September 03, 2008

Spiro: Since the apparent goal of the GOP is to utilize their Veep-nominee as a smug attack dog, I think it bears noting the somewhat eerie similarities between Gov. Palin and a previous Republican nominee for that position, Spiro Agnew. Both were governors of small states for less than two years when they were tapped by their party's standard bearer for the number two spot on the ticket, and both had spent most of their adult life in politics holding down local political offices. And apparently after tonight, both were adept at using code to disparage their political adversaries (as if there is any doubt as to who "cosmopolitan elites" are).

But Agnew presents an even more fruitful point of comparison, for two reasons. First, the consensus about the pick at the time it was made was almost completely wrong. At the time, Agnew was viewed as an attempt by Nixon to appeal to the liberal, "Rockefeller Wing" of the Republican Party. Agnew had been elected governor in 1966 running to the left of his Democratic opponent, who was a Zell Miller-type States Rights segregationist. '66 was a very good year for the Republican Party, and the mid-term elections turned out to be the last hurrah for the Eastern, liberal wing of the party: not only did it's symbolic leader, Nelson Rockefeller, win reelection as governor of New York for a third term, but his brother Winthrop defeated a racist Democrat to become the first Republican governor of a Deep South state, Arkansas, since Reconstruction, and men such as Edward Brooke, Clifford Case and Charles Percy also won terms to the Senate. Agnew's victory that year was seen in that context, and he was, not surprisingly, an early supporter of Rockefeller's expected run for the White House in 1968.

According to Gerry Wills, whose Nixon Agonistes was the Myth of a Maverick of its era, Agnew had expected an important role in any Rockefeller Administration, and was shocked to learn that Rocky didn't think so highly of him. When Rockefeller made the decision not to run for the Presidency, he failed to consult with his backer, causing Agnew considerable embarrassment. And his performance in office gave clues to anyone who was interested what his true politics were: partisan, vicious, smug, and contemptous of "elites."

Thus, anyone looking for clues as to Palin's true priorities should look not to either her banal obeisance to far right positions on social issues, or to her recent flip-flopping on the "Bridge to Nowhere" and pork barrell spending in general, or even on her willingness to raise taxes on Big Oil (a position which, more than anything, has ensured that most of her deadliest political foes in Alaska are from her own party), but instead on that ever-present chip on her shoulder, a chip that she has borrowed from every small town and suburban hack who has been made to feel like a hick every time she visits the Big City.

And of course, the second important point of comparison with Agnew was in their shared careers in local politics, and all the small-time corruption that has traditionally entailed. Since the media has already begun looking down that avenue, whether she is as big a crook as Spiro Agnew remains to be seen.

September 02, 2008

Obama by Eight: Since it's too late to use the "Juno Alaska" reference, let me say that concerning McCain's Palin-drome, that ain't no etch-a-sketch: This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet. A bad Veep pick, and the subsequent delay in rectifying the problem, is how the Nixon-McGovern race transformed suddenly into an historic rout.

And yes, the Governor not only praised her daughter for choosing to keep the child, an option she would deprive every other woman, but she also mandated "abstinence only" sex-ed for Alaska's children. Phuket, Thailand !!!