mis-usage? Maybe she was about to invent the word “caricaturize,” the way I’m self-satisfied with misusage.

I am confident enough, however, to conclude that Couric was holding the “mocked” term at the ready. And Couric was probably plenty embarrassed at the awkwardness Palin displayed in delivering her cue. And to further taint Couric with complicity, it was imperative that “Mocked?” be conjugated in the past tense because it is declarative of a deed done, not timidly alleged.

Mockery has been an Election 2008 keyword ever since the RNC, where Rudy Giuliani led the Republicans in unspoken ridicule of the Democrats. “Community Organizer.” Arms punctuating the term as if it was a question. Pause for laughter. That was mockery, and yet ever since their convention, the inherently accusatory “mock” has been attributed as a perpetration of the Democrats. When Barack Obama criticizes McCain, it’s mockery.

Of course, if Obama so much as debunks an accusation of McCain’s, it’s mockery. But isn’t that due to the simplistic dishonesty of the Republican lie? Someone accuses you of being a Martian, any refutation is going to be a mockery of their intelligence. It’s a brilliant trap.

Probably there are a wonderful variety of words to describe it, but the media is keeping it simple for the American public. One slander fits all: MOCK. Specifically, Dems Mock GOP. I’ve yet to see it the other way around.

4. “Pushback”
Here’s another term that the media has been happy enough to adopt en masse. What does it mean? You tell a lie, you are called on that lie, you PUSH BACK. Tada!

Refutation doesn’t cut it, because you don’t actually make a case to justify your initial lie.

Repudiate fits. So does reject. So does deny. But those words explain a little too much about what you’re doing. If the media reported that the Republicans were standing behind their lie, and rejected what’s on record as contradicting the lie. They wouldn’t get far in the court of public opinion.

And the news reporter’s current function of avoiding having to challenge untruths would become untenable.

PUSHBACK gives the illogical untruth longer legs. It turns the debate into a shoving match, where arguments are treated as having equal weight. Push and push back. Playground verbal exchanges of nonesense. I know you are but what am I?

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