Wednesday, September 17, 2008

American Idol Candidate

I don't normally like to simply reprint chain emails that I receive. For one thing, I prefer to know the source of material that I copy or cite. For another thing, I usually try to check the facts before printing them. An email that I received yesterday, however, is interesting enough to reprint here, even though I don't know the actual source. The subject line for this email was "The American Idol Candidate":

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

  • If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."
  • Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.
  • If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
  • Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.
  • Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
  • Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.
  • If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
  • If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
  • If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
  • If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.
  • If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
  • If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.
  • If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
  • If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

Interestingly, while trying to track down the source of that email, I came across an interesting essay from Roger Ebert, movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times that was also entitled The American Idol Candidate:

I think I might be able to explain some of Sarah Palin's appeal. She's the "American Idol" candidate. Consider. What defines an "American Idol" finalist? They're good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they're darned near the real thing. There's a reason "American Idol" gets such high ratings. People identify with the contestants. They think, Hey, that could be me up there on that show!

My problem is, I don't want to be up there. I don't want a vice president who is darned near good enough. I want a vice president who is better, wiser, well-traveled, has met world leaders, who three months ago had an opinion on Iraq. Someone who doesn't repeat bald- faced lies about earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Someone who doesn't appoint Alaskan politicians to "study" global warming, because, hello! It has been studied. The returns are convincing enough that John McCain and Barack Obama are darned near in agreement.

I would also want someone who didn't make a teeny little sneer when referring to "people who go to the Ivy League." When I was a teen I dreamed of going to Harvard, but my dad, an electrician, told me, "Boy, we don't have the money. Thank your lucky stars you were born in Urbana and can go to the University of Illinois right here in town." So I did, very happily. Although Palin gets laughs when she mentions the "elite" Ivy League, she sure did attend the heck out of college.

Five different schools in six years. What was that about?

And how can a politician her age have never have gone to Europe? My dad had died, my mom was working as a book-keeper and I had a job at the local newspaper when, at 19, I scraped together $240 for a charter flight to Europe. I had Arthur Frommer's $5 a Day under my arm, started in London, even rented a Vespa and drove in the traffic of Rome. A few years later, I was able to send my mom, along with the $15 a Day book.

You don't need to be a pointy-headed elitist to travel abroad. You need curiosity and a hunger to see the world. What kind of a person (who has the money) arrives at the age of 44 and has only been out of the country once, on an official tour to Iraq? Sarah Palin's travel record is that of a provincial, not someone who is equipped to deal with global issues.

But some people like that. She's never traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America or Down Under? That makes her like them. She didn't go to Harvard? Good for her! There a lot of hockey moms who haven't seen London, but most of them would probably love to, if they had the dough. And they'd be proud if one of their kids won a scholarship to Harvard.

I trust the American people will see through Palin, and save the Republic in November. The most damning indictment against her is that she considered herself a good choice to be a heartbeat away. That shows bad judgment.

Ebert has touched upon a number of the feelings about Gov. Palin that I've been trying to express over the last few weeks. When I read Ebert's essay, I finally remembered what Gov. Palin's nomination most reminds me of. Remember when President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court? The President told us that Thomas was the best person available, but did anyone really believe that? After all, Thomas was largely unknown and did not even receive a unanimous "qualified" from the American Bar Association. But Thomas was: (a) an African-American being nominated to replace Thurgood  Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court, and (b) a conservative. Maybe Thomas was the best conservative African-American available, but he certainly was not the best person available. That's exactly how I feel about Gov. Palin. She may be the best conservative woman available (and, frankly, I'm not even about to concede that...), but she is certainly not the best person available.

President Bush chose Thomas because of his race. I don't think that anyone being intellectually honest with themselves would dispute that. And Sen. McCain chose Gov. Palin because of her gender. When the nomination of people to serve on the Supreme Court or in the office of the Vice President stops being about true qualifications and starts to be about racial or gender politics, then we all suffer because rather than having the best, most qualified people serving our nation, we instead end up with people with dubious qualifications so that particular demographic cohorts can be placated or pandered to. America is supposed to be about the best and brightest; it is not supposed to be about the best and brightest of the right race or right gender or right religion. American democracy is about ideas not skin color or genitalia.

I lost a lot of respect for President Bush when he nominated Clarence Thomas. As I said yesterday, I lost the last of the little remaining respect that I had for Sen. McCain when he nominated Sarah Palin. Sen. McCain's refrain of "America First" means very little and, in fact, rings totally hollow, when he dives into the gutter to play gender politics. By choosing a running mate on the basis of her gender rather than her qualifications, Sen. McCain is telling us that he is more concerned with being elected than with the fate of the country. And isn't that precisely what Sen. McCain criticized Sen. Obama about with regard to Sen. Obama's views on the war? Sen. McCain said that Sen. Obama would rather lose the war than lose the election. It is clear to me that Sen. McCain would rather hurt our country than lose an election.

Over the last few weeks, we've seen that Sen. McCain will do absolutely anything to get elected; he has nominated an unqualified person, he is having his campaign work diligently to stop an ethics inquiry into that candidate, and he is lying to the American people, day in and day out about virtually any and every subject. Sen. McCain wants to be President and it appears that he will leave no dirty trick unplayed to get there. Sen. McCain talks about change; he has certainly changed from an honorable man to just another politician willing to lie and cheat to get elected. The military hero who likes to talk about honor should now be hanging his head in shame for the campaign that he is now running is shameful and making of mockery of the democratic process and ideals that are the foundations of our nation.

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