Monday, September 29, 2008

Joe Biden Practices for Debate

To paraphrase the words of the late Governor Anne Richards, “Poor Joe. It’s not his fault; he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

So today, in what can only be assumed as an attempt to rid his extemporaneous speaking style of embarrassing flubs, Senator Joe Biden announced that he is sequestering himself in Delaware in preparation for the first and only vice presidential debate on Thursday night.

Unbeknownst to the Senator and his crack security squad, our tenacious, yet uncredentialed RFG reporters snuck a tiny video camera into his “war room,” because, well, we were just so darn curious about what was going on and how he was going to avoid sticking his foot in it once again.

We would’ve loved to bring you full video and audio coverage, but we were advised not to do so by copyright law, our fussbudget lawyers, and some stupid “cease and desist” order that we got from the Biden campaign.

So, we hope that this play-by-play analysis will suffice. And just a quick word to our readers who may be concerned about animal cruelty: no actual bugs or senators were harmed during the creation of this broadcast.

Often you will hear that candidates assign somebody to be their “practice dummy,” or, as they are usually called, debating surrogates. This way the candidate will have someone similar to the abilities of the person they will be facing so they can work the bugs out of their debating style. (Good thing for me that they haven’t worked the bugs out of the war room.)

And what we have found out is that--yes, it’s true, you heard it here first--that the Biden campaign has hired – yes, we’ve confirm the identity – none other than Tina Fey to play Sarah Palin. No doubt Ms. Fey was hired based on her striking appearance to the governor from Alaska as well as a certain performance that she put on for a recent episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

Is this a gauge of how worried the Biden campaign is about facing the actual Governor on Thursday?

That remains to be seen. It could be that Ms. Fey was hired to give Senator Biden a more realistic sparring partner. Or, she simply had a break in her “30 Rock” taping schedule this week and is so enamored of the Obama campaign that she volunteered her services.

At this point, we don’t know. Calls to Ms. Fey’s personal assistant, despite how many times we begged and pleaded on her voicemail, were not returned in time for this broadcast.

But here’s some of what our camera (and teeny tiny microphone) was able to pick up:

Tina Fey: (sounding frustrated, in an Alaskan accent) Senator, we talked about where your eyes are supposed to be.

Joe Biden: (voice barely audible, pounding a fist into his own forehead) Don’t look at her breasts. Don’t look at her breasts. Don’t look at her breasts. Okay, Tina. I think I’ve got it now.

Tina Fey: (straightening out her jacket and low-cut blouse, and smiling) All righty then. But Senator, try to remember to call me Governor Palin. We’re shooting for realism. So let’s get this puppy on the road. (She clears her throat) Shoot us a question, there, David.

David Axelrod (Senator Obama’s campaign director): All right, but we need to take a break soon. (Looking at his watch.) McCain’s due to come out with another one of those attack ads taking credit for the Wall Street bailout plan and we gotta fight back with a statement. So let’s do it. (Reads from an index card in his hand) Some in the news have been debating whether the office of Vice President even matters anymore. Can each of you tell me, and our audience here and at home, what you personally bring to the ticket and how you plan to be involved with the administration if elected?

Joe Biden: (gesturing to Tina Fey) Ladies first.

Tina Fey: Now, you see, that’s just the kind of sexist, old boy network thinking we’re trying to change here in Washington--

Joe Biden: Oh, crap. (Turns to Axelrod) I shouldn’t say that, right?

David Axelrod: (rolls his eyes, looks exasperated) No. For God’s sake. Didn’t you learn anything from that tape we showed you of the Rick Lazio debate?

Joe Biden: But I was raised to think that that was a polite way to treat a woman –

David Axelrod: Stop thinking of her as a woman, Joe! You even said it yourself— that you planned to debate her like you would any of your other colleagues in the Senate.

Joe Biden: Oh, right. I said that. Right after that thing about hating one of Barack’s ads.

David Axelrod: And right before the thing about Roosevelt being president when the stock market crashed.

Joe Biden: He wasn’t? Oh – right. It was the other Roosevelt. Damn. I always get those two mixed up.

Tina Fey: Can we get this going, guys? I’m due on the set, like, tomorrow. And please stop looking at my chest. Eyes up here, dude. Focus. Cripes.

Joe Biden: All right. So why don’t you just start first? Give me something to react to.

Tina Fey: (reading from her script) Well, of course the role of vice president of the United States is extremely important given the dangerous state of the world today, Bob. Otherwise, why would John McCain – who is, by the way, the only man short of Jesus Christ himself who can bring real change to Washington, and give me a couple days, I’ll bring ya back a few examples of exactly what he did – choose me, a simple hockey mom, to be his running mate?

David Axelrod: Senator Biden? Two minutes for your response.

Joe Biden: Well, Bob, even though some important guy a long time ago once said that the job of vice president isn’t worth a warm bucket of shit –

David Axelrod: That’s spit, Joe.

Joe Biden: Sorry. I knew that. I’m just – I keep finding myself distracted by her breasts.

Tina Fey: (sounding indignant) I am a nursing mother, Joe. It’s a normal human function. I even fed little Tumbleweed here while I was riding on the back of the moose, since I sold my SUV in order to give the good citizens of Alaska a check for $.03 for every man woman and child.

Joe Biden: Yeah, but -- they’re – enormous – and did she just unbutton another button on her blouse? Dave, is that a legal debating tactic?

David Axelrod: Just a way to see how you react under pressure, Joe. Tina, you can button up now.

Joe Biden: So how come she can do that and I can’t unzip my trousers or something? Isn’t that sexist?

Tina Fey: (pointing a finger toward Biden) He’s harassing me! He’s harassing me! I don’t have to stand here and take this! Listen here, mister. I can take down a bear and I can take you down so don’t go tryin’ nothin’.

Joe Biden: David, I see your point about my not treating her like a woman. Okay, let me see if I have this right. If she’s not a woman, she doesn’t have any breasts for me to stare at. I should treat her just like any other guy on the floor of the Senate. (He grins) That means I should treat her just like Hillary, right?

Tina Fey: Sexist! Sexist!

Joe Biden: It was just a joke. Geez, I thought you comedy people had a sense of humor. Even Hill would have laughed at that one.

Tina Fey: David, is it too late to ask Hillary if she’s got anything planned for the next, oh, four or eight years?

David Axelrod (shaking his head): Don’t think I haven’t thought about it.

Joe Biden: Come on, give me another chance. I was just having some fun with you guys, it’s been so darn serious around here. I know what to do. Just run the words through my brain first before I let them come out of my mouth.

Tina Fey: By George, I think he’s got it!

Joe Biden: So, David, anything I should know about this George guy?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Nostalgic Soul

Husband went out of town this weekend. As fate would have it, the day he left, I woke up with the scratchy yuck that for me, always signals the beginnings of a cold. So when my husband called to check in, he asked how I felt, and reminded me that there were a few cans of soup in the pantry.

Sensitive to almost every food group and a bit of a culinary snob since going organic a couple of years ago, I tell him, “That’s not soup.”

He had no other suggestions for me.

What I longed for – well, most of you married ladies know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, I hate you (just kidding) – and what I didn’t get, was comfort. I wanted someone to whine to about my stuffy nose and my stuffy head and say, “I’m sorry, sweetie. Let me get you some soup.”

And I don’t mean soup in a can.

I wanted the real stuff. I wanted the stuff that my grandfather taught me how to make. Although I’m not religiously practicing (I could never get it right, and I figured that all my practicing was for naught, so I quit), I come from the Jewish tradition. For the most part, the Jewish tradition does not come with recipes. At least those that are written down. It goes like this:

One day my grandfather said, “Ya wanna know how to make chicken soup? I’ll tell ya how to make chicken soup.”

I perked up and listened. He was a short order cook and used to run a restaurant. I figured that he knew from chicken soup.

My grandfather held both work-hardened hands out in front of him, elbows bent, palms pointing toward each other with the fingers slightly cupped, like he was holding something, oh, vaguely chicken-sized. “Ya take a nice chicken…”

In addition to having been a short order cook and running a restaurant, my grandfather also used to run a chicken farm. Not only did I figure that he knew from chicken soup, I was betting that he knew a thing or two from chickens.

“Ya put it in a pot. Throw in some water, a little onion, a little carrot, a little salt, boil it for a while, and there you are. Chicken soup.”

I knew not to bother asking him how I’d know when it was ready. Because the answer would be, “Ya cook it until it’s done.”

From my own mother, I would get more practical answers. Things like: when the meat falls away from the bone; or until it’s no longer pink in the middle; or, the one that perplexed me the most, which was probably inherited from her own mother, that it will just “look right.”

My mother is a fabulous cook. She starts with a recipe, and then improvises, based on her particular preferences, and what she happens to have in the house. I have literally seen her make a gourmet meal with a few limp scallions, a can of tuna, and some old croutons. She kept her extravagance to a minimum while she was raising three children on a tight budget and deferring to my father’s high blood pressure. But after their divorce, she unleashed her inner Julia Child.

Now everything starts with butter. A pound or more if it’s for a crowd. (I lose count of how many pounds she uses at Thanksgiving.) If it’s dinner, she adds meat, garlic and onions. If it’s dessert, she adds sugar and chocolate.

While Husband tells me otherwise (I must have trained him well), I don’t think I inherited my mother’s or even my grandfather’s cooking gene. I don’t know what I was thinking when I was toddling around the kitchen, watching her. Maybe I was daydreaming about the books I would write one day. Maybe I was just daydreaming in general – memorizing the pattern of the wallpaper, and the way the light shone through her collection of glass roosters on the window shelves.

Or maybe Husband was just being polite. I know how to do the basics, like boiling an egg, making an omelet, preparing dinner so the main dish and the sides are all done at the same time. I have a few signature dishes that I learned how to make, but these were from recipes I’ve culled from magazines over the years, and then made them so many times that I’ve memorized them.

But day-to-day cooking? As far as my likes and dislikes, that ranks somewhere between a gynecological exam and doing our taxes. Meanwhile, my husband, usually a good sport about having to forage through the refrigerator for dinner, often would slip in small comments about the dishes that he loved so much from his childhood.

I love those dishes too. His mother would make them for us when we came to visit. And since she passed away in January, I’ve been feeling especially nostalgic, among other things, for her cooking.

“Have her come over one day,” Husband said, a few years back. “You could learn how to cook more stuff, and she’ll feel really good about helping you.”

Yeah. And in no way would he benefit from this at all.

One of his favorite meals was her chicken soup. When she first made it for me, I expected that it would be just like my grandfather’s. But no – there was a twist. Yes, it started with what I assumed was a nice chicken. But hers had parsnips, and tons of dill.

Wait a minute. Parsnips?

This is the thing about families, and what I learned the first time I ever ate dinner at a friend’s house when I was a child. Everybody does things differently. Not every family had food made from scratch. Not every family had tossed salad with dinner. Not every family had whole wheat bread, instead of the kind that came in the plastic wrap with polka dots all over it.

And not every family made chicken soup the way ours did.

My mother-in-law served hers buffet-style. The broth ladled from one bowl, pieces of boiled chicken plucked from another, plus – another surprise -- both matzoh balls and egg noodles. My mother wouldn’t have gone for that – two starches at one meal? Never. And would my grandmother ever serve both matzoh balls and egg noodles? Not on your kishkes! It was matzoh balls or it was nothing.

So I already knew that my mother-in-law’s chicken soup would be a little different. And when I called her to ask if she would come over and show me how to make it, she was delighted. I carefully made note of all the ingredients she asked me to buy. And, as I suspected, it began with a nice chicken. She was easily half the size of my barrel-chested grandfather, but I can still imagine her, on her end of the phone conversation, making the same kind of gesture.

Was this the universal Jewish symbol for “chicken?”

One day, I’ll have to ask my rabbi. If I can remember his name.

So she came over. We put a nice chicken up to boil in a pot of water. And then we waited, watching it like an egg that was about to hatch.

Like a little Jewish Yoda, she stood by me, leaning on her cane. Watching and correcting, while I skimmed off shiny globules of fat and deposited them in an old tin can. She went out for a smoke. We added a little onion, some carrots, parsnips, a couple of stalks of celery, a ton of dill, a bit of salt, then started on the matzoh balls.

All in all, it had been a good day. It was a challenge, but we figured out how to make a giant pot of soup, fluffy matzoh balls, and egg noodles, all on my two-burner stove. And the crowd went wild.

Since this first tutorial, I’ve learned how to make her lasagna, her spaghetti sauce, and her brisket. I’ve made her soup a few times on my own, but because of my lousy memory, I committed a sin against Jewish oral tradition and wrote down the recipe as we went along.

Which was a good thing. Because several years later, with my throat scratchy and Husband out of town, I bundled myself up, and went out to buy myself a nice chicken.

I made my own comfort. And in this case, four quarts of it.

My mother tells me it freezes quite well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Silly Season

The largest lending institutions in America are failing. Wall Street is going crazy. I can’t even take out a loan to put gas in my car, and what do the media report concerning the two presidential candidates?

Lipstick on pigs. Hollywood fundraisers. And Lindsay freakin’ Lohan.

Come on, now.

Since when are the blatherings of addled-brained celebrities – lifted from their blogs, yet – considered newsworthy? Sure, it gives people like me something to do, but I never claimed I was a journalist.

Aside from all the financial stuff that makes my head hurt, let’s look at this presidential election. Forget the lipstick. Forget Barbra Streisand. Forget even the history-making demographics of both tickets. Let’s look at what these campaigns have done to get people younger than – say, my age – excited about politics.

It started with Barack Obama. Legions of younger people flocked to his website to make their $25 donations. Armies of them gathered in towns across America making plans and contributing to the platform, in one of the greatest get-out-the-vote efforts ever seen. Having briefly been a soldier in this Army, I can tell you that the organization rivals any small- or medium-sized company I have ever worked for. These are all volunteer positions, and each one has a full job description and accountabilities. The depth and spread of this grassroots movement is astounding. I don’t know the exact statistics, but I’m willing to bet you that between the Democrats and the Republicans (excited by the “new car” smell of the Governor from Alaska) that for this election, more people have registered to vote than for any other presidential contest ever.

We are standing with our toes wrapped around the precipice of history, and many of these young people are voting for the very first time. What an example we as a nation could set for these eager, newly-legal citizens! We can show them, as Senator Obama said in the “Forum for Service” on September 11, that government can be “cool” again. We can show them why it’s good to give back to your community, and the intrinsic rewards you get from that. We can show them that political contests can be conducted without rancor, and with grace, and with dignity.

We are not doing a very good job. We are showing these brand-new voters the dirtiest of our dirty laundry. We’re doing the equivalent of taking them into the bowels of a shiny, architecturally brilliant new building and showing them how the furnace works. Or, more accurately, how it doesn’t work, because the contract went to the lowest bidder, and there’s no money in the budget to get it fixed.

We’re telling them, “Forget about your youthful ideals – nothing is ever going to change, so why even bother trying?”

We are raising a new generation to argue about idiotic metaphors and subtle innuendo and frankly stupid off-the-cuff comments.

Our slips are showing.

So before we essentially tell these kids that the voter registration cards that they’ve filled out are no better than toilet paper, can we please elevate the conversation and get back to the things that really matter?

Like, how is Cloris Leachman going to do on Dancing with the Stars?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Television Correspondent Washed out to Sea… I Wish

I have never been a big fan of Geraldo Rivera. When he was a young reporter way back in the 70s on WABC-TV news, he annoyed the heck out of me with his breathless reportage. “Chill out,” I'd think. Just calm down and tell me what happened. Then he took this whole bizarre turn into sensationalistic journalism. Then he annoyed the heck out of me with overwrought, tawdry accounts of the life of Charles Manson. A few years later, he annoyed the heck out of me with that whole Al Capone’s vault escapade. Weeks and weeks of hype, while we sat on the edges of our seats waiting for him to dig through layers and layers of nothing just to find even more layers of… nothing.

Now, the only time I see him on the air (he is on that network that I currently refuse to watch, except for notable events like this) is when he is deployed, along with the other poor schmucks, to some quivering piece of coastline where a hurricane is about to make landfall. Usually, he is in front of a levee, or a sea wall, or on a beach. The wind is beating up his normally perfect hair. One manly hand is grasping onto something because he can barely stand up straight.

And he’s loving every minute of it.

And, apparently he thinks that we’re supposed to be loving it, too.

But do we? Do Americans, jaded by an excess of popular culture, get excited by the prospect of someone putting himself (or herself) in mortal danger?

All you have to do is watch the ratings for shows like “Fear Factor” and its many copycats (The latest is the current phenomenon, “Toughest Jobs in America”) to know that the answer is a definite “yes.”

This is an odd phenomenon in our society. I think the Weather Channel started it all. Whenever some evil nasty from the sky was about to strike, they’d bundle up one of their reporters (often someone without much seniority) in conspicuously name-branded outerwear (usually a company that was one of their larger advertisers). They’d lash these intrepid young lads or lassies to something vertical while the blizzard, the tornado, the hurricane, or whatever Mother Nature could dish out pounded them, just so you, warm and toasty at home and curled up on your couch eating chips out of the bag, would know just what it was like to be out there firsthand.

I felt sorry for these poor people. This is the age of video recorders in ATM machines, of tiny spy cameras wired up at red lights to catch lawbreakers, and miniature cameras in our laptops. For Pete’s sake, couldn’t we just mount some kind of weather-proof camera atop a building or on a bridge and get a good look at what it’s doing outside without somebody risking their life to show you that it’s snowing?

But then I think that other networks started having weather envy. Why should the Weather Channel get all the points for bravado? Why should they be allowed to have the equivalent of broadcast orgasms every time a big storm comes along?

Then came Geraldo Rivera. Manly and fearless, his hair sprayed into a tousled mane. The hairs of his mustache combed perfectly straight and his eyeglasses shining with righteousness, standing with his bulging arms akimbo atop a sea wall like some Hemingway-esque hero. With no care for his own safety, mind you, and wearing his own conspicuously name-branded outer apparel, just to bring you, the viewer, the real news as it is happening!

Now, I am not making light of the seriousness of hurricanes. My heart goes out to all the people who lost loved ones or were displaced from their homes during not just Katrina but all of the storms that ravaged this country and others.

And I have no desire to see Geraldo Rivera nor any other news personality harmed by any idiotic event they might try to cover.

But I’m so sick of watching this guy jump into the fray during every storm just so he can hang on to some tree, or dock post, or other kind of vertical handhold, his hair dripping, his eyes shining, just so we viewers at home can see how dangerous it is and how brave he is being.

What would we do without this macho stud on the air, risking his life to tell us that the wind speed is now up to a whopping 80 miles an hour? Without him there was a microphone, yelling out, “Oh, my God, there’s someone in the water! Somebody fell into the water!” Only to find out that the guy who “fell” into the water was in the Coast Guard and he was trying to secure something to a dock, not flailing for his life.

It disturbs me a little bit to discover this about myself, but every time a hurricane comes along and Geraldo is doing the report, I’m praying for the elements.

I’m hoping – well, I would never wish for anyone’s death or injury – but I’m hoping just once to see him get knocked over a sea wall and have to crawl his way back over, his mustache drooping, looking like a drowned rat. And I want to be able to see it over, and over, and over again.

Whoever invented TiVo deserves a medal.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pressing the Wrong Buttons

I am proud to belong to an online fibromyalgia discussion group. These people are terrific, and have offered me some great help, and I hope I’ve been able to help them too. They wear their religion on their sleeve, however. Mostly it doesn’t bother me – if prayer and faith in a higher power makes it easier for them to get through the day, then, hey, whatever works. Just don’t tell me that’s the way I have to run my life. Sometimes I envy them. When you wake up with your back aching (again) and cramps in your shoulders (again) and a wonking headache (again!), it must be really comforting to be able to throw that in someone else’s lap and go about your business.

But we’ve had some issues come up in the last month or so. And they all have had to do with seemingly random political rants suddenly showing up in our discussion threads. Several people get all huffy about it (myself included, most vociferously) and the post gets removed. And it happens again. The post gets removed, and the same people are warned. The person responsible pleads “fumble fingers,” that they pushed the wrong button and sent the wrong thing to the group by accident (we fibros are notorious for having foggy brains at times). The person apologizes, and is forgiven, as it is a forgiving sort of bunch. But when it happens over and over again, by the same person, it can hardly be called an accident. And then we are told by the group’s moderator that if it happens again, all members will be put on notice and all posts will need to be reviewed before being allowed into the discussion.

And I’m happy with that. For one, I’m in that group for fibromyalgia support, a little sympathy, an urge to help, and not much else. There are plenty of places where you can go to read all of the rants you want (my blog included!). For two, it was a rant that I strongly disagreed with. Yes, I’m biased, but at but least I’m admitting it.

And on that point of places where you can go to read all the rants you want, I happen to have started writing a few on a different website. As part of my shameless promotion, I forwarded the URL to a bunch of people in my address book that I felt would appreciate it.

The next day, I get flamed. One extremely huffy e-mail appears in my inbox. This woman, whose name I don’t immediately recognize, is deeply offended by what I had written and didn’t think this sort of thing should be allowed here. “Here?” I think, not yet comprehending the whole context of this complaint. “On the Web? In America?”

Then I look at the name of the woman who had forwarded the e-mail to my not-so-greatest fan.

It’s the moderator of my fibromyalgia discussion group.

My own fumble fingers had sent a liberal leaning attack on the right wing media to a bunch of (mostly wonderful) Bible thumping Republican Christian ladies.


After a couple of humbly apologetic e-mails, I am let off the hook.

Then I notice that at the bottom of the new article I had written, was a comment from someone whose name I didn’t recognize that said she liked the article very much.

And shortly after the flurry of flame throwing and apologizing, I get an e-mail from said woman (who is also a member of the fibromyalgia group). And she wrote, “I don’t care what that woman said. I really liked this article. Republicans are just thin-skinned.”

My hero.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Another Roadside Attraction

it's the little things in life that amuse me...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Because We Stand on the Shoulders of Others

You may have heard this phrase before. Various sources attribute this either to Sir Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein, and the full quote is, “If I seem to see more [or appear taller] than other men, it is because I stand on the shoulders of others.” It has also been paraphrased by all stripes of people who credit their success to the struggles and sacrifices of those generations who came before them.

And I think many women have forgotten that it also applies to them. Particularly those who are making fun of Gloria Steinem, and the opinion piece she recently wrote about McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Some call Steinem an outdated icon of a bygone era, write her off as a shrill voice from the past, someone who no longer represents their ideals. They call themselves “post-feminists,” whatever that means. Particularly those women under 50, those who think it’s “no big deal” that they were able to play in Little League along with the boys. That they were able to go to the colleges of their choice. That they can hold professional jobs. That they can have children as well as careers, have careers and not have children, or have children and no professional career outside the home.

To many women over 50, it is a big deal. Some of them still think it is. In fact, when I was in high school, and casting my eye on colleges, my guidance counselor (who I’m certain belonged to the pre-Gloria Steinem era), discouraged me from applying to Colgate University, saying, “that’s a man’s school.”

I, the daughter of a feminist, didn’t understand that. Was it because they didn’t have female dorms? Didn’t have any ladies’ rooms? I didn’t remember reading anything in the four-color brochure about a “no women allowed” policy or that Colgate was a “he-man woman-haters club,” like Spanky and Alfalfa formed in the Little Rascals cartoons to keep Darla out. And I was valedictorian of the freaking class, for God sakes. It’s not like I didn’t have the grades To get into Colgate and she was trying to soften the blow (like that would have made it any softer.)

I’m hoping that this woman has either retired or changed her ways.

But this was so often the way with “women of a certain age.”

It’s true. If you don’t believe me, ask your mothers, your aunts, your grandmother – when they were newly minted young women, doing anything outside of what was considered “normal” was a big deal, or frankly, impossible. This meant that when you finished high school, you were expected to get married. If you didn’t have children right away, perhaps you would take on what was considered a “respectable” job for a young woman: secretary, teacher (elementary grades only), librarian, or nurse. And then, you were only expected to work until you gave birth to your first child. Then you stayed home with your children until they themselves left home or you overdosed on oven cleaner, whichever came first.

I once asked my mother in law, who passed away earlier this year from breast cancer at 67, why she married so young. She looked at me like I was crazy, and shrugged her shoulders. “That’s what you did,” she said. “That’s what you did back then. And if you didn’t,” she added, “you are considered… funny.”

And I don’t think she meant in the “ha ha” kind of way.

So those women who dismiss Gloria Steinem as a relic of a time long past, take a good look at how you got where you are: because you, and the women of your generation, are standing on her broad and strong shoulders. You were standing on the shoulders of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of those “bluestocking” women who dared to go to work in the 30s and 40s, of women who were beaten and arrested for fighting to vote, of all the women who died from getting back alley abortions, and all the others who dared to break out of the mold that society had corseted them into – all because you were supported by the ones who dared to come first.

And if you forget that, remember what is said about those who don’t know history: they are doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Just Can't Leave This One Alone...

I believe that I said a while back that I wasn't going to get into politics.

I lied. Well, technically, I hadn't intended on lying. But this issue has gotten me a little riled up, and you lucky people get to be recipients of my ire.

I'm still stuck on John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin for VP. Now, I'm going to leave her daughter out of it because, like Senator Obama has so poignantly said, everybody's children should be off limits. And I think everybody who hops on the Internet and thinks it would be a dandy place to unload their venom should back off, too. After all, it's only going to backfire.

But what's not off limits is Sarah Palin's behavior, her experience, her performance in her past offices, and how that reflects on John McCain's character for choosing her.

For one, I heard this morning on MSNBC that up until a few days before the VP pick was announced, McCain was going to go with Joe Lieberman, until an aide talked him out of it. I mean, come on. I'm not exactly a political maven, but I know that if you take a nonconservative presidential candidate and pair him with a nonconservative vice presidential candidate, then you are not going to make conservative voters very happy. And this, as recent history has shown, has been the base that has made the difference in the last two elections. It has been speculated that he wanted to go with Lieberman because he has a high regard for personal loyalty and wants to be around people he knows well and trusts. So, after being convinced to jettison Lieberman, McCain goes for a candidate that he has met only once, and has received the most cursory vetting process. I believe that in process must've gone something like this:

McCain aide: Ever been arrested?
Palin: Not yet, but my husband has been. DUI. But no one died, that we know about.
McCain aide: Okay, we can overlook that. Either you or your husband having an affair?
Palin: Not that I know of.
McCain aide: How do you feel about the second amendment?
Palin: Wanna see my gun?
McCain aide: Okay, you're in.

It is also being reported (On MSNBC but also on ABC's George Stephanopoulos' blog) that while Palin was mayor, she sucked up every possible earmark from Washington that she could. So much for her much-touted reputation for saving taxpayer money and not being part of the Washington lobbyists' machine.

Wonder if McCain knew about that one?

It is also being reported that while Palin was campaigning for governor, she was all for the "Bridge to Nowhere" project. And when she became governor, she was against it. Sounding familiar?

Now, this dance is on the edge of being personal, but this gives me pause about her ability to do her job and her judgment about her family. Please remember that a feminist is writing this, and I would expect what I'm about to say to apply to a mother or a father. That if you have given birth to a special-needs baby, I don't know that I would go back to work three days after the delivery. If I had a pregnant 17-year-old daughter, I would be a little wary of how I tossed around topics like teaching "abstinence only" in schools. I would also think about this daughter and think about the love and support she will need, and think very hard about taking on such a difficult and time-consuming position as Vice President of the United States. If I were a pregnant 17-year-old and my mother was in such a public position and my growing belly will be the object of everyone's opinion, regardless of any kind of oath the media might have taken to leave me out of it, I would be completely humiliated.

But that's just me.

After all, didn't we hear about poor brave Elizabeth Edwards and how even though she had inoperable and incurable breast cancer, she wanted her husband to go ahead with his campaign? And the media fell all over it. How could this man be so heartless, they said. How could this man run for the highest office in the land when his wife needed him at home? I should know, I was one of them.

In situations like this, the personal blends with the politics. And I don't think it's possible for the personal to be completely excised from the politics.

And let's look at the other side of the political coin. Oh, how the judgment rained down when it was learned that Senator Obama went to this particular church and listen to this particular pastor and didn't immediately renounce him, and how the judgment rained down when the media reported the most tangential association with the former 60s radical? And we argued in the media about what his personal life says about his potential political service, and nobody had a problem with that. Yes, he got a little ruffled when they went after his wife for making so-called "unpatriotic" comments. But that was considered fair game.

And now we're supposed to look the other way when a vice presidential candidate conducts her private life in a way that may influence her public service?

We had the same argument about Bill Clinton, back in the day, back in the day of blue dresses and Kenneth Starr. We talked about compartmentalization, and how it is possible for a man to have personal failings and yet still be a good leader. But the right saw it a completely different way. They couldn't separate the action from the person. And they said that anyone who cheats on his wife would cheat on the country.

And while I have reclaimed my original roots as a Democrat, I do believe that a person is a sum of their parts. And that you can't separate the person from the behavior, and the behavior speaks to personal integrity.

Integrity. We talk about it, we say that certain people haven't or don't have it or that such and such they said points to their personal integrity. But do we really mean it? And is it the same for the right as for the left?

Absolutely not. I've stepped away from my party of origin long enough to see the double standard -- that some behaviors that are tolerated and excused from Democrats are excoriated when performed by Republicans. And I guess that's just the way it works. I'm not going to change it. A politician who claims that he can reach across the aisle is not going to change it. Even having a third party is not going to change it.

I believe it's just the way of human nature. It comes from when we lived in caves. Everybody in your cave, and in your system of connected caves was okay. Everybody else was the enemy. And when religions began to sprout up, some believed they were more holy than others, more worthy of saving, had the moral high ground over everybody else.

So all I'm asking for is a little common sense. Being human is to judge. We select our leaders based not on an internal checklist of sorts, but by the sum of the whole. Do we like this person? Do they share our values? Do we think they have the judgment to lead? If they are in the White House, will I have more money in my wallet? And so on.

So while I can respect leaving the innocentd out of it, you can't expect me to separate a candidate's politics from their personal behavior.