February 5, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Tea Party national convention
The Tea Partiers are gathering in Nashville, Tennessee for their first-ever national convention, eliciting a wide range of reactions across the country: hopeful anticipation, contemptuous derision, fear, and befuddlement. It's too bad more people don't reserve judgment and at least try to listen to what the participants are saying. According to the Washington Post, however, all is not well among the grassroots activists:
Some high-profile speakers and activist groups have canceled their appearances in protest of alleged profiteering by the convention organizers.
Attendees have paid $549 a ticket ... Some of the proceeds will cover former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's reported $100,000 fee for Saturday's keynote address.
I don't think that Ronald Reagan himself ever got paid so much for making a speech. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) were scheduled to speak, but both withdrew in protest against the way the event is being organized by teapartynation.com. Spokesman Mark Skoda, chairman of the Memphis Tea Party, said that the movement is "growing up." I sure hope so. In spite of deep differences within the movement,
the factions have largely united around a common cause: a don't-tread-on-me brand of fiscal conservatism and a belief that the government, first under President George W. Bush and now under Obama, has recklessly plunged deeper into debt and overstepped its constitutional powers. (SOURCE: WaPo)
Well, I certainly go along with that. It is not clear, however, whether and by what means the far-flung local chapters intend to aggregate their respective voices and articulate a common agenda. It will take a lot of effort to undo the image that many of the Tea Partiers tend to be on the kooky side. Obviously, I remain wary of the movement, which seems to be under some of the same unhealthy influences that have run the Republican Party into the ground over the past decade. But perhaps more uplifting voices will prevail, and they will serve a useful public purpose. After the convention is over, the question will arise as to what the movement's long-term goals are: to influence the Republican Party, to support individual candidates with whom they agree, or to lead in the formation of a third party? In the latter case, what would they call it -- the Tea Party Party?
For more fun, see teapartyexpress.org, official site of the cross-country caravan that will start off on March 27 with a rally in Searchlight, NV (home of Sen. Harry Reid) and finish in Washington, D.C. on April 15 -- Tax Day!
Sarah Palin, superstar
I'm probably one of the few people in America who lacks a strong opinion about Sarah Palin, polarizer extraordinaire. She has great potential as a leader who can reach out to millions of disaffected people on the right side of the spectrum, but is also plagued by grave inadequacies that would require many months of remedial effort on her part. Nevertheless, with the publication of her book Going Rogue: An American Story last fall, she has become a true "superstar," not unlike Barack Obama back in January 2007. It is useful to recall that Obama "portrays his lack of experience in national politics as an asset." Palin could be excused for botching her September 2008 interview with Katie Couric due to lack of time to prepare, so soon after being tapped as John McCain's running mate, but by now she ought to have done her homework. That is why her inability to name any founding fathers other than George Washington is so troubling; watch the youtube.com and prepare to grimace in empathetic pain. At a time when the Tea Partiers are reminding us of this country's constitutional roots, that is hard to excuse. But for her adoring fans, such gaffes do not matter in the least.
Among some of the major cyber-pundits, Andrew Sullivan genuinely fears Palin, which strikes me as puzzling. Does he think the American public is so desperate and so vulnerable to sweet-talking that it will anoint her as some kind of fascist queen? I don't think so. Back in November, Sullivan reviewed Going Rogue, treating it as a postmodern literary work, "deconstructing" Sarah, as it were:
In this, the book is emblematic of late degenerate Republicanism, which is based not on actual policies, but on slogans now so exhausted by over-use they retain no real meaning.
That sounds about right to me. Elsewhere, Sullivan has pointed out Palin's recourse to "victim" status, blaming her woes on the mean old Mainstream Media. That's not a good sign of leadership, and it's another characteristic that she shares with President Obama.
One of Palin's weaknesses is "shooting from the lip," blurting out opinions without thinking about the ramifications of what she is saying. For example, she was quoted at talkingpointsmemo.com, backtracking on her warnings about "death panels":
The term death panel "should not be taken literally," says Palin. The phrase is "a lot like when President Reagan used to refer to the Soviet Union as the 'evil empire.'"
Well, of course they're not going to convene panels to expressly condemn people to death. The problem is that one could easily construe her remarks to mean that the Soviet Union was not really an "evil empire." From a Republican point of view, that is darn near heresy.
Finally, just for "fair and balanced" laughs, watch Jon Stewart's (of Comedy Central "Daily Show" fame) final word on Sarah Palin at huffingtonpost.com.
What's your News IQ?
Take the Pew News IQ Quiz at pewresearch.org. I went too fast and missed one of the 12 questions, ending up at 92 percentile. Hat tip to Connie.