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Pulling the Pin on the Palin Grenade

McCain and his lobbyist-heavy campaign team have lobbed the grenade named Sarah Palin into this year’s political combat. While they will go to great lengths to protect the young governor from close scrutiny by the press or Obama/Biden, I think it will be hard to keep her leashed and on script. Her extreme religious zealotry includes a righteous streak that is clear in her record in Wasilla and Juneau, and even in the town halls with carefully selected crowds, I expect she will define herself in ways that will drive up her negatives in the polls.

But Palin is connecting with some Republicans who were lukewarm about McCain. On a hot Saturday night, we made Mojitos and BBQ for our neighbors Hank and Gail, who define themselves as low-tax, small government Republicans; they soured on Bush only in the last year or two, and have the fear of Dems and Libs you get from regular exposure to Fox News and conservative talkradio. They buy into the concoction the GOP served up in St. Paul—that McCain and Palin are peacemongers and reformers, and that the liberal media will try to destroy her.

I mentioned that I thought the McCain team was employing the strategy used by diehard Hillary supporters at the end of the primary; even though it was clear she could not beat Obama, a group funded by a San Francisco millionaire ran ads portraying Sen. Clinton as a victim of sexism and misogyny. The GOP has played the victim card almost from the introduction of Gov. Palin, and their talking points demonize the media for “attacks” that have been mild and reasonable, and often based on family matters that clearly conflict with Republican ideals of “family values”. Giuliani and Palin both took big swipes at the media in rhetorical brushbacks that have, unfortunately, intimidated much of the media.

But Hank changed the subject to his biggest concern, which is Obama’s connection to Rev. Wright and Black Liberation Theology. His indictment was rich in the disinformation that is Sean Hannity’s signature product, and included, of course, the out of context soundbite “God Damn America”. While Hank conceded that the quote was way out of context, his outrage was undiminished. So I made the point that Wright is not running for president, but that Palin’s own comments that mix religion and politics were “chilling” to me. This put Hank over the top—he had seen the same video on YouTube, and found her comments quite acceptable, even the part about the war in Iraq being one of “God’s tasks”. My comparison of his candidate’s religious extremism to that of Obama’s former pastor was way out of line; he said he couldn’t listen to me anymore, and got up to clear the dishes.

I see Sarah Palin as an updated Spiro Agnew in a skirt. Her injection into this campaign will enhance the fearmongering and division that have been effective GOP tools in recent years, and if Hank and Gail are any indication, many Republicans and some independents are ready to buy the incredible package they are being sold: a 25-year veteran of Washington who will extend our sorry status quo has repackaged himself as the reformer who is running against Washington and his own party.

We have a lot of work to do, and we can start by pressing the corporate media to provide full, honest coverage of Palin and not allow her to avoid scrutiny and contact with the media.