By James M. Wall
It was a rainy afternoon. I turned on the television news to track the hurricanes. On the way to a news channel I found a movie, Kate and Leopold. There, on my screen, smiling at me, was Meg Ryan, standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, ready to jump through a time portal that will transport her to 1876 where she will marry a 19th century duke.
On her way back to the 19th century, Meg Ryan, who plays Kate McKay, a mild mannered, but successful 21st century New York business executive, turns and looks, wistfully, at her brother, Charley. He tells her she must jump back to the 19th century. Her destiny awaits. Kate smiles, and says: “I’ll always love you, Charley.” Then she jumps.
I had heard that voice before! Then it hits me: “That’s our Sarah!”. Could our Sarah have been at the Mat Su theater in Wasilla, Alaska, one cold January, 2002 night, watching Kate and Leopold and hearing Meg say, “I’ll always love you, Charley”? Or, maybe like me, in an idle moment, she found Kate McKay on her television screen.
Could it be that she learned to say “Charley”, over and over again, with that special feeling of intimacy, certainty and warmth, sitting in the dark at the Mat Su in Wasilla? It is certainly within the range of possibility that when she sat down for her ABC interview with Charles Gibson, Sarah Palin remembered Meg Ryan telling her brother Charley she would always love him.
Could it be that each time she said, “Charley”, she said to herself, “I’ll always love you,” and then added, out loud, in a firm voice, “Charley”. Is such a thing improbable? Not at all. Fairy tales happen in the movies. Sometimes they happen in national politics.
We have entered the Twilight Zone. Sarah Palin has jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and she has taken us with her. One day Sarah Palin was in her first term as governor of Alaska. She had been mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She was a “hockey mom”, belonged to the PTA, and is the mother of five children. She can shoot and field dress a moose. She is attractive, smart, tough and ready for whatever comes next.
Suddenly, her world spins into a different realm of reality. Reality is shaken. The matrix has shifted. She gets a call from John McCain, a glamorous war hero running for president of the United States. Are you ready to jump into a new world, Sarah, the war hero asks her? Yes, she said, and promptly jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge.
In her ABC interview, Charley began:
GIBSON: Governor, let me start by asking you a question that I asked John McCain about you, and it is really the central question. Can you look the country in the eye and say “I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?”
PALIN: I do, Charlie, and on January 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, will be ready. I’m ready.
GIBSON: And you didn’t say to yourself, “Am I experienced enough? Am I ready? Do I know enough about international affairs? Do I — will I feel comfortable enough on the national stage to do this?”
PALIN: I didn’t hesitate, no.
It is easy to think of Sarah Palin as a character in a movie, a successful corporate executive picked by a 19th century duke to be his bride. So far, the story line is developing just the way Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove protege, planned it. “Forget the critics, John. We are number one at the box office for the second straight weekend. We got a blockbuster on our hands.”
Schmidt, as the master mind behind McCain’s slash and burn campaign of rumors and outright lies, knows the American public responds to success stories with happy endings. Sarah Palin is on her way to winning the next big thing.
Bob Herbert of the New York Times, is not pleased:
While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson. . . and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.
How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket? How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride?
For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on “American Idol.”
Ms. Palin may be a perfectly competent and reasonably intelligent woman (however troubling her views on evolution and global warming may be), but she is not ready to be vice president.
Leonard Doyle, of AlterNet.com, went to Alaska to check on Sarah Palin’s environmental record. He found that her record was even more “toxic” to the environment than that of George Bush:
. . .The woman who could soon be a 72-year-old’s heartbeat away from the United States presidency has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush. Mr McCain has stressed he is concerned about global warming and has come out against drilling in the Arctic reserve. But, in recent weeks, he has wobbled on the issue. And environmentalists are describing Mrs Palin, who denies climate change is man-made, as “either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading.”
The polls suggest that Palin is deep into the affection of the public. Let the critics carp. Throw her into the ring with Joe Biden. He will find that by the time they meet in the vice presidential debate she will be even stronger. She is gaining her footing, rapidly. When “Charley” tried to draw her into a religious discussion, prompted by remarks she made in church, she did not blink. She followed the Schmidt script and hit Charley with some solid Abraham Lincoln theology.
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said — first, he suggested never presume to know what God’s will is, and I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak God’s words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.
Sarah Palin’s quick rise to power distresses Frank Rich. In his column, “The Palin-What’shisname Ticket”, Rich writes:
It’s an urgent matter, because if we’ve learned anything from the G.O.P. convention and its aftermath, it’s that the 2008 edition of John McCain is too weak to serve as America’s chief executive. This unmentionable truth, more than race, is now the real elephant in the room of this election.
No longer able to remember his principles any better than he can distinguish between Sunnis and Shia, McCain stands revealed as a guy who can be easily rolled by anyone who sells him a plan for “victory,” whether in Iraq or in Michigan. A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.
The Times’ Maureen Dowd went to Alaska to see for herself. She, too, is not enouraged:
An Arctic blast of action has swept into the 2008 race, making thinking passé. We don’t really need to hurt our brains studying the world; we just need the world to know we’re capable of bringing a world of hurt to the world if the world continues to be hell-bent on misbehaving.
Two weeks after being thrown onto a national ticket, and moments after being speed-briefed by McCain foreign-policy advisers, our new Napoleon in bunny boots (not the Pamela Anderson kind, but the knock-offs of the U.S. Army Extreme Cold Weather Vapor Barrier Boots) is ready to face down the Russkies and start a land war over Georgia, and, holy cow, what business is it of ours if Israel attacks Iran?
What business, indeed. Karl Rove and Steve Schmidt are not afraid of the raging pundits. They have their candidate. They, and millions of Americans, believe they have God on their side.