Dick Cavett on Sarah Palin

That rapier wit has lost none of its edge:

I suppose it will be recorded as among political history’s ironies that Palin was brought in to help John McCain. I can’t blame feminists who might draw amusement from the fact that a woman managed to both cripple the male she was supposed to help while gleaning an almost Elvis-sized following for herself. Mac loses, Sarah wins big-time was the gist of headlines.

I feel a little sorry for John. He aimed low and missed.

What will ambitious politicos learn from this? That frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences that ramble on long after thought has given out completely are a candidate’s valuable traits?

And how much more of all that lies in our future if God points her to those open-a-crack doors she refers to? The ones she resolves to splinter and bulldoze her way through upon glimpsing the opportunities, revealed from on high.

What on earth are our underpaid teachers, laboring in the vineyards of education, supposed to tell students about the following sentence, committed by the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High and gleaned by my colleague Maureen Dowd for preservation for those who ask, “How was it she talked?”

My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars.

And, she concluded, “never, ever did I talk about, well, gee, is it a country or a continent, I just don’t know about this issue.”

It’s admittedly a rare gift to produce a paragraph in which whole clumps of words could be removed without noticeably affecting the sense, if any.

(A cynic might wonder if Wasilla High School’s English and geography departments are draped in black.)

(How many contradictory and lying answers about The Empress’s New Clothes have you collected? I’ve got, so far, only four. Your additional ones welcome.)

Matt Lauer asked her about her daughter’s pregnancy and what went into the decision about how to handle it. Her “answer” did not contain the words “daughter,” “pregnancy,” “what to do about it” or, in fact, any two consecutive words related to Lauer’s query.

I saw this as a brief clip, so I don’t know whether Lauer recovered sufficiently to follow up, or could only sit there, covered in disbelief. If it happens again, Matt, I bequeath you what I heard myself say once to an elusive guest who stiffed me that way: “Were you able to hear any part of my question?”

21 Responses to “Dick Cavett on Sarah Palin”

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you. I’ve been saying that some of my sixth grade students can construct better oral sentences and paragraphs. If they can’t, they fail state exams and automatically qualify for mandatory “academic intervention services.”

  2. Leigh Oats says:

    With such a command of words, and with such a voice, the tundra-territorian speaker in tongues can always fall back on her BSc (!) in journalism by finding a job reading the news—in sign language. Tina Fey has identified that semaphoric skill of Sarah Palin’s to a T.

  3. Christopher Clune says:

    I love when I get to laugh out loud…and I love me some Dick Cavett…I wish something as funny and as pointed as that could land in my lap every day…

  4. skc says:

    Hey Dick! Has there been much discussion about the guy who ACTUALLY will be the next VPOTUS? I kept myself in stitches during the campaign laughing at his handling of language, history, etc.

  5. JMBarrett says:

    I think she was so well liked because uneducated men and women could make sense of her babble in a way no one else could. Like twinspeak. Normal people can’t understand her, but others who are similarly deficient in basic grammar can. Seriously, had the McCain-Palin ticket won, I would have lived the next 4 – 8 years in absolute, all-encompassing fear. Thank you, America, for choosing the greater intellect.

  6. psiviking says:

    Well Dick, I see you’ve learned how to write left-handed.

  7. Anthony Spinelli says:

    Dick Cavett appeared on the Imus Radio Show on November 18. He discussed his Times’ piece of November 14, “The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla”..

    Among other smarmy comments on Sarah Palin, he opined that she reminds him of a woman sitting alone at the end of the bar at 3 a.m. This is pure slander.

    Regardless of politics, Sarah is the mother of five children, one a Down’s Syndrome child. If he prefers unctuous, left wing word spinners he can stay with Maureen Dowd and, as he describes her in his Times piece, the astute Andrea Mitchell. There are certainly enough insufferable gatherings in Manhattan, Montauk or the Hamptons for the supercilious self-haters to congregate at these days.

    Wasilla High School, by the way, has turned out soldiers like her son who are now serving in Afghanistan. Perhaps Professor Henry Higgins Cavett might pay them a visit to see if they are eloquent enough to serve. They certainly knew enough geography to appreciate the sacrifice they are proudly making.

  8. Bobbie says:

    Palin-speak could be the next fad. Or maybe, just maybe a renewed respect for intelligent speech
    will surface.
    Thank you, Dick Cavett, for putting into just the right words in the right order to make me laugh out loud.

  9. Rita says:

    I listened to Cavett on Imus this morning and felt the sadness and horror that Sarah Palin must be feeling right now. The denigration of a person as genuine and real as Sarah Palin, the savagery of people like Dick Cavett, a comedian, with Bipolar disease, in other words a fruitcake, tell the nation she is like the woman at the end of the bar at 3 in the morning, unbeliveable. Those who agree with him are no better. Who in the hell do you think you are to judge? It would be good for you to look in the mirror oh perfect ones!

  10. Tim says:

    Liberals and leftists, while always adamant about their moral superiority, are the cruelest and most insulting people alive. They are consistently snide, arrogant, and immature, and yet always hyper sensitive about their own dysfunctions and unnatural lifestyle choices. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    You might want to remember that she didn’t choose herself for a VP candidate, dead eye McCain did. The whore at the end of the bar at 3AM comment is typical of liberals, and it goes to show that Dick has truly earned his name. For some reason I feel Dick does have much more experience with whores at 3am than Palin does.

  11. kenneth a kessel says:

    Hats off to Cavett for saying the unthinkable; Sarah Palin is a small intellect in a very big and important show. “was silly speak’ is the new jargon for half-wits, Republicans and George Bush ,who actually understands her.Write more stuff Mr. Cavett.

    Ken, Reston VA

  12. Leigh Oats says:

    Says Tim (“November 18th, 2008 1:35 pm”):

    “Liberals and leftists, while always adamant about their moral superiority, are the cruelest and most insulting people alive. They are consistently snide, arrogant, and immature, and yet always hyper sensitive about their own dysfunctions and unnatural lifestyle choices. What a bunch of hypocrites.”

    Tim, you’re so disrespectful!

    In the last few months most of the plugged-in world has enjoyed a huge windfall of first-class entertainment from the McCain & Palin Show. No professional comedy-writer could have dreamed up a script of such intelligent design. The whole production was the work of talented amateurs.

    Now that the McC&P Show (the final part of the contest between a former community organiser and a former community bomber) is in its post-election paroxysms of bitterness the members of the USA’s so-called “right” (they’re the ones who seem to think they’ve copyrighted the word “morals”) are _angry_. But most members of that community are too disorganised to identify the direction in which their anger should be directed.

  13. claire says:

    “It’s admittedly a rare gift to produce a paragraph in which whole clumps of words could be removed without noticeably affecting the sense, if any.”

    It has less to do with Palin’s “giftedness” than with sleight of punctuation on the part of Ms. Dowd. I’m no fan of Palin, but I do find punctuation useful. Try this:

    “I remember the discussion about Africa. My concern has been, um, the atrocities there in Darfur. And the relevance to me with that issue, as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there, that uh, were um, they were kind of… the people succumbing to the dictators, and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent. The relevance there was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars. I wanted to make sure that that didn’t happen anymore. So we discussed what was going on in Africa and never, ever did I talk about, ‘Well, gee, is that a country? Is that a continent? I just don’t know about this issue.’ So I don’t know how they took our one discussion on Africa and turned it into what they turned it into.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGLzqjfF5gQ (5:49)

    Here’s another one:

    “Al Quaeda the Taliban a whole host of networks uh that are bent on uh attacking America who have a distorted ideology uh who have perverted uh the faith of Islam and so we have to go after them. Iran is a major threat, now I don’t think that there’s uh the same um they are not part of the same network, you’ve got Shiite and you’ve got Suni. We’ve gotta have uh the ability to distinguish between these groups because for example the war uh the war in Iraq is a good example where I believe the administration lumped together Saddam Hussein a terrible guy with Al Quaeda which had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5rfc54il6Q . (40 sec)

  14. Mick says:

    The bottom line is… it is ABSOLUTELY NOT O.K. to have dumb / stupid / inarticulate / ignorant people running for the highest office(s) in the land. We tried that type of person for the past eight years, remember? So, this isn’t about male, female, whore, right, left, center, liberal, conservative, etc.. It’s about putting SMART people in charge. Simple as that.

  15. BH says:

    Mr. Cavett’s unremitting preoccupation with Sarah Palin is an interesting phenomenon and can be traced to much the same inferiority complex shared by other “deep” thinkers on the Left and the Right: she represents a threat to their positions as the ultimate arbiters of current political or cultural discourse. It maddens Dick (who has had, admittedly, a tenuous hold on reality for the last fifty years) that anyone would not appreciate his bon mots and defer to him for his superior ability to deliver them. It absolutely infuriates him that Sarah Palin could not care a hell of a lot less about them at all. Governor Palin’s strong suit is not language; it is the only suit Cavett wears.

    The real danger to Cavett and Company is that the intrinsic Americanism of Sarah Palin and her honest approach to government negates the need for subterfuge and posturing that politicians have largely adopted upon arrival on the national scene. The consequences for him and his fellow pundits is that a truly transparent government and administration would make his utterings inconsequential, thus confirming his essential irrelevance to the lives and dreams of the average American, whom Cavett and others have attempted to marginalize for about the same amout of time he has been in therapy. While few of us blue-collar types aspire to fame as a wordsmith, we are still capable of discerning the hollowness of literary bullies who need daily reinforcement of their largely unwarranted and self-aggrandized personnae.

  16. Leigh Oats says:

    Says Mick (“November 19th, 2008 11:16 am”):

    “The bottom line is… it is ABSOLUTELY NOT O.K. to have dumb / stupid / inarticulate / ignorant people running for the highest office(s) in the land. We tried that type of person for the past eight years, remember? So, this isn’t about male, female, whore, right, left, center, liberal, conservative, etc.. It’s about putting SMART people in charge. Simple as that.”

    Yes. And it must have been quite a wrench for John McCain to see how unimpressed his fellow prisoners were by his unsmart hiring of that “plumber”. As we in the RotW might say, the former high-altitude button-presser must have been round the bend to put that spanner into the works.

  17. Leigh Oats says:

    Says BH (“November 19th, 2008 11:53 am”):

    ” [. . .] The real danger to Cavett and Company is that the intrinsic Americanism of Sarah Palin [. . .].”

    . . . as exemplified by her (former?) pallin’ around with secessionists? If I were you, BH, I would steer clear of that rocky shoal.

    Or perhaps you’re using the word “Americanism” to mean a kind of pan-Americanism that embraces all of the Americas, in other words the continents.

    Oops. Let’s not invoke that tricky concept “continent”.

  18. BH says:

    Dear Leigh Oats (sigh):

    Secessionist? I don’t think Sarah Palin qualifies, but that stuff never works out anyway. We tried that down here in the South and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

    Americanism? The kind exemplified by Lincoln’s prescription of government, of course: “of the people, by the people, for the people.” (Try not to replace “people” with “pundits.”)

    And as for “continent” being a tricky concept, that’s only if you are MSNBC and accept “Martin Eisenstadt” at face value. Or the LA Times, or the rest of the Palin gangbangers.

    Jeez, I shouldn’t have said that; now I’ll lose my Harding Institute fellowship.

  19. Leigh Oats says:

    Kathy’s quoting (“November 15th, 2008” on this page) of Dick Cavett (“November 14, 2008, 10:00 pm” at ) begins thus:

    “I suppose it will be recorded as among political history’s ironies that Palin was brought in to help John McCain. I can’t blame feminists who might draw amusement from the fact that a woman managed to both cripple the male she was supposed to help while gleaning an almost Elvis-sized following for herself.”

    That reminds me: This time around we’ve had the usual umpteen repetitions of the joke (either garbled or not) about an incoming first family of the USA measuring for the drapes, but I wonder whether there’s any truth in the rumor that Sarah Palin has been measuring some vacant areas of rockface in the Black Hills of (South) Dakota just in case she shatters the pesky darn toot’n glass ceiling in 2012 or 2016 and eventually goes down in history as belonging to the pantheon whose craggy faces are already immortalised there. (Peace, Crazy Horse—I include you.)

    Is the crusading feminist clotheshorse already hearing the voice of the mystic mountains? And will her entry to the pantheon be completed before Crazy Horse’s granite likeness is completed? Watch those spaces.

  20. jim dildine says:

    Mr. Cavett’s analysis of the Sarah Palin candidacy is actually quite mild and pedestrian compared to what it truly represents regarding the state of the decline in American Democracy (or rather “American Empire”). Palin represents the distillation of the lowest common denominators of the human psyche: self-serving, blind ambition, with no regard for the system of knowledge built on thousand of years of the cooperative exchange of ideas. Moreover, without any knowledge of the world situation, much less an ideology of sustainable culture, Palin’s leadership would have represented the epitome of defacto control by private industry (re: Corporatism). In other words, more of same–except: accelerated. We now stand literally at the precipice for human survival. To have leadership that believes in 4k year old universe; who trust only in “spiritual voices” to guide them; who have blind allegiance to corporate initiatives; who believe that personal medical decisions should be made by the State; whose knowledge of global affairs is limited to their own small state; and which does not have the articulate communication skills of the average 8th grader–this would all seem a prelude to Armageddon (which is apparently one of Palin’s treasured mythologies).

    Rather then criticize Cavett’s rather mild and humorous observations regarding Palin, the religious-right should be thankful that intelligent leadership was elected; leadership that may allow the human species to survive long enough for them (the religious-right) to live out their lives in blissful ignorance.

  21. Leigh Oats says:

    Seriously, though, it’s high time the world stopped being _annoyed_ by the governor of aLASka. A foot-of-the-page quote of Jay Leno in a late-1990s edition of Reader’s Digest says about a different unwitting wit: “You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.”

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