Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin in the Bubble

Guido has his cake and eats it by suggesting journalists should hold back on non-political news about Sarah Palin's daughter as they did once before with a British politician. I don't care about the children, past lives, affairs or even the petty corruption of politicians, but everybody else does, not least the politicians themselves. They are the ones who parade their families - evidence of what exactly? Plainly, as Palin is discovering, they are hostages to fortune, they are being trapped in the same bubble of superhuman virtue in which less than virtuous hacks expect their leaders to live. Parading your family as evidence of your own virtue is selfish, cruel and usually hypocritical. Yet now they are all required to do it. And so we get the leaders we deserve - those prepared to sacrifice their families on the altar of their own ambition.


  1. Mostly I agree with you, but I am very careful about giving a blanket position on anything.
    A seventeen year old having a baby is tragic if and only if the baby will have a life of hell. And here this is not the case, nor is it outside of the major cities. It is a bit of a glitch, and only that.
    But this little baby may have an odd effect for it displays the split and an America that a majority cannot believe any more than they can believe in harry potter. And in a basic gut-watering way.

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  3. Were they all out of baby names books in Alaska or was she expecting a train set?

    You are right! I can remember tory Gummer (for I think it was he) feeding his young daughter a burger on TV.

  4. Hi Bryan,

    Let me separate two of your points, and then re-merge them. One you put well in your last sentence: "And so we get the leaders we deserve - those prepared to sacrifice their families on the altar of their own ambition."

    A corollary to that point is that we can only have leaders who are willing to do this. There is no way around it. If we could just wish for a vice presidential and presidential candidate who would be better than to be willing to sacrifice their families, we the people would then sacrifice their families anyway, to the candidates' utter horror and indignation. This is the social contract we make.

    Another contract we make with them is that we will put them down as well. They will have low popularity ratings as time goes on. We will poke fun at them and be irrational in our condemnation of their administrations and their most minor acts, being hypercritical as with our exes. This is inescapable. We will not create such heroes without killing them, a ritual that some tribes literally, and more honestly, enact. This is our contract, and that's the price our presidents and vice presidents will pay, very possibly as inescapably as death and taxes.

    You also bring up the point that usually we could expect that such news--the sticky situation of a teen-aged daughter, Bristol Palin, who has become pregnant out of wedlock--to disqualify her mother from consideration of being a running mate. But yet McCain is saying that he knew of the pregnancy.

    This is interesting for probably many reasons. Two come to mind. The first is that Obama's obvious running mate would have been Edwards--except that Edwards was revealed to have less than "superhuman virtue" to parade. It seems McCain is going to reap whatever benefits there are to the all-too-human, and very common situation of a pregnant teenager aboard. If McCain wins, we can do some important Monday morning quarterbacking to see if Obama should have chosen Edwards (not Clinton) after all.

    So the tension is created. Are we to choose a candidate who comes across as better than we "less than virtuous hacks" are, or are we now willing to admit that there is no big red "S" under anyone's shirt. And if we are willing to admit that we cannot get the ideal superhuman leaders, that we must get real people like us, can we ever dispense with the barbaric sacrificing? Unfortunately, the barbaric sacrificing is done unconsciously, which does not bode well for such healthy societal growth.


  5. As a friend of mine was often heard to say....they've been hoisted by their own charade...


  7. I notice the chosen one has called off the local press hounds, as his mother has not exactly following the word of the lord :0) the blessed beed will no doubt ignore the facts and corresponding facts across the party lines in order the fulfill their paradigm.

  8. Maybe politicians should be required by law to keep their families out of sight. Instead the state would pay for an "official family" when occasion demands, drawn from a troupe of specialists rather like the Cirque du Soleil. I doubt the late Ken Campbell would have had much trouble playing a bambino in the morning gurgling happily with his rattle, then switching to a floral dress for the afternoon as the lady consort of a knight of the shires, before spending the evening doing the American teen kick-ass thang and being sick over everyone at a crucal $1000-plate fundraiser. In addition, talented acrobats would be able to wave themselves at the crowd. No risk of a Health and Safety incident as a politico's back gives out hoisting little Donny aloft.

  9. Considering the immense popularity of the movie "Juno" (whose very title summons thoughts of Alaska), I'm surprised there aren't *more* pregnant teens this year. Actually, there probably are: Stats come out later.

    Not a single spot on the sun this August -- first time in a century. What's it mean, Bryan?

  10. Amusing scene in The Wedding Crashers where Christopher Walken's great Secretary of the Treasury is talking about his weird and gay painter son at the family table:

    Son: [with a resentful look] Dad used to think I'd be a political liability.

    [hushed, scandalised silence, followed by a cheerful Walken:]

    Father: Now Todd! Actually, truth be told, polling shows a majority of the American people would ultimately empathise with our situation.

    Son: What is our situation dad?

    Grandmother: You're a homo!


    Thomas Mann was a great writer and, i suspect, would have been a more-than competent politician had he been interested; but 3 of his kids committed suicide, partly because of his old-school Teutonic 'crush the weak' school of parenting. It's a complex matter.

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  12. 'And if we are willing to admit that we cannot get the ideal superhuman leaders, that we must get real people like us, can we ever dispense with the barbaric sacrificing?'

    Great point Rus. Makes me think of a line of James D Morrison's:

    'We are obsessed with heroes who live for us and whom we punish.'

    Only I don't think any of us would really, on this side of the pond anyway, expect politicians to be heroes. Not at least any more, after the great Blairite let down.

    The answer, I suppose, is for us to just not have leaders and to govern ourselves. Then nobody would need to be revenged upon through their sacrifice, for their having held us in subjection and bossing us around; which is what politicians do.

    But are we virtuous enough for anarchism? Do we deserve it? I suspect not.

  13. Hi Jonathan,

    Nice. Nice Morrison quote.

    It is more tied into the power we hand over to our chieftains. When we are under the ether of a candidacy--Superbarack, say--we hand over power so that he may do great things. In Bush's case, we handed extreme power over after he was president, after 9/11. The severe beating he has to take, is in direct proportion to the power he wielded. And he has had to take that beating from the world, because it was world-class power he wielded.

    We say, "Yes, you may be our leader, and then we will kill you, okay?" In the US, even Laura Bush was attacked for inviting poets to a poetry reading. So we will take out whole families in certain circumstances.