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Thursday, September 4, 2008
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I was watching the GOP Convention last night, waiting for the grand oration from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (the “hand grenade in the cultural war”). A little after 9 PM, I noticed a mousy-looking woman in her mid-fifties take the stand and present a mediocre speech. She wasn’t too bad or too good at it; definitely partisan, but hardly inflammatory. This woman turned out to be the Republican Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle. The commentator noted that Lingle was in her second term as governor, and had previously served as the mayor of a small town in Hawaii.

So, I wondered – how come Lingle wasn’t picked by McCain for the VP job? (Or even considered!) She’s had more time on the job than Palin, and has maintained a good track record out there in Barack Obama’s home state (i.e., low unemployment rate, budget surplus, high popularity rate). She’s also more cosmopolitan: Lingle grew up in St. Louis, went to high school and college in California, then moved to Hawaii. Her views on abortion are moderate – generally pro-choice, but against partial birth abortion and favoring notification restrictions. She’s also currently unmarried, twice divorced, without children, Jewish, and consults with a rabbi once a week. In effect, she is “Liberman light”. But she’s also a bona fide Republican. McCain would have had to twist a lot of arms had he selected Lingle; he would have made the Christian Right unhappy. And Lingle isn’t all that glitzy or telegenic. But McCain would have attracted a lot of moderates and independents, would have had a better shot with former Hilary supporters. He also may have avoided this damn red state vs. blue state firestorm that Sarah Palin has set off.

Instead, unfortunately, McCain decided to both play it safe (with the GOP conservatives) and at the same time play it cocky (picking someone with lots of political and personal baggage and limited leadership experience). And now, any hope or pretense that this election would “bring us together” and “heal the wounds” of an increasingly bi-cultured America has gone by the wayside. Welcome to Civil War II, thanks to a political bomb dropped by a gutsy attack-plane pilot.

I will note one interesting thing about Sarah Palin – she always wears glasses. In an era when most of the beautiful people wear contacts, this seems rather quaint. Perhaps it is isn’t such an issue amidst the glitteratzi up in Alaska. And some speculate that she’s trying to emulate Tina Fey. Certain of Palin’s “fashion eyewear” selections are a bit gauche. But as someone who has worn glasses since age 11 and who has never owned a pair of contacts, I do appreciate the fact that a major political party is finally running a presidential ticket that includes a fellow “four-eyes-er”. (However, Lingle also wears glasses!)

Here’s another interesting sidenote to the Palin saga, specifically regarding the “Troopergate” investigation into her firing of Alaska’s public safety director Walt Monegan. Recall that the question here is whether Palin abused her discretion by pressuring and then canning Monegan in retaliation for his not firing a state trooper involved in an unhappy marriage and messy divorce with Palin’s sister. One of the allegations of misconduct brought against the trooper was that he illegally shot and killed a moose (no permit, out of season, whatever). To we East Coast people, that doesn’t sound like anything worse than putting a glass bottle into the plastics recycling bin. I mean, Alaska is mostly wilderness, not like our over-crowded cities and suburbs. So what’s the big deal about shooting a moose out in the boondocks? There must be plenty of them.

Well, I’m sure that a wildlife expert could tell me exactly why moose hunting regulations ARE important. But an interesting sidenote to the Troopergate incident was raised by a Native Alaskan (Eskimo) in a comment found on the Anchorage Daily News web site. The comment was submitted in July, before Palin hit the national scene. The writer, “nagayukabraham”, said that if a fellow Native been caught shooting a moose illegally, he or she would be dragged into court, fined, and have their guns confiscated and hunting privileges taken away. He concluded that there are “different sets of laws, one for those that know better and do it anyway, and one for those that are just trying to feed their families.” I doubt that Sarah Palin was taking Native sentiment into account in her efforts against the wayward trooper, but this still shows just how complicated the web of human (and moose) social relationships is. Life isn’t simple anywhere; not even out there in Northern Exposure-land.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:37 pm      

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