July 14, 2009

and Sanford-phobia

Am I hallucinating; or has Neocon Central, that is, FOXNews and its NY Post-affiliate, been working overtime to secure the presidential nomination of Sarah Palin? From the very moment Sarah announced her goofy decision, on July 3, to step down as Alaska governor before her term had expired, Carl Cameron and the other neocon hired guns on FOX began describing her as a “€œmaverick,”€ whose high character and consistently conservative views had turned the media against this outstanding public servant. Within minutes of Sarah’s resignation speech, I learned that as a “€œworking mother”€ the Alaska governor did not want to sacrifice her children (including presumably the one who got pregnant by the jock) for her political career and that she was hanging tough and planning to go on teaching us “€œvalues.”€ FOX did allow one of its leftist clients, Larry Sabato, into the carefully monitored discussion to express wonder at Sarah’s action. Sabato was understandably puzzled that the governor was not finishing her term before she announced that she would not seek reelection. This suggested a certain immaturity in the way in which she approached her public responsibilities. But the high praise for Sarah has continued to pour out of FOX, with ritualistic swipes at Letterman, Tina Fey, and other TV personalities who have dared to mock a true “€œmaverick.”€

On July 5, the New York Post gave its own push to the “€œDraft Sarah for President”€ movement by presenting a very friendly article by Bob Quick, “€œRun, Sarah, Run. Here we learn that Sarah as a presidential contender must be true to herself by “€œignoring her enemies”€ and by “€œremaking the GOP in her image.”€ Such advice is grossly misleading. The neocon media would not be pulling for Sarah if she were Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, or some other real “€œmaverick.”€ What makes her so appealing is that she’s a photogenic dullard and that her stated views are mostly within the neocon mainstream.

On foreign policy, immigration, and federal laws banning discrimination against women, she sounds exactly like the man who chose her as his running mate in 2008. What make her different from John are her pleasant physical appearance and her cornpone “€œYoubetcha”€ manner of speaking. For the American Right, Sarah may be the ultimate Trojan horse. She offers the Idaho State- or Wasilla version of Bill Kristol and John McCain, with a few alterations, namely, an inability to engage national issues in a specific manner and the endless recitation of GOP platitudes about “€œsmaller government”€™ and “€œnational defense.”€ Of course the Doles and McCains pulled out the same tiresome “€œget government off our backs”€ rhetoric, while advocating programs to expand federal control. But these candidates could manage to say concrete things in their addresses and interviews, even when they packaged substance in deceitful campaign slogans.

Simultaneous with this neocon outburst of Palinomania has been a campaign of vilification from the same sources against South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford. Although Sanford has made a fool of himself dealing publicly with his marital indiscretions, FOX and other neocon news agencies have dwelt on his blunders with a vengeance. They have mocked Sanford in a way that exceeds anything that may have been done by the national media to Sarah Palin. On July 5, for example, FOX viewers were treated to a discussion of Sanford’s affair with a supposed expert in abnormal psychology. Only a fool would believe this format was driven entirely by a desire to serve viewers”€™ interest.

The animosity being vented on Sanford may be genuine and for all I know, it may sociologically- rooted. After all, neocons don”€™t like Southern whites, and particularly not Southern whites who are widely characterized as “€œrightwing.”€ But there is another more plausible explanation for what is going on. If Sanford can recover from his verbal gaffes, which may be far more serious problem than his Argentine mistress, he could hinder Sarah in her run for the presidential nomination. Although not consistently on the right, Sanford is an economic libertarian. He slashes budgets boldly and is a passionate enemy of every aspect of Obama’s stimulus programs. Although he voted for the McCain-Sarah ticket in 2008, he did so with obvious distaste, as the better of two evils and in order to keep his GOP affiliations intact. And unlike Sarah, he has not announced his neocon approach to the Middle East by placing an Israeli flag on the wall of his office, just behind his desk. 

Note this is not an endorsement of someone for president who may have shot himself so badly in the foot with his mouth that he is no longer electable to any national post. It is simply an attempt to understand the juxtaposing of two trends in neocon reporting, the unstoppable glorification of the faux maverick and faux right-winger Sarah Palin and the equally nonstop attacks from the same sources against the floundering Mark Sanford. Allow me to express my interpretive conclusion that these trends are not unrelated.        


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