Begetting Worse Politicians


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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100 Responses

  1. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    What is particularly upsetting about the pursuit of the story of Trig Palin’s birth is that it is so unbelievably personal. I assume that Palin’s story of the birth is true, although frankly I wouldn’t care much if it were false. But the fact is, just by making the circumstances of the birth of a politician’s special needs child relevant, we make it so that a politician has to consider whether they want the circumstances of their children’s births made into a matter of public investigation before they run for national office.

    The only reason Trig Palin became an issue at all to begin with was because Sarah Palin and her handlers insisted on using him as a prop for her ambitions. She trotted out her family as political props, as signs of her character, etc. The circumstances behind his birth became relevant because she chose to make it relevant by turning him into a political tool. If having Trig Palin was a sign of Sarah Palin’s character, then the circumstances of his birth (which even by generous standards were bizarre) are a sign that Sarah Palin may have issues regarding her judgment as well.

    You can’t trot out your kids as political props, and center your entire candidacy around what your family says about you and not have it be investigated. This has nothing to do with people not having skeletons in their closet, it should simply be an issue that politicians should stop turning their family into qualifications for office.Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:

      Nonsense. Obama had a video of his kids at the convention, and wrote about his experiences as a parent in The Audacity of Hope, and nobody took that as a signal to call “fair game!” on them. The birth of Trig did show that Palin is honestly and sincerely pro-life, and lives that ideal as well as speaking about it.

      She’s pro-life and acted as a pro-life person would. That’s it. The fact that she did so doesn’t mean she chose to make her kids political props, and certainly doesn’t justify senseless conspiracy theories.Report

  2. Here’s what I’ve been having trouble with the last few days:

    Sarah Palin ran for VP and was therefore running to be one-heatbeat-away from the Presidency. She was/has been/will be scrutinized to the 10th degree and much of it is premised on the office she was running for and the office which many believe she would like someday. So her intelligence, policy knowledge, etc was questioned. Fair enough…

    Joe Biden really IS a heartbeat-away from the Presidency, is a complete boob, a blowhard, an ego maniac and has demonstrated an uncanny ability to be wrong on every major foreign policy issue he has ever commented on. Yeah, he went to law school and yeah, people say he’s a nice guy. But one cannot help but wonder why the holy heck he gets a pass? I really think liberals just see him as comic relief and would prefer he be treated as such.

    Maybe Palin is an evil, creationist, book-burning, idiot fembot…but is that somehow more dangerous than having a complete joke in the current VP spot?Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      blowhard, egomaniac- these often go with being politicians, or actors, or high achievers, or bloggers, or athletes, or cops, or etc.

      Complete boob- A) what have you got against boobs. B) This is just an insult, no substance involved.

      “uncanny ability to be wrong on every major foreign policy issue he has ever commented on.”- While even accounting for some legitimate exaggeration for humorous effect, how is this not just a ridiculous insult without any factual basis. I though W was a terrible president but I don’t think he was actually wrong about every single thing. Hell, Cheney, one point in his life, was astute and correct.

      Doesn’t this just mean you don’t agree with him, so therefore he shouldn’t be Veep. He is well regarded by many people on both sides of the aisle. And even he admits he is a bit of loose canon with his pie hole. So what?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        As interesting as your so-called “defenses” of Biden are, I think a more important question is whether we know that Joe Biden is truly the father of Hunter Biden.

        I mean, how did Hunter get his position on the board of Amtrak anyway? Was Biden trying to hide his wife’s indiscretions by shuffling this child that we don’t know whether it’s his into some sinecure? Was there a darker reason?

        Is your focusing on the “boobs” of others a way to avoid discussing Hunter’s true paternity?

        And isn’t “Hunter” a really weird name? You’d almost have to beat a kid named “Hunter” up. Did Joe insist on this name to make sure that this child, that we still don’t know whether is his, would get beaten up in elementary school?

        Why haven’t you responded to these questions yet?Report

  3. Avatar jeff says:

    Isn’t the largest part of what is being done to Palin a result of a healthy counter-spin and fact-checking effort to keep her (or more importantly her cynical supporters) from running away with the narrative? Should she get a pass on lying about personal matters or does that speak to character? She invites the level of scrutiny she gets by dissembling as a first option while trying to maintain her status as an exemplar of conservative family values.

    Rest assured that the better the politicians get at lying, the better folks will get at smoking them out, especially at this point in history. At some point it may occur to someone that less lying will mean less scrutiny. It is possible you know.Report

    • Avatar Moff says:

      Yeah. In fact, in my lifetime, I’ve seen presidential candidates go from having to lie about inhaling marijuana to freely admitting that they smoked it and used harder drugs and still getting elected.

      There are ways to respond to certain kinds of attacks (Obama’s preemptive maneuver, in the above instance, was an excellent one) that cut them off and still don’t force you to justify your whole life before the news media and the public. That Palin has seemingly never tried to deploy such tactics, and instead has routinely responded in such a way that quite reasonably invites further questions, should not magically get her off the hook. If this were a school activity, it would be different — there’s a time when the teacher has to step in and say “OK, OK, now everybody needs to stop yelling at Sarah,” even if Sarah’s bringing it upon herself. But these are circumstances with a little more bearing on the world at large.Report

  4. Avatar Moff says:

    So a blogger’s obsession with a grossly unqualified candidate is detrimental to good politics, but a would-be president selecting the same grossly unqualified candidate as his running mate gets a pass?

    Sorry — I’m not taking it as a given that McCain’s, or any presidential candidate’s, first priority has to be winning the election. Pie in the sky as it is, I think a candidate’s first priority ought to be presenting a set of worthwhile arguments for his or her electability. Condemning someone — a commentator, no less — for sullying the conversation (HA PUN) while saying we should accept as a given that our leaders are going to care about themselves first is absurd.

    There’s more to criticize here, too, Mark, I’m sorry to say, but I have to do some work now.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      He isn’t arguing “ought”, I don’t think.

      I mean, if we are arguing “ought”, we’d all be in agreement that the libertarian vector is the direction in which we need to be heading.

      At least, we’d ought to be.Report

      • Avatar Moff says:

        Well, he seems to be arguing that commentators ought not to focus on politicians’ personal lives. And I agree that they not ought to, at least not as much as on things like their record and platform! But I’m pretty confident that a bigger contribution to the begetting of worse politicians is accepting that because politicians tend to be self-aggrandizing and egotistical, we should let them off the hook when they make terrible decisions to appease their egos. McCain’s first priority did not “[have] to be” maximizing his chances. It may have been — and it seems that it was — but that should get him a drubbing, not a resigned shrug.

        (I’m not getting any work done, obv.)Report

        • Oh, I think going after McCain for picking a gawdawful potential VP during the campaign is perfectly ok – it’s just good campaigning. I just don’t see how that rationale is applicable now.

          Anyhow, my principle argument here isn’t so much a normative claim about the morality of going after politician’s personal lives where said politician has made their personal life part of their campaign. It’s more that I’m arguing that there’s a pretty big, unseen, tradeoff when we do that has effects which I think are far worse than the disease. That tradeoff is the very strong disincentive it provides for less-evil and conniving politicians to get in the game.

          Basically, even if all of Andrew’s claims and suggestions about Palin are true and were made public, the likelihood that they would actually change anyone’s mind about Palin is pretty damn slim because, well, she’s the type of politician that wouldn’t allow it to affect her politically. She’d just revert to her whole Sarah-cuda persona.

          Ask yourself why, just about everytime Palin has had some aspect of her personal life come under public attack, support for her has just stiffened. On the other hand, when she is actually forced to talk substance, or gets criticized for her lack thereof, support for her tends to fall.

          This is also why the whole argument of “there’s no substance to criticize, so we have to criticize her other statements” thing doesn’t work for me. If there’s no substance to criticize, then you’ve got yourself one heck of a strong argument to make, and keep making almost ad infinitum. Going after her personal life – no matter how much she uses that life in her campaigning – is just a way of earning sympathy for her.Report

          • Ugh. Somehow I failed to write a sentence that ties the first and second halves of that comment together. So, after “Sarah-cuda persona” add:

            A politician with even a tiny sense of shame (an increasingly rare beast), however, would give in at that point, and wave the white flag to spare their family further scrutiny and to acknowledge their failings. So the effect of these inquiries, though not the intent, winds up being that we lose politicians that at least have a tiny sense of shame, while playing right into the hands of politicians who lack such a sense.Report

          • Avatar Moff says:

            Yeah, I see what you’re saying, and I agree that the McCain argument is kinda weak; when Sullivan made it the other day, I was underwhelmed because, like you say, the campaign is over — and I’m more or less on his side as far as his Palin coverage goes. The reason it’s weak is that as we get further and further from the election, the connection between Palin and McCain feels increasingly tenuous; it’s too hard to blast her for a softball Time interview and viscerally tie that to “This is about John McCain.” I just didn’t like your fatalistic take on his motives. Even if I think it’s pointless to keep talking about McCain’s role in Palin’s career, I’d like us not to think that because the election is over, his choosing her was OK.

            And though I understand what you’re saying, I think you might be overstating the problem. For one thing, if, as you say, people with an interest in politics (as well as just people in general) tend to be great self-deceivers, I think there will still be plenty of decent ones who convince themselves that even if the public spotlight is hard on some people, it won’t be so bad for them. I honestly don’t think that sense of ego that drives many politicians is particularly stymied by the weighing of future consequences. For another thing, the reality is that most politicians don’t face the level of fallout Sarah Palin has. In fact, the lesson here seems to me to be that if you don’t want to suffer personal attacks, then don’t dig in your heels and do learn to put together coherent sentences, and you can do just fine.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          A few days back, there was a post about “weak manning”. You look at the dozens of arguments given against a particular thing, pick the weakest, and argue against the weakest argument as if it were representative.

          As you and I both know, the reasons to oppose Palin are legion. Putting emphasis on Triggish reasons does a downright disservice to the reasons that actually matter. Additionally, it makes folks who are opposed to Sarah for the reasons that actually matter somewhat lumped in with the troofers (unfairly, sure).

          It’s the other side of the coin to the birth certificate types screaming about Obama. Dude, there are *LEGIT* reasons to oppose Obama. Now, of course, a huge chunk of the reasons to oppose Obama were identical to the reasons to oppose Bush… and so many of Bush’s staunchest defenders were hobbled out of the gate and couldn’t yell stuff about, say, warrantless wiretapping or the need to pass a stimulus bill lest the world as we know it end.

          But the focus on the silly took away needed focus on the serious.Report

    • I agree with this completely: “I think a candidate’s first priority ought to be presenting a set of worthwhile arguments for his or her electability.”

      But my point in many ways is that this: 1. may not be possible, ever, in a huge democracy with media everywhere; and 2. cannot even be worked towards as long as we create ever-stronger (if inadvertent) disincentives for decent but imperfect people to enter national politics.Report

      • Avatar Moff says:

        But I just don’t think your take mirrors the reality. Again, it used to be a major disincentive to enter politics if people might find out you’d used illegal drugs. But as time has gone on, it’s turned out that the electorate is more forgiving of what used to be considered flaws as long as you’re honest about them. And I see no reason that won’t continue.

        I also don’t understand your point 1. How do more media outlets make it harder to communicate arguments?Report

        • I see your point about the drugs, but it’s worth remembering how that stopped being such an issue, ie, Bill Clinton’s infamous obfuscation of “I did not inhale.” Additionally, part of the reason that it ceased to be a major issue is simply that we got to a point where so many people had done certain drugs that it just sort of ceased to be an issue worth asking about. Still, it was only 8 years ago when Bush was harassed about the whole cocaine issue, responded by obfuscating, and got to look the part of the victim as a result. Yeah, I realize that it outraged Dems and people who had never intended to vote for Bush. But people who weren’t really decided? I think they’re reaction was more: why is this even important, why are they harassing this poor guy? So I guess what I’m saying is more that the reason drugs aren’t really an issue anymore is that it turned out to be an issue that politicians were able to use in their favor by obfuscating.

          My point about the media outlets is just that having wall-to-wall media coverage means that a politician has to be “on” all the time. It’s essentially the same as my point in the post about how political success is measured by a politician’s ability to please a majority of the people all the time, which I think can only really be accomplished with a lot of lies.Report

          • Avatar Moff says:

            Mmm, I don’t think it has that much to do with obfuscation. I think it is because it ceased to be an issue, simply because we have gradually become more collectively honest about some aspects of our lives — the notion that recreational drug use renders you an unfit human being doesn’t stick, because too many us know or are people who’ve used drugs and aren’t unfit. And I don’t think Democrats were outraged were by Bush’s drug use or even by his obfuscation so much as by a big part of his base’s convenient tendency to overlook in their own people what they denounce in others, and because he had supported such harsh anti-drug laws as governor.

            Maybe I’m less cynical than you. I don’t think you have to lie like crazy to please people — or at least not about your personal life, and I think there is a salient difference between lies about one’s personal life and campaign promises (which, yes, are lies that politicians generally have to tell more of than I would prefer). I think the list of what people will forgive a politician for, in his or her personal life, is getting longer, and I think more voters tend to be more forgiving the less obfuscation there is. And whatever happens, I’m not especially worried about a shortage of folks, ranging from those who’ve never gotten a speeding ticket to downright criminals, vying for public office.Report

            • You’re probably right about the cynicism thing. I look around and see almost no national-level politicians for whom I have a modicum of respect (though I will say that Obama seems less-bad than most….which oddly enough, I think is at least partly because he’d only been a national politician for a couple years. Still, we’re talking degrees here). I see some small number of Congressman I respect who have relatively little taste for the camera. I even see some comparatively honest-appearing pols who occasionally make hopeless runs for national office, but the emphasis is on hopeless since they have enough dignity not to talk out of both sides of their mouths.

              Whether my cynicism is appropriate, I have no idea. I just don’t see any Henry Clays or even any Moynihans anymore. Instead, I see a bunch of camera-hogging bloviators that make me wish I had E.D.’s preferred superpower.Report

  5. Avatar Herb says:

    Ya know, Andrew jumped the gun with the Trig stuff, but I seem to remember a birth story that didn’t make much sense and photos of Bristol with a baby bump that contributed to the speculation. Was Andrew being irresponsible? A little bit…

    But if Palin had taken the “candid” part of “candidate” seriously, there wouldn’t have been much rumor to mill.Report

    • Avatar Moff says:

      Seriously. I don’t know what happened with the kid’s birth, but I do know that if Palin’s story is kosher and I was really committed to sparing my family the pain of facing speculation by the media, I’d have produced some documentation and asked my doctor to make a public statement. I don’t know where I stand on the relevance of Trig’s birth to her candidacy — on the one hand, I think it’s partly germane as it speaks to her honesty and, more important, to her relations with a big chunk of her base; on the other, it’s a personal and sensitive issue — but I do know that when a public figure responds to an inquiry by throwing up roadblocks, a good journalist’s instinct should be that they’re hiding something.Report

      • I don’t know why I keep responding exclusively to your comments, but they seem useful in illustrating my point. So….

        “if Palin’s story is kosher and I was really committed to sparing my family the pain of facing speculation by the media, I’d have produced some documentation and asked my doctor to make a public statement.”

        But if you were more interested in making yourself appear the victim and garnering votes, and cared precious little about your family’s privacy? Wouldn’t you not only refuse to answer the inquiries, but use them to portray yourself as a victim, a portrayal with which most people would sympathize in such a circumstance?

        And that’s exactly my point. A humble and decent politician with concerns beyond the pursuit of power (again, a rare bird) would do exactly as you say, but would think twice about taking her family down that road again in the future. An egotistical, self-aggrandizing, and self-deceiving politician interested solely in the pursuit of power? She’d play it to her political advantage to no end.Report

        • Avatar Moff says:

          The best part about the Internet is that it allows the same two people to have three different conversations in one place. 😉

          This comment clears things up a bit for me. I didn’t realize you saw the attacks on her as helping Palin. I get your point, but is that the empirical reality? I think there’s a difference between (a) galvanizing support among her hardcore base, and (b) eliciting sympathy from people who may not support her but think she’s getting a tough rap. If she’s playing the attacks on her to her advantage, right now it looks like a pretty questionable advantage. See here (as you probably already have).

          I just don’t think many people buy the whole “I’m being attacked” story line, and as I said above, I don’t think the threat of media attacks deters decent people from seeking office. I think there are plenty of folks who fall into the category of “I do have things I’d rather not have publicized, but if they do come out, I think I can spin them — and I want this bad enough that I’m willing to take that gamble.”Report

  6. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Palin put that insane story out there that she travelled cross country for over 10 hours leaking amniotic fluid with a high risk pregnancy of a special needs child. It is her responsibility to give a rational explanation, otherwise Sully and anyone else is perfectly justified in thinking she is insane, and therefore a danger to the rest of us citizens, since She has a fanatical following.
    Sully got spoofed because she concealed her pregnancy for seven months. But she easily could have cleared up the controversy with her records.
    Palin remains dangerous to America as long as the elite overlords of the GOP, Krauthammer, Douthat, Kristol, Rush, etc REFUSE to acknowledge Palins profound unfitness. I suspect they are planning to refurbish her for future use. They perpetuate the myth that She just needs some studying and book larnin’, and that She was damaged by the evuul libruul media.
    The terrifying thing about Palin is not her deep and profound unfitness to lead… is the fanaticism of her followers. You and Scott are cut from this same cloth, Mark. You will always excuse Her.

    Suddenly there was a cry of “Hiya! Hiya!” (“She! She!”), and thereupon the entire crowd of spectators instantly precipitated itself upon the ground, and lay still as though it were individually and collectively stricken [brain]dead.

    I give thanks to Allah the Compassionate the Caring for Sully.
    For She will never pass the Gates of Hamunaptra as long as Sully and the Medjai live.

    • I don’t excuse her. For the most part, I ignore her (this post aside). I ignore her because I don’t think she matters particularly much. More importantly, though, I ignore her because I don’t want her to matter, and the best way to make her matter is to pretend like she does.Report

      • Avatar matoko_chan says:

        She mattered. And Dr. K and Ross Imhotep will resurrect her if they can. Never doubt it.
        You think about a person with jesus-take-the-wheel moments being a 72year-old 4x-melanoma survivor heartbeat away from the nuke launch codes. You think about a person that believes there is a department of law that would protect her from lawsuits if she was in the WH.
        She mattered and she still matters and I sure am not going to trust the GOP again until you and Douthat admit it.Report

        • Why would I admit something that would make it possible for you (or anyone) to trust a political party? I would like nothing more than to see the GOP (and Dem Party, for that matter) utterly embarrassed, destroyed, and obliterated.

          If you want Palin to go away, the best way to do it is to marginalize her. The more she is ignored, the less people will care about her. The less people that care about her, the less people that will support her….she’ll fade into oblivion.Report

          • Avatar matoko_chan says:

            No she won’t. Right now she is like the alien shapeshifter in John Carpenter’s The Thing. She just wants to sleep in the cold until she can come roaring back to claim her destiny.
            She represents the death rattle of integrity in the GOP.Report

            • And she can’t come roaring back if no one cares that she’s trying to come roarding back. In order to come roaring back, she needs people to care that she’s trying to come roaring back.Pay her as much attention as people pay Lyndon Larouche, and she’ll get as much attention as we pay Lyndon Larouche.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                If you think the base is going to just forget about her you are as “low information” as she is.
                SarahPAC? You might not care, but that isn’t going to turn the tasp off for her millions of rabid fans.Report

              • 1. You can’t win an election if the only people know about you are your base – especially when that base is shrinking.
                2. Enough of the base will forget about her, or move on to some other ridiculous politician getting more attention. NOt all, or even necessarily most, but some. But keep talking about her personal life, and you’ll keep encouraging the base to help her out.Report

  7. Avatar Bob says:

    Your “just another” argument doesn’t work for me. Palin is/was not just another. She was running for VP on a major party ticket. Setting up false equivalents is shoddy.

    Society has a hierarchy by which it judges worth. Society defines differences with regard to crime. That Palin should face higher scrutiny is not unexpected.

    No, she is/was not “just another.”Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The “higher scrutiny” does not bug me. Lord, would that *ALL* our politicians received higher scrutiny!

      It’s the bullshit scrutiny over bullshit that bugged me.Report

      • Avatar matoko_chan says:

        She put the story out there.
        No one tortured it out of her.
        Sully was right to question it.
        She is a an apparent pathological liar.
        I guess you think, Jaybird, that patholigical liars should have a right to be president too.
        Affirmative action FTW!Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “I guess you think, Jaybird, that patholigical liars should have a right to be president too.”

          This is exactly what I was talking about in that third paragraph.Report

          • Avatar matoko_chan says:

            lol, you act like there is something n/e one COULD do about this. Are you going to force politicians kids to be off limits?
            Just how would you do that?
            Tell yah what jaybird, if you put crazy lies out in the press about your kids, deal with it.
            Palin knew Bristol was preggers and Trig was downs….if she actually put them first, she wouldn’t have run this time. If she actually cared about her party or her country she would have kited back to Alaska when Parker suggested a graceful climbdown for her.
            You guys talk like scrutiny of their lives would keep a GOOD candidate from running. It just seems to screen out the trash.

      • Avatar Bob says:

        Surprise! Your bullshit is not my bullshit.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Yeah. The stuff I focused on was stuff like the corruption of Ted Stevens with regards to appropriations (including, but not limited to, the “bridge to nowhere”), the responsibility of the Federal Government with regards to the bailout, an honest discussion regarding what “victory” might look like in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and the difference between “public good” and “public use” with regards to Kelo. If we really wanted to get feisty, we could discuss exactly how screwed up Scalia’s opinion on Raich was.

          Instead, I read countless posts talking about her ‘gina.

          Indeed. My bullshit is, apparently, not only not your bullshit, it’s the bullshit of precious few.Report

          • Avatar matoko_chan says:

            but that was all she had to talk about…..jaybird….she thinks that there is a DEPARTMENT OF LAW that would protect her from lawsuits if she was president……she had NOTHING.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              It’s like you read my stuff, wish it said something else, then respond to what you wish you had read.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                Jaybird, this post is about Palin.
                That is fine if you wanna talk about serious issues.
                But the ‘gina is all Palin had.
                So in the context of Palin there was simply nothing else to talk about.Report

              • The fact that there was nothing to talk about strikes me as itself being quite worth talking about…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I was under the impression that the thread was about bullshit.

                So, perhaps, your post was more fitting in it than I had originally thought.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                “she is “just another”, I find the opposition to her to be disproportionate to what she actually is.”
                Let me use cw’s analogy–

                There was a slight chance that she would be vice president. The apoplexy was terror-based. It’s like if someone seriously proposes letting a chimpanzee land the passenger jet your traveling in. Your offended that someone would be so reckless with your safety and terrified that your fellow passengers might somehow be persuaded.

                So no….she was not “just another”. She is a deeply unqualified proud ignoramus and pathological liar who could have been one 72year-old-4x-cancersurvivor-heartbeat from the nuke launch codes.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m trying to think of a recent vice-president who wasn’t also a “deeply unqualified proud ignoramus and pathological liar”.

                We probably have different ideas of what “qualifications” for the Presidency are, of course.

                I think that Palin *WAS* qualified to be President, which I’m sure will shock you.

                But, again, we probably have different definitions of “qualified”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Actually, no. Forget that.

                Your posts have been trying to get me to defend, fsvo “defend”, Palin and, again, I don’t see her as particularly interesting. She’s just another frigging politician and your pointing out, no, she’s a “deeply unqualified proud ignoramus and pathological liar” does *NOTHING* to make me see her stand out from the field.

                Your interest in Palin is interesting.

                Palin? Not so much. She’s just another politician.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                “I think that Palin *WAS* qualified to be President, which I’m sure will shock you.”
                Someone that thinks the WH has a “department of law” that will protect her from lawsuits and is stupid enough to lie like a rug on tv is simply not qualified to president.
                She is stupid.
                Why can’t anyone come out and just admit it?Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                And that is the real question at the heart of this post, inspite of you throwing chaff about politician’s personal lives.
                Sure politicians might lie…..but she lies stupidly, when it is obvious she can be factchecked and caught. Her story of Trig’s birth is some sort of lie. Her story about why she resigned is a lie.
                Can a stupid person be elected president?
                And should they?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Native-born, at least 35 years old, lived in the US for the past 14 years…

                I’m not seeing how she’s not qualified.

                Then again… you probably put more import into her job than I do.Report

              • Avatar Travis says:

                John McCain’s running mate had a statistically higher probability of becoming president than any other VP in recent memory. McCain would have been the oldest person ever elected president, and he has a history of life-threatening health issues.

                Therefore, scrutiny upon his vice presidential selection was not only warranted, but demanded. Sarah Palin would have to be ready to step into the presidency and lead the world’s only superpower at a moment’s notice.

                The pick of a ridiculously unqualified running mate whose sum experience in high office was half a term as Alaska governor and who showed herself to be incurious and incapable of discussing issues beyond canned talking points… well, the results are self-evident. She’s wildly unpopular nationally and almost certainly dragged down her ticket.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Travis, no body is arguing that Palin is the bomb diggity.

                No one is arguing that Palin isn’t hugely flawed.

                No one is arguing that Palin shouldn’t be investigated by the press.

                Arguing against people who think that it was uncool to investigate Palin’s ‘gina as if they were arguing that her relationship to the corrupt appropriations process is something that goes beyond the pale does everybody in the argument a disservice.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                Pardon Jaybird, but Sully is an equal opportunity questioner of Palin. You seem to want Plain’s Trig-based lies to be somehow excluded from the referendum of her performance….
                but that won’t happen.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Matoko, can you find *ONE* instance of me complaining about Sullivan investigating something that actually matters?

                If you can’t, could you explain why you’re arguing against me as if I am arguing that?


              • Avatar Bob says:

                Jaybird, Travis, myself and others are arguing against your ridiculous argument, picked-up and modified,? by Mark, that she is “just another.” (See my comment #8.) It’s that simple. And since I reject your argument I said higher scrutiny was legitimate. Travis made excellent points which you ignored.

                I realize you continue to believe Palin is “just another” so why respond with such nonsense as you posted today at 1:12pm. It in no way addressed the issue Travis wrote about.

                “Travis, no body is arguing that Palin is the bomb diggity.”


              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                See, I’m looking back at most of the presidents we’ve had in my lifetime and, yep, pretty much all of them were liars, had delusions of grandeur, threw underlings under the bus the second they feared for their skin, and, to be honest, I don’t see how Obama is significantly different from any of them.

                I don’t see how Palin is significantly different from anybody since, oh, Carter or Ford… and, before that, you could throw Nixon, LBJ, and Kennedy in the “liars, narcissistic, bad person” pile.

                This is not me saying that Palin is good.

                I am comparing her to Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Nixon, LBJ, Kennedy and not seeing how she’s really that much different from any of them… and the people pointing out the lies related to Trig aren’t helping their care and the people pointing out the non-Trig lies aren’t really doing that great of a job differentiating her from the other folks who have held the job.

                She’s just another politician.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                okfine, but the process of meritocracy allows Sully to investigate her outrageous lies.
                She doesn’t get a by.
                I think she is done, anyways.
                I don’t think Krauthammer and Douthat can resurrect her if she doesn’t want it.

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “but the process of meritocracy allows Sully to investigate her outrageous lies.”

                This is an odd thing to point out.

                No one is arguing that Sully needs to be prevented from posting these things.

                Is it projection on your part that immediately follows up reading something like “he ought not do that” with a counter-argument to someone saying “he needs to be prevented!”?

                Dude, I support, 100%, his right to write about whatever the hell he wants.

                I am also in favor of my right to say “dude, that’s cuckoo”.

                That’s the great thing about Liberty.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                oops, this got lost in the nesting.
                Pardon Jaybird, but Sully is an equal opportunity questioner of Palin. You seem to want Plain’s Trig-based lies to be somehow excluded from the referendum of her performance….
                but that won’t happen.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Matoko, can you find *ONE* instance of me complaining about Sullivan investigating something that actually matters?

                If you can’t, could you explain why you’re arguing against me as if I am arguing that?


              • Avatar matoko_chan says:

                This whole post is about how personal attacks on candidates private lives is degrading the quality of politicians.
                I say….it is improving the quality, since a fraud like Plain will be deterred from running in future.

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So, officially, it doesn’t matter what I’m asking or whether my argument is nuanced or what have you?

                You’ll just post whatever you want and, when asked clarification questions, point out that Palin is, in fact, a bad VP choice?

                I’m just trying to hammer this down, here.Report

    • Yes, she was running for VP. She was more scrutinized for more things in her personal life than any VP candidate, ever. My point is that she is, in fact, “just another” politician in terms of her personality.

      Moreover, it would be nice if we recognized that the VP is, in fact, “just another” national political office. Unless that VP’s name was Dick Cheney, the office of VP ranks, I think, pretty well below Speaker of the House, Majority Leader of the Senate, or Chair of any number of committees in the legislature. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be….pretending that it’s more than that, though, probably makes it more than that.

      I’m not saying we should demand less from national politicians. I’m saying that when we make personal lives of national politicians relevant (or help them in their attempt to make those lives relevant), we ensure a crappier crop of national politicians.Report

      • Avatar Bob says:

        “Many/most/all (take your pick) politicians, especially on the national level, are egomaniacal, self-aggrandizing, self-deceiving jerks. This is, in many ways, the nature of being a national politician who gets to soak in the spotlight. Some degree of these traits is, indeed, a prerequisite for anyone who seeks that amount of fame and power over others. Palin, I’m sure, has them in spades, but this hardly makes her uniquely dangerous or uniquely symptomatic of the problem.”

        “…we ensure a crappier crop of national politicians.”

        Well, they seem pretty crappy already going by your description. WTF, I guess they could always go for “crappiest.”

        But your reasserting she is “just another” forces me to reassert “bogus” and “false equivalent.”

        This is a lot of fun. NOT!Report

      • Avatar matoko_chan says:

        Like I said, no we don’t.
        Scrutinly is going to ensure the GOP doesn’t front a horroshow like Palin again. And the sooner you can admit, my little conservo droogies, the sooner the healing can begin.Report

  8. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Guess what else my little conservo droogies?
    This will make for a far better class of politicians.
    I betcha the next party figurehead the GOP plucks from obscurity will actually have some policy chops, be able to cite a few books….. and….like Caesar’s wife, be above reproach.

    Sully FTW!Report

  9. Avatar mike farmer says:

    We also need to consider what Sullivan’s hiding. How do we know he’s not hunting moose on those secret trips I’m suggesting he’s taken?Report

  10. Avatar Katherine says:

    Finally, let me say that I am non-plussed by the idea that the relentless investigation of Palin is justified because of how close she came to the Vice-Presidency and because it shows the cynicism of the McCain campaign. The fact is, everyone knew he was going to be a big underdog in the general election.

    But now there’s talk of her running for president. And that does justify focusing on her (though not on her family) and her flaws, because she is in so many respects similar to Bush except for being exponentially worse. She is ignorant, unintelligent, incurious, stubborn, and has a victim mentality and an inability to acknowledge when she is wrong.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yes, but you defended her earlier in the thread.

      Why do you love her so much? Is it because you handle snakes at your own church?Report

    • I’ve got little problem focusing on her qualifications, demeanor, positions, and ability to communicate those positions (though using that as an indictment of McCain when the election was 9 months ago seems pretty silly). I just find it particularly counterproductive to focus on things like whether she lied about some detail of her personal life, or at least some detail of her life that only a politician would make public.

      To be sure, I think focusing on her at all – even the stuff that is and should be relevant – probably only helps her in the long run in the sense that it keeps her in the public eye rather than fading into oblivion. But that’s a separate issue about which I’m not terribly concerned one way or another. On the issue that I am concerned about – getting a less-crappy set of politicians – focusing on those types of questions is completely healthy and, I’d say, necessary.Report

  11. Avatar Kyle says:

    Couldn’t agree with your main point more, we sustain an environment inhospitable for decent people and then wonder why we get so many liars and crooks.

    Though there’s something I’ve been wondering and I’m bringing it up because Mark mentions this head on when he says,

    Many/most/all (take your pick) politicians, especially on the national level, are egomaniacal, self-aggrandizing, self-deceiving jerks. This is, in many ways, the nature of being a national politician who gets to soak in the spotlight. Some degree of these traits is, indeed, a prerequisite for anyone who seeks that amount of fame and power over others.

    Is there something particularly pernicious about power hungry politicians as opposed to a much larger, more influential class of power hungry sith lords people outside of the halls of bad government?

    I mean so many people off-handedly dismiss all politicians as snakes, crooks, horrible people, etc….(but love their Congressman) because of their supposed power? But just how powerful is say Michele Bachmann or Heath Shuler? How about a random state legislator in Vermont? I’d imagine the three of them combined have less “power” than Andy Stern, Randi Weingarten, or Beverly LaHaye

    Yet somehow we charitably treat the head of the SEIU or Concerned Women of America to be well decent, respectable advocates for their causes and supporters and somehow immune to the allure of the power that comes with their positions?

    I’m sure part of this comes from the fact that I live in California where term limits have had the (perhaps foreseeable) effect of turning staffers and lobbyists into a powerful shadow government in Sacramento.

    It just seems like politicians are remarkably powerless for being so allegedly power-hungry. Though, to be fair, people make stupid choices all the time. However, it just seems like between the legal requirements of public servitude service and personal costs (see Palin, Sarah; Clintons, The; Jefferson, Thomas) there doesn’t seem to be a whole lotta benefit.Report

  12. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Lol, perhaps this is more accurate….
    I guess then Mark might be more correct that Palin is just a petty grifter that has gotten by on her looks, until Team McCain and the conservative sith lords tapped her for national office.
    I especially liked the personality disorder that forces her to lie constantly.
    That makes sense.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Moving down here for clarity.

    I cannot speak for Mark but I will break down my baseline to see if it helps all y’all at all.

    Most politicians on the national stage earn, pretty much, an F from me.

    When it comes to the Legislative Branch, I am a huge fan of the 10th Amendment. There are a lot of things that I just don’t think ought to be the business of the Federal Government. It should be left up to The States (if not The People!). We have a Legislative Branch, however, that believes that pretty much everything is covered by Interstate Commerce (or General Welfare). We have a Supreme Court that is, quite often, downright awful. “Surprisingly not bad” is as good as we can hope for. When it comes to the Executive Branch… oh, goodness. What a mess that is. The priorities of the Justice Department have been downright awful for decades and decades. The number of vetoes sorely lacking. I honestly doubt that the Executive reads the bills he signs and probably hasn’t read one much longer than “Congress has resolved it that The United States would like to officially wish Margaret Thatcher a Happy Birthday.” It seems that the only time an Executive has ever mentioned the limits of his own powers is when he wishes to pander to two groups at once.

    And, for the most part, any one of these politicians can be exchanged for another and, apart from accent, there’s really no difference between them. The vast, vast majority of them deserve an F.

    Sarah Palin?

    She’s just another one.

    Now when you try to argue against this argument of mine, please understand that I’m not particularly interested in how she’s a liar. I know she’s a liar.

    She’s a politician.

    I’m not particularly interested in how she’s intellectually incurious, loves power, and would (insert awful thing here) to further her own ends.

    I know she would.

    She’s just another politican.

    The arguments trying to explain to me that, no, she’s *SPECIAL* and she’s especially a liar, especially incurious, especially wicked…

    Well, again. I haven’t seen anything that particularly sets her apart from the pack.

    And the Trig Truthers have done you non-Truthers a disservice because those of you who wish to focus on, say, Palin’s excesses as Governor and her ethics problems are unfairly lumped in with those guys.

    But when you point out that she’s got ethics problems… well, of course she does. She’s just another politician. I’m hesitant to rattle off a list of sins committed in the last year by politicians because I’m sure that such a list would be read as “BUT THEY DO IT TOO!” when, instead, my argument is “she’s just another politician, like most of them”. I won’t subject you to that.

    But the arguments that she’s somehow special ring as hollow to my ears as the arguments from the Republican base that she’s somehow special.


    She’s just another politician.Report

    • Avatar Moff says:

      Dude. You can say all you want that “Politicians are X, and Sarah Palin is also X, and therefore, Sarah Palin is just another politician.” But it fails to acknowledge the empirically observable reality that Sarah Palin is not just another politician. Not every politician is tapped for the second-highest office in the U.S. Not every politician enjoys supporters who express sentiments as frankly and justifiably disturbing to mainstream 21st-century American sensibilities as hers have. And not every politician gets as much attention from the news media as she has.

      Sorry. I understand the point you and Mark are trying to make. But I get quickly fed up with this sort of laconic “Settle down; here’s the reality” attitude when it doesn’t correspond to reality. It may be true that Sarah Palin is not more objectively worthy than other politicians of the attention that’s been lavished on her; but after the fact of said lavishment, it’s silly to say she’s just the same. In this sort of case, the attention she’s received makes her different.

      And since I think Mark might jump in now and say that this helps prove his point — that what we ought to do is pay less attention to Sarah Palin — let me add that I tentatively agree with that sentiment, in theory, but that since I don’t think the rest of the world is going to stop paying attention to Sarah Palin, and I don’t think our discussions on this blog are going to have a meaningful impact on the net attention paid to Sarah Palin, and I’m not even sure it’s possible to just up and argue, in the case of something as big as the Western news media, that we stop paying attention to Sarah Palin or anything else to any practical effect, I’m going to keep arguing that the best option is to continue making the case that Sarah Palin is an unfit person to lead any portion of the United States.

      That is all. I’m going to dinner now.Report

      • Avatar matoko_chan says:

        Jaybird can argue all he wants that Palin is just another politician, but what other politician ever nominated would flunk a high school government class on basic knowledge and got refusal of follow-on questions in a nationally televised debate as part of her consenting to participate?
        Sully helped to bring her down, and I’m grateful.

        Drastic circumstances require drastic actions.
        Palin could have a televised three-way with Douthat and Lowry or perform an exorcism of congress or speak in tongues in a national debate and her base would say she was driven to it by the evuul librul elitist media, or that we don’t “understand” what she is “really saying”….. or that she can say it n/e way because she is “non-elite” and “genuine” and represents “real ‘merica”.
        Her “base” is the leftside of the bellcurve of IQ, the traditional conservative pool of low information voters that can be scammed into anything with dogwhistle race-baiting and IQ-baiting.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “Not every politician is tapped for the second-highest office in the U.S.”

        While this is true, I suppose, I am not arguing that she oughtn’t be scrutinized. Sure. I approved of the added scrutiny… when she was the vice-presidential nominee. Unfortunately, instead of getting discussions of stuff like fiscal policy, or defense policy, all I got were discussions of social policy… and not “should we have laws that say X” but “can you believe her kid got knocked up?”

        Even now, when her moment has passed and the GOP is flailing, people are beating the crap out of her for stupid reasons at the same time as reasons that are, pretty much, relevant… or would be, if her position weren’t analagous to John Edwards’. She’s got a devoted core of folks out there, sure. Personally, I see it as representative of the flailing the GOP is doing rather than representative of her, necessarily.

        “Not every politician enjoys supporters who express sentiments as frankly and justifiably disturbing to mainstream 21st-century American sensibilities as hers have.”

        True enough. Let’s keep it on a presidential wannabe level, then. Obama, HRC, McCain, Edwards, Romney, Huckabee (shudder)… I’m not seeing much of a difference. Her followers remind me of Steelers fans… as do most people who cheer (seriously!!! CHEER!!!) a guy running for president.

        “And not every politician gets as much attention from the news media as she has.”

        Eh. The ones running for VP tend to get a little more. Even now, the media was talking about her because the GOP was talking about her… and because Michael Jackson had not yet died. It’s easier to do stories about Palin than, say, Iran. Or the G8. Or anything, except Michael Jackson, really.

        Honestly, I’ve got the thought that I can’t believe people are still talking about her ringing in my head… and if people are talking about her because other people are talking about her (or because other people are talking about other people are talking about people who are talking about her), then I’m doubly confused.

        I mean, seriously. Edwards had a kid out of wedlock while his wife was getting cancer treatments and didn’t get this much scrutiny outside of the Enquirer. I’m honestly not seeing what makes Palin so friggin’ special.Report

        • Avatar matoko_chan says:

          NO ……people are beating the crap out of her because the chimpanzee cannot be allowed to try to land the plane!
          Not now, not never.Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      The argument Jaybird and Mark offer is essentially a nihilistic one, they, politicians, are all the same, therefore we, the voters, have no rational basis on which to judge them. Palin equals Hitler equals Reagan equals Mandela equals McCarthy equals Lincoln……

      Okay, let’s say Jaybird and Mark are correct, politicians are all alike, “just the same.” Where does that leave the ideal of representative democracy? Up that creek with no paddle, that’s where. The voter can only throw-up there arms, why bother, they are all the same. Jaybird laments the lack of voters. Well, given the situation he describes, isn’t that the rational decision? Why bother to vote?

      Perhaps J and M subscribe to some sort of ethical nihilism, a rejection of all current social institutions. They must be destroyed in order to make way for something new. Well, that would not fit in very well with their self-avowed conservatism so I think we can rule that out. So what is the answer? Oh yeah, I know, small/limited government. And that government is made-up of politicians, close to the people, that are just as venal as everyone else. Yikes! Oh, the humanity! Turn your face to the Lord people, there we will find salvation.

      No, I reject the argument.

      One *last* word on Palin-Sullivan.

      Sullivan beats her like that rented mule and I’m happy he does.

      Jaybird, thanks for moving, a wise choice.

      But I guess I could assert, post up “there” or down “here” it’s all the same.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “Jaybird laments the lack of voters.”

        I do? We have plenty of voters. The problem is that the voters agree with the politicians when it comes to such things as “rights”. If you asked any given person to name the first 10 Amendments, they would probably be able to rattle off that the 1st was “freedom of speech” and the 2nd was “guns”. Beyond that… I’m not particularly sure that the average person could name what the amendments are… let alone why they would be included and whether or not the government takes them seriously. If you got down to it, I am pretty sure you’d see how they’d explain how each one doesn’t mean *THAT* and they’d evicerate the Amendments just as the government has.

        And so we have plenty of voters who don’t really believe in Rights voting for politicians who don’t really believe in them.

        *THAT* is my problem. It has precious little to do with a lack of voters.Report

      • No. At least as far I’m concerned, this is about putting an end to something that, in my view, encourages the creation of more Palins, etc. Politicians should be scrutinized – for things like experience, policy, etc. Scrutinizing their personal lives – no matter how much they bring those personal lives into issue – plays right into their hands. It’s not about giving up – it’s about no longer playing their game.

        Every single time Palin’s personal life has been brought into the picture, whether in a positive or negative light, support for her intensifies. I submit this is not unintentional.Report

        • Avatar matoko_chan says:

          “support for her intensifies”
          But only among her hardcore supporters….support for her declined among her own party elite and among independents with each of these revelations. Your observation is patently false based on empirical data.

          I think she is bent on making a third party.
          We shall see.Report

  14. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    I’m right and Jaybird is wrong…..again.
    Thing is…growing up, I thought conservatives were the good guys.
    Palin just exposed the evil snake oil.
    Palin represents a desire to retain power so all consuming that the good of the country or the GOP was naught. The only salvation for the GOP is to call her out for what she is.
    Split the party and die to be reborn from the ashes.
    Choose the light.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      This is totally what I was talking about in the 3rd paragraph.

      And I don’t see how a Michael Jackson/Sarah Palin mashup opinion piece by Frank Rich would count as proof of anything except as proof for the decline of the NYT opinion pages.Report

      • Avatar matoko_chan says:

        One more time…..Palin is not just another politician.
        71% of the republican party thinks she should be president.
        You need to get the base off the Palin-crack.
        The reason is college-educated young people like meh.
        A tribe without reps cannot survive.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The Republicans survived Goldwater.

          They will survive Palin.

          And, if they can’t, they’ll crash/burn and a new party will take their place and try to peel interest groups off of the Dems.

          Or, hell, it may even run on a “seriously, fiscal conservativism!” platform.Report

  15. Avatar Rob in CT says:

    Sarah Palin represents a strain of US politics that I, personally, find deeply disturbing and scary. I think Sullivan has the same reaction. Hence his fixation.

    I do agree with the point you’ve made about decent people seeking high office. It’s true: our political system leads to self-selection that provides us with bad candidates.

    Palin really did use her family as a prop for her campaign. But this is not particularly unusual. All pols use their families at least a little bit. BECAUSE IT WORKS. And that, friends, is the root problem. Policies? BOOOOOORING. Give us a feel-good personal interest story instead!

    Notice how a network covering (for instance) a MLB playoff game will – in the middle of the freaking game – cut away for a “personal interest” story about the scrappy second baseman who blah blah blah overcame adversity blah blah mom died of cancer when he was 12 blah blah. Nevermind, you know, the ongoing GAME.Report