Mystery Box

Sarah Palin joining the Republican ticket remains the hot story in the political world, and will likely continue to be for at least a while longer.  Since the announcement over a week ago, I have struggled some with how to approach such the surprising pick; unsure of the right tone, the right words, and even the right strategy to mitigate her positive influences on McCain’s chances of winning the presidency.

Over the weekend, Libby of the Newshoggers wrote a post that identifies the situation better than anything else I have read thus far.

We’ve all watched while the media and the chattersphere have gone off half cocked, chasing down every story and every rumor with neither prejudice nor prudence, and the results have been arguably dismal.  What appeared to be an easy target has thus far been a trap.

It’s a mystery box.

When I took the family up to Chincoteague Island a couple of months ago, we stopped off at the visitor center that overlooks the beach.  As visitor centers go, it was pretty small; a fish tank, a sandbox filled with the myriad treasures you find on a beach, and a whale with holes in the top of it.

These holes were covered in slitted black rubber so you can reach your hand inside without actually seeing what is going on.  Sure, all that’s supposed to be in there are seashells and seaweed; but as my fingertips hoverd over the hole, I couldn’t help but think that what I was about to thrust my hand into was a running garbage disposal, or a tank full of black widows.

You see these kinds of things all the time, and I have taken to calling them mystery boxes.  The trick is that usually whatever is in the mystery box is safe.  For Halloween you may try and build up the intrigue a bit; peeled grapes are sold as eyeballs, spaghetti is sold as nightcrawlers.  But for all intents and purposes, you know you are going to be able to come out of that mystery box with your hand safe and intact, if not a little bit dirty.

The Sarah Palin selection has been, as Libby’s post would imply, the GOP’s mystery box*; and in the context of the political history of at least the last eight years, liberals could do nothing to resist reaching in.  Even if said mystery box was plastered with warning signs that read: DO NOT PUT YOUR HAND IN HERE!  YOU WILL DIE!–we are helpless to resist.

Unfortunately, the McCain campaign did take out the seashells and peeled grapes, and replaced them with whirring buzzsaws.

The point here is that Palin is only a liability for as long as we make her one.  The mystery box is harmless so long as you keep your hands out of it.  That is not to say that I think that Palin should be absolved of all criticism and scrutiny, but we have to look at a lack of prudence buys us.

Palin may be on the wrong side of every issue, and may be a serial liar, but the over-eagerness to paint her with whatever rumor can be found about her has not only given the GOP the opportunity to play the victim card (and nobody, NOBODY, plays a better victim than the GOP.  Be not fooled here; for as often as the term “thin-skinned” is thrown out by right wingers, no one cries foul faster, louder, and more frequently than the right), but it has lowered expectations for Palin to the point where forming complete sentences can look like success.

And let’s face it; like her or not, and no I do not like her, she is a skilled and vicious politician.  She may be on the wrong side of every issue, and she may be a serial liar, but she is good at it.  The pitbull with lipstick is only a pitbull because so many have tried to paint her as a mangy mutt with only three legs.

Most criticisms of Palin are outlined with booby traps and land mines.  The family rumors lower expectations and open up victimhood as a viable counteract.  Troopergate can be painted as unfair political antagonization.

If you feel criticism of Palin is absolutely necessary, than one must remain in the realm of the one-hundred percent verifiable at all times.  Go after the proven lies, and there have been many, and go after the rather slim policy proposals.  Indeed, while many have moved to try and paint Palin as a trashy, fundamentalist, abuser of power, I fear that none of these will net the desired result.  But serial liar, which can be proven, is open.

Also, it is important to remember that Palin is NOT the top of the ticket.  She’s big news now because she’s the new (thanks Matt) toy.  But it’s McCain’s name that will be at the very top of the ballot, not hers, and thus all criticisms of Palin must directly reflect upon McCain.  They must go towards his judgement, or lack thereof, and they must go towards how much McCain has abandoned his own principles for the sake of winning the heart of his party’s base.

Most importantly, the attention simply has to come off of her, and as a result this will be my last intended post on Palin.  I once characterized her as a lightning rod, one that has directed attention away from Obama, and in some cases that’s good.  But now it is time to redirect the lightning on to McCain.  He’s enjoying a free pass right now because most of the media attention is directed on Palin who has nothing but softballs to bat away with ease.

Get this campaign back on the issues, and back on how much better on the issues Obama/Biden are than McCain/Palin.

*I fully appreciate how the analogy may carry with it some gender based implications.  I have absolutely no intent of doing so, and thus have done what I could to preserve the integrity of the analogy while at the same time maintaining a respectful tone in terms of gender bias.  If I have failed on this front, I apologize preemptively.

One Response to “Mystery Box”

  1. radical_Moderate says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more kyle. The Less talk of Palin’s private life the better. The Left has a tendency to look at her as white trash in $300 eyeglass frames, but Mrs.Palin is far from being an untutored rustic. I just watched her in her Gubernatorial debate from 2006 shown on CSPAN this weekend, and, at times, reading from notes, Palin was impressive and slick. Sure Alaskan Politics are a far leap from the economic Problems, and Diplomatic Problems the country as a whole faces, but I have no reason to believe that Palin can’t be coached into giving the sort of deliberately vague answers to questions that Republicans so love, and that Americans seem to eat up. I actually heard some Repub Congresswoman (Heather “US Attorney Scandal” Wilson I believe) this afternoon on MSNBC, when asked how McCain would start getting this economy back on its feet, insist that drilling on our lands, not belt tightening, not personal sacrifice, would solve all our problems, and yes, she said it with a straight face. I have concluded that the problem with many Americans can be summed up by quoting Jack Nicholeson’s famous movie line from ‘A Few Good Men’; “You want the truth? You can’t HANDLE the TRUTH.”

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