Listening to a Sarah Palin rally is like visiting a museum exhibit of every empty, trite, manipulative right-wing political slogan from the last three decades. Today, an anti-war heckler interrupted her speech in Florida and this is how she responded, to cheers from right-wing throngs both at the rally and around the nation:
Bless your heart sir, my son is in Iraq fighting for your right to protest.
Right, because if Saddam Hussein had remained in power in Iraq -- or if we were no longer occupying the country -- then the U.S. would have been invaded by the Iraqi Army by now and we'd be living under the tyrannical rule of Ace of Clubs Qusay and Ace of Hearts Uday (and Five of Hearts Dr. Germ and cardless Mrs. Anthrax) and they would have abolished our First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. So that's exactly what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq: "fighting for our right to protest." And those who oppose that war, therefore, are unwilling to Fight for Our Freedoms. And Freedom is on the March.
That may be the motive driving many, perhaps most, citizens who join the military. But even under the most romanticized vision, whatever it is that we're doing in Iraq, fighting for our "right to protest" quite plainly isn't it.
And then there is the painfully immature sanctimony over Obama's argument last year that we need more ground troops in Afghanistan "so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." A new McCain/Palin ad all but calls Obama a traitor for that statement ("dishonorable"), and Palin has been sneeringly implying in every speech that this shows that Obama hates both the military and America.
For one thing, Obama's statement happens to be true. We have killed large numbers of civilians with air raids and that has -- rather unsurprisingly -- made both the Afghan population and the Afghan government increasingly angry with the U.S. (that tends to happen when you bomb countries and kill innocent people). It's for that reason that the British Ambassador to Afghanistan said just this week that "the presence -- especially the military presence -- of the coalition is part of the problem, not the solution." To demand -- based on some warped appeal to patriotism -- that this reality be ignored is just imbecilic, and is precisely the sort of see-no-evil mentality that led the Bush administration to spend all of 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 telling everyone how great things were going in Iraq and depicting anyone who suggested otherwise as being a Friend of the Terrorist.
And then there's the fact that John McCain, with regard to the war in Kosovo, made the same argument that Sarah Palin is currently depicting as anti-military and anti-American: namely, that reliance on an air campaign rather than ground forces is resulting in the immoral and unnecessary deaths of civilians:
John McCain in 2000 said because of tactical decisions U.S. troops were put in the position of killing civilians in Kosovo -- something awfully similar to the comments he's now attacking Barack Obama for.
During a Republican primary debate in 2000 McCain called the Clinton strategy in Kosovo "obscene" because it forced troops into using tactics that meant civilians were going to get killed.
"In the most obscene chapter in recent American history is the conduct of the Kosovo conflict when the president of the United States refused to prepare for ground operations, refused to have air power used effectively because he wanted them flying -- he had them flying at 15,000 feet where they killed innocent civilians because they were dropping bombs from such -- in high altitude."
McCain was right about that, and Obama is right about what's happening in Afghanistan. The fact that McCain is producing ads and sending out Palin to accuse Obama of being a treasonous America-hater and military-hater for making comments identical to McCain's remarks about Kosovo tell you all you need to know about McCain.
Identically, the fact that Sarah Palin's husband -- for years -- belonged to, and Palin herself praised and embraced, an explicitly anti-American political party whose leader swore his hatred for the U.S. Government -- all the while she attacks Obama on a daily basis for supposedly "anti-American associations" -- tells you all you need to know about her and our press corps for allowing her to get away with that:
As Salon's David Talbot writes in his very well-reported piece today on the relationship between the Palins and this secessionist party:
Imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama was revealed to have joined a black nationalist party whose founder preached armed secession from the United States and who enlisted the government of Iran in his cause? The Obama campaign would probably not have survived such an explosive revelation. Particularly if Barack Obama himself was videotaped giving the anti-American secessionists his wholehearted support just months ago.
The face that the McCain/Palin campaign is showing now has one significant benefit: it's a vivid reminder of who has left the country in the state it's in, the way they've done that, and why it is so urgent that, in four weeks, they not just be defeated, but crushed and rendered powerless for a long time.
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For those who use Twitter, my still-infrequently-used Twitter feed is here. It is possible I will be posting commentary here, in a new post, during or immediately after tonight's debate, so those who are so inclined can check back then (meaning here on the blog, not on Twitter).
UPDATE: Enjoy the bittersweet odor of irrational panic and desperation:
John McCain faces the "crisis of his career," says former House Speak Newt Gingrich, who predicted the Republican nominee will lose the election unless he makes a public break from the economic bailout proposal.
In a column posted on the Web site of the conservative Human Events Tuesday, Gingrich says it is impossible for McCain to catch up in the national or state polls unless he taps into the anger many Americans feel toward the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street investment banks.
"If Senator McCain is not prepared to separate himself from the Bush-Paulson economic program, he has no opportunity to win," Gingrich writes. . . .
Gingrich is the latest prominent conservative to criticize McCain for supporting the bill, which Congress passed last week. Speaking on CNN last week, radio host Glenn Beck said the Arizona senator will lose the election over the vote: I think he lost the election — there was a moment here for somebody here to rise up as a leader," Beck said.
What Gingrich said might literally be the worst advice ever. Just two weeks ago, McCain created that whole melodrama of how he was suspending his campaign and skipping the debate in order to make the bailout happen. Then he voted in favor of the bailout. Now, a week later, he's supposed to base his whole campaign on railing against the evils of the bailout? Doing that would more likely result in McCain's being institutionalized than elected. But that's what desperation and panic create -- that, and the type of venom Sarah Palin is spewing to Munich beer hall crowds.