Friday, October 3, 2008

Full of Darn Rights and Doggones, Signifying Nothing

Colonel Sanders on the importance of the surge ... and honey mustard sauce.

"Oh, yeah. It's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider complete idiot."

That's what I got out of last night's debate, which I had to watch with my thumb on the 'mute' button because Sarah Palin's grating voice and cheerful vacuity were hurting both my ears and my brain. Has a politician ever gone on TV and seemed so happy not to know anything? There was no escaping her intellectual inferiority last night. I tried to do so by reading her answers (which were technically non-answers) via closed captioning instead of listening to them, but all that did was make my eyes cross. The woman is fundamentally incapable of saying anything that makes sense.

Her comic highlight of the night (Biden's was the "ultimate bridge to nowhere" zinger that seemed to amuse even Palin) was either giving a shout-out to third graders -- any one of whom is likely to have a better grasp of the current economic crisis than she does -- or displaying a hilarious lack of self-awareness as she rattled off a list of things that dictators hate about America, including "our tolerance" and "our respect for women's rights." (Like the right to pay for your own rape kit, I guess.) I'm not sure what to make of the winking and flirting, other than maybe she's trying to send a message to Margaret Cho.

For 90 minutes I clutched my head in exasperation (almost vomiting when Palin chirped to Joe Biden, "I'm so encouraged to know that we both love Israel!"), sometimes fantasizing that Gwen Ifill would finally snap and recreate a scene from a movie my brother watched a hundred times when we were kids: "Governor Palin, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Everything went back to energy (more specifically, "the new energy!"), especially things that had nothing to do with energy. Everything went back to mavericks and watching your kids play sports. When Palin strayed from the handful of buzz words the McCain campaign has overused to the point they're becoming national punchlines, it was to confuse Main Street with Wall Street and mistakenly refer to our top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, as Colonel Sanders.

Okay, she didn't call him Colonel Sanders. She called him Gen. McClellan. You know, the guy who's been dead for more than 122 years. (That's so not "new energy.") The funny thing about Palin, though, and the thing -- among many other, larger things -- that terrifies me about her, is had she messed up and said Colonel Sanders, she probably would have thought to herself, "Fuck it, I'm going with it," and incorporated a few of those cringe-inducing colloquialisms she's so fond of into a jingoistic spiel about terrorists wanting to destroy our way of life because they hate our freedom to choose between original recipe and extra crispy chicken.

And, here's the really scary part: Wingnuts like Pat Buchanan would have been on TV afterwards declaring it the best moment of the debate. For Buchanan and his ilk, the night was a triumph for Sarah Palin because she didn't point to her foot when asked to name her Achilles' heel. How did our country come to this?

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