David Brooks, author of a pitifully predictable column entitled "The Palin Rebound," is a stupid person. I can do no less than prove that to you. I always knew that I would end up violating my one-time-only FJMing rule for Mr. Brooks. I was right.

There are some moments when members of a political movement come together as one, sharing the same thoughts, feeling the same emotions, breathing the same shallow breaths. One of those occasions occurred Thursday night when Republicans around the country crouched nervously behind their sofas, glimpsed out tentatively at their flat screens and gripped their beverages tightly as Sarah Palin walked onto the debate stage at Washington University in St. Louis.

So Palin's goal heading into the debate: make Republicans feel less ashamed of her and less dirty about voting for her. Reassure people who are voting for McCain anyway that she is not the dumbest thing to fall off of a turnip truck since James Inhofe. That sounds really productive.

There she was, resplendent in black, striding out like a power-walker, and greeting Joe Biden like an assertive salesman, first-naming him right off the bat.

She sure looked confident and pretty! And it's nice that she dispensed with the Senator's title, unlike how the media would have shit creamed corn all over itself for days if he "disrespected" her by calling her Sarah.

Just as the midcentury psychologist Abraham Maslow predicted, Republicans watching the debate had a hierarchy of needs. First, they had a need for survival. Was this woman capable of completing an extemporaneous paragraph — a collection of sentences with subjects, verbs, objects and, if possible, an actual meaning?

To David Brooks, that performance was unscripted. Extemporaneous. Natural. In other news, The Blair Witch Project was totally real. The film was, like, found in the woods by some hikers and the police wanted to release it in theaters hoping that someone could help catch the killer.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain why in the holy name of tap-dancing, ball-scratching baby Jesus it matters what Republicans think about Sarah Palin's performance.

Sarah Palin putting on a display of oratory that would make Daniel Webster sound like a hobo stroke victim = Republicans will vote for McCain.

Sarah Palin responding to questions by crapping on the podium and then smearing it around with her hands while yelling "GAA! GAA! GOO! GOO!" = Republicans will vote for McCain.

By the end of her opening answers, it was clear she would meet the test. She spoke with that calm, measured poise that marked her convention speech, not the panicked meanderings of her subsequent interviews.

She can read scripts well. Great. We have a whole industry of people who can read teleprompters convincingly. Good Morning America hosts. People on infomercials. Those stage models on The Price is Right. The weekend weather girl at every TV station in America. I can't think of a quality that serves a president better than being unable to string a coherent sentence together without a script and weeks of careful rehearsal.

When nervous, Palin has a tendency to over-enunciate her words like a graduate of the George W. Bush School of Oratory,

So now George W. Bush's oratory, eight-years praised for its "folksiness" and ability to connect to mythical creatures like Joe Six-Pack and the Kraken, is the subject of ridicule? He's an example to be mocked in service of a new candidate praised for her "folksiness" and ability to connect to mythical creatures like Joe Six-Pack and the Kraken?

but Thursday night she spoke like a normal person.

Foreshadowing Comment #1 in re: David Brooks' impression of what a "normal person" is like.

It took her about 15 seconds to define her persona — the straight-talking mom from regular America

What's "irregular America," David? I mean, aside from the multimillion dollar Beltway neighborhood from which you wrote this. That's pretty atypical, of course. Do you get a lot of contact with "regular Americans" or do you just pull stuff out of your ass and assume that the commoners who do your laundry and mow your lawn conform to your imagined archetype?

Also, my sister and her entire social circle are Moms from Regular America (downstate Illinois counts, right?) and I have never heard any of them talk like this. If they did, I would need to spend 45 minutes before each visit freebasing crack off of the intake manifold of my car in order to stand being around them.

and it was immediately clear that the night would be filled with tales of soccer moms, hockey moms, Joe Sixpacks, main-streeters, “you betchas” and “darn rights.”

We agree: it was immediately clear that the evening would be full of those things.

I have called Vegas, and legendary oddsmaker Jimmy "The Pancreas" Mazzone tells me that there is a 3:1 chance that you are about to say this is a good thing. Let me make sure I'm sitting on something that resists stains and odors.

Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.

And somewhere here on Earth the rest of us were projectile vomiting blood from our eye sockets at the cloying, degrading spectacle of watching an idiot read "folksy" lines written by a six-figure East Coast speechwriter from an Ivy League university.

With a bemused smile and a never-ending flow of words, she laid out her place on the ticket

Look at this construction: a "never-ending flow of words." They didn't make any sense and they didn't have anything to do with the questions, but the words kept coming. Awesome.

This is like praising a pitcher who gets bombed for 10 runs in an inning for his "never-ending flow of pitches." Or praising lenders for that never-ending flow of subprime mortgages.

Also, Republicans make "bemused smiles" whereas Democrats who smile are smug, condescending, child-molesting bastards who leave trails of slime as they move.

Where was this woman during her interview with Katie Couric?

She was sitting in a chair next to Katie Couric, unable to paste together four words without the scripted answers on which her life depends. Didn't you just praise her like three goddamn paragraphs ago for performing well at the convention and the debate? I know you're "special" David, but think real hard – what's the common denominator of those two events? And what's different about an interview? Both questions have the same answer. You can do it, David.

Their primal need for political survival having been satisfied, her supporters then looked for her to shift the momentum. And here we come to the interesting cultural question posed by her performance.

Yes, having satisfied a group whose opinions on the debate are totally irrelevant to the dynamics of the race, let's see if she shifted momentum.

The presidency and the vice presidency once was the preserve of white men in suits. As the historian Ellen Fitzpatrick pointed out on PBS Thursday night, if, in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro had spoken in the relentlessly folksy tones that Palin used, she would have been hounded out of politics as fundamentally unserious.

I agree, David. There is absolutely no way that a Democrat could get away with being this amateurish and vacuous. Excellent point.

But that was before casual Fridays, boxers or briefs and T-shirt-clad Silicon Valley executives. Today, Palin can hit those colloquial notes again and again, and it is not automatically disqualifying.

I'd say it has less to do with Casual Fridays than the Conservative movement's decision to abandon the intellectual high ground and wallow in stupidity for a living. Replace Buckley with Laura Ingraham. Fuck William Safire, bring on Ann Coulter. Get that literate, camera-unfriendly Bob Dole fellow out of here and replace him with a pageant automaton. Create a movement whose culture is so dumbed-down that the idiotic frat-boy ramblings of Jonah Goldberg pass for intellectualism. If you do all of that, Palin's behavior certainly isn't "automatically disqualifying." Good on you though, David, for recognizing how tremendously low your ideology has sunk in just 25 years. It used to take ideas to be a popular conservative; now it takes a loud voice and the willingness to exchange integrity for ratings.

She ran not only against Washington, but the whole East Coast, just to be safe.

That's a good tactic! I don't think any people live on the East Coast.

To many ears, her accent, her colloquialisms and her constant invocations of the accoutrements of everyday life will seem cloying.

At least 50, and probably more like 60, percent of the population. "Many" ears indeed.

But in the casual parts of the country, I suspect, it went down fine.


When Mr. Brooks wants to observe regular people, he does so through a powerful telescope from one of his two residences in midtown Manhattan and Georgetown. It is nice that he admits to having absofuckingloutely no idea what anyone outside of the Beltway and the elite media cocktail circuit is like. Very bold of him. Wither, then, the basis for the "suspicion" that this went over well? What basis, other than classist arrogance, underlies this mystical understanding of what us unwashed fly-over rubes are like?

You've nailed it, buddy – we're all fucking morons who bark like trained seals whenever some polished politico representing the elitest of the elite in the Republican Party puts on an act and pretends to be "one of us." Maybe to connect with Asian voters the Governor should put on a giant rice-bowl hat and punctuate her speech with "ME RIKEY!" instead of "youbetcha!"

On matters of substance, her main accomplishment was to completely sever ties to the Bush administration.

Yeah, that was totally believable. We're all convinced. She said that she and McCain are different. That severed the living shit out of those ties.

Palin could not match Biden when it came to policy detail, but she never obviously floundered.

"The Yankees could not match the Red Sox when it came to scoring more runs and winning the game, but they never obviously floundered."

Let's get Sarah a blue ribbon reading "PARTICIPANT" to mark her performance. That is essentially what this sentence means. She got blown away on merit, but she bodily participated in the event. She even avoided (in his opinion) completely humiliating herself. This deserves applause, the kind of applause we reserve for the talent show contestant who botches a magic trick. Way to show up and try, Sarah!

She was surprisingly forceful on the subject of Iran (pronouncing Ahmadinejad better than her running mate)

What's "surprising" about the same "ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK!" drum they have been beating for years? And what a shock that they drilled her for a week on how to pronounce it and then she pronounced it right. I can do the same thing with a parrot.

Biden, for his part, was smart, fluid and relentless. He did not hit the change theme hard enough. He did not praise Barack Obama enough. But he was engaging, serious and provided a moving and revealing moment toward the end, when he invoked the tragedy that befell his own family and revealed the passion that has driven him all his life.

So, to recap: Sarah Palin was dressed in black and said all kinds of folksy shit. Biden had a command of facts & details, was more serious, and emotionally connected with viewers. I think it's obvious, based on these statements taken from Brooks' own mouth, who won.

Still, this debate was about Sarah Palin. She held up her end of an energetic debate that gave voters a direct look at two competing philosophies. She established debating parity with Joe Biden.

Palin. Palin clearly won.

For the purposes of future measurement, the following things are equivalent and result in parity:

Group A – stories about soccer, winks that made all of America want to punch her in the fucking throat, a black suit, talking in circles, and repeating McCain's "maverick" slogan 1000 times. Also, speaking in an insulting parody of how incomprehensibly rich political elites think we serfs talk.

Group B – Having facts and details, looking like a serious candidate, answering the questions, and appearing confident and competent.

By the end of the debate, most Republicans were not crouching behind the couch, but standing on it.


Great job, Sarah. If your goal was to use this debate as a way to make the people who are already voting for you less humiliated about doing so, MISSION AFUCKINGCCOMPLISHED! You have built a bridge to somewhere: the Land of Unimportant Things that Are Nice in an Irrelevant Way.

The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.

"This had no effect on the race, but it sure was pleasing to a small group of die-hard partisans."

It made David Brooks happy, and that was really what this was about. The McCain people went into the evening thinking "Gosh, if we can please right-wing columnists with her performance, this evening will be a stunning, complete, backboard-shattering tomahawk dunk of a victory!"

And she delivered. Kudos, Sarah. What were the odds that die-hard Republicans would watch your performance and find a reason to declare victory? I certainly didn't see it coming. The rise of the sun each morning and the tendency of unrestrained heavier-than-air objects to fall toward Earth also shock me.


  • Come on Ed, tell us how you really feel. Personally I would like to live long enough to see that Reich-wingnut party become the Whigs of the 21st Century.

  • I usually can't get past the first paragraph when reading Brooks, but with this reading guide, you've made the impossible seem easy and fun! Thanks GinandTacos! Please do one for William Kristol.

  • This is entertaining reading. If I may offer a different interpretation about the Republicans who were cowering before, and now are jubilant:

    These are people who are firmly skeptical of Barack Obama. So, above all, for them, an Obama presidency is as frightening as a McCain/Palin team is to some of us.
    And they've seen how terribly Sarah Palin did in her first to "interviews".

    Yes, they're voting for McCain, anyway. But they were rejoicing that she didn't have pernicious, verbal diarrhea at the lectern. They rejoiced that people who somehow, due to complete obliviousness hadn't already selected between two candidates whose platforms are so tremendously different, the horrendously uninformed that may decide this election,…Republicans rejoiced because maybe some of those viewers would still vote the way they think is best.

    It has nothing to do with their opinion of Palin. It has to do with their wariness about Obama.

    It turns out that I went to the Cal game with one of these people (the ones that are afraid of Obama, not the ones who are hideously ignorant of the candidates and their platforms this near to the election.) I assure you, he's as concerned about Obama as can be (and it took a 30 minute BART ride, a 30 minute drive, and conversation over a Lee's banh mi to try to figure out why. [It boils down to his concern that Obama is indecisive, rather than thoughtful. And while he's nervous for our future, he seems to believe that hesitance may be more dangerous than bad decisions, when dealing with international threats or economic problems.]

  • That said, you're right. Brooks is an idiot.
    I struggle, though. Two people I strongly admire (aforementioned friend, and my Toastmasters mentor) and like definitely fell into that group of people who were wary of the debate, and came away jubilant.

  • And last of all. Debt/GDP => 5.5. I think both parties realize some really, really bad stuff is coming our way.

    I think the Republicans are under the misguided notion they can inflate this debt away (as evidenced by the fact that Greenspan could have raised rates in '87 or in '99, but he didn't want a recession on his watch). They're so committed to this strategy, in fact, that the "free market" party is the one demanding more regulatory oversight. How paradoxical is that?

    I think the Democrats are under the misguided notion that we can suck it up in a recession.

    Where I come out:
    If you buy into the "inflate it away" approach, you risk becoming every other hyperinflationary economy there is (Zimbabwe, Weimar Republic, etc.) What else do these countries have in common? Oh, yeah, fascist dictatorships that grew out of people's despair, fear, and scapegoating. (What, you think the Bush administration reduced "terrah" to one group—"Radical Islam", on accident? Come on…they're just framing the future scapegoating.)

    if you buy into the "deflate it away", you're really hoping that Doc invents the Mr. Fusion some time soon, and we can overcome the productivity loss with efficiency improvement.

    So, I expect that, subconsciously, Brooks is hoping for another "inflate it away" president, as the single, most important thing in this election. What's funny is that, while he's not in the list of scapegoats that the GoP has already suggested:
    * Radical Islam
    *Intellectuals (when you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow)
    * Low-income minorities

    he does run the risk of some backdraft, being:
    * an immigrant (he's Canadian, eh?)
    * Jewish (along with Bernanke, Greenspan, and yours truly, though none of them invite me to their parties)

    So, ultimately, the masses seem most easily motivated through fear and greed. We had our recent bout with the latter. I think the Republicans are experiencing the former, and think a McCain inflationary period would benefit them better than an Obama depression. As a result, they rejoice that Palin's performance in the debate wasn't as bad as they expected, and they hope that some of the undecideds may still elect their candidate.

    Yeah, I'm an idiot, too. Yeah, I'm scared, too. I'm just more willing to bet on the promise of a (maybe) false hope, than the threat of false fear. Rove & Co. have been waving flags of fear and rainbow-sprite color coded terror warning systems for 8 years now. If we're going down, I want to go down smiling….

  • Bittersweet Distractions says:

    This is definitely my new favorite blog. As new reader, could someone tell me what FJM means?

Comments are closed.