Swift-boating Barack Obama II
Bill Long 9/10/08
The Way to Attack Sarah Palin I; the General Approach
The Democrats are currently on their heels after Sarah Palin's effective attack on Barack Obama in her acceptance speech for the nomination for Republican VP last week. They don't know what to make of her one-liners, her outspoken "girlishness," her obvious attractiveness, and her seeming strangeness. I point to the last idea because it will be their exploration of this "strangeness" or being "out of tune with" the "broad middle" of the American electorate which will provide the basis not only for an effective counterrattack on McCain-Palin but also for her complete neutralization. It might even show her to be a liability for the "R" ticket. In this essay I will first say what the D's ought not to attack/do; then, in the next essay, I will conclude with the three issues they ought to raise.
What Not to Attack About Sarah Palin
The D's are correct that they need to refrain from attacks on her family, especially the fact that her unmarried daughter is pregnant and that it isn't wise for a mother of five fairly young children to be VP. These attacks are losers; indeed, they give the opportunity for her to respond with a line that will connect with the American voter--"families have problems. So do we..." Indeed, if family is brought into the picture by the D's, it will "open the door" for her to speak about Trig, her child with Down Syndrome--which I would recommend to the "R's" that they highlight, as a means of connecting with voters. Voters, and people in general, like to see admissions of vulnerability in people in whom they will eventually put their trust; it means that the person has been humbled and will probably be less quick to judge others who face disabilities and large hurdles.
The second point that is off limits to D's is her religion per se. What I mean by that is that there ought to be no attacks on her based on whether she and her family attended or even were members of a Pentecostal Church. For those who have studied religion in America, the Pentecostal Church owes its history to some revival meetings in Los Angeles and other places exactly 100 years ago; but with any new denomination, it collected its members from the "lower tier" of society. Pentecostalism still hasn't shaken its low/lowmiddle roots, and so an "attack" on their expressions of belief which Sarah Palin may or may not share (such as speaking in tongues) will really be a sort of oblique attack on lowermiddle people. It is a loser for the D's to do it.
Indeed, picking up on the religion theme a bit more, the D's shouldn't pursue such broad religious issues as "whether she believes in science" or "whether she believes in the separation of church and state" or even "whether she believes in evolution." These issues are so broad that anyone, even a "flat-earther," could fit him/herself into a mainline outfit when answering such a broadly pitched question. For example, let's say that she really believed that it was completely legitimate for government to give tons of money to churches--not only through tax breaks (which they already get) but through grants for social service projects, day care, job training or many other things. Let us say, also, that many of these churches give an "evangelistic presentation" to people before giving them services. Suppose she supports all these things, things which I think the majority of Americans oppose (especially the evangelistic presentation).
If a question was put to her whether she "supported the separation of church and state," she could easily reply, "Of course I do." How could she get away with this answer? By defining "separation of church and state" as meaning having separate control of the institutions of each; i.e., that no President should give orders to the Southern Baptist Convention on what they are to do; that no religious group should, other than through the democratic process (i.e., elections, contacting of elected representatives), dictate what the government should do. While she would be defining "separation of church and state" very narrowly, it would be a defensible position and she could sneak her beliefs, which are probably out of the mainstream, under the radar. Thus, the broad-stroke religious questions like this are worthless. Another line of what I call quasi-religious attack is much more preferable. Let's turn to the D strategy now.
The Way to Deal With Sarah Palin
The D's have to deal with her on substance and on identifiable issues that will resonate with the American voter. They have to smoke her out so that she faces real-live questions from real-live reporters or opponents. To date she has been kept under wraps, as if the R's are a bit afraid that letting her speak for herself might damage the ticket. Shades of George W. Bush in his first debate with John Kerry in 2004... But consider this. She is only 44, a governor of a small and isolated state, a person who really hasn't had much experience of "the world" beyond Alaska. Even Bill Clinton, who was only a few years older than she when elected President and far more acquainted with political things, was scored on his relative youth and inexperience (and he had been governor for nearly a decade in Arkansas). Palin simply has not had the time to "think through" positions which require a lot of thought--at least the ones I will isolate below. I think that is the real reason she hasn't been heard from since the Convention.
So, she will need to be "smoked out." What if she refuses to take the bait and come out and talk? In that case the D's can develop a line like, "At least we know that Sarah Palin can deliver a good speech." That is, turn her strength against her. Do things like this and the R's will have to let her speak.
Once she is "out of the closet," so to speak, D's need to attack her on three issues. In no particular order they are: (1) Her belief in Creationism; (2) Her belief in exploring for more oil in natural wildnerness areas in Alaska; and (3) Her belief that abortion is wrong, perhaps in all circumstances. The next essay describes how they should attack in all three areas.