Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Shoot the Messenger

That would be me, and all my colleagues here. All 16,000 of them.

Yesterday, the Republicans had Talking Points. Today, they've got angry words. Tomorrow, they may break out the sharp sticks. Or perhaps they'll borrow the bags of human waste the protesters are flinging at people, and throw them at us. Except they might hit conservative talker Sean Hannity, who's sitting right behind and above me, and that would be tragic, so we're probably safe.

Privately worried about the implosion of John McCain's vice presidential pick, and the way the Sarah Palin Story has been playing across the country, the Republican Party launched an all-out offensive today against The Media. People hate us anyway, so we're easy targets. The high-level surrogates spread out across the Twin Cities like a flock of angry parrots, armed with loaded words like "sexist," "offensive," "disgusting" and "woman-hating." Orrin Hatch showed up at the California breakfast and read us the riot act. He told me that questioning Palin's experience or record is "dismissive of women." Former Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina denounced us all for portraying Palin as a "showhorse instead of a workhorse," saying we've described her as a "nice little girl...a good cheerleader." If anyone can find a clip where any of us said anything of the kind, please forward it to me.

Over on Fox News, the anchors are clucking sympathetically, asking supposed Hillary Clinton-supporting Democratic women to explain for viewers how deeply offended they are by the Palin-bashing, and how Sarah's going through exactly what Hillary suffered.

Personally, I find sexist (and offensive) the assumption that any close examination of Palin's record has something to do with her gender. With the exception of the pregnant daughter scandal, Governor Palin is being treated exactly the way Dan Quayle was when George H.W. Bush sprung him from obscurity (where I believe he now resides again) back in 1988. It was the same sort of feeding frenzy - who? is he qualified? he's how young? what about this Vietnam scandal? - born of the presidential nominee's desire to choose a next-generation running mate, to shake things up with a surprise pick who would broaden his demographic appeal. That's exactly what McCain did, so he can't really be surprised by the reaction. Palin's record, and her lack of experience, are absolutely fair game. Barack Obama's are too, but he's been running for president for two years, and has been vetted by the American people. A majority of the largest political party in the country has decided he's fit for the presidency. In November, the rest will weigh in. But no voter has had a chance to evaluate Palin yet, and it's our job to dig up as much information on her as possible, to help them make an intelligent assessment. The good, the bad, the moose-slaughtering...whatever's out there.

Now I've heard the backstage buzz here, and I've talked with some Republican operatives off the record, and many of them are as bothered by the Palin nomination as the most ardent Democratic blogger. They see it as purely political, cynical pandering even, and they think McCain may have just lost the election. So, in classic GOP style, they're going on the attack - and it may just work. At the very least, it will buy them some time, close the gap in the polls by a point or two, until Palin gives her speech tonight, which I wager will be quite good and delivered well. Then McCain goes for the jugular tomorrow night, and they bring this race back to a statistical dead heat, at least for a few days. In the meantime, they are force-feeding the governor through a giant policy hose, and they will hope she digests as much as she can before her first news conference (exactly when will that happen?) and her debate with Joe Biden, which is a month away.

Palin's speech was written by Matt Scully, a Christian conservative vegan animal rights activist who used to write for Bush and Cheney and now works for McCain, so we'll have to see how he squares his own attitudes on the human place in the food chain with Palin's. I hope he didn't squat on the grizzly bear skin on her office floor when he was showing her the rewrites, or it might have put him off his tofu.

Speaking of food, for some bizarre reason, the RNC instructed the operators of the Xcel Energy Center not to open the concession stands in this arena. Monday, the union-operated stands were closed for Labor Day. Yesterday, they opened a single hot dog stand. Today, more of them have finally opened, maybe because of the growling stomachs of the delegates, staff and media who don't have access to the luxury corporate smorgasbords or the network TV mess halls. But didn't the GOP see the long lines of Democrats snatching up pizza and nachos at the Denver convention? I thought Republicans liked to make money - I don't understand why they've kept the concessions shuttered until now.

I ended up wandering the streets and buying a chicken gyro from a man who moved here from Kurdistan. He's one of eight Kurds in the Twin Cities. He was a chef for American troops in northern Iraq during the first Gulf War, and when they left his country, he was allowed to come with them to the United States! He settled in Saint Paul (he couldn't really explain why; it wasn't the appeal of deep snow and he's not a Minnesota Viking fan), but I am grateful that he's here to feed me some delicious Greek salad and pita. He says he first opened his restaurant as "Kurdish-Turkish-American Food," but when no one ever came in, he switched it to a "bistro," serving chicken fajitas and gyro. Business is booming.

One other quick note - I met Samantha Bee of Comedy Central's Daily Show today. I missed her last week, when I met her unfunny male colleagues in Denver. I stumbled across her while she was interviewing the Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, who I've interviewed over the years in California about gay marriage and the like. She was gracious, friendly and sweet, and genuinely pleased when I told her how much I like her work. The reverend had no idea who she was, and when I asked him how his interview went, he told me "I think she has an agenda." Oh, Lou, you have no idea! The bit will air tomorrow night (thursday), and I have a feeling Samantha is hysterical in it.

Not that I'm calling her a showhorse or anything. Oh wait, that may be sexist. I have to go turn myself in at the Bad Media office down the hall. See you later.

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