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Advertise on the Tentacle

July 20, 2009

Maverickism and mistakes

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Yes, dear reader, the first word in the title is not actually a real word. No, you won't find it in spell check or even the new slang version of the dictionary. Not yet, at least.


Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has decided to resign her seat in the next week. She leaves a little more than halfway through her term, destined for a national stage from which to help conservative candidates get their message out to the American people.


Not exactly sure what that means, but it is an intriguing thought. She garners national media attention, mostly because middle and rural America find her reflective of their views and priorities, and urban and elite America consider her homey style and plain-spoken dialect odd and discomforting.


No other politician grabbed the attention of our national television outlets as did Governor Palin. HBO comedian Bill Maher calls her physical appearance "slutty flight attendant." CBS late night host David Letterman took on her pregnant daughter. NBC Saturday Night Live found a wonderful caricature in actress Tina Fey, right down to the wink and the lipstick.


At the same time New York and Los Angeles media-types were laughing about how out-of-touch this shotgun-toting, fishing pole hoisting, homespun woman was, people who live in areas separated by miles of corn fields were marveling at her charm, honesty, and most importantly, her values.


Values are a big part of this. Those who see in Sarah Palin a reflection of the things they believe in already feel abandoned by the politicians in Washington, especially the current crop of D.C. denizens. Conversely, those who not only voted for President Barack Obama also probably voted to strengthen the House and Senate Democratic majorities. To them, she is essentially a punch line, nothing more.


Sarah Palin is a lot of things. She is an attractive woman. She is a mother of four; her eldest son is currently deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Her youngest son has Down's Syndrome. She has governed her state during a challenging time, and has a number of laudable achievements to tout, particularly in the area of budget and finance. She fought for energy exploration as an antidote to rising gas prices and foreign oil dependence. She advocates for hunters and sportsmen, as her husband is a commercial fisherman and she is an amateur outdoor sports enthusiast.


She also was responsible for the highest spike in Sen. John McCain's approval rating during his failed bid for the presidency last year. The McCain campaign was best described as sluggish before Governor Palin was announced as his running mate, and the numbers stayed high until Ms. Palin started having trouble with major media outlet interviews.


That trouble exposed her lack of preparation for the national political spotlight. Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and Charlie Gibson consider it a crowning achievement to hang a Palin pelt from a pole, and they gave her televised skinning their best effort.


It doesn't matter to Red State America, though. They don't trust the national network anchors anymore. Impartiality is no longer an expectation on either side of the ideological fence. Conservatives get their news exclusively from Rush Limbaugh, Fox and the Wall Street Journal; liberals turn to cable television's MSNBC, network news and The New York Times for their daily news intake.


So, Governor Palin leaves office, and embarks on a book-writing exercise that will net her millions. Maybe a spot in the Fox network galaxy of talkers will be good for the kind of wealth accumulation that helps fuel a future presidential run. Regardless, instead of hearing less from Sarah Palin, it appears her recent actions are designed to facilitate a larger stage and a louder microphone.


Mistake? We'll see! Time will surely tell.


Speaking of mistakes, how about the Senate Health Committee action on July 15 to pass – along party lines – a sweeping healthcare access initiative involving a huge tax increase on wealthy individuals and small business owners?


One of the most complex and contentious issues facing the Congress during this term, and the Senate committee rams through a sweeping bill loaded with new taxes in the middle of the oft-cited "worst economic conditions since the Great Depression." Are progressives so politically tone deaf that they ignore the very chant they used to defeat the Republicans?


They saddled Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign with the Bush Administration economic policies, screaming about job loss, Wall Street excesses, and unregulated markets. Now, to answer calls from their own base, they take an axe to the job-creating machine of small business with tax increases and punitive mandates.


Spare the Obama mythology about how adding to the tax burden now will save us money later. It might. What it won't stop is the loss of jobs across this country. Employers, faced with mandates versus penalties, will further trim workforces at exactly the wrong time.


The biggest quibble isn't over whether we should reform healthcare. We should! The argument is over a 1,000 page bill, impacting Medicare, prescription drugs, long-term care, physician reimbursement, and individual/employer mandates and penalties, being rushed through the Congress simply because the president has decided that a bill needs to pass before the summer recess.


The Congress is looking to head out for vacation for the whole month of August, yet they'll have time in the next two weeks to absorb the full implications of this sweeping policy change. Yeah, right!


That, dear readers, is a monumental mistake.


[Editor’s Note: Two committees in the House of Representatives last week also voted in favor of the House version of President Barack Obama’s health care initiative.]


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