Wednesday, January 12, 2011

President Obama vs. Sarah Palin

President Obama gave a soaring speech at the Univesity of Arizona that was part sermon, part eulogy, and part thank you to the heroes who emerged from the tragedy. I was truly moved by his words. It struck a remarkable balance of appropriate sadness, honor, and hope for the future. I won't go into details but I would encourage people to watch replays of the speech.

It was a moment of clear presidential leadership that demonstrates his enormous talents as a communicator. He has the ability to rise up as the President and deliver for the entire country.

On the same day as this moving memorial that featured a wide range of speakers, Sarah Palin released her ridiculously inappropriate video defending herself and her violent imagery. For Sarah Palin it is always about Sarah Palin. She wants everyone to think she is a victim. I don't think she is evil, and I don't think she means to be an idiot - she just is. Her tone deafness to the meaning of the day and her ignorance about the term "blood libel" was just astounding.

Can you imagine the kind of nonsense that she would spew out if she were President? It was stunningly small and again showed how weak she is.


Unknownprofessor said...


I'll address the other issues later (got a conference deadline to meet, and it's hard on me), but Palin's usage of the term "Blood Libel" was not improper. While originally used to refer to accusations about Jews defacing the Eucharist, it has broadened in it's meaning. Here's a recent quote from Harvard Law Prof Alan Dershowitz (not someone who you'd typically peg as a Palin supporter):

"The term “blood libel” has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People,its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term."

As an aside, I grew up Catholic in a fairly redneck/white trashy Italian Immigrant mill town. So, I'd heard the actual historical usage of it (by my parish priest, and by some relatives. But I

Here are a few recent examples:
-Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, who said (in 2008) that "the Pittsburgh hoax was “the blood libel against black men""

- The Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Mikey Weinstein in 2008 described (ironically) Sarah Palin's comments about profiling Muslims as "blood libel"

- Democrat Peter Deutsch (on Crossfire in 2008) taling about the recount:
"Let me just talk a little bit about the whole, I guess, spin from the Republicans about — which has been to me the absolute most — the worst statements I have ever heard probably in my life about anything. I mean, almost a blood libel by the Republicans towards Al Gore, saying that he was trying to stop men and women in uniform that are serving this country from voting."

As for Palin's timing, given the accusations that have been put forth, she was placed in an unenviable positions - keep silent and let the accusations stand or defend herself. She took the latter, and I thought she did well (at least as far as trying to influence people who haven't already made up their minds - her dretractors will hate it, and her supporters love it).

I'm pretty sick of people turning a tragedy into an opportunity to score political points (on BOTH sides of the aisle).

All that said, I'd say that Obama did a pretty good job in his speech. Given I'm not a fan of his in any manner, shape or form, that probably means he did a very good job.

Rob said...

I don't think your definition of "Blood Libel" is correct, but yoiu do say it broadened so I am not sure. Here is a link to the meaning - perhaps you know - but your definition makes it seem like it is not a big deal.

Definition aside, I don't know all the other cases you are citing, but I don't see any relevance because moral equivalence is not an acceptable excuse.

The term by itself is offensive, foolish, and unnecessary especially in the context in which it was said - on the day of a memorial honoring those who died at the hands of a crazy dude trying to kill a Jewish congresswoman.

But my criticism is not just the use of the term - it was her "I'm the real victim of this tragedy" nonsense. It's always about her.

She loves to inflame with her rhetoric but then whines when people criticize her. She quit as governor because it was too tough, and she wants to be President? Here was an opportunity to show herself to be presidential and what did she do? She hosted a personal pity party from her living room, on a day when there were far bigger issues. Nothing new from Sarah Palin.

Unknownprofessor said...


Done with the first paper I'm submitting, so I thought I'd take some time and respond to the response (here we go again...)

I'm well aware of the original meaning of the term. My comments were only about how the original meaning had (see my reference to Dershowitz, who I really can;t stand - goes to show, blind squirrels and acorns).

Palin's use of the term(while correct)was ill-chosen, since it detracted from her main point. But given how she was put forth as the proximate cause of the shooting by many (a pretty strong accusation), she almost HAD to respond. And if she disagreed, she had to defend herself. I think she did that, and well (but I'm sure you'll disagree. Ah well - neither the first nor last time that'll happen).

She and Obama had different jobs - his was to bring the country together. Other than some minor quibbles about doing it at a venue that seemed to me like the start of a campaign (with t-shirts, yet), I think he generally hit the right tone.

OTOH, it's not Palin's job to bring the nation together - she'd just spent four days being held responsible for a despicable crime she had nothing to do with.

If Palin had given a speech like Obama, she would probably have been attacked for overstepping her bounds (Who the hell is SHE for trying to upstage Obama!? She's not the President) or for ignoring her "responsibility" for the shooting (Sure it was elevated in tone but where's the apology?)

No one should be expected to take the crap she took with out setting the record straight.

In the end though, no one ever compares well with a President. Think of the State of the Union and the response. The poor schuck who gets stuck with the response always looks small by comparison. The Presidency is huge.

My biggest objection is that so many use a tragedy like this to score political points (on each side). Give the poor families of the victims some space, for decency's sake. Bring it up again in a week or so when they've had a bit of time to process. As you know, I know a bit about grief. And stuff like this makes me want to go buy a gun (I keed, I keed).

Rob said...

Even if you say her job was to defend herself and we blame her speech writer was bad, you have to agree that her timing was bad.

If she wants to actually be President (I don't think she actually wants to be President. I think she just wants to run for President so she can stay in the public eye and keep her supporters interested in her so she can make money) then she needs to be presidential at some point. She cannot seem to find it within herself to actually talk about something other than herself.

Palin loves being a flame-thrower but appears too sensitive for criticism directed toward herself - that is why she quit being governor.

If Obama had hosted pity parties when Palin said he was "palling around with terrorists" and that he wanted to create "death panels" he would have shown himself to be unworthy of the presidency - that is what she has done.

If people want to follow Palin as their leader that is up to them. She shows no characteristics of a leader - but I will say she is one heck of a self-promoter.

Rob said...

I will say one thing - she defended herself well for people who support her. She stayed true to character with her consistent theme of whining about being a victim of the big bad media.

However, if her 22 percent approval rating actually falls - it certainly is not rising after her video performance - I don't see how anyone could argue that it was effective.

Unknownprofessor said...
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