Dear GOP: Please Do Make Sure That Your Next Vice-Presidential Candidate Can Pass a Fifth-Grade Geography Test

Apparently Sarah Palin didn’t know Africa was a continent.

Just… just… oh, hell. I can’t even pretend that I’m surprised.

You know, after I watched this, I walked into the other room, where my nine-year-old daughter was watching television.

“Athena, what is Africa?” I asked.

“It’s a continent,” she said, and then look at me like why is my dad asking me such idiot questions?

“Congratulations, honey,” I said. “You know more about Africa than the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party.”

Athena, to her credit, refused to believe what I had just told her. She thought I was kidding. I didn’t have the heart to correct her.

The idea that this appalling ignoramus was potentially a 72-year-old cancer survivor’s heartbeat away from being President makes me want to punch something. It’s really not too much ask that the Vice-President of the United States knows the fucking continents. There’s only seven of them. It’s not hard.

I bet I could spend days thinking of all the things Sarah Palin doesn’t know. But on that path lies madness.

Alaska, she’s your problem now.

Update, 9:49am, 11/6: Palin comments on the accusation:

If they’re an unnamed source, then that says it all. I won’t comment on anybody’s gossip, or allegations that are based on anonymous sources. That’s kind of a small, evidently bitter type of person who would anonymously charge something foolish like that, that I perhaps didn’t know an answer to a question.

Yeah, okay, but the question was “What is Africa?” Which, well. She should know already.

307 thoughts on “Dear GOP: Please Do Make Sure That Your Next Vice-Presidential Candidate Can Pass a Fifth-Grade Geography Test

  1. The worst thing about this I know that someone is going to show in the comment thread and try to defend Palin’s not knowing what Africa is.

    Don’t. Just don’t.

  2. Classy, John…classy. And I’m sure all the anonymous reports about Obama that have been floating around out there for 2 years were true, too. You won, dude! Go ahead and enjoy it without spewing this nonsense.

  3. Here in the rest of the world we like to deride the (supposedly) lacking geographical knowledge of Americans … but this is … I don’t know what to say. Except possibly “The idiocy, it burns me!” and “Alaska’s educational system is in dire need of wholesale replacement”.

  4. You’re complaining about her being a heartbeat away from the presidency when you’ve spent the past month verbally fellating a candidate who doesn’t know how many states are the country he wants to lead?

    Wow, just wow.

  5. Cody:

    But I heard it from Fox News!

    And, you know what? I hope it is wrong. I really, really do.

    You’re kidding:

    Ah, you’re the first of the idjits, then.

    Here’s a hint: One of these was a momentary flub. The other is actual gross ignorance of the world. Try to figure out which is which.

  6. Yo Cody: There’s a big difference between FOX News saying that the Republican VP candidate didn’t know that Africa’s a continent or who’s in NAFTA and an e-mail that you got from your brother’s girlfriend’s stepmom’s butcher’s ex-wife’s new husband that says that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery because this one dude who, like, totally knows about this stuff heard it from this one guy who is totally trustworthy and it’s not getting out because IT’S A CONSPIRACY, MAN!

    Turning off the snark, this is the sort of thing that’s newsworthy simply because it shows the stunning lack of qualifications that Palin had to be anywhere near the White House. We’ve just had eight years of a president who has a remarkable lack of curiosity about even the most basic knowledge about the rest of the world. I, personally, would rather not go through it again.

  7. ““Congratulations, honey,” I said. “You know more about Africa than the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party.””

    I remember my mother saying something similar to me when Dan Quayle made one of his gaffes only it was “Congratulations, you know more than the vice president”.

  8. A while ago (I think a year), I wrote a piece on a interview I saw where some of these neocons were talking about the country of Africa. I laughed then.

    Now? To think that this sort of stupidity in such a pig-ignorant, incurious human being was that close to being president sends a huge, huge shiver down my spine, man. It’s fucking more terrifying than anything our enemies could ever throw at us. I mean, what kind of political party in their right mind would willingly follow such a woefully blinkered human being?

    Sure, Bush is dumb, but this takes it to a whole new level. This is comedy. And terror. It’s like sitting down at a bar beside a drunk who lit himself on fire with a flaming shot, but rather than put the fire out, he lights a smoke and orders another round.

  9. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone with a grudge against her, it might be true (god forbid), or it could be made up by one of the staffers that are trying to blame the loss on Palin (legitimately or not).

    On the other hand, if it is true it is truely appalling (even worse than this sentence).

  10. I heard that the International Continental Union was voting to declassify Africa as a continent. Maybe that’s what she was thinking of.

  11. Interesting that this is coming from Fox News.

    What is the world coming to?
    Cats and dogs, living together…

  12. thepi:

    As noted, I would be delighted and relieved to discover this is mere character assassination.

    The problem is that hearing her extemporize in interviews does not cause one to reject such stories out of hand.

  13. My youngest brother is in sixth grade, and I’m pretty sure he’s known his continents for a few years now.

    An elementary school kid messing up Africa is not that big a deal.

    But the vice-presidential candidate? Yikes.

  14. There’s only two questions left about Palin now…

    Who on earth made the decision to chose her as VP candidate? (I mean, it was McCain’s responsibility ultimately, even if it was only his failure to more forecefully suggest someone else.)

    and, Who in their right mind is still pitching her as a serious candidate for 2012? Are enough Republicans that out of touch with reality (or for that matter, out of touch with getting their party anywhere near power again?)

    Anyway, you do hope this piece of news is not true… maybe Fox News is running interference for the party now — “It wasn’t a Republican failure, it was a McCain/Palin failure alone!”

  15. You betcha! Those damn liberal journalists at Fox News are just out to get Palin with their gotcha questions!

  16. Well, all-righty then! This must not be the place for gracious victory. Remember, folks, you won! And a rather historical and moving victory, too, even for an McCainiac like myself. I wouldn’t have thought the anonymous back-biting of the losing campaign was so important at this point.

    All I can say is, save some of that indignation for later…like schadenfreude pie, too much at once will come back to haunt you.

  17. There has been, for a while now, a very strong anti-intellectual movement among some of the Republican base. John, I know you’ve written about it quite a bit.

    Christopher Hitchens, whom I normally disagree with, has also written quite eloquently about anti-intellectualism and Sarah Palin. He says it much better than I can: “Sarah Palin’s War on Science” ( http://www.slate.com/id/2203120/ ).

    However, I think this approach has finally backfired. A Republican commentator on NPR this morning made the point that the GOP lost a significant number of well-educated male voters — a group that has traditionally trended Republican. The commentator said that to get that group back would probably require changing the party’s stances on issues like the environment.

    I suspect that a lot of well-educated white guys have gotten sick of the GOP disparaging the science and research into climate change (for example) and switched because the Republican position was intellectually untenable.

  18. Instead of debates, maybe future candidates should have to appear on “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” When Kellie Pickler appeared on that show, she, too, had a problem with the whole country/continent thing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANTDkfkoBaI

    Of course, it could be that the story about Palin and Africa is made up, in which case I apologize to Kellie Pickler for comparing her to Palin.

  19. After watching their campaign ads, not sure I’d believe anything the McCain staff said about anybody.

    Especially not off the record anecdotes from unnamed sources.

  20. Cody:

    “I wouldn’t have thought the anonymous back-biting of the losing campaign was so important at this point.”

    It is when it reveals that the former vice-presidential candidate doesn’t know Africa is a fucking continent.

    This isn’t about me gloating that “my side” won. It’s me being appalled someone that pan-hit ignorant was a vice-presidential candidate for one of the two major political parties. And the fact this is even remotely believable at all is indication that she was never a suitable candidate to begin with.

  21. Well, all-righty then! This must not be the place for gracious victory. Remember, folks, you won! And a rather historical and moving victory, too, even for an McCainiac like myself. I wouldn’t have thought the anonymous back-biting of the losing campaign was so important at this point.
    All I can say is, save some of that indignation for later…like schadenfreude pie, too much at once will come back to haunt you.

    You know, the McCain who gave the concession speech wouldn’t have been a bad President. Sarah Palin? Much less so. And there’s every indication that she could try to run for President in another four years.

    I think ridicule of patently unqualified candidates is quite justified. Perhaps Republicans can combat that by running qualified candidates.

  22. 23: “I wouldn’t have thought the anonymous back-biting of the losing campaign was so important at this point.”

    If I can use an analogy, the feeling I get from what John is commenting on here is akin to when you find out that your 3 year-old has almost set the house on fire because he swiped a soldering iron when you weren’t looking and was about to plug it in.

    The situation has been saved, its over and all is fine now. But that doesn’t stop you from having to take a few moments and recover and do a “Holy shit! That was close! Look what almost happened!” Shudder.

    It is healthy to do this, as you want to make sure you reflect on what happened, why and how it happened, and how to prevent it from ever happening again. I mean, a woman that stupid (who apparently didn’t know she was that stupid and was arrogant in the face of those who wanted to help her not be so stupid) being so close to the presidency still makes me shudder. Not to mention the harm she would have done to gender equity in this country.

  23. #29 – I’m all for good ridicule…GOOD ridicule. Tina Fey was hilarious. Will Ferrell’s George Bush impression is dead on. And Jason Sudeikis just kills Joe Biden. But snarking about anonymous reports that are too ridiculous to be true after you won, well that’s just sad.

    And let’s not start the qualification debate again. The act of running for office for 2 years does not bestow qualifications on the runner.

    John – That’s fine, but all I’m saying is feel free to bask in winning and not in trying to tear down someone you already beat. There’s plenty about Obama that appalls me, but it would seem odd to celebrate a McCain victory by talking about how much I couldn’t stand Obama.

    Anyway, your blog = your opinions, but that’s my two cents for the night. See you in 2012! :)

  24. Neither candidate can pass a 6th grade math test. One question: “If you have -10T dollars, can you spend more money?”
    Both candidate’s answer? “SPENDSPENDSPENDSPENDSPENDSPENDSPEND!! WheeSPENDSPENDSPENDSPENDSPENDSPENDSPEND”

    (also note, if any company in the US used the accounting the US government used to reach only 10T in debt, they’d make Enron look good, Bernie (worldcom) or Lay (enron) would never consider such an obvious scam, the real figure is much higher)

  25. In point of fact, John, you are wrong. According to California State Standards (which mirror national educational standards), a first grade student should know the continents. Specifically:

    1.2.1 Locate on maps and globes their local community, California, the United States, the seven continents, and the four oceans.

    While the knowledge certainly isn’t complete at that age level, that is most certainly where it starts. You are right that, in most states, knowledge of Africa does come into the curriculum in fifth/sixth grades.

  26. [delurk]
    I told my hardcore-Dem dad that I hope Gov. Palin gets a national talk show of her own and that we never see her name on another ballot. Isn’t TV (or even radio) a more likely career direction for a former pageant winner anyway?

    Oh, and Drew Carey made the country/continent error as a slip of the tongue on Whose Line several years back; too bad Ms. Palin missed it.
    [relurk]

  27. #29 – I’m all for good ridicule…GOOD ridicule. Tina Fey was hilarious. Will Ferrell’s George Bush impression is dead on. And Jason Sudeikis just kills Joe Biden. But snarking about anonymous reports that are too ridiculous to be true after you won, well that’s just sad.

    Well, given the Couric interviews, I’m not so sure they are too ridiculous to be true. (And that’s the point; after the performances she indisputably gave, these sort of reports are unfortunately plausible, whether they’re true or not).

    Republicans certainly don’t need a Sarah Palin. They can and should do better. (And for the sake of the country, they can and should do better).

  28. Cody:

    “That’s fine, but all I’m saying is feel free to bask in winning and not in trying to tear down someone you already beat.”

    And all I’m saying is this has nothing whatsoever to do with basking in winning, it has to do with a major political party nominating an appallingly unqualified person into one of the two major national executive slots. It offends me, both for myself and as a citizen of the US. I deserve better opposition candidates, and so does the rest of the US.

    The difference in intellectual qualification between Palin and the other three major candidates for office this last election was both palpable and infinitely depressing. And since people are bruiting her for ’12, it’s worth kvetching about now.

    Although to be fair, now she knows Africa is a continent.

  29. And all I’m saying is this has nothing whatsoever to do with basking in winning, it has to do with a major political party nominating an appallingly unqualified person into one of the two major national executive slots.

    Someone who can quite easily run again in four years.

    From her own performance, I don’t think Palin deserves the chance to do that.

  30. I don’t quite believe this, although it’s not actually entirely out of the question. Still, the sheer enthusiasm with which the GOP backstabbing is commencing is both impressive and slightly depressing.

    On the plus side, if this sort of thing continues, it might actually have some good effects by pushing Palin out of the picture. Even if the GOP moves in a Huckabee/Palin social conservative / economic populist direction, which is pretty far from my liberal-with-libertarian-tendencies position, I’d rather they do it with some competence and policy heft, which wouldn’t happen if they just swung to Palin.

    I’d likely disagree a lot with (say) a Jindal/Huckabee ticket, but at least there would be some indications of competent government.

  31. As noted, this is all from “anonymous sources.” It’s not necessarily reliable, so “character assassination” is pretty high on the possibility list.

    Now, that said — I don’t care much. She pretty obviously thinks she’s the future of the GOP, and I’m pretty sure that belief accounts for at least some of her “going rogue” during the campaign.

    So I’m expecting to see lots of anonymous mud-slinging from both of them. Her, because she needs to put all the blame for the loss on McCain; him, because he probably does blame her, at least partially, for the loss. (And with good reason, based on the polls.)

    In his corner, he’s got decades of political experience, untold political connections all over the place, and a ton of money.

    In her corner, she has the ethics of a rabid weasel, and a religious belief in her being the chosen one.

    This will be fun to watch — and the best part is, we’ll be the winners!

    (Okay: some projection there on my part, some hyperbole, and some hoping. Wiser heads could prevail and keep them from attacking… but this whole thread puts a lie to that.)

  32. Wait, wait, wait…

    I read the article. It claims that Palin greeted McCain aides in a bath towel towel?

    I call shenanigans. Pics, please, or it didn’t happen. No, really, pics…

    What?

  33. I’m sorry. She is not representative of the majority of the people in my state.

    The party machine up here does not like her, for reasons other than her “ethics” stance. Now that she’s made a splash on the national scene I expect the press will not be as forgiving of her gaffs. Praise the sweet invisible pink unicorn for that!

    With any luck she’ll go away after 2010, never to be seen again.

    I don’t know that I feel lucky, but a girl can feel hope…

  34. Cody: it’s not a question of “us vs. them.” Once you get past that notion, maybe you’ll realize what the real point of this thread is.

    I think that I’m not as appalled as I would be if I hadn’t been an Indiana resident while Quayle was VP. Though it also wouldn’t surprise me if she started talking about how they speak Latin in Latin America next, or called ketchup a vegetable, either…

    As for stupidity in the general populace, well. One of the first conversations I had after Obama won was with a neocon who insisted that the U.S. was going to stop being a democracy or a republic because Obama said so, and when pressed, it turned out he didn’t know what a “republic” was, and as far as I could tell had never even heard of the Constitution (except as a buzzword), never mind read it…

  35. I *thought* I heard the bullet that missed the United States’ by a millimeter going by. Of course, it’s not the ones that you hear going by that matter…

  36. But see, none of you guys strike me as too likely to vote for Palin no matter what, so why not just come out and say that rather than get all righteously worked up over anonymously sourced character attacks? It’s not like Obama’s got no shady situations in his past or interviews over the last two years that are less than flattering. If you don’t like what Palin stands for or believes in, fine..that’s at least legit. But let’s stop pretending that her knowledge or lack of it on ANY topic was really a deciding factor or a big deal for most of you.

    I’ll start it off: Obama is faaaar too liberal to ever get my vote, Wright/Ayers/etc. aside. Short of switching positions, he just was not going to get my vote this year. And the fact that the Candidate of Hope & Change & New Politics hasn’t really been able to inspire these things in his own followers (even after winning), well, that’s just the non-icing on the un-cake.

  37. There’s only seven of them.

    In all fairness, there’s no actual criteria for a continent. There can be anywhere from 7 to 4 of them. It’s a little like someone not knowing that Pluto is a planet.

  38. Cody:

    “But let’s stop pretending that her knowledge or lack of it on ANY topic was really a deciding factor or a big deal for most of you.”

    You’re really not paying attention, Cody.

    Even if I were not to vote for her, as a citizen and a voter, I deserve a better candidate than she was. Because even if I didn’t vote for her, it’s entirely possible that enough of my fellow Americans would have, and then she would have been Vice President. And to have a Vice President that ignorant — or sufficiently ignorant enough to make an accusation like this wholly plausible — is completely and utterly unacceptable. Therefore, it’s completely and utterly unacceptable she was a serious candidate at all, even if I didn’t intend to vote for her.

    So, actually, yes, her complete lack of knowledge on any number of topics is really a big deal for me.

    Why isn’t it a big deal for you? Don’t you deserve better?

  39. I don’t think I can quite believe this story without more proof. I mean…not knowing Africa’s a continent? Not knowing North America consists of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico? It’s all hearsay from unnamed sources, and sounds like scapegoating to me, with maybe a touch of misogyny.

    (I’m not American and managed to avoid listening to any Palin interviews, though. So maybe I’m wrong about how stupid she is. But the level of ignorance this would imply is just…whoa. It seems so much more credible as slander. And I can certainly believe Palin could have offended enough of her aides that they’d make stuff like this up about her…especially if the part about her temper tantrums is true.)

    (And I can’t believe I’m actually defending Sarah Palin’s intelligence. *shudder* To be clear, I’m not arguing she is intelligent; but there’s a difference between being stupid and being unbelievably ignorant of basic facts about the world.)

  40. But see, none of you guys strike me as too likely to vote for Palin no matter what, so why not just come out and say that rather than get all righteously worked up over anonymously sourced character attacks? It’s not like Obama’s got no shady situations in his past or interviews over the last two years that are less than flattering. If you don’t like what Palin stands for or believes in, fine..that’s at least legit. But let’s stop pretending that her knowledge or lack of it on ANY topic was really a deciding factor or a big deal for most of you.

    Argh.

    Her knowledge and lack of it is PRECISELY the point. And IS the big deal.

    Did you ignore the comment “The McCain who gave the concession speech is not somebody I’d mind as President?” And can you not possibly conceive that you can be opponents, but still accept your opponent as being of good nature and competent? Palin is NOT competent.

    I’ll start it off: Obama is faaaar too liberal to ever get my vote, Wright/Ayers/etc. aside

    Well, glad you didn’t go there, because Republicans had FAR more connections to Ayers and Rezko than Obama did.

  41. I am just going to suggest that people do make mistakes, and say things that they know are not correct. I know I do, and if I recall correctly from some corrections in the blog, you do too.

    I am not saying that’s what she did, since I wasn’t there anc wouldn’t have been able to read her mind if I had been, but I always give people the benefit of a doubt.

  42. I am just going to suggest that people do make mistakes, and say things that they know are not correct. I know I do, and if I recall correctly from some corrections in the blog, you do too.
    I am not saying that’s what she did, since I wasn’t there anc wouldn’t have been able to read her mind if I had been, but I always give people the benefit of a doubt.

    Given Palin’s performance, didn’t she use up that benefit a month or so ago?

  43. Cody:

    If the last 8 years have pointed out anything, it’s that competence is an important factor alongside ideology.

    I opposed the Iraq War, and it was always going to be a slog. But if we had a competent president, the whole thing wouldn’t have been nearly as bad. Same with Katrina, both on a federal (Republican incompetence) and local (Democratic incompetence) level.

    Would Palin’s competence have been a deciding factor in my vote, if I had one (Non-Citizen)? Probably not, as I was already for Obama. Did it shift other people, who were closer in ideology? Quite possibly.

  44. “Dear GOP: Please Do Make Sure That Your Next Vice-Presidential Candidate Can Pass a Fifth-Grade Geography Test.”

    Okaaaay Then. Turnabout is fair play.

    Dear Party Of Enlightened Ones: Please Do Make Sure That Your Next Vice-Presidential Candidate Can Pass A Fifth-Grade History Test.

    During an interview regarding the recent financial meltdown, Joe Biden was telling the story of how “in 1929, when the Great Depression hit, President Roosevelt got on the TV and…”, blah blah blah. In case it needs to be ‘splained, FDR wasn’t the President in 1929, and uh, there was no TV at the time.

  45. John @48: You’re last line seems to resonate with a discussion you once mentioned about writer’s working for any wage they could get. Could this be indicative of a general frame of thought?

  46. Someone brought this up early in the thread; no one addressed it, so I’ll ask again. How is this worse than Obama talking about our “57 states”?

  47. It’s just a passing thought that might not be completely baked. But what if there is a fundamental belief that what gets brought into the limelight is ‘good enough’?

    In the case of your fellow writers, they seemed pleased that someone would pay them anything, rather than a wage they deservered. The cause of that belief? I don’t know. In a similar vein, why would someone feel they don’t deserve any better in terms of elected officials?

    I guess I’m wondering if there’s a general mindset of settling for lesser expectations in our country at the moment. Might just be an illusion from my end of the spectrum, though, and so am seeking sanity check.

  48. Well, at least we can be a wee bit grateful that the McCain campaign, or what’s left of it, is doing its best to torpedo her political future for the sake of us all now.

    My favorite example of her rockheadedness was her belief that, not only were the words “under God” in the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance, but that it had been written by the Founding Fathers. But I’d say that’s been outdone now.

  49. @#42: What’s wrong with greeting aides in a bath towel? Apparently, they came up to her hotel room. That’s one thing I think we can’t fault her for.

  50. Gaffes, even sometimes big gaffes, are part of living your live in a spotlight. Single instances of candidates saying silly things (57 states), don’t bother me noticeably.

    A consistent, high, level of ignorance, however, is simply not acceptable in someone who’s supposed to be capable of running the country. I wanted Palin to be someone competent, with whom I merely disagreed on policy. I got someone who very plainly knows less than I do (and I’m not politically oriented in general) about all sorts of things highly relevant to her future desired career.

    I want smart, principled opposition please.

  51. John Scalzi:

    It is when it reveals that the former vice-presidential candidate doesn’t know Africa is a fucking continent.

    Except it doesn’t reveal anything of the sort. It only reveals that one human being will say negative things about someone they don’t like. And if you didn’t know that, then you haven’t been paying attention.

    This is second hand hearsay evidence from a hostile witness.

    Two questions.

    Which is better evidence, video of someone saying something, or someone saying that someone else told them something?

    John, I can go find video of Obama saying there are 57 states. Does this mean he’s actually so stupid and ignorant of geography that he doesn’t know how many states there are?

    I look forward to your answers.

  52. Sarah Palin isn’t the only politician with less-than-average intelligence. Do you remember Lynn Westmoreland? He’s the Republican representative from Georgia who voted against providing relief to Hurricane Katrina victims, wants to eliminate the Department of Education, and believes that the Ten Commandments should hang in every federal building despite the fact that he can only remember three of them. Anybody notice which side of the aisle these idiots seem to be coming from?

  53. It’s more than just a gaffe, or even laughable stupidity.

    This is the end product of the conservative anti-intellectualism. This is why we have to argue with them about whether creationism belongs in a science curriculum. This is how they manage to believe that thousands of scientists are all wrong or corrupt or evil or whatever, and are misleading us on the environment. And that using stem cells for medicine is somehow more evil and destructive than using them for fertility treatments.

    Palin is willfully stupid, and proud of it.

    And that’s fine if she wants to serve me a coffee. But when it comes to a position of authority, and one that makes decisions about how the rest of us live…you bet your ass I’m going to hold her to a higher standard.

  54. Bad news folks–Sarah Palin is not going to disappear.

    Rumors are out to the effect that if Ted Stevens is reelected, the Senate will throw him out for being a convicted criminal.
    Then, as law allows, the Governor of Alaska will appoint a new Senator. Here is where it gets scary: The rumor is that Palin will appoint herself Senator.

    Then she is more than Alaska’s problem.

    BTW, don’t blame Alaska for Palin’s ignorance. She was from North Idaho and “educated” at the University of Idaho in Moscow (rhymes with Bosco).

  55. Rigel Kent:

    “John, I can go find video of Obama saying there are 57 states. Does this mean he’s actually so stupid and ignorant of geography that he doesn’t know how many states there are?”

    No, because among other things there were not likely to have been followups that reveal that the “57 state” comment was more than a momentary flub. With Africa as a continent, however:

    This led, among other things, to her asking how, in that case, South Africa could be a separate country.

    Which, you know. Seems fairly indicative that indeed, she didn’t know Africa was continent, rather than a country. It’s the follow-up that gets you. This is also, incidentally, why it’s useful to follow links provided, so you can have better context for what’s going on.

    As noted before, it certainly is possible that this is all post-campaign character assassination. Or, since it’s clear it is character assassination, it’s possible that it’s untrue character assassination. This I’ve already granted a couple times in the thread and will do so again now, and indeed hope it is, because the alternative is grim.

    That said, Palin has a problem in that in what I’ve seen of her, she really does seem pretty damn ignorant of really basic stuff, like how the First Amendment works or what newspapers she reads and so on. Now, this may be a function of the McCain campaign only rarely letting her out of her scripted cage, but at the end of the day I find the idea of her really not knowing Africa is continent far more believable than, say, Obama really believing there are 57 states, or any McCain brain fart one might choose being indicative of him being genuinely ignorant.

    Basically, Obama, McCain and Biden all get credit, thanks to their paper trails and informational accessibility and public history, which they get to redeem when they say something stupid. Sarah Palin, based on what I know of her, doesn’t. I believe there’s a real possibility she’s actually that ignorant.

  56. Dave @ 65

    State law prohibits Palin from appointing herself. On the other hand she can resign and hope the new Governor will be an ‘honest’ politician and appoint her.

  57. Dave @65: Rumors should be checked out. This one fails on the observable hard fact that Alaska is one of the few states wherein there’s a special election to replace the senator, rather than doing it by gubernatorial fiat.

  58. On the Fox News site, under the link (which I can’t copy) labeled “What Did Sarah Know?”, you can see Bill O’Reilly getting essentially the same story from Carl Cameron. O’Reilly’s opinion? She could have been tutored to fill in these gaps in her knowledge, so there must have been bigger problems!

    It’s painful and amusing at the same time watching him try to minimize the impact of the story.

  59. Perhaps this sort of thing might be a good reason to amend the Constitution to change back closer to the original system of selecting President and Vice President– the winner of the electoral college vote to be president, the runner-up to be vice-president.
    That way, at least the VP would be one party’s strongest candidate, versus someone picked to shore up perceived weaknesses in the main candidate.

  60. Sorry John, but I did follow the links provided and they didn’t change the context. There was a link above the video to a blog talking about the reporter in the video appearing on O’Reilly saying basically the same things, but with more details. So it’s still a guy saying other people said she said things.

    The other link is in one of your comments and it goes to a story about when Obama said the 57 states. It mentions how later on he mentioned the gaffe, but that gives more than ample opportunity for an aide to point out the error to Obama. Did I miss any?

    Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trying to say Obama’s ever been (at lest not since toddler-hood at any rate) confused about the number of states. Yes it was just a slip of the tongue, I freely stipulate that.

    My point was that while I’m sure you see a fundamental difference between what you’re doing and what the folks who tried to make hay out of Obama’s slip were doing, speaking as a guy on the outside (I voted Libertarian), I don’t.

    I was trying to be subtle, I’m not very good at subtle.

    The election is over. Let it go. If Palin runs in 2012 (and despite what every body’s saying now, that’s a big if, remember a year ago this race was supposed to be between Hillary and Giuliani) you can bring it up then. If you really think it’s that important.

  61. Not that I think Palin is really smart or well-educated or truly humble or anything, but I have a hard time believing she is quite as stupid, ignorant and arrogant as the guy in that video portrays her to be. I mean, she would have the mindbogglingly stupid, ignorant and arrogant for all of it to be 100% true. Another reason to be skeptical: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least half the stuff that is being said about Palin was made up or exaggerated by neocons to make her the scapegoat for McCain’s failed bid for the presidency. However bad Palin is, she’s not the main reason McCain lost. The neocons are desperate to retain control of the Republican party after this disaster and they need something/one other than Bush, big government warmongering conservatism disguised in free market rhetoric and McCain’s mistakes to pin the blame on. Palin’s an easy a target.

  62. Rigel Kent @ 72:

    If she truly didn’t know that Africa was a continent and not a country, that’s a bad thing. That’s not making hay out of it — it is, on its face, a bad thing. It means she has large holes in her understanding of world affairs. It indicates that she’s too ignorant to hold the office of the Vice Presidency. It certainly indicates that she would have been unprepared for the job or McCain’s should the unthinkable happen during his first term.

    Entirely irrespective of gloating or piling on (which I’ve done on various forums in a limited fashion), she shouldn’t have been on a major party ticket. It’s insulting. I’d say the same of Obama had he picked someone similar, and not voted for him.

  63. Standing from the UK sidelines, I do feel that those of you who think Sarah Palin will now go away quietly have missed the point somewhat. I can’t believe John McCain chose her out of nowhere, as the story seems to go, I believe that SOMEONE (person or organisation with money and influence) wanted her to be there. Someone presented her to John McCain as a good idea. Someone in my opinion, who thought she would be a glossy front puppet they could feed instructions to. If that is the case, are they not going to want to keep her in the running for 2012? I mean when she sticks to the script she’s been groomed with, she does present a polished exterior, it’s only when she’s interviewed off the cuff she gaffs – patently she usually has someone to catch her before she falls over her tongue.

    I say watch out, I seriously doubt she will go back into the sidelines of the frozen north and never be heard from again.

    Oh and please no one ask me how many counties there are in the UK, I haven’t got a clue.

  64. There’s a youtube video of David Brooks referring to Palin as a symptom of a cancer growing in the Republican party. He was lamenting that a movement whose intellectual father was William Buckley was now hostile to ideas.

    When I’ve watched the ongoing Bush fiasco, I’ve been struck by the overt hostility to science and a tendency to revisionist history. For interesting reading on the subject, see Kingdom Coming and The Republican War on Science.

  65. Let me amend the end of the second to last sentence of my post (#73) to read: “they [the neocons] need something/one other than Bush, big government/warmongering/corporatist conservatism disguised in free market rhetoric and McCain’s mistakes to pin the blame on.”

  66. @ Compactbarbie– Unless there’s some reason to try and pick up hypothetical disgruntled female Democratic voters in 2012, there’s no need for anyone to run Palin again in any capacity.

  67. compactbarbie @75, I think you’re onto something there, but there’s one small detail that I’m having a hard time getting past: if the various reports about Sarah Palin (from McCain staff et alii) are true, she has a serious problem with following directions. I don’t know that she would be inclined to stick to prepared material — which is not terribly conducive for puppetry.

    Of course — still running with the puppet theory here — that doesn’t mean that whoever wanted her in the veep position knew that when they pushed her forward…and maybe they just want her to toe the official line most (some? A little bit?) of the time.

    I’d like to think that things weren’t quite that insidious behind the scenes of Republican veep vetting, but I don’t know.

  68. I don’t believe that she didn’t know that Africa is a continent. I think you want to believe that because it reinforces your opinion of her. I think that it is more likely that there was some small, momentary mix up about Africa and South Africa and that this flub was blown out of proportion.
    I don’t believe that Palin is well-educated at all, and that she was an awful choice for vice-president, but this is an exaggeration.

  69. I wish people would stop comparing this incident to Obama’s 57 states gaffe. Seriously.

    He meant to say: he’s been to 47 states, just one more left to visit, unfortunately his campaign organizers won’t allow him to go to Alaska and Hawaii. He was tired. That’s all there is to is.

    Palin on the other hand is just plain stupid. This Africa business could be made up, but the point is that it could also be true and there’s nothing strange about it from what we know about her.

    Come on, this is a woman who went to 5 colleges in 4 years. Graduated with a BA in journalism, then FAILED to name a SINGLE news journal when asked. You don’t even have to have a degree in journalism to know this kind of thing. It’s just something everyone should know off the top of their head.

    This is a woman who thinks fruit fly studies are all about studying fruit flies. Her father’s a freaking science teacher. And even if he weren’t, every middle schooler knows that fruit flies are used extensively for studies in genetics.

    Palin still doesn’t believe global warming is caused by man. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, all we’ve been doing is pumping sh-t into the atmosphere, the oceans, and soil. She doesn’t think those kinds of activities impact the Earth or what? There’s no excuse for how stupid she truly is.

  70. @ Mike #79: Well, at least, the European Union is a kind of super-country. Or is it meta-country?

    Still not real one, though. Not even a state. And there are a lot of countries in Europe (the continent) who are not part of the EU.

    Yeah, we’re complicated.

  71. I’m sorry, but I’m a furriner: Is Fox News an actual news channel… or are they a tabloid gossip channel?

  72. What scares me, if this is true (and I hope it’s not, but well…), is that if she thinks Africa is a country, then what about the rest of the world ?
    Does she know that Europe is NOT a country made out of different states called England, France, Germany, Spain and so on ?
    Does she know that the “Middle East” is not a country ?
    Does she knows that China is not the only country in East Asia ?

    When people begin to question the knowledge of someone in such a position (although I doubt she will ever be endorsed for anything serious from now on), there is no stopping the questions, because, to me, ignorance is one of the scariest attribute in a human being.

  73. lysambre @ 85 – far be it from me to ride to the monstrous Palin’s defence, but I have to tell you there is no such state as England. England is a country made up of numerous counties, but does not have a unified legislature. The state is ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’ which is a unitary but increasingly ad hoc federal union consisting of England (without its own legislature) Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (all of which have their own variously functioning legislatures and executives with powers granted to them by the Parliament of Great Britain.)
    Complicated? You betcha. I’m a Northumbrian Englishman who is a citizen of Great Britain and looks forward to his children being citizens of Europe, but not yet awhile.
    On the other hand, I know that Africa is a continent and that the Republic of South Africa is but one country on that continent.
    Oh, and I don’t know what she does to you but Mrs Palin scares the shit out of the other 6 billion of us.

  74. Don’t buy in too heavily to this stuff, John. It’s unlikely to be true, as this is just the covert aspect of the internecine Republican battle between the neocons and the conservatives positioning for 2012.

    Palin has the head-start, so the neocons and Rockefeller Republicans surrounding McCain have to bring her down to earth quickly or she’ll lock-in the default position for the nomination. They’re in a difficult position, however, because the social conservatism that Palin represents is much more popular with the electorate than their pro-globalization, pro-war, pro-Wall Street program. Thus, you’ve got the likes of David Frum and David Brooks arguing that social conservatism lost the election for McCain despite Prop 8 and Prop 22 passing in states that Obama won and decrying her as a populist while at the same time declaring that her positions are unpopular.

    Since there obviously isn’t much of a logically coherent case against her, they’re also taking the character assassination approach. Given how she held her own in the debate against Biden and her massive popularity as governor, I wouldn’t bet the farm on her stupidity. Remember how well that worked out with Reagan… not that Palin is likely to be a Reagan.

  75. martyn @86 – I’m a French woman who has been living in the UK for the past 4 years, 8 different cities, right now in Scotland and soon to be in the South of London, believe me, I know how complex things can get ;).
    And for unified legislature, I think you will find that Germany has the same “problem” with each Länder having their own, and probably the same with quite a few other countries over Europe.

    To be honest, although I would love to be a “citizen of Europe”, I don’t think it’s going to happen for many many many many many years (and maybe even more).

    And I was most definitely not trying to defend Mrs Palin, as I said : Ignorance is scary, and she seems to have a bit too much of that quality. When I said that I hope this news is not true, it’s just that the idea of someone that ignorant was one step away from being extremely powerful is just too scary.

    From all I’ve seen from this side of the pond, she’s the embodiment of everything that makes the rest of the world say “I hate the USA”, when it is in fact such a great country full of fantastic people. One does not represent the whole, especially in her case, but she was close to it being true.

  76. All throughout the campaign I’ve been terrified of President Palin, simply because every time I’ve seen video of her, or read her comments it seems like she’s frighteningly undereducated and just plain incurious. John McCain on his own, fair enough: seems tolerably bright, that kind of thing. I just think the GOP’s had it’s turn and made a nasty mess. Palin, though – not.

    Even if this particular swipe turns out to be wrong, it’s not going to dislodge the notion that Ms. Palin is neither particularly highly schooled, or possessed of the kind of intellectual curiosity that makes learning and thinking a habit. I’m saying that as nicely as I possibly can.

    I’m minded of the Lazarus Long quip that nothing makes you feel so alive as to be shot at – and missed.

    Digressing a bit, was I the only one, during the “Joe the Plumber” thing who thought that being Mr. Average ought not be a qualification for the most dangerous (to others) and responsible job in the country? I honestly dont think the President should be “an average person”, any more than I think Joe Average should be performing neurosurgery or rocket science.

  77. As appalled as I, too, was at the thought of Sarah Palin in such close proximity to the Presidency, I am inclined to discount this particular story that she allegedly doesn’t know that Africa is a continent. The source(s) (“We are being told…”) are anonymous campaign staffers who have an obvious interest in deflecting blame away themselves. That such staffers would exaggerate, or even completely fabricate, such a story is something I could believe just as easily as SP being more ignorant of basic geography than a grade schooler.

    In any case, it’s over. Joe Biden, and not Sarah Palin, will be the next Vice President of the United States. For that I am most grateful. We dodged the bullet. Let’s let it go.

  78. I still say McCain threw the election. The dude’s tired. He clearly had better choices for veep. And all Palin did was fire up the base, who would have showed up anyway.

    Unfortunately, for John, all he got out of was moving the weekend of January 18. He’s still gotta go back to the Senate and deal with all this crap.

    Just not from the White House.

  79. Last night, I had this dream where Sarah Palin lived in my neighborhood, and one day she left her house and went walking down the street, and I waved to here and she did not wave back to me.

    I think she must have read the blog.

    No, seriously, I had that dream last night.

  80. I wonder if, given that this is a Fox News report, this is also a way of de-legitimizing the Obama win, on some level? Of course Obama won, look at the stooge he had to run against on the other side! McCain could have won handily, if he hadn’t made the critical error of choosing Palin! It’s not that the American public wanted the Democratic candidate, it’s the choice of Republican VP candidate that made it impossible for any other conclusion to happen!

    It all just looks like re-framing to me, and at this point, Palin’s the easiest scapegoat for this election. Not that she’s not deserving of it, but the election was lost for McCain well before Palin was nominated.

  81. Patrick:

    “I wonder if, given that this is a Fox News report, this is also a way of de-legitimizing the Obama win, on some level?”

    I think it has nothing to do with Obama at all, actually, and everything to do with the Republicans slapfighting each other, viz. VD at 87.

    VD:

    “It’s unlikely to be true, as this is just the covert aspect of the internecine Republican battle between the neocons and the conservatives positioning for 2012.”

    As noted before, I will be delighted to discover Palin is (literally) smarter than the average bear.

  82. Err, for those who supposedly want the country to come together behind President-elect Obama, ripping on Palin is not liking to induce goodwill within the GOP. They (which includes me) will start finding and voicing reasons to rip on Obama and, more appropriately, Biden. And there is more than enough material there, believe me.

    That will all come soon enough, the mid-term elections being not that far away. But you might want to keep the peace in the near term, so half of the country who voted McCain-Palin don’t go into tear mode until at leadt 6 months into your candidate’s term.

  83. Stevem:

    “Err, for those who supposedly want the country to come together behind President-elect Obama, ripping on Palin is not liking to induce goodwill within the GOP.”

    Why not? The Republicans started this round. One could argue everyone else is just following their lead. We’re agreeing with them. Some of them, anyway.

    And were I a Republican, I would be glad I dodged this particular bullet.

  84. While it’s evident that she wasn’t prepared to be president, someone of her age, who’s held the position of governor, and who, no matter how unqualified, isn’t actually below average intelligence, would have known Africa is a continent.

    As much as I’d like to take part in the snark, as much as she failed to impress in her interviews, it’s much easier to believe that anonymous campaign aides are engaging in some post-election character assasination and blame than the alternative. I can believe she didn’t know what the Bush doctrine is, but I simply can not believe this one.

  85. After watching a TiVO-delayed episode, I am of the opinion that every potential candidate should have to appear on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”

    If they can’t get past the third grade questions, it could be a clear indicator to look elsewhere, you know?

  86. I just asked the same question of our own resident 9 year old.

    Same response, same facial expressions.

    I congratulated her in the same manner.

    She said, “But she must know a little bit more than me.”

    No, sweetie, she does not.

    And was I the only one who was miffed that she chose to show up to vote in a Carhartt hoodie and jeans while McCain and Obama both showed up in suits? I mean, didn’t they budget her for some expensive clothes or something?

    You’re right. She’s Alaska’s problem now. Along with Ted “7’s My Lucky Nuber” Stevens.

    Sorry, Tania!

  87. Like I said in an earlier post on some other topic; I loved Sarah and wanted to defend her right up and until the time she opened that pretty little mouth of hers. :)

    Come on!

    If you’re going to be second in command, don’t you do a little brush up on everything during plane rides and trying on Neiman Marcus? ;)

    To be fair though, Barack’s lack of vocabulary came into question recently , when all he could really say was one word.

    Pie.

    *giggles*

  88. A friend of mine told a great story about two women who were behind him in line to vote (in Louisiana). It was a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother. The mother commented that she still hadn’t decided for sure who she was going to vote for, but she was leaning toward McCain. The daughter immediately replied: “But Mama, McCain could drop dead any minute, and then we’d have that crazy lady for President!” And the mother went ‘You’re right!’ and announced her intention to vote for Obama :)

  89. Oh, Frank. Your bipartisanship warms me.

    But, you know, this has very little to do with Palin being a Republican and rather more with her being (or at the very least appearing to be) terrifying ignorant for the position she was aiming for. I assure you, I would be as equally terrified were she a Democrat (or, alternately, had Obama picked someone of equal or lesser intellectual quality to her).

  90. The greatest thing about the USA is that almost anybody can become a candidate for the office of Vice President. The worst thing…..

    Now if only there was a way to get rid of those completely unfair minimum age requirements.

  91. Patrick M., you’ve lost your fish privileges. C’mon, give it back.

    Christian, in the spirit of bipartisanship, you should have also linked to some Joe Biden slash.

  92. Man this is coming from FOX? They are seriously throwing Palin under the bus to blame her for losing the election.

  93. One of the things that impresses me about Obama’s skill as a politician is that whatever arguments his senior aides may be having behind the scenes (surely there must have been some), they keep it all behind the scenes; they don’t use leaks to the press to stab at one another.

  94. Scalzi

    I assure you, I would be as equally terrified were she a Democrat…you should have also linked to some Joe Biden slash

    Like shootin’ fish in a barrel. What fun is that?

    Besides, it’s done. He’s the VP.

    Yet another good reason to pray for Obama.

  95. Seth @ #116,

    The night is young. Obama has not spent one day in office yet. All Presidencies suffer their bumps. I imagine Obama’s will be no different. Especially if he trends centrist to try and keep his populist appeal, and pisses off some of the more strident igealogues on his staff, or within the Democratic Party.

  96. Frank:

    “Yet another good reason to pray for Obama.”

    I do expect Biden’s delightfully unfiltered manner will cause glee for conservatives in the years to come, yes.

  97. Sub-Odeon: I assume that Obama won’t be able to keep the ship so tight for the next four years. Certainly there will be people in other Democratic institutions (prominent Senators, etc.) who will have reason to snipe at him. But keeping his campaign operation virtually leak-free for this long is still impressive.

    Meanwhile, on the Republican side, they’re sharpening the knives.

  98. I’ll say as much that while I voted for neither, I knew who I wanted to have lose after seeing that Katie Couric interview.

    I have spent the last eight years weeping every time I heard other heads of state speaking in flowing, beautiful English – only to be assaulted by Bush’s “twang” moments afterward.

    Palin might not be that dumb, but she’s not eloquent, intelligent or experienced enough to be at the top of politics in the free world. I think a whole slew of people saw this, and fled the other direction. It’s that simple.

  99. Scalzi

    I do expect Biden’s delightfully unfiltered manner will cause glee for conservatives in the years to come, yes.

    Well, yeah. But as amusing as that will be, I hoping that he stays in the traditional role of the VP: President of the Senate only.

    “Hey Joe. Go warm that seat in the Senate. We’ll call you if we need coffee.”

    You see, the bright side to Obama winning is Biden is no longer a Senator. Most importantly, no longer Chairman of Foreign Relations.

    Of course, who replaces could be worse, but it’s hard to imagine.

  100. Perhaps she should have been sent to a Montessori preschool for her geography briefing. Both of my kids knew the names of all of the continents and how to find them on a map when they were four. By five, they could identify 4 countries in each continent & the capitals of those countries and tell you something about the countries. (I know Antarctica doesn’t have countries)

    This is not a “look how smart my kids are” post—ALL of their classmates could do the same, and they were in a language immersion preschool too, so they could speak two more languages better than our current president.

    Oh, and my kids had their passports by age two and have traveled to more countries than Plain has.

  101. Well now with the republicans cutting each others throats and the dems watching a cackling w/ glee the question is when will the Hillary (I hate Obama) supporters start in on him.

    Its all politics. And anyways, its easier for the Republicans to blame Palin for all this than admit the last 8 years of what we had was the cause for this.

    (slaps self w/ fish as I feel dirty thinking about this shit)

  102. The whole “this is just neocons throwing Palin under the bus in their fight for control over the future of American conservatism” argument doesn’t really pass the laugh test. This is coming from Fox News; Palin is their poster child for the future of American conservatism. If they’re going to throw somebody under the bus, it’s going to be McCain, not Palin.

  103. 1) story on Fox news / Bill o’Riely – therefore might not be strictly “true”

    2) hearsay – w/o corroboration

    so most likely not factual (based on evidence, so far)

    To agree w/ John however – the fact that this claim is believable doesn’t say much for the perception of SP’s cred. as a qualified candidate for VP. I agree that ALL Americans deserve better than that. I am of the optinion that the ‘best and brightest’ should be in charge (the ELITE from the compentency point of view). Elections should be about choosing a candidate that best reflects your vision of what the country should be like/ you stand on the issues etc. Competence, intelligence, education, etc. should be a ‘given’. Sarah Palin’s presence on the ticket was an insult to women, (the Republicans stategists believed that female supporters of Clinton would support her because of her gender) an insult to Republicans/conservative (pandering over substance) and an insult to all Americans – as I said before – we deserve better.

    I think it is very likely that there will be schisms in the Republican party now. McCain was more moderate than the typical conservative, many republicans think they lost because he wasn’t “right” enough others because Palin was too far to the right- it will be a fun ride until 2012

  104. I am afraid that the Republican party is going to look at Obama’s success and think “Gee we need to find more photogenic candidates” rather than “Gee we need to find smarter candidates.”

    I will be so happy to have a president again whose IQ beats mine.

  105. I don’t want to defend Palin over Africa, but I can’t join in the recreational outrage because the quip is just too devoid of context. To be honest, if someone randomly turned to me and said, “What is Africa?” I’d probably just stare…it’s not the kind of question I get often. So, I’d like to know the context of that conversation…was she legitimately clueless, or perhaps confusing Africa the continent with South Africa the nation? I can extend some benefit of doubt there.

    Where I can’t do so is NAFTA. Canada’s right next f’ing door! This isn’t just something a VP should understand, it’s something the Governor of a neighboring state should be intimately familiar with. So, yeah, makes it harder to forgive Africa side-by-side, but the bit about NAFTA actually has me more concerned for her qualifications.

  106. John @96

    Oh dear.
    She may not where Africa is, but she knows where you live.
    If she gets to be President (heaven help us all) you better watch out for lurking anonymous men in grey suits. We know she holds a grudge.

  107. Having seen you personally step forward into a political situation where you felt an otherwise unopposed candidate was unqualified for the job at hand, I’m not at all surprised by this post, John. Or your outrage.

    Good on you for bringing it to our attention. I really have to boggle at people who can’t admit when their party makes a mistake. I finally understand all the Kool-Aid analogies.

  108. Seth Gordon @116

    One of the things that impresses me about Obama’s skill as a politician is that whatever arguments his senior aides may be having behind the scenes (surely there must have been some), they keep it all behind the scenes; they don’t use leaks to the press to stab at one another.

    Maybe not his aides but

    Lines were long and tempers flared Wednesday not to vote but to get paid for canvassing for Barack Obama. Several hundred people are still waiting to get their pay for last-minute campaigning. Police were called to the Obama campaign office on North Meridian Street downtown to control the crowd.

    The line was long and the crowd was angry at times.

    “I want my money today! It’s my money. I want it right now!” yelled one former campaign worker.

  109. Scalzi @120: I do expect Biden’s delightfully unfiltered manner will cause glee for conservatives in the years to come, yes.

    As his last New Rule before the election, Bill Maher said that Obama “has to give comedians [such as himself] something to work with.” I would argue that he has. He’s given them Joe Biden.

  110. Although to be fair, now she knows Africa is a continent.

    And to also be fair, now Obama knows there are 50 states and not 57.

  111. It just drives me crazy when people assert that the only interest I should have in the quality of the opposing party’s candidates is during an election, in an adversarial format, as a tool to use to win. Once the election’s over, I’m supposed to just shut up about the opposing party’s qualifications and not worry my little head over them until the party in question runs them again.

    Um, bullshit. The point of these elections is not to simply have a slapfight once every couple of years, see who wins, and then go back to our corners. The point is that at the end, you have people in charge of GOVERNING the country. I think as a citizen of the country, no matter which party I’m voting for, I have a vested interest in *each* party’s candidates’ qualifications. Someone is going to win, and that person should be able to DO the job. I have a right, in fact, an obligation, as a citizen to be informed about, examine and think critically on, and discuss and explore the qualifications of the opposing party’s purported darling-of-the-minute.

    Moreover, she’s still *governing* a portion of this country, and we’re obligated as citizens to hold the elected politically responsible for sucking at their jobs. And I don’t think she’s even qualified for the job she’s got, much less the one that she aimed at. The idea that we should just pretend we don’t all know about Palin’s exposed craziness and ignorance because Obama’s won this particular election is ridiculous.

  112. @BIll (#126): “The whole “this is just neocons throwing Palin under the bus in their fight for control over the future of American conservatism” argument doesn’t really pass the laugh test. This is coming from Fox News; Palin is their poster child for the future of American conservatism. If they’re going to throw somebody under the bus, it’s going to be McCain, not Palin.”

    Why? The people at Fox News are not traditional conservatives. They’re neocons. McCain is far more a neocon than Palin. Palin is new to the national stage and an easy target given earlier criticisms of her. McCain is too big, despite his loss. Not only does it pass the laugh test, it’s a highly plausible explanation.

  113. I do expect Biden’s delightfully unfiltered manner will cause glee for conservatives in the years to come, yes.

    Not just conservatives. I suspect that Jason Sudeikis will also be pretty damned happy (job security is a wonderful thing, after all).

  114. punkrockhockeymom

    Moreover, she’s still *governing* a portion of this country, and we’re obligated as citizens to hold the elected politically responsible for sucking at their jobs. And I don’t think she’s even qualified for the job she’s got, much less the one that she aimed at.

    Um, that’s not something you need to concern yourself with at this point, unless you live in Alaska which, it seems, you don’t.

    The idea that we should just pretend we don’t all know about Palin’s exposed craziness and ignorance because Obama’s won this particular election is ridiculous.

    Yes, well, be sure first that you know what you think you know before you get all outraged. And even then getting all outraged is probably not good for a person in general.

    And the fact that she failed Geography doesn’t mean that she hasn’t got the intelligence and the ability to run her State. In fact, it’s pretty clear that she can run her State quite well regardless of her ability to find Africa on the map. It is much more critical for her to know where Haines Borough is and what the concerns of the people who live there are. Something I suspect you are clueless about.

    I am often amazed at what intelligent people don’t know. I am sometimes amazed at the things I don’t know that I think I should have known.

    That’s why “live and learn” is one of those useful phrases.

  115. [skipping]

    #17 John Scalzion 05 Nov 2008 at 11:22 pm

    thepi:

    As noted, I would be delighted and relieved to discover this is mere character assassination.

    The problem is that hearing her extemporize in interviews does not cause one to reject such stories out of hand.

    Noted. Not sure that I believe you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do an unedited interview. That you don’t reject such anon stories about her says more about you than her, and I’m very disappointed. Anon gossip is worthy of the respect due to its source, I was always taught, and as a former Elephant, I can assure you that the trumping and trampling after such a loss is extensive, with many innocent casualties. I suspect that she thought she was answering a grown-up question about the African Union, and stopped herself to wonder if was the second-grade question that was being asked. Strange that there’s no tape of the incident. I wonder if she knows that according to the IAU definition, Mars and Jupiter are not planets? Did you? (They have not “cleared their orbits”.)

    Bring on the fish, I can take it. Lutefisk & Lefsa dinner coming up, I’ll soak it and serve it with melted butter and Hungarian paprika.

  116. “Why? The people at Fox News are not traditional conservatives. They’re neocons. McCain is far more a neocon than Palin. Palin is new to the national stage and an easy target given earlier criticisms of her. McCain is too big, despite his loss. Not only does it pass the laugh test, it’s a highly plausible explanation.”

    I think you’re wrong about that — not about Fox being neocons, but about who is and isn’t a neocon. Neocons are the ones who have been trying to appeal to the anti-intellectual, deeply religious right to draw their votes. Palin is the natural successor to Bush in the neocon world. McCain, meanwhile, was crushed by the neocon machine in 2000; he’s really not one of them.

  117. Frank @141

    I am often amazed at what intelligent people don’t know.

    Bill Dickson @143

    Neocons are the ones who have been trying to appeal to the anti-intellectual, deeply religious right to draw their votes.

    See what I mean?

  118. htom:

    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do an unedited interview.”

    Yes, funny how the McCain campaign never managed to get her out there for a standard press conference, where she would have to answer unexpected and unscripted questions from the press with only her brain to get her through it. What could possibly be the reason for that?

    In any event, are you under the impression that during the parts of the interviews that she did do where they’ve let her ramble on uninterrupted on some subject or another, that they’ve gone in and magically edited what she’s said to make her say something else?

    There’s something amusing about exclaiming one has never seen an unedited interview of Palin, as if that’s supposed to mean something, when the campaign went out of its way to assure such an interview would never happen.

    I do think you fantasy regarding the African Union is cute, however. Live that dream!

    Also, don’t even get me started on the IAU’s definition of planets. That said, Trojan asteroids don’t count against sweeping one’s lane. Lagrange points are a bitch.

  119. Frank @ 141:

    It is much more critical for her to know where Haines Borough is and what the concerns of the people who live there are

    Apparently it’s also critical for her to know what’s going on in Russia, since she’s the one watching them for the rest of us.

  120. John @ 145

    “Yes, funny how the McCain campaign never managed to get her out there for a standard press conference, where she would have to answer unexpected and unscripted questions from the press with only her brain to get her through it”

    But John, we’ve already seen that, thanks to Tina Fey!

  121. @138

    Thank-you for expressing my thoughts on these issues. As an independant voter, I feel strongly about this. It’s hard to fufill one’s responsibility as a voter if candidates aren’t chosen for their abilities to do the job, rather than their abilities to be elected.

  122. Frank @141:

    No, see, I do have an interest in how other states are governed. I may not have a vote, but I have the ability to engage in political discourse, and it’s legitimate for any citizen of this country to do so. The idea that only citizens of Alaska get to engage in political discourse about Alaska’s governor is ridiculous. While there are certainly issues of state governance that have *only* local impact, many, many others have effects beyond Alaska’s citizenry and its borders. It’s my obligation as an informed citizen to be paying attention and, if I have an opinion, to make it heard. It is absurd to assert that U.S. citizens have no legitimate interest in any state’s government but that of the state in which they reside.

    I don’t think Sarah Palin is competent to govern, and that’s based on a lot more than an anecdote about her knowledge of geography.

  123. I bet that if you asked Obama, today, if he felt like he’d been through 57 states, he’d say something like, “Oh, yeah. Maybe seventy or eighty.”

  124. punkrockhockeymom

    It’s my obligation as an informed citizen to be paying attention and, if I have an opinion, to make it heard.

    Well, I concede your point.

    I definitely think, for instance, that Michigan needs a hard-nosed Republican or Conservative Democrat to run that state. Maybe even Sarah.

    Or at the very least, an adult needs to take over in Detroit….

  125. Brooks Moses:

    Thanks for the fact check. It was late last night and after I posted it, I knew I missed an important detail about the Senatorial appointment!

    My Bad

  126. Or at the very least, an adult needs to take over in Detroit….

    On this, we agree. Although I think that situation currently appears to now be in hand, with, you know, well-deserved jail terms and the like. Saul Green, the new acting deputy mayor, is a hell of a guy by anyone’s standards. I don’t know the new acting mayor. Hopefully someone with a bit of integrity, maturity, and competence, that doesn’t believe he is a rock star, runs for the office next. I *adored* Dennis Archer. We miss him.

    Sarah Palin should not come to Michigan. We don’t want her. We made that clear on Tuesday.

    As for the governor, I’ve no great love for Ms. Granholm. I wish we had someone better, and a bit more sincerely progressive.

  127. Most of you have completely missed what’s going on here. This is the start of the traditional losing-party circular firing squad. This is also the resumption of a longstanding intra-party feud dating back to at least 1964, with the Rockefeller wing firing at the Goldwater wing.

    For starters, Palin is not a social conservative. She’s a WESTERN conservative, which is next door to libertarian. (Recall one of the founders of the LP was a Goldwater staffer.)

    Calling her an idiot is absurd. She was a member of the National Honor Society in high school. She worked her way thru college the hard way, standing in fish offal in one summer job, to pay for her education, since her father made school-teacher money, literally. She’s a voracious reader.

    Hmmmm, what else? She managed to take on successfully, the chairman of her own political party and win after resigning an office worth $100k-plus because she wouldn’t play along. She successfully beat the incumbent in the primaries, and a previous governor in the general election, winning a majority in a 3-way race.

    She stared down the oil companies and won. She’s cut millions from the state budget, and begun the process of weaning Alaska from federal earmark money. She had the highest approval rating of any governor in the nation, including a 60+ approval from Democrats.

    She’s a threat to Washington insiders. She didn’t go to an Ivy League school. She doesn’t really care about the DC culture. She’s not the part of the “it’s your turn to run the show so I’ll be a lobbyist for this cycle” crowd. She seems to be intent on destroying that kind of thing in Alaska.

    The final two weeks of the campaign, who was the most readily accessible national candidate? That’s where the “going rogue” charges started. She held impromptu press availabilities on the plane and talked to anyone, including someone who sent it to CNN’s iReports. He spoke to a CNN anchor talking about how gracious she was, and how her charismatic he found her — even as an Obama supporter.

    These McCain staffers are trying to blame her, not themselves, for the atrocious campaign they ran. And too many people are judging on her regional accent. Get serious. Being a gifted speech reader doesn’t make you smart. The ability to BS around an answer doesn’t make you smart. Glibness is not intelligence.

    Don’t kid yourselves. Palin is a smart, naturally gifted politician who will be a force on the national stage.

  128. I haven’t read the thread yet (bad commenter, no cookie!), but I have to admit that ready as I am to believe that Sarah Palin is even less prepared than we thought, and that the McCain campaign was willing to hide this from us and still assert she was qualified– I have to consider the source. These are unsubstantiated allegations coming from inside a campaign that crashed and burned, and Palin is the obvious target.

    So I don’t know if I believe that Palin honestly doesn’t know Africa is a continent. I do believe she’s intellectually incurious, arrogant, and selfish. You can be a smart and well-informed person in Alaska, and with a scattershot education–she just doesn’t seem to be one.

    However I totally believe the Newsweek reports about the clothing–that it was her spending spree and she bought even more than we know about. That’s completely in line with Palin’s established pattern of behavior, seizing perks wherever she can get them (like charging per diem for living at home, and taking her kids on publicly-funded trips).

  129. You people still raving about this?

    It is interesting to watch political narrative in action. As low as the opinion of many of us is of Governor Palin, I doubt that many believe the literal truth of the story. But over the interviews and debate, we saw someone who never showed a depth of understanding in a single issue of national import, and indeed stumbled blindly at the most trivial question (“What newspapers do you read?”).

    What matters is that this rancid rumor fits the story we have created for Palin. It’s a succinct expression of what we believe to be the case, so it is “true” in some way that makes its actual basis in reality irrelevant.

    Unfortunately, this is also how skilled political operatives twist the public discourse and distort the image people have of figures. It’s all fun and games when we apply it to Palin, but remember that this smearing of Al Gore is what gave us President Bush.

  130. Dave in Georgia:

    “Palin is a smart, naturally gifted politician who will be a force on the national stage.”

    I don’t think I’ve suggested that she’s not smart, although I do think she’s more canny than conventionally intelligent; I do agree she’s got a great sense of when it’s advantageous for her to act. I do think she’s ignorant, however. It does seem unlikely to me, for various reasons, that she’s going to be able to cram a sufficient amount of knowledge into head between now and 2012 to be a credible candidate. One thing’s for certain, however: if she runs for president, she’s not going to be able to avoid having press conferences.

  131. I’d like to say one serious thing to Frank and many others that want everyone to “just get over it, it’s done”.

    We, all of us, have just gotten through with the most rose colored paint I can slather on I’d call 8 YEARS of the most dysfunctional marriage/relationship/overbearing father/mother(you get the picture) ANY OF US have ever had.

    Tell me honestly to that you just got over Bill Clinton, or if you’re old enough, Ronald Reagan, or even older Richard Nixon. These types of political legacy/regimes take a lot of time to get over, so don’t sit on whatever side of your fence and tell anyone to just get over it.

  132. You know, I was going to post about this last night, but I realized how sleep-deprived I was and how needlessly snarky it might sound as a result. I was going to mention that if Ms. Palin were still a pageant contestant and failed to answer this question correctly, she would have been denied the crown (much like Miss Teen South Carolina 2007, she of the incoherent YouTube clip).

    But watching the Fox News clip, I find myself overwhelmed with a sad sort of sympathy for McCain’s staffers. If what this chap heard “off the record” is in any way true, it must have been enormously frustrating for hard-working staff and volunteers to keep trying so hard in the face of declining poll numbers when they believed their candidate and employer to have made such a wrong choice at such an important level.

  133. Bill Dickson @ 143–

    The word “neocon” has been used a lot in this thread, generally as a term of contumely.

    Could we get a reasonably restrictive, reasonably impartial definition of the word: something more than “a conservative whom I particularly dislike”?

    I’d always thought that neoconservatives were social and economic conservatives who believed in a highly extroverted foreign policy, including nation-building. The term would distinguish them from an older strain of conservative, who’d be more skeptical about promoting democracy abroad.

    An old-line conservative would be someone like the 1992 Dick Cheney, who cogently explained why it would’ve been unwise to depose Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War; a neoconservative woudl be someone like the 2001 Dick Cheney, who wanted to end the tyrant’s reign and introduce democracy to Iraq.

    By that taxonomy, we’d need a different set of terms to distinguish people like McCain (financial conservative, pro-foreign-intervention, not particularly wound up about religious issues) from people like Palin (probably can’t balance her checkbook, couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map, figures that if we enforce the appropriate bits of Leviticus then the Big G will make everything OK). I’d use “New Right” for the latter, which was the term that the Moral Majoritarians seemed to favor for themselves around the time of the 1980 election.

    Or would we rather keep “neocon” as a general-purpose sneer…

  134. John,

    Ignorance means not knowing the facts, with an undertone of not being capable of swotting up the information. I believe you underestimate her. Big-time.

    As for being canny — any successful politician better have that canniness in large doses. Or at lease have someone they can trust to make those calls.

    As for press conferences, I think she’s been pretty good at them up in Alaska. And she’s had to deal with an incredibly hostile press up there. The Anchorage Daily News is thoroughly anti-Palin, as is the Fairbanks News-Miner, the two largest dailies in the state.

    Just tellin’ ya.

  135. “For starters, Palin is not a social conservative. She’s a WESTERN conservative, which is next door to libertarian. (Recall one of the founders of the LP was a Goldwater staffer.)”

    Her positions on social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, church-state separation, etc. are deeply conservative. That’s what most of us mean by the term, I think.

  136. Dave in Georgia:

    “Ignorance means not knowing the facts, with an undertone of not being capable of swotting up the information. I believe you underestimate her. Big-time.”

    Well, as I’ve said before, I’d be pleased to have my estimation of her raised. At the moment, however, I’m not holding my breath.

  137. PMBMF (Preview might be my friend) c/trumping and trampling/trumpeting and trampling/

    No fish? Ahh, well, I’m on a diet anyway.

    Trivia questions, true or false: Sweden is a member state of the Union for the Mediterranean; Morocco is a member of the African Union.

    Vin Weber on MSNBC just said something like “I hope that we haven’t destroyed her career by what is being said about her.” (I’m not sure if “we” means Republicans, the Press, or both.)

  138. “One thing’s for certain, however: if she runs for president, she’s not going to be able to avoid having press conferences.”

    I’m thinking so. Palin’s ability or inability will then be even more so out there for the world to see.

    I’m already seeing Palin in 2012 graphics out there. I won’t vote for her, but see no reason to not let her try it.

  139. John,

    At this point, I can’t just accept at face value that all disgruntled McCain staffers are telling the truth. If true, it was bad. Was it as bad as some of the stuff Biden put out? That seems to depend on whether or not you are generally supportive of Obama/Biden or not (see: kicking Hezbollah out of Lebanon or being “forced” out of the sky by gunfire).

    As for press conferences, again, I don’t think Biden had any in the last 2 months of the campaign, whereas Palin had I think three in late October. Of the two, I think Biden’s logorrhea is actually more problematic. Even in the worst case, in which Palin doesn’t know her geography, I think not knowing true facts is less dangerous than Biden’s apparent certainty of the untruth.

    We’ll have 4 years to sort this out. If Palin is the real deal that many conservatives think, we’ll have a fuller measure of her by then. For now, I’ll be in the category of wishing Obama the best of health and good luck running the country.

  140. “The word “neocon” has been used a lot in this thread, generally as a term of contumely.

    Could we get a reasonably restrictive, reasonably impartial definition of the word: something more than “a conservative whom I particularly dislike”?

    I’d always thought that neoconservatives were social and economic conservatives who believed in a highly extroverted foreign policy, including nation-building. The term would distinguish them from an older strain of conservative, who’d be more skeptical about promoting democracy abroad.”

    I agree with your definition, but it’s largely irrelevant. Palin herself may not be a neoconservative, but she appeals greatly to the voters that neoconservatives have used to build their successes over the past decade. Indeed, Bush himself primarily served that purpose — drawing in the “New Right” (as you call it) vote to establish neocon power. However you like to define the “true” Neoconservatives, it’s hard to argue that they would have enjoyed any political success without the support of the “god guns ‘n gays” voters.

  141. For starters, Palin is not a social conservative. She’s a WESTERN conservative, which is next door to libertarian.

    Given that Alaska gives a check to every single resident each year and Palin put the arm on oil companies to increase that this past year, I think she’s far closer to socialistic than libertarian.

  142. As for press conferences, again, I don’t think Biden had any in the last 2 months of the campaign, whereas Palin had I think three in late October.

    I don’t think the media has the same impression as you do.

  143. Bill,

    Having an opinion is one thing. Trying to take that opinion and make it a law is another kettle of fish entirely. (Not that I’m swinging any fish, mind you).

    When the state legislature passed a law to bar the state from offering benefits to partners of state employees, she vetoed the bill, stating that it was unconstitutional.

    That’s the acid test.

  144. David:

    “At this point, I can’t just accept at face value that all disgruntled McCain staffers are telling the truth.”

    Well, and of course, that’s fine. And again, I’m be happy to learn she’s just being sniped at, rather than someone presenting information accurately if anonymously.

  145. gwangung,

    The oil companies are getting their product from state land, not privately owned property. She’s getting the best deal she can as agent for the owners.

    Hardly socialistic.

  146. Palin put the arm on oil companies to increase that this past year, I think she’s far closer to socialistic than libertarian.

    No, I don’t think she’s at all socialistic. But whenever she is presented with the opportunity to spend someone else’s money on herself, she takes it.

    This one time, it benefitted other Alaskans.

  147. The oil companies are getting their product from state land, not privately owned property. She’s getting the best deal she can as agent for the owners.

    Hardly socialistic.

    Collectively owned. STATE owned. Closer to socialism than liberterian.

  148. Dave in Georgia: And yet she supported Alaska’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and raised the possibility of further amending the state constitution so that the bill she vetoed could pass. She holds socially conservative opinions, and she’s willing to work for changes in the law in line with those opinions. OK, I suppose it’s laudable that she didn’t sign an unconstitutional bill into law…but I don’t see how that changes the fact that she holds, and will use her offices to support, socially conservative positions.

  149. gwangung,

    So, I assume you’re for selling state-owned land, getting rid of income taxes to be replaced by a consumption-based tax, privatizing social security, and in general downsizing government?

  150. Trivia questions, true or false: Sweden is a member state of the Union for the Mediterranean; Morocco is a member of the African Union.

    Really? You’re going to argue that not knowing that Africa isn’t a country is the same thing as Morocco’s membership in the African Union? (They aren’t members, by the way).

    Did you keep a straight face while typing?

  151. “And again, I’m be happy”

    – John Scalzi, 6 Nov 2008

    Devastated fans learn that, in fact, Scalzi has barely mastered English. A promising writing career is now in ruins.

  152. John,

    Your stated premise, that your daughter has received a better education than Sarah Palin, is simple bigotry.

  153. I’m reminded of the Dr. Seuss poem “Too Many Daves”

    Perhaps to avoid confusion, we should take the lead of Mrs. McCave (who had 23 sons, and named them all Dave).

    Anyone want to be Bodkin Van Horn?
    Sir Michael Carmicheal Zutt?
    Oliver Boliver Butt?

    I call dibs on Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate.

  154. Mike Kranjcevich

    Tell me honestly to that you just got over Bill Clinton, or if you’re old enough, Ronald Reagan, or even older Richard Nixon.

    Um, Mike? These are all people who won their elections and actually held office long enough to affect our lives.

    You were successful in painting Palin as an ignorant, moronic, empty skirt.

    Congratulations. Nice job.

    You should feel proud.

    But you can stop now. She lost.

    Porphyrogene @161

    I’d always thought that neoconservatives were social and economic conservatives who believed in a highly extroverted foreign policy, including nation-building. The term would distinguish them from an older strain of conservative, who’d be more skeptical about promoting democracy abroad.

    Actually the neo-conservative moment started among Liberals. And in fact they originally call themselves paleo-Liberals.

    You see there was a time when Liberals were against Communists and Socialists and the neo-con movement originated among people who still though this way after the Liberals went all Leftist.

    And people fail to grasp that neo-cons, at least originally, were disaffected Democrats: People who were never “Conservatives” or at least not Republicans.

    Neo-conservatism began, as much as anyone can say a movement begins, in the late 70s. Bill Kristol’s Dad if I’m not mistaken, was the “first” neo-conservative.

    But it is not a socially conservative moverment, however it is, at least primarily, a Foreign Policy initiative.

    And that foreign policy is one that says promoting Democracy, even in an expeditionary manner under the right circumstances, is in the best interests of America and global stability.

  155. My problem with Sarah Palin has to do with the linkage between this purported statement and her religious beliefs.

    There is an element of Christianity that judges every source against the Bible: if it contradicts the Bible it’s wrong, if it’s not in the Bible it’s irrelevant, and if it’s in the Bible it’s unnecessary. That leads to a belief system that prides itself on willful ignorance, and Sarah Palin self-identifies with groups that hold to those kinds of fundamentalist ideas.

    That’s not good.

  156. I was surprised at both; Sweden has no contact with the Mediterranean, and I did not expect it to be a member, and the paper reference I had for the African Union showed Morocco as a member.

  157. Drew:

    “Your stated premise, that your daughter has received a better education than Sarah Palin, is simple bigotry.”

    Heh. Actually, that wasn’t my stated premise, nor was actually ever implied. However, it is true that my daughter was apparently better informed as to the true nature of Africa at an earlier age. There me several reasons for this disparity, not necessarily attributable to the educations either have received.

  158. You were successful in painting Palin as an ignorant, moronic, empty skirt.

    And so little effort was actually required.

    (You know, every time I think ‘no, shouldn’t pile on, be gracious in victory,’ I remember those purple heart band aids that some $%@!$@#^$ wore in 2004 to mock John Kerry, and the thought passes.)

  159. Though I doubted she was any genius, I never thought Palin to be an idiot. I get the sense that she is a trifle scatterbrained, it worsens with stress-inducing stimuli, and — flip a coin — she either doesn’t cover it up well or overcompensates (with often unflattering results).

    Just a random opinion from a crazy person on the bleachers…

  160. David @# 181: That’s one reason I use “DG”…

    In retrospect, I came up with the handle “No, the other Dave” but have now established an identity (for good or ill) as “DG” and don’t want to get myself all confused.

  161. John said @158:

    “One thing’s for certain, however: if she runs for president, she’s not going to be able to avoid having press conferences.”

    Maybe she can steal Obama’s teleprompter and squirrel it away!

    That said, I would bet in the coming months there are going to be a lot of stories coming out about how the popularity of Palin started to overshadow McCain, and how the McCain staffers did what they could to minimize that effect. You knew it was starting when the “Palin is going Rouge” theme came out…

    Andrew

  162. Frank #182–

    “…in an expeditionary manner…” Nice euphemism.

    Your description of neoconservatism is pretty close to my understanding of it. I’ve seen it argued that a lot of the fathers of the movement were quondam Trotskyites, who retained the Trotskyite idea of exporting a just and functional social model– in an expeditionary manner, when circumstances called for it– while changing their opinions of exactly what constituted a just and functional social model.

    However, I also understood that in addition to concluding that government-mandated economic redistribution was having serious undesirable unintended consequences, the proto-neoconservatives rejected the licentiousness of the 1960’s and 70’s as corrosive of the structure of society. Thus there was more to them than economic conservatives who wanted to drive out despots and plant the seeds of economically conservative democracy abroad.

    While people like Kristol Père were too intelligent to buy into six-day creationism, they would have rejected gay marriage, decriminalization of recreational drugs, etc. I don’t think that a libertarian who advocated exporting libertarianism at sword’s point would’ve qualified for admission to the club.

  163. I’d always thought that neoconservatives were social and economic conservatives who believed in a highly extroverted foreign policy, including nation-building.

    No, this is incorrect, except for the extroverted foreign policy part. Neocons are not conservatives at all, they are left-liberals who broke with the Democratic Party over its passive response to the Soviet Union’s expansionary policies back in the early 1980’s. Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz are the godfathers of the “persuasion”, as Kristol refers to it. They are economic Keynesians and are almost completely indifferent to cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Their primary interest is foreign policy, specifically as it relates to Israel, and since leading neocons have been Jewish, they even occasionally claim that conservative anti-neoconnery is mere anti-semitism.

    Since the term “neocon” is increasingly despised by left and right alike due to the ongoing military adventures, they appear to be attempting to relabel themselves as “national greatness conservatives”, assuming they don’t somehow latch onto the Obama administration.

  164. Regarding tension:

    I suspect that there was also more than a little tension in the Obama/Biden camp. Leading in the polls and a friendly press probably kept it from flaring too openly (although there was at least one report). Say what you will about Palin, but I don’t think she had as big a single gaffe as Biden’s “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama”. I would love to have been in the room the first time they met after that gem.

  165. Further trivia, about the countries of North America and their status in NAFTA: status of Greenland and Nunavut, on the north, and Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama to the south? Or is Central America a continent?

  166. John,

    I am a long time Whatever reader and seem to remember a post from 2004 period or earlier where you wish for the old time conservative. I am roughly left of center but also am nostalgic for those conservatives that were not crazy. With the calls for purges because of the attacks on Sarah Palin, I thought your old post was appropriate, but your archives do not go back that far. Could you repost it or has my memory gone?

  167. Peter C. Hayward @47: it’s true that the criteria for being a continent are a bit vague. Eurasia is logically one continent, historically two, and nowadays seems often to be treated as three, since people talk about the Middle East as if it were distinct from Asia. America can be seen as one continent or two. Australia can be seen as a continent or as part of the continent of Oceania. (Calling this a continent is stretching things a bit, of course, but if you want to divide the whole world into continents something’s got to give.) But I’ve never seen anyone question that Africa is a continent. It’s the most continenty continent there is.

  168. Oh, Jonnie, you need a break. Palin isn’t anywhere near the presidency now, so you can relax. How about a nice bacon grease enema. That should relax you.

  169. Uh, John, wasn’t it “your man” who said the US had 57 states? (Yes, it was.)

    Maybe you’d best let it drop. In a year, you may want to revisit your optimism.

  170. Jesus Christ, Bob. Read the goddamn thread, why don’t you. It’s been covered. Nothing is more annoying than people who are seventh to a snark, thinking they’re first.

    BukkaHobbit: Eeeeeeeeew. Bacon grease does not go in that direction. I don’t even know what’s wrong with you.

  171. John,

    If something comes from “anonymous sources” then you should remain skeptical unless and until credible evidence is presented that it is correct.

    You’re a smart guy, and write great fiction (I still need to pick up a copy of ZT), but you appear to have so invested yourself in believing that Sarah Palin is a moron (though to be fair a biased media did its damnest to portray her as such) that you are willing to accept as truth anything which supports that belief, regardless of how dubious its provenance or how ridiculous it sounds.

    That is the definition of Palin Derangement Syndrome.

    You disagree with her political views; that’s fine, that’s great. You have that right as an American and I’ll fight to the death to preserve that right if I have to. But I will also call bullshit when I see it. What is being said about Sarah Palin may be true, and if it can be proven, I’ll accept it. But presenting this as Truth without such proof and without considering the source and potential motivation shows a lack of judgment. You’re better than this.

  172. (runs in with large fish, grasped at the tail. Swings roundhouse-style, fish-slapping the entire group in one mighty circle, then runs out before anyone can hit me….)

  173. Say what you will about Palin, but I don’t think she had as big a single gaffe as Biden’s “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama”.

    Really? Good Lord. I think I can go five deep on Palin-gaffes before even getting down to the level of Biden’s.

    If something comes from “anonymous sources” then you should remain skeptical unless and until credible evidence is presented that it is correct.

    John is 197 comments ahead of you (ie read comment 9).

  174. Some things, you never really will get proof of. We’ll never see video of Palin stammering over the question of whether Africa is a country or a continent. What we need to do is evaluate the sources and context.

    Embedded journalists in both campaigns, including the right-leaning Fox News, all seem to concur. Now, a bad journalist might make something up from whole cloth, or report something from a single anonymous source without confirmation. But a good journalist will confirm the information with a second source, and if things smell fishy based on what he’s seeing and hearing directly from his position inside the campaign, he’ll dig deeper. So when you have multiple journalists, from different news organizations, all of them being watched by each other (it is a competitive field, after all), and they’re all saying pretty much the same thing, there’s a high likelihood that the stories aren’t made up from whole cloth.

    Now add to that the fact that we’ve seen her speak, we’ve read direct quotes, we’ve read unedited statements from her posted at such conservative-friendly sites as the Eagle Forum (http://web.archive.org/web/20070501192322/http://eagleforumalaska.blogspot.com/2006/07/2006-gubernatorial-candidate.html), and we find that there’s a wealth of material out there that doesn’t rely upon anonymous sources to suggest that she’s a few watts shy of a refrigerator bulb. Does the fact that she’s completely ignorant of the history of the Pledge of Allegiance or the duties of the Vice President mean she doesn’t know what Africa is? No — but it certainly suggests that it’s possible, and thus reasonably mitigates skepticism when it is reported that she does not (or did not).

  175. David,

    You mean Palin gaffes like:

    “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed,” …He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’”

    As Reason’s Jesse Walker commented: “And if you owned an experimental TV set in 1929, you would have seen him. And you would have said to yourself, ‘Who is that guy? What happened to President Hoover?’”

    oops, wait, that was Biden’s gaffe.

    While this is fun, I suspect in the end we’ll disagree. We see these gaffes through the lens of our preconceptions. Still, you’ve got to admit that “a vote for Obama is a vote for an international crisis” was not Biden’s finest moment.

  176. Porphyrogene @191

    “…in an expeditionary manner…” Nice euphemism

    Actually a military term.

    I’ve seen it argued that a lot of the fathers of the movement were quondam Trotskyites, who retained the Trotskyite idea of exporting a just and functional social model– in an expeditionary manner, when circumstances called for it– while changing their opinions of exactly what constituted a just and functional social model.

    Yeah except for the whole Communist thing that Trotsky was about. And the just and functional social model would be, you know, Democracy where government is responsible to the people.

    VD @192

    Since the term “neocon” is increasingly despised by left and right alike due to the ongoing military adventures, they appear to be attempting to relabel themselves as “national greatness conservatives”, assuming they don’t somehow latch onto the Obama administration.

    Well, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson were neo-cons before there needed to be a neocon label and since Obama has talked about harkening back to the old-timey Kennedy administration, you never know.

    I mean he’s going to have to something like that to win in Afghanistan.

    Jeff @199

    I am a long time Whatever reader and seem to remember a post from 2004 period or earlier where you wish for the old time conservative.

    Yes, the old-time conservatives, now calling themselves paleo-conservative, like Pat Buchanan.

    Now besides have a conservative social agenda (which Scalzi and most people here dislike, including myself) the other thing they had going was foreign policy isolationism. The Republicans at the time of WWII strenuously argued against getting involved in Europe to counter Hitler.

    But you know the funny thing is many of the same people on the Left who argue against neo-conservatism also argue for intervening militarily in Darfur. And lament the fact that we didn’t get all expeditionary in Rwanda back in Clinton’s day oh, and, thought that getting air-raidey in the Balkans just peachy.

    So I am just not understanding how these varied positions have intellectual integrity.

    In fact you might call such them anti-intellectual….

  177. David:

    “John is 197 comments ahead of you (ie read comment 9).”

    Yes, indeed. Please, all the new people, do try to at least skim the comments so you don’t repeat something already discussed.

  178. Well, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson were neo-cons before there needed to be a neocon label

    Oh brother. No, they weren’t. I know that Truman is (or was) the flavor of the month in some right-wing circles, but the policy for which he was famous (and note that it was the most successful foreign policy of the 20th century, created and nurtured by Democrats!) was _containment_, the goal being to contain the expansion of the Soviet Union.

    Neocons argued (I’m using past tense because most neocons are now in the cave just to the left of OBL at the moment) argued for pre-emptive war to rollback Islamic fundamentalism and Other Bad Stuff. This was, in fact, the opposing viewpoint to containment during the 1950s and 60s and was called “rollback.” Exciting people like Curtis LeMay advocated it, along with the use of nuclear weapons for everything from war to good dental hygiene.

  179. I’m not sure if this got mentioned yet, but one of the real drags about our 24/7 media political blender, is that it drives a lot of otherwise very smart, very good people away from even the thought of running for office.

    I mean, why bother? You’re intelligent, educated, probably already have a good job, and to expose yourself to the perpetual media blowtorch, and the inevitable life-scalding that occurs in any political campaign — even the tiny ones — just so you can sit in some government seat somewhere and get blamed for all the shit that goes wrong every year?

    No thanks!

  180. VD#192–

    I’m going to have to disagree with–

    “Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz are the godfathers of the “persuasion”, as Kristol refers to it. They are economic Keynesians and are almost completely indifferent to cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion.”

    In Kristol’s “The Neoconservative Persuasion”, he says:

    “The steady decline in our democratic culture, sinking to new levels of vulgarity, does unite neocons with traditional conservatives–though not with those libertarian conservatives who are conservative in economics but unmindful of the culture. The upshot is a quite unexpected alliance between neocons, who include a fair proportion of secular intellectuals, and religious traditionalists. They are united on issues concerning the quality of education, the relations of church and state, the regulation of pornography, and the like, all of which they regard as proper candidates for the government’s attention.”

    I apologize for not providing a link– I’m afraid that if I try to use HTML tags in one of these posts, something will blow up and I’ll be banished forever. (Can someone who understands these things point me to a site that tells me what can and can’t be done in posting here?)

  181. John,

    Let me rephrase my point a bit.

    Let’s start with the premise that Palin is not an actual imbecile ( you did say that you thought she was smart).

    She comes from a stable intact family. Her father was a school teacher. She completed 16 years of formal education including college. She has several kids who have finished high school. I mention that because as a parent of five I have been involved enough in “helping” my kids with their homework that by the third or fourth child I feel that I have actually repeated my secondary education.

    When you say that you have no problem believing that she doesn’t know that Africa is a continent, you are saying that nowhere in all of those years of education and parenting was she ever exposed to that fact or if she was that she failed to retain that fact. That is simply not a credible position. There is no way that she didn’t know that Africa was a continent, any more than it is possible for your daughter not to know. It’s simply too basic.

    Therefore, in my opinion, when you post this anonymous rumor and declare that you find it entirely plausible, you are making a statement that is based on something other than reality.

    That “other” is the stereotype of stupid republicans that the left has been pushing forever. That is, in my opinion, bigotry and that is why earlier posters accused you of kicking your opponent when they are down.

    And no I don’t believe that you would have the same reaction if it were a democrat, based on the fact that you find Biden to be “refreshing”.

  182. When you say that you have no problem believing that she doesn’t know that Africa is a continent, you are saying that nowhere in all of those years of education and parenting was she ever exposed to that fact or if she was that she failed to retain that fact. That is simply not a credible position. There is no way that she didn’t know that Africa was a continent, any more than it is possible for your daughter not to know. It’s simply too basic.

    I teach college students, and I find it entirely plausible that they might graduate from college without having retained that Africa was a continent.

    That “other” is the stereotype of stupid republicans that the left has been pushing forever

    Well, it would help if you would start nominating the smart republicans.

    (And: please. Nobody went after Dole or GHW Bush or McCain for being stupid. They went after the ones who positively wallowed in their ignorance.)

  183. She worked her way thru college the hard way, standing in fish offal in one summer job, to pay for her education, since her father made school-teacher money, literally.

    I think you mean ‘thru four colleges,’ which is part of her problem. The fact that this is not sourced is certainly problematic, but her less than stellar history, poor interview showings, and failure to ever appear at a press conference makes it a lot easier to believe this kind of assertion.

    I don’t much give a crap (beyond sharing the concerns of others that a candidate picked her as his backup), but if she really does have aspirations to higher office then the fact that people find this so readily believable is a problem for her.

  184. David @213

    I know that Truman is (or was) the flavor of the month in some right-wing circles, but the policy for which he was famous (and note that it was the most successful foreign policy of the 20th century, created and nurtured by Democrats!) was _containment_, the goal being to contain the expansion of the Soviet Union.

    Well, except for that dalliance in Korea. But Truman was a staunch anti-communist and the doctrine of Containment was maintained because it was not really possible to do anything else….except allow the Soviet Union to expand.

    Neocons argued (I’m using past tense because most neocons are now in the cave just to the left of OBL at the moment) argued for pre-emptive war to rollback Islamic fundamentalism and Other Bad Stuff. This was, in fact, the opposing viewpoint to containment during the 1950s and 60s and was called “rollback.”

    Actually, the idea was that by creating a Democracy out of a former police-state that was actively working to destroy America and Israel, the result would create a model that in the long run would reduce the threat of extremism.

  185. Well, except for that dalliance in Korea

    Korea was containment, not rollback. The original goal (which got swept away by the success of the counterattack in 1950) was to save South Korea, not liberate North Korea.

    Containment was maintained because it was not really possible to do anything else….except allow the Soviet Union to expand.

    There were quite heated discussions in the 1950s about whether rollback was possible, so containment wasn’t seen as the only alternative to surrender. In any case, it’s essentially an irrelevant point in the argument about whether Truman was a neo-con.

    Actually, the idea was that by creating a Democracy out of a former police-state that was actively working to destroy America and Israel, the result would create a model that in the long run would reduce the threat of extremism.

    Uh, yes. That’s why I said “Islamic fundamentalism and other bad stuff” The idea was to rollback not contain and that’s why Truman is completely unlike a neo-con.

  186. Drew#217–

    I think you’ve got a legitimate point to some degree. We don’t have any proof of this particular bit of La Palin’s geographic ignorance. There are disgruntled people from the McCain campaign who want to blame her for the loss, and who probably wouldn’t be averse to inventing stories playing to the Palin-is-a-complete-ditz perception.

    On the other hand: I can well believe that she doesn’t know that Africa’s a continent, despite the background you cite. I have a brother who’s a college graduate, and who went through 12 years of Catholic school before that. One day the newspaper ran one of those test-your-geography-knowledge quizzes, and to our astonishment S (not his real initial, which is D) didn’t know which one was the Pacific Ocean.

    S. doesn’t lack intelligence, and he wasn’t raised by wolves out in the woods. He’s just not interested in the world around him. He’s not the sort of person who’d look at a map and say to himself something like “That one’s Kazakhstan. I’m going to try to remember that.”

    So, I suspect, with Palin. So, I suspect, with Reagan (past tense). So, I suspect, with Bush the Lesser. None of them lacks intelligence; they’re just not interested in that complicated stuff.

  187. drew @217:

    I think it’s totally possible. I’m not ruling out the fact that this could all be rumors spread by disgruntled folks, but it is entirely believable. See examples in 82. Anyway, just my take.

    And 24, too. Are you the same Drew? Because that article drives home the point that she’s not only ignorant, she really doesn’t have a desire to rectify that.

  188. John Scalzi at 101: What you are doing is taking as “fact” that Gov. Palin did not know that Africa was a continent. You are doing so based on anonymous sources as relayed by a reporter. It is hearsay twice over and could not be considered as evidence in any court becuase it is so unreliable. But you WANT it to be true, so you act as if it is.

    I can’t help but think that this attitude is motivated by hate or similar emotion.

    Which is a pretty poor position for Democrats to be taking. Despite the deck being stacked heavily against him, McCain still pulled 46% of the vote. Considering that 6-7% swung this election, and Obama has no where to go but down in the public esteem, the Democrats should not be counting on this percentage supporting them come 2010 and 2012. The shoe can be on the other foot in fairly short order as he has nothing close to a mandate.

    As to Biden, the man goes beyond “gaffes” and into the realm of outright lies or stupidity (or both) and has done so repeatedly. Plagarizing 5 pages of his law review paper (which he claims was because he didn’t know how to cite properly, despite: 1) being selected for law review to begin with, which implies citation skills; and, 2) he apparently had no problem citing the other 10 pages). Claiming that he was in the top half of his law school class when in reality he was about 70 out of 80 (roughly). Claiming that he was a “hard coal miner”, when in reality the closest he got to a coal mine was a great grandfather who ran one. Claiming to stay in touch with the common folk by visiting a specific restaurant, never mind that it had been closed for the last 15 years. Claiming that the VP has no legislative role when the VP is spelt out expressly in Art. I (establishing the Congress’ powers), which is fairly amazing as he’s a licensed attorney, law review and has sat on the judiciary committee for the last few decades. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    And Biden’s lies or stupidity is direct from his voice to our ears, thanks to the wonders of video and audio. By contrast, you are toasting Palin for something which is twice removed and sourced anonymously. Bad karma awaits.

  189. Porphyrogene,

    Since you brought it up, I’ll put out a point for discussion: intelligence is over rated in a President.

    Yes, there is a minimum level of intellect required, and that minimum is higher than for most jobs. I supported Bush, but he did always seem too incurious for my taste, and, if Palin really didn’t know Africa was a continent, that would put her below that minimum level. However, if you look back on a list of highly effective and influential Presidents, there are many who were not regarded at the time as particularly bright.

    Reagan, FDR, Jackson, and Washington were all at some point derided by contemporaries for their intellect.

    Smart Presidents include Nixon, Carter, Wilson, Clinton, Coolidge, and Hoover – a mixed bag, but generally not considered great.

    I think most would put Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt in the smart and great category.

    My point – “smart” as it is conventionally measured is not a good predictor of Presidential greatness.

  190. I wonder if there’s any overlap between the crowd that dismisses the items in the Palin story as biased hearsay, and the crowd that sent out or forwarded those “Obama was raised a Muslim/went to a madrassa/was sworn in on the Qu’ran” emails.

  191. Steve Moss:

    “I can’t help but think that this attitude is motivated by hate or similar emotion.”

    Well, Steve, I’m not responsible for what fantasy versions of me do in your or other people’s heads, so of course, you can think what you like and it won’t bother me.

    But as it happens, I don’t hate Sarah Palin; I just think she was monstrously unqualified to be Vice President of the United States, and appalling that she was selected to be so by a candidate from one of the two major parties. In a more general sense I can’t think of many people I genuinely hate. It takes a lot of effort to do that.

    And, as I’ve noted rather a number of times already but which seems not to be seeping through to the heads of the intently indignant such as yourself, not only do I allow that the rumor could be false, I sincerely hope it is.

    That said, and here I use the words of American Conservative’s Daniel Larison:

    The claim that she didn’t know Africa was a continent is the sort of thing that almost sounds as if it belongs to a caricature of a person who knows nothing, but it seems remotely possible that it is true. Americans’ knowledge of world geography is notoriously poor, which does not excuse it in this case if true, but neither is it all that far-fetched. The troubling thing is that I get the sinking feeling that a lot of people who want her to become the future of the party couldn’t care less about this.

    The story’s plausible because she comes across as willfully ignorant. And it’s a problem — and it’s even more of the problem for the GOP.

    drew:

    “There is no way that she didn’t know that Africa was a continent, any more than it is possible for your daughter not to know. It’s simply too basic.”

    Well, I think it’s sweet you think so, drew. However, just because someone has been taught something doesn’t meant that they learn it. For example, seeing that Sarah Palin has a journalism degree, you would think she would know a little about a) how journalism works and b) something about the First Amendment, but she’s made it amply and publicly clear she knows very little about either (the idea of a journalism major not being able to name a single newspaper is especially problematic).

    Given the actual examples of her not knowing things she should know, I think it’s not as much of a stretch as you do that a woman who has given the world outside of Alaska so little thought that she didn’t have a passport until a couple of years ago might have forgotten that Africa was actually a continent rather than a country. However, you and I do agree it is basic stuff she should have known.

    To be clear on this once more, had Obama picked a VP as apparently ignorant as Palin, I would be just as appalled that someone like that was on the ticket. Ignorants should not be Vice Presidents.

    ZBBM:

    “My point – ‘smart’ as it is conventionally measured is not a good predictor of Presidential greatness.”

    I would agree with this, actually. However, it’s very difficult to point to a really good ignorant president. All other things being equal, go for knowledgeable and smart.

  192. Apropos of very little:

    Much as I am amused by the final title of this thread, I prefer the original one (as recorded for posterity in the URL). 25 a’s FTW.

  193. By contrast, you are toasting Palin for something which is twice removed and sourced anonymously. Bad karma awaits.

    Oh my. Not only is Steve angry with John, but he’s calling down the whole universe on his pasty white ass! I think the more honest wingnuts refer to this as “imprecatory prayer”.

    If this story is 100% false, it means two things:

    1) the GOP circular firing squad is in full swing, as there are people willing not only to blame Palin for McCain’s loss, but to try and kill her political future;

    2) plenty of Palin supporters are unmoved and untroubled by the notion that their candidate is profoundly ignorant, profoundly uninterested anything not-Alaska, or both.

  194. I am one of the (relatively) few Republican voices here.

    The worst thing we can do is make excuses for Sarah Palin.

    We need to face the fact that the GOP is currently run by a bunch of evangelical ideologues who wear their anti-intellectualism on their sleeves. Sarah Palin was selected to appeal to the evangelical wing of the GOP. If the GOP continues to pander to the Religious Right, before long the Religious Right will *be* the GOP.

    This detracts from the legitimate issues that conservatives could pursue. Consider the GOP’s priorities in California. California is one of the most over-regulated, over-taxed states in the union. If any state needs a smaller government, it’s California.

    So what issue did the GOP attach itself to in California? Proposition 8. This not only made Republicans look like bigoted simpletons, it also wasted valuable political capital that could have been spent on worthwhile endeavors.

    As much as I hate to admit it, John McCain deserved to lose this election. I do, however, foresee a housecleaning in the GOP before the next election cycle.

  195. John,

    I think an “all things being equal” Presidential election is about as common as a good, ignorant President (although some would try to put Reagan in that box).

  196. Edward – California is a microcosm of what you’re talking about. The party here has long been dominated by militant wingnuts; it was only a few years ago that the state GOP head was forced out of office because he ran an openly racist article in the monthly newsletter, and, when he defended it as ‘free speech’, refused to say whether or not he nonetheless thought its sentiments were reprehensible.

  197. The problem is that if Palin was the best the GOP could come up with for VP and/or the knives are out it’s bad news for democracy as a whole.

    In the UK the Conservatives got hammered in the 1997 election and have consistantly failed to provide a viable opposition ever since (for a variety of reasons). Since then they failed to ask questions like “what is your basis for invading Iraq?”, “What evidence do you have for WMD’s in Iraq?”, “Why do you say we need a communcations database when our intelligence services say we don’t?”, “Why do you need all this data?”, etc, etc.

    Result: some really crap legislation since it was never really debated properly in parliament.

    As fun as watching the opposition implode is, they do have a function in a democracy and until they get thier act together Obama’s administration will have to provide thier own devil’s advocates.

  198. Mythago@233:

    I agree with you about the GOP today.

    The problem is that secular conservatives (otherwise known as libertarian/moderate Republicans) don’t have a political home right now. We are repelled by the neoconservatives/evangelicals; but the Democrats don’t speak to us either.

    As John has pointed out, the Libertarian Party will *never* win an election. The only hope is that the next generation of GOP leaders (perhaps someone like a Bobby Jindal) will be more secular and moderate on social issues. I don’t want to get on a Ron Paul soapbox; and he is likely too advanced in years to make another run at the leadership of the GOP anyway. But that is the sort of GOP leader we are hoping for.

    I understand that most people here are Democrats. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate place in the political debate for people who are fiscal conservatives and social moderates. (George Bush turned out to be a free-spending social hardliner, the worst of *both* worlds.)

    To connect this argument to a concrete issue: I am against the additional $300 billion stimulus package that Nancy Pelosi has recently proposed. But that doesn’t mean that I want to hassle same-sex couples in California or force the Bible down people’s throats.

    This is the present dilemma for those of us on the moderate wing of the GOP.

  199. Edward,

    Keep your chin up. A few thoughts on the greatly exagerated death of conservatism:

    1) At the time Palin was nominated, she was a 1st term governor of AK with prior additional executive experience. She had some street cred for good government, and had natural politcal skills on par with some of the best. Now her star is in decline, and we must decide that either a) she fooled her town and her state for years of b) she is being unfairly maligned. As in most things, probably some of both, but I lean mostly toward b. She may not have been the best we could do, but there was a rationale to her pick. We’ve got almost 4 years to give her a closer look.

    2) This election was not a referrendum on conservatism, nor a mandate to move the country toward social democracy. McCain never could offer a consistent or compelling reason for conservitive governance, and I think that is ultimately because he did not have this as his vision. You may have shared my frustration at the debates over what many viewed as missed opportunities to contrast conservatism with Obama’s vision of the future. After all of this time, can you sum up McCain-ism as a governmental philophy? Name his top three prioities for a 1st term? I can’t. I actually could for Bush to a degree, and I could to this day give a reasonable description of what Reagan wanted to do. Until I see a articulate version of conservatism defeated, I will believe it has a future.

    As for Jindal, I’m already on the bandwagon. At least with him a former Rhodes scholar, we would not have to constantly hear about how dumb he is.

  200. Edward Trimnell

    The only hope is that the next generation of GOP leaders (perhaps someone like a Bobby Jindal) will be more secular and moderate on social issues.

    Cal Thomas, in a piece called Religious Right R.I.P. argues that on the 30th Anniversary of the “Religious Right”, it’s time for them to stop attempting to impose a moral agenda through political power.

    Something I’ve been advocating for, oh, 30 years….

  201. Zanzibar, Frank@236, 237: Thanks for the information!

    On a related note, I do have a query of sorts for our host.

    I generally agree with John on issues like same-sex marriage and teaching intelligent design in schools. The Religious Right is a drag. Agreed.

    However, his tendency to focus on divisive social issues suggests that these are the only matters on the docket. I would be interested to know if John has any concerns about the $300 billion stimulus package that Congress is proposing.

    Obama’s plans to expand the EITC have also drawn fire from moderates as well as conservatives. If you send tax refund checks to people who don’t pay taxes, you are in effect sending a welfare stipend by another name. What is John’s take on this one?

    Also, John has dismissed libertarians as people who just want to “smoke a bowl and watch porn.” Once again there is the focus on controversial social issues that are of secondary importance to most of us. The core of the libertarian agenda is actually economic.

    For example, most libertarians want to end or drastically reduce foreign aid, and scale back our commitments to NATO—causes which neither of the two major parties has endorsed. I would be curious to know where John stands on these matters….when and if they interest him, of course.

    (This is not a challenge, by the way…But I think these are fair questions.)

  202. Marko at 226: I’m not sure who started the Muslim rumor or when. I do know the attorney who started all the litigation about Obama not being a citizen was a Democrat Hillary supporter.

    I think Palin, Pawlenty and Jindal are the future stars of 2012. I wouldn’t discount any of them and believe that they would run a stronger, more disciplined campaign than McCain. All three are pro life and have A ratings from the NRA and so should nail down the conservative base. All will have 6+ years experience as executives prior to the election. All three seem to be fiscally responsible. They can bump up national security credentials by selecting a veteran as VP (essentially reversing the McCain ticket).

    If Democrats want to bring libertarians and libertarian leaning Republicans into the fold, they should probably focus on advancing gun rights and fiscal conservatism. The first is unlikely and the second next to impossible, IMO.

  203. Edward,

    and I sincerely hope the secular conservatives retake the GOP. I say retake because you have lost it. Look at the red states this year – the south and the mostly rural socially conservative West. The states the Republicans won are the less affluent, more rural, less educated states. The day of the election, Scott Horton put out an interesting take on this in Harper’s.

    But until you DO retake the party I’ll continue to work to see the Republicans kept out of power. The problem is, we need an intelligent, articulate opposition – we have no monopoly on truth. So, hurry up and kick the nuts to the side of the road, OK?

  204. Edward Trimnell:

    “I would be interested to know if John has any concerns about the $300 billion stimulus package that Congress is proposing.”

    Yes.

    Thanks for asking.

    Oh, wait, you wanted details.

  205. rick,

    Actually, I think the fringes have a strong hold on both parties. I feel about the dKos crowd about the same way you appear to feel about the religious right. hope to be proven wrong, but I don’t really think that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are the reach-across-the-aisle type.

    If I could change how elections are held, I would mandate that congressional districts must be as close to spherical as possible, rather than the current gerrymanders that create districts that are safe for one or the other party. Safe districts promote extreme candidates. Look at the last election – only a minority of races were competitive.

    round districts = government from the center
    safe districts = extremists

  206. Richard @ 130 says:

    “Canada’s right next f’ing door! This isn’t just something a VP should understand, it’s something the Governor of a neighboring state should be intimately familiar with.”

    Well, as Kevin implies in #147, she might be too occupied watching Russia on our behalf to think about Canada. But I’ll note that both Ohio (where our host lives) and Pennsylvania (where I live) share a water border with Canada (through Lake Erie), just as Alaska shares a water border with Russia.

    John, you want me to take the first watch tonight, or have you got it covered?

  207. Round!

    Round or nothing!

    And bellies with stars, too!

    To the battlements!

    (btw – I meant “circular”, not “spherical”, but more precisely would go for “have the smallest possible circumference”, in order to fill in the corners.)

  208. Edward Trimnell: “If the GOP continues to pander to the Religious Right, before long the Religious Right will *be* the GOP.”

    In case it isn’t already abundantly clear to those inside the GOP, from the outside, it has looked for quite some time as if the Religious Right is the GOP. If you can imagine a bespectacled, George Will-esque remora attached to the belly of a massive, James Dobson-esque shark, but under the impression that it’s controlling the shark’s direction…that’s pretty much what the Republican party looks like to many of us.

  209. Obama’s plans to expand the EITC have also drawn fire from moderates as well as conservatives. If you send tax refund checks to people who don’t pay taxes, you are in effect sending a welfare stipend by another name. What is John’s take on this one?

    Discussing this would be HEAVENLY as far as I’m concerned. (I mean, I actually might learn something; my understanding that the EITC was established for good reasons in the Reagan era, but has not been changed substantially since. Hey, if my understanding is wrong, then my opinion might change….).

    If the fiscal conservatives retake the Republican party, that would be a GOOD thing as far as I’m concerned…

  210. Edward Trimnell – you sound roughly like what Canadian (and UKian) political types would call a “Red Tory”: socially moderate/liberal, fiscal conservative.

    They’re a somewhat endangered breed here in Canada, too; when the current Conservative Party emerged from the merger of the Reform & Progressive Conservative Parties, there was the distinct feeling that dropping the “Progressive” part of the old PC name was highly significant.

    That said, Canada’s politcal spectrum is so far left of USAian’s that our Conservatives are often more liberal than your Democrats… Most of Obama’s political positions would make him a moderate Conservative/right-of-centre Liberal here, and John Kerry (who was supposedly too liberal to be elected in 2004) would be a Conservative, no question, and a fairly rightish one at that, where he to be transplanted up to our Great White North…

  211. It’s the damaged personality, not the continent, that puts Palin in perspective for me. Her public performances and documents seem narcissistic with evidence of complete disregard for the beliefs and rights of others.
    It appears that Palin believes she is the ruler of all things, including those elders in the Republican Party who mistakenly believed Ms Sarah would be knee bendingly grateful for this golden opportunity to become a feminine figurehead of the Republican party, just as Bush was boy-toy for Cheeney, Rove, et. al.

    The Republican leadership mistakenly believed Palin wold become their female figurehead to be reasoned with and contained. That was the Republican’s second blunder. (The first, the party did not demand a professional vetting of Palin. McDonald’s hiring standards require closer scrutiny.)

    Clearly, Palin was the weapon of Republican Leadership’s choice. She was to outshine Hillary Clinton and other women of both parties who have proven themselves as intellects and politicial leaders of esteem. That was the Repblican’s next significant blunder.

    The third error is less unforgivable than all. The Republicans are now leaking Palins character flaws to the press as though the public would be foolish enough to find Palin at fault rather than the Republican leadership itself. ( More fools they.) Palin’s character flaws are painfully evident, nothing most American voters did not identify in her first week of permitted exposure to the public. She is what she is and always was.

    Palin is a damaged and flawed character. She is a completely self focused entity. Palin shamelessly demands more power than VP Cheeney,She blatantly protects herself from acquiring knowledge of any sort, beyond what she already believes to be enough to rule this land of ours. Moreover, she expects her followers in the Republican Party and the voting public to find all these traits endearing. What a disconnect.

    True, Palin is easy to blame. Even more true, the final unforgivable flaw lies deep within the hubris of Republican Party for blaming Palin for the political disaster it, alone, had created.

  212. I’m with DG Lewis @250: Hexagons are the way to go. Much more efficient than circles or squares.

    If you want to get complicated, you could go with Voronoi tessallation. From Wikipedia, a Voronoi tessallation “is a special kind of decomposition of a metric space determined by distances to a specified discrete set of objects in the space, e.g., by a discrete set of points.”

  213. JReynolds and DG Lewis,

    In practice, the smallest circumference would look like hexagons often, but with variations in order to get the districts roughly the same population (say +/- 10%)

  214. ZBBM @# 254:

    You could do a density equalizing map projection and then use hexagons, with a little bit of deformation along the coasts. Then you transform back to the normal map.

  215. Total B.S. from an “anonymous” source. No way. She might not be a rocket scientist but she’s not stupid.

    Just McCain staffers trying to explain why a RINO lost.

  216. John:

    Don’t you know that actually knowing things makes you a liberal elitist? You don’t want someone running for the second highest office in the land to be some kind of elitist do you?

    Do you?!?!

  217. The problem is that secular conservatives (otherwise known as libertarian/moderate Republicans) don’t have a political home right now. We are repelled by the neoconservatives/evangelicals; but the Democrats don’t speak to us either.

    I wonder to what extent this is true, and to the extent that it’s true how much of it is those of us of a more fiscally conservative bent opting ourselves out of participation.

    One of the most commonly accepted ideas out there is that Republicans are for smaller government and less spending and Dems… aren’t. But nothing in my 40 years on the planet bears that out. Less intervention into private lives? Nope, no Republican stronghold on that either.

    My hope – driven in no small part by the fact that the Republican party as it is now has no place for a heathen like me – is that the Democratic party will take this chance to be open to moderate participation and listen to the voices saying “we’d like you just not to spend the money, but if you insist then let’s set some demonstrable metrics for what it has to do to be worth it.”

    I think there’s room there, but people like us have to be willing to step up and be a part of things. It’s not okay for you to buy every disadvantaged youth a $2,000 computer and just hope that makes everything better. But if you have a plan to put smart money into areas that improves the economy and reduces crime – and reduces costs – then let’s talk.

    I think the moment I knew I couldn’t hitch my wagon to the Republican party as it was happened when Senate republicans mocked midnight basketball programs. Opposition to a plan to reduce crime and improve neighborhoods that didn’t cost anything more than a few hours of staff and lighting in facilities that were already built…. that’s not opposition to wasteful spending, that’s just opposition.

  218. I think a big part of the problem has to do with the fact that there is a knee-jerk reaction against the words liberal and liberalism in much of the US electorate. In most cases social liberalism comes down to live and let live, yet people who insist they are opposed to government intervention have no problem at all with supporting intervention when it accords with their religious beliefs.

  219. DG Lewis,

    I like that approach. It’s kind of wonky, but it would probably make the middle 75% of the electorate happier with their government. About the only constituency that would absolutely hate it would be incumbents in Congress.

    I can live with that.

  220. DG Lewis #255–

    How would a density-equalizing map projection work? I assume you’d have to give up continuity; but I washed out of the geometry-topology course, so I could be mistaken. Would appreciate a link, if you know of a site that explains it for those of us who’ve forgotten how to calculate Gaussian curvature…

    Dave Robinson #260–

    I think there’s a bigger problem than that. Looking at the results of this and previous elections, I seriously suspect that “live and let live” is a minority attitude in this country– and maybe in this species.

    It’s easy to blame the Catholics and the fundies and the Mormons for the passage of Prop 8, but they couldn’t have made up an electoral majority by themselves. And I think that a lot of the people who assailed Prop 8 as an egregious violation of the rights of others are smug enthusiastic supporters of prohibitions on restaurant smoking, or gambling, or under-21 drinking, or gun ownership, or…

    The root of the problem isn’t rabid Christian conservatives saying “X should be banned because it’s against the Bible”. The real trouble is a whole lot of people, probably a substantial majority, saying “I don’t do X, so nobody else should either.”

  221. Yes, hexagons. Lev. 38:22-23 says, “Graze only thy cattle in a field of four sides, for the field of six sides is an abomination before the Lord,” but you of all people should be cognizant of how that should not be misapplied to modern demographics and cartography.

    ZBBM: I don’t really know anything of the mathematics behind it, but found these two links: One that goes down to county level with 2008 election results, and one that is based on population but only goes down to the state level. The latter has a link at the bottom that takes you back to the author’s page if you really want to learn more (I don’t…).

  222. @251 Deb Alberts,

    “It’s the damaged personality, not the continent, that puts Palin in perspective for me. Her public performances and documents seem narcissistic with evidence of complete disregard for the beliefs and rights of others.
    It appears that Palin believes she is the ruler of all things, including those elders in the Republican Party who mistakenly believed Ms Sarah would be knee bendingly grateful for this golden opportunity to become a feminine figurehead of the Republican party, just as Bush was boy-toy for Cheeney, Rove, et. al.”

    From what I’ve been able to gather, her “handler” figured she wouldn’t be able to deal with the national media. She finally said, “enough,” had an impromptu presser on the plane which she handled very well, and started calling her own shots. Which worked.

    I also get the impression she’s not overly impressed with Harvard and Yale degrees. Boy, what a slap in the face that is!

    A co-worker of mine has a brother who lives down the street from her in Wasilla and was briefly involved in the city government while she was mayor there. No, I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but from everything I’ve heard from this close source, you couldn’t be farther off base.

    We’ll have four years to find things out. Plenty of time.

  223. From what I’ve been able to gather, her “handler” figured she wouldn’t be able to deal with the national media. She finally said, “enough,” had an impromptu presser on the plane which she handled very well, and started calling her own shots.

    Let’s see. Post-election stories start coming out blasting Palin and giving all sorts of nasty details…and other post-election stories start coming out about how people weren’t letting “Palin be Palin,” again with lovely details.

    I don’t suppose the latter stories were anonymously sourced, were they?

  224. No, those have names, like Randy Scheunemann, who was a McCain foreign policy advisor. He’s been speaking up for a while.

    Don’t believe anything you hear for a while. Let her come out, speaking on her own, and make an honest evaluation from that.

  225. Edward @238

    I know I’m personally focusing more on the social than economic issues arising out of this election because I see them as a different kind of issue.

    One of the jobs of any administration is to formulate a national economic policy. This may range from complete laissez faire to a command economy (or be somewhere in between) but the point is we generally accept it’s the job of the government to make that decision. Please note that this doesn’t mean agreeing with the decisions, just accepting the government’s right to make decisions in that field.

    However, many of the social issues in this election have come across more as legislating morality on religious grounds, and I don’t consider that something the government should be doing.

    As an analogy; it’s the driver’s prerogative to choose the route, but that doesn’t mean they can pick which songs I should listen to on my iPod.

    That’s why I’ve been focusing on social issues.

  226. Dave Robinson #269–

    Sorry to keep disagreeing with you, but I can’t see the bright line.

    I think I’m a pretty hard-line libertarian on social issues. Nevertheless, I think that a law prohibiting, say, masturbating in the library is completely justified. But try as I might, I can’t find a justification beyond the extreme offense that the proscribed act gives to others.

    On the other hand, I can imagine a national economic policy that’d be more than just wrong– not just one that I’d disagree with, but that I’d regard as beyond the right of any government to impose. Suppose that in a time of no national emergency, the government mandated five years of national service for everyone 18-23: temporary slavery, if you like. I think that would be such a gross infringement of liberty that it’d justify the violent overthrow of the government, even if the policy was enthusiastically supported by all the 24+’s.

  227. Porphyrogene,

    Umm, are you referring to Obama’s “mandatory volunteerism” initiative? Or, excuse me the “Plan for Universal and Voluntary Citizen Service”.

  228. Ron,

    Ignorant enough to copy/paste the name from Obama’s website.

    That’s a pretty sophisticated disinformation campaign.

  229. ZBBMcF #271–

    I didn’t have anybody’s particular plan in mind. I was thinking about the tendency for pundits of a certain sort to advocate mandatory service programs for the young folks, then cranking it up to a level that I thought would justify the young folks going all Lexington and Concord on the government.

    And by “pundits of a certain sort”, I wasn’t thinking about a particular side of the right-left divide. My certain sort includes both righties who want to reintroduce the draft to build patriotism, and lefties who want to use it as a means of getting all the social classes to work together.

  230. Porphyrogene@270

    I think you missed my point. I am not saying that the government has the right to impose such a draconian policy as you mentioned.

    I’m saying that if the unemployment rate for citizens between 18-23 was very high the government would be expected to formulate a policy regarding that problem. The solution it proposed could range from reducing government regulation and lowering taxes to free up more money to hire young workers all the way up through the mandated government service plan you described.

    Different people would support different solutions.

    My point is that I believe the government has a right to come up with A plan to deal with the issue. They may not have the right to implement a specific plan, but it is appropriate that they implement a plan to resolve the issue.

    I know you mentioned there not being a state of emergency, but since I began by discussing economic policy there needs to be some economic factor on which to base the decision or your example would become simple tyranny with nothing to do with economics.

    Let’s take your example of mandated government service for everyone age 18-23 without a state of national emergency.

  231. Per Steve Biegun, a McCain aide tasked with getting Palin up to speed:

    “He says there’s no way she didn’t know Africa was a continent, and whoever is saying she didn’t must be distorting “a fumble of words.” He talked to her about all manner of issues relating to Africa, from failed states to the Sudan. She was aware from the beginning of the conflict in Darfur, which is followed closely in evangelical churches, and was aware of Clinton’s AIDS initiative. That basically makes it impossible that she thought all of Africa was a country.

    On not knowing what countries are in NAFTA, Biegun was part of the conversation that led to that accusation and it convinces him “somebody is acting with a high degree of maliciousness.” He was briefing Palin before a Univision interview, and talking to her about trade issues. He rolled through NAFTA, CAFTA, and the Colombia FTA. As he talked, people were coming in and out of the room, handing Palin things, etc. She was distracted from what Biegun was saying, and said, roughly, “Ok, who’s in NAFTA, what the deal with CAFTA, what’s up the FTA?”—her way, Biegun says, of saying “rack them and stack them,” begin again from the start. “Somebody is taking a conversation and twisting it maliciously,” he says.

    In general, according to Beigun, Palin had a steep learning curve on foreign issues, about what you would expect from a governor. But she has “great instincts and great core values,” and is “an instinctive internationalist.” The stories against her are being “fed by an unnamed source who is allowed by the press to make ad hominem attacks on background.” Biegun, who spent dozens and dozens of hours briefing Palin on these issues, is happy to defend her, on the record, under his own name.”

    For those of you who can visit a conservative site without having a stroke, the full story is here http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/

  232. I think this rumormongering contributes to the problems we have in the political process. Flimsily sourced allegations should not be the foundation of your beliefs. I immediately refuted every Obama is a secret Muslim/doesn’t have a valid US birth certificate whenever I heard it and I wasn’t planning on voting for him. Sadly, I fully expect to see the treatment of President Obama track the treatment of President Bush within months. It is posts like this that will provide their justification. I just want to give Obama every chance to succeed, and who knows, maybe I will vote for him the second time around.

  233. except, of course, that the story turned out to be total bullsh*t like 99% of the crap the MSM “reported” about her…

    you know, sort of like “Zoe’s Tale” was a “sequel” in the Old Man’s War series…turns out it was just a rumor – instead, it was just a hashed together piece of filler to suck in fans to send you more money for nothing…

    if you were hopeful of me helping you continue making a living writing, good luck with that…you might actually have to get a real job…I dunno…maybe learn how to be a plumber – if you’re smart enough.

  234. Davidingeorgia:

    “except, of course, that the story turned out to be total bullsh*t like 99% of the crap the MSM ‘reported’ about her…”

    Well, but the thing is, you don’t know it’s bullshit. What you know is someone said one thing, and another person refuted it. It could also be that the person refuting it met with Palin after the whole “Africa is a country” thing was cleared up for her by the McCain staff. And so on.

    Fact is, there’s no way to know if it’s true or not.

    That said, I’m delighted that people who might be in a position to know are suggesting she did know Africa was a continent.

    And Davidingeorgia, we’ll just add you to the pile of people who I couldn’t possibly give a crap about whether you buy my books or not. Honestly, at this point, I just find declarations of “I’m not gonna buy your books anymore!” boring as shit. Honestly: I. Don’t. Care. Buy ‘em or don’t.

  235. To davidingeorgia,

    Dude, pick a better handle. I don’t want anyone confusing you with me.

    Ever.

  236. like 99% of the crap the MSM ‘reported’ about her…

    Of course 99% of what the mainstream media reported about Palin was how hot she is and how hot her supporters think she is. I assume davidingeorgia is simply outraged that such lies were perpetrated.

  237. John Scalzi at 283: The difference, of course, is that the attacks against Palin are anonymous and the defenders named. I tend to trust those who have enough moral courage to attach their name to their opinions of fact, as opposed to those who do not.

  238. Steve Moss:

    I don’t know how morally courageous it is to go on the record as saying your party’s vice presidential candidate knows Africa is a continent. Seems a fairly low-risk proposition.

    Leaving aside the moral component, I do agree that in a general sense attaching your name to a statement lends more credence to the statement than a statement made anonymously.

  239. John,

    I disagree. Right now (as should be expected) a civil war is underway in the GOP. Anonymous backstabbing still leaves one an out, if Palin disproves her critics and returns as a future nominee. Publicly backing her is in effect chosing a side.

  240. The difference, of course, is that the attacks against Palin are anonymous

    Anonymous members of the McCain campaign team, quoted by Fox News. It isn’t is thought this was a Daily Kos fever dream. Palin’s own party and, in theory, former supporters are the ones doing the backbiting, and that in itself is news.

  241. Mythago at 290: Zanzibar is right. There is a civil war in the Republican party being waged. Assuming Fox were a Republican organ why would it be immune?

    And I’ve always been curious why Fox News is considered a Republican news agency. From what little research I’ve seen done, Fox has lived up to its slogan of “fair and balanced” while CBS, NBC and ABC are the ones who have tilted left.

  242. Well I guess that’s a reasonable request. Now would the DNC please make sure their designee can count the letters in J-O-B-S and come up with four?

  243. Apologies for coming late to this.

    John, you keep saying that you’d be content to see the “Palin didn’t know Africa is a continent” story disproved. But as there probably weren’t any witnesses to this except the people passing on the story, there may be no way to do that.

    Palin says she was misinterpreted, and that’s quite possible. It’s a he-says she-says thing.

    Certainly she’s said and done some brain-curdling things. And possibly the stupidest thing she’s done was to call that post-election press conference to deny being stupid.

    But some parallel cases lead me to suspect she may have gotten a bad rap on this one.

    For instance, in a taped interview before being named as running mate, she said that to consider the job she’d have to have someone tell her what the VP does all day. This was widely read as showing ignorance of the clearly stated constitutional role. But the interview shows that’s not what she meant. VPs don’t actually spend their time presiding over the Senate. They do whatever the President wants them to do. Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Alexander Throttlebottom all had very different ways of occupying themselves. Her comments on the job in the debate show that McCain had definitely given Palin an idea of what he’d want her to do.

    Biden has been subjected to the same crap. Look at comment 224, in which Steve Moss claims that Biden (also in the VP debate) was bone-ignorant of the VP’s role. Actually, Biden was entirely correct, and was making a far subtler point than his critics could imagine, which is that the VP has no authority in the Senate. VPs preside (nominally: in practice they don’t) but have no power to control anything, except, as Biden mentioned, when there’s a tie vote.

    So if angry Republicans can spin Biden’s recorded remarks into a lie about his stupidity, I have no doubt that angry-at-Palin Republicans can spin her the same way. I suspect they just misunderstood something she asked about South Africa. I don’t trust Palin any farther than I could throw her, but I trust second-hand reports of bitter McCain aides even less.

  244. Kalimac:

    “So if angry Republicans can spin Biden’s recorded remarks into a lie about his stupidity, I have no doubt that angry-at-Palin Republican operatives can spin her the same way.”

    So, we’re saying the real problem is Republican operatives have a hard time telling the truth? Because I’d be willing to grant that.

  245. John: Pretty much. Republicans are so dim that they can’t tell the difference between wisdom and stupidity. There they are, praising Bush and Palin and even Joe the Plumber as sages for the ages (in the case of Bush that’s not an exaggeration), yet they have Biden on tape being genuinely sagacious about a subtle point of political power, yet they think they have him on tape being ignorant of the Constitution. He’s short of time, so Biden skips over the fifth grade civics lesson to get to the important stuff, and they think he doesn’t know the fifth grade civics lesson, yet what he said could be said only by one who knows the lesson and knows why it’s misleading.

    Of course the Republicans point out the perceived errors only when they think it’ll help their cause; that’s ordinary human spinning and Democrats do it too. Yet McCain’s defenders are being especially dim if they don’t realize that slamming Palin reflects badly on McCain’s decision-making.

  246. Sagacious? Biden? Please. Here is what he said in the debate:

    “Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

    And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
    The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote.”

    Compare this with the text of Article 1 (Hint – it begins “All legislative Powers”):

    “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
    The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.”

    Article 2, concerning the executive, only outlines how the VP is selected and removed, as well as when the VP would take over. (later modified with the 12th amendment).

    So, not only does the Constitution say noting about the “primary role” of the VP being to “support the President”, but in its original version explicitly created a situation where, if anything, the VP and the POTUS, being the #1 and #2 vote-getters, would be opposed to one another.

    To recap: first, Biden is factually wrong about the Constitutional description of the role of the VP as being part of a single Article. Second, he misattributes Article 1 as having to do with the executive. Finally, his one point, that the VP only votes in ties, is not sagacious, it’s the plain reading of the text. If anything, Biden was trying and _failing_ to make a 5th grade civics point.

    There’s a reason that the search term “Sage of Delaware” returns only 7 Google hits.

    I continue to pray for the health and well-being of President-elect Obama.

  247. OK, there you go. This is a perfect example of how Biden’s critics are so far behind him that they have no idea what he’s talking about.

    Biden did mis-speak when he said Article I was the executive branch. He was thinking of the fact that the Vice President is described there. As a verbal glitch, that’s down there with Obama and the 57 states: insignificant. (Tellingly, most of Biden’s critics who catch this think that his verbal error was the number of the Article, not the subject.)

    As for the rest, you’re like all the other critics who never got beyond 5th-grade civics. You are confusing the formal constitutional definition of the Vice President with the actual powers and duties of the office. Rigidly pointing to the text of the Constitution totally ignores the actual function and structure of the office, in the same way that pointing to the Constitutional powers and duties of Congress would be completely misleading on the subject of what Congress actually legislates about.

    Biden’s point about the VP voting in ties was not just that this is the only time he votes, but that despite being the presiding officer he has no other power in the Senate. Palin had just uttered a lot of nonsense about the VP’s job being flexible and undefined by intention, and that as VP she would have Constitutional authority “to exert it in working with the Senate.” This is dangerous, and wrong, and any VP who tried it would get nowhere. Even Spiro Agnew’s relatively modest belief that his job as VP was to be Nixon’s lobbyist in the Senate got told – by Republican senators, even! – to F off.

    That is the false road that Palin said she’d follow, and that Biden sagaciously warned against. And that is what those who think the entire sublety of the job of VP can be found in the text of the Constitution will never get.

  248. I’m not so much defending Palin as calling BS that what Biden says was “sagacious”.

    The truth is that the role of the VP is undefined. There’s not a bit in the Constitution about what Biden described as the main role: “to support the President”. That’s not sage, that’s blather.

    Sure, the VP _can_ support the president, and since the 12th amendment tied the POTUS and VP together, that is largely what has happened in practice. But that is not _required_. Preside over the Senate. Break ties. Step in when the President dies or is removed. That’s it. The job is spectacularly undefined. That’s why John Garner said it wasn’t worth a “bucket of warm piss”. If anything, Palin is more correct in that the job description is pretty flexible. Just because a bunch of Senators told Agnew to take a leap doesn’t mean that the VP can’t work with Congress. Or he can stay in an undisclosed location. Or he can go to state funerals. He can play hopscotch all day at the Naval Observatory and still be lining up to his constitutional role.

    Finally, Biden didn’t remotely make the points you attribute to him. What he said was doctrinaire, rigid, and wrong. It was not sage, no matter how badly you wish it to be.

  249. Oh man, oh man, oh man. You need a lesson in constitutional law that is far longer than anything I could give you, especially as you’re not clued in to anything that Biden said. He has 35 years experience in watching Vice Presidents and he does know what he’s talking about: what he says resonates with everything I’ve read on the office from constitutional scholars.

    The main point is that – all these different things you say the VP can do? The VP can do whatever the President allows and encourages. But it’s not the 12th Amendment that makes the two work comfortably together: in fact political considerations meant that for the next century and a half they were more often than not at odds. The result was that Presidents did not trust their VPs, and gave them nothing to do. THAT is why Garner said the office was worth nothing.

    The Cheney-Palin theory that the VP has some kind of inherent control over Congress is in support of the new and dangerous theory of the “unitary executive,” by which the executive branch has superiority over the others: obvious constitutional nonsense.

    I’ve explained most of this three times now: I really am not sure how to respond to such flat incorrectness.

  250. Kalimac at 300: Howabout pullingt something out of Zanzibar’s argument in post 298 and explaining to me why it is wrong? So far as I can determine, he is dead on correct. Declaring him flat incorrect does not make him so.

    If Palin is an idiot (a point I do not agree with), Biden is even more so. And unlike the anonymous gossip being used to attach Palin, Biden convicts himself out of his own mouth.

  251. Kalimac at 300: Howabout pullingt something out of Zanzibar’s argument in post 298 and explaining to me why it is wrong? So far as I can determine, he is dead on correct. Declaring him flat incorrect does not make him so.

    If Palin is an idiot (a point I do not agree with), Biden is even more so. And unlike the anonymous gossip being used to attach Palin, Biden convicts himself out of his own mouth.

  252. Kalimac,

    I’m not saying that what you describe is not the wisest way for a POTUS/VP to operate. What I am saying is that this is nowhere close to what Biden actually said. I pulled the enitre quote from the debate. You are creating penumbra and emanations that bear no resemblance to what was said.

    Consider this. Say the VP ignores the President’s wishes and “goes rogue”. What’s the mechanism for firing him?

    Exactly.

    It’s a quirky office. The VP can, as you say, do what the President allows and encourages. Or not.

  253. This story was apparently a hoax.

    Not clear; the story doesn’t seem to have been retracted by Fox. The claim that it was the hoaxster who was the source, has. Oy.

  254. It is the Sineurabia code of those who want to benight us with global feudalism, who yearn to whitewash and canonize the nazi pope, who see business, especially finance, as evil, who hate books and the Yehuds, Yovans and Parsis who write them. They could not even countenance a Kenyan pope or a Mormon president, but keep promoting Islamic candidates for public office and call theirs a religion of peace. On September 16, 1920, Italian terrorists blew up Wall Street. They set the precedent for 9/11 and they like it.

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