Saturday, November 01, 2008

Empress' New Clothes

If Sarah Palin gets elected as the next Vice-President of the United States, then, it will certainly be a triumph of style over substance. Her election (if at all it does happen) to this second highest position in the US will underline the incredible power that a well-oiled PR machinery can generate. It will, basically, show that one can achieve absolutely anything with the help of a good hype generator.

I'm sure she has incredible talent and political skills that have moulded her to be what she is. Fact that she is a governor of a state and managed to defeat the incumbent from her own party does indicate that she does possess that certain something that ambitious politicians usually possess.

However, getting ahead of the game can be great politics, but it may not be sufficient for someone aspiring to be a leader of the most powerful country in the world. After all, in the worst case scenario that something should happen to McCain, she'd be just a heart-beat away from the Oval office.

So far her only powerful performance was at the Republican convention where she managed to electrify the base. I'm being generous when I say 'powerful' because her speech lacked wit, eloquence and depth. It was clever alright and full of smart one-liners but wasn't deep enough to convince the unconverted. Her subsequent speeches, debate performance and interviews were an embarrassment, and it's amazing how a respected political party could even select a person with such a shallow world view.

The US is going through one of the biggest economic crisis in its recent history, and for her to berate Joe Biden for even suggesting that paying taxes is the patriotic thing to do is the most absurd thing I've ever heard. Patriotism is not about one-liners alone but it's about sacrifices, and sacrifices are not the monopoly of the armed forces alone but must involve everyone who considers themselves to be citizens.

And then there's the question of presidential qualities that a person needs before even aspiring to be a political leader and potential statesman. It needs a broader world-view, an intellectual insight into contemporary issues and concerns, the wisdom to make the right judgments, and the ability to understand that gaining foreign policy know how is not just a matter of looking out of the window.

I was amazed at how Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson both managed to keep a straight face at the interview although I could detect a trace of a half formed smile on Couric's face while interviewing Palin. Her mumbled response to the economic crisis is something to be worried about - considering the situation we all are in - and if she does manage to become something that most people - surprisingly even a few Republicans - do not want her to be.

Now if Palin was somebody else, then, I'm sure she would have been skewered by people like Hannity and others from Fox News. But somehow she has been turned into a heroine, of sorts: hockey mom with lipstick. Her every fault has been 'justified' and 'excused' and her detractors are called 'sexist' or worse. Even basic questions like, asking why rape victims in her state were made to pay for rape kits or why did she toy with censorship as mayor of the town of Wasilla are not even considered worthy to be included in any analysis.

Somehow her supporters are trying to create this enormous myth around her - as an ordinary housewife thrown in extraordinary circumstances, and one who is blessed with the common touch enabling her to readily understand the situation everyone faces.

Perhaps it may have worked for a while, but am not sure if this hype has managed to retain its staying power. If Colin Powell and Lawrence Eagleburger's disenchantment is any indication, then, the Empress has certainly showed that she has no clothes. The GOP certainly gave this metaphorical state a more real dimension by paying a staggering $150,000 to dress her like a diva and not the ornery housewife that she must be to connect with the base.

But something in me feels that the Republican Party can't be that stupid to choose someone like her to be the vice-presidential nominee... its either a reckless decision by the maverick in chief or the party decided to set her up as the fall guy so that none of the establishment figures could be blamed if and when the party loses the elections.

But that's assuming that the party does lose the elections, and till then, the hype machine will be working overtime to ensure that she is propped up to be what she is not.