- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2008

Looking for solutions

“Stunned by the Palin pick, the Obama-Biden ticket has seemed lifeless this week. The normally sharp Joe Biden was completely off his game on ‘Meet the Press.’ And after saying he wouldn’t attack Palin, Obama himself began attacking her this week - a role that should be reserved for Biden and surrogates.

“Maybe most troubling, whenever I see Obama or Biden in speech snippets on television, they’re spending far too much time outlining the grim troubles of our economy and too little time telling voters what they’d do about it. …

“Let’s be honest, John McCain and the GOP declared full-on culture war when they picked Christian-right darling Palin over McCain’s choice, Joe Lieberman. And it’s working, for now. But while reporters continue to dig in Palin’s Alaska backyard - and there are a lot of reporters, and a lot to report about, up there - Obama, Biden and other Democratic surrogates have to hammer home their answers to the economic turmoil that’s putting many voters’ dreams at risk. Palin’s glow will fade, much like Obama’s did, and people will go back to looking for solutions, not a superstar. It’s time for Obama to show he has them.”

Joan Walsh, writing in “Crazy Time” on Salon.com Sept. 9.

No small-town girl

“Far from being a reprise of ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ Palin was a clear-eyed politician who, from the day she took office, knew exactly what she had to do and whose toes she would step on to do it.

“The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives. She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska’s energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the U.S. and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes. …

“Her sudden elevation to the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket shocked no one more than her enemies in Alaska, who have broken out into a cold sweat at the thought of Palin in Washington, guiding the Justice Department’s anti-corruption teams through the labyrinths of Alaska’s old-boy network.

“It is no surprise that many of the charges laid against her have come from Alaska, as her enemies become more and more desperate to bring her down. John McCain was familiar with this track record and it is no doubt the principal reason that he chose her.

“Focusing on the exotic trappings of Alaskan culture may make Palin seem a quaint and inexplicable choice. But understanding the real background of her steady rise in politics suggests that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are underestimating her badly.”

James Bennett, writing in “Sarah Palin is not such a small-town girl after all” in the (London) Daily Telegraph Sept. 9 and posted on National Review Online

Culture wars continue

“Part of the promise of the Obama campaign from the beginning has always been that he can somehow bring the culture wars to a close. There’s reason to believe in this promise: if there’s a single American who’s lived a life that more fully straddled the culture war divide than Barack Obama, I can’t name him or her. But the problem with being a peacemaker is that you can’t unilaterally end conflict if your opponents want to continue waging war. …

“With Palin’s speech at the RNC, we’ve now entered the culture war phase of the election. And I’m a bit disconcerted about how effective the provocation has been in getting those on the left to wage culture war right back. Hard to blame them: the other side really did start it. They insulted community organizers and pretty much anyone that lives in a big city. It’s offensive stuff. But a few too many liberals I know have been throwing around the phrase ‘these people’ in describing the right, a phrase that’s one of the most toxic in the English language. …

“But waging culture war back is not the answer. First it’s morally dubious, and allows us to stew in our own stereotypes and self-righteousness. Empathy is a precondition of progress, that goes for our ideological enemies. But it’s also just not winning politics. It’s rigged in their favor. They’ve been waging this since Nixon and win more times than they lose. That will change some day in the near future, but right now, people need to channel their energy and angst and frustration into action, whether that’s volunteering or giving money, and not sniping.”

Christopher Hayes, writing in “Culture War Battle Stations” on TheNation.com Sept. 9.

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