What will Sarah Palin’s reaction be to this speech?
Okay, that’s a fabrication. The truth is, I never want to know Palin’s reaction, to anything, and I would never give her more than a fleeting moment’s thought if the media weren’t so relentless in its campaign to keep shoving her in front of my face. And I’m not even talking about Fox News, because I never watch that network and I don’t visit their website unless I click a link without knowing that it’s taking me there.
But for the past couple of days, I’ve been catching sight of headlines indicating that Sarah Palin has held forth on the subject of the SOTU, which I’ve been scrolling right past, because, well… so? This is a woman who considers “What do you read?” to be an example of ambush journalism! What could she possibly have to say about the SOTU address that would interest me?
But having finally been tempted to read about her reaction by an intriguing headline yesterday(Sarah Palin’s weird ‘Sputnik’ story), I was reminded in reading the story that Sarah Palin’s only legitimate value to political discourse is as comic relief. Or at least, it should be.
I expect Fox News to trot out Palin for a scathing and mostly incoherent diatribe after the SOTU; it’s what they do. What still confounds me is the attention routinely paid to her rantings by the rest of the media. Why are legitimate news organizations continuing to waste precious column inches, airtime, and bandwidth on the garbled pronouncements of a former beauty queen, former small-town mayor, former half-term governor?
The answer to this question is, of course, that people are willing to read and watch stories about Palin. The realtiy-show era ushered in by the Jerry Springer show has conditioned Americans to not only accept outrageously uncouth, unintelligent, and rude behavior, but to celebrate it. Thus, the media is all over it when the president’s 70-minute speech about hope for the future and striving for excellence is met with scintillating insights like this:
PALIN: Well, speaking of last night, that was a tough speech to have to sit through and kind of try to stomach because the president is so off base in his ideas on how it is that he believes the government is going to create jobs. Obviously, government growth won’t create any jobs. It’s the private sector that can create the jobs.
And his theme last night in the Speaker of the House was the “WTF,” you know, “Winning the Future.” And I thought, “OK, that acronym, spot on.” There were a lot of “WTF” moments throughout that speech, namely, when he made the statement, Greta, that he believed that we can’t allow ourselves to, I guess, eventually become buried under a mountain of debt. That right there tells you he is so disconnected from reality! The problem is, we are buried under a mountain of debt, and jobs cannot be created by the private sector. We cannot grow and thrive and prosper as a nation when we are buried under this $14 trillion debt.
VAN SUSTEREN: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is still with us. And Governor, last night there was a lot of discussion about the Sputnik moment that the president talked about. Do you agree with him? Do you — and is this our moment?
PALIN: That was another one of those WTF moments, when he so often repeated this Sputnik moment that he would aspire Americans to celebrate. And he needs to remember that what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that race to space, yes, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.Did you get that? Go back and read it again if you missed seeing Palin rewrite history to fit her own ideological agenda. Or if you don’t think you can stomach that, just let WaPo’s Stephen Stromberg lay it out for you.
In her rant, Palin wildly misconstrued the president’s argument, which was not about emulating the Soviets in the 1950s but instead about the Americans who responded to early Soviet success in space exploration by educating themselves and out-innovating the Soviets.This is bad enough, all by itself – a person who has been elevated, mostly by the media but also by a country still eager to hear the latest thing she has to say, to the status of major political commentator completely distorts and misconstrues not only the meaning of historical events, but the order in which they occurred… and who cares? Sure, Stromberg is pissed, I am, maybe lots of people are. But the logical response to this is to roundly mock her for her ignorance or disingenuousness, and then to stop paying her attention. But we won’t.
But let’s pretend that wasn’t Obama’s point. The Soviets didn’t have an empire-draining debt problem until some 30 years after Sputnik passed over America. And when they did, it was in large part a result of massive overinvestment in heavy industry, which supported Soviet military pretensions. None of this is to argue that the Soviet economy is anything we should emulate. But let’s at least get the basic facts right when we criticize it.
But in claiming that the Soviets incurred their consequential debts long before Reagan was president, Palin ends up arguing that the Gipper wasn’t nearly that responsible for the USSR spending itself to death. If a reverence for Reagan’s anti-Soviet spending inspired her narrative in the first place, then this is incoherent. If she’s just making this all up, then she’s really also claiming that the Reagan-brought-down-the-USSR narrative is overstated.
Even when Palin goes from screwing up the Sputnik story to an incomprehensible plug for the “Spudnut Shop,” people are still listening to her.
So I listened to that Sputnik moment talk over and over again, and I think, No, we don’t need one of those. You know what we need is a “spudnut” moment. And here’s where I’m going with this, Greta. And you’re a good one because you’re one of those reporters who actually gets out there in the communities, find these hard-working people and find solutions to the problems that Americans face.
Well, the spudnut shop in Richland, Washington — it’s a bakery, it’s a little coffee shop that’s so successful, 60-some years, generation to generation, a family-owned business not looking for government to bail them out and to make their decisions for them. It’s just hard-working, patriotic Americans in this shop.
We need more spudnut moments in America. And I wish that President Obama would understand, in that heartland of America, what it is that really results in the solutions that we need to get this economy back on the right track. It’s a shop like that.WTF? What the hell is that about? Did I miss the huge government bailout of the baking industry somehow? I mean, I’m glad that the Spudnut Shop owners aren’t looking for a government bailout, because I’m fairly certain that the fate of the national economy will never hang on the success of the local cruller-slinger. No bakery is too big to fail.
I’m sure that someone on Palin’s low-rent media team went searching for a small business with a name reminiscent of Sputnik precisely so she could draw some half-assed parallel like this. I’m also sure that her Facebook reference to the president’s high-speed rail proposal as “half-baked” was thought to be cute. “Get it? Half-baked, Spudnut bakery? Hah? Hah?”
To be sure, Palin is a nitwit. But she’s proven that time and time again, so it’s not exactly news. But who are the bigger nitwits – the people who think she’s smart and worth listening to, or the people who know she’s an idiot but keep driving traffic to her Facebook page?
President Obama is right that America needs a new focus on innovation, a renewed interest in studying math and science. But I don’t know if a country dominated by a such a taste for tabloid material is really ready for a Sputnik moment. We need to prove we’re ready to leave the nitwit moment behind.