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Posted in: Feminism, Culture Wars & Censorship

Published on Oct 02, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington


I admit it: The debate bored me. I even nodded off–something I never do while on duty. And yet: This election has taken up too much space. It has been a cross between a long running soap opera and a personality contest, a spectacle instead of a solution–spectacle as the solution.

But Governor Sarah Palin is truly an exemplary “Mrs. Smith goes to Washington.” She is a genuine provincial outsider and this is part of her considerable charm. She is potentially Karen Silkwood and Norma Jean Rae and she held her own “real well” against consummate insider Senator Joe Biden who kept calling her “Governor” even as he continuously referred to her Presidential running-mate as “John.” (Senator McCain to you mister).

The contrast was clear as is the choice. More smooth talking Beltway politicians or a down home “little lady” politician. More government regulations (although God knows, Wall Street needs some brakes and even Palin agreed with Biden on this one)–versus less government and lower taxes; the importance of stopping a nuclear and Hate Israel Iran; the nature of patriotism; a re-definition of what qualifies someone to hold high public office.

Folks: While Biden demonstrated restraint, his capacity for anger simmered just below the surface and seems every bit as great as that reputed to McCain. He got in lots of details, lots of name dropping, lots of bills, issues, lots of history happened on his watch and he made sure we knew it. Biden only got angry and emotional when he feared that Palin had appealed as a mother to other mothers and then, with a voice quivering with emotion, he defended the “humanity” of single fathers who can function just as mothers can and which is something that he himself did.

If pressed, I’d have to say that Palin “aced” this one and not because she is as experienced as Joe Biden, (whose record is, I think, long and largely admirable), and not because she can talk about learning something from House Speaker Mike Mansfield–that’s Biden’s forte–but because a) she did better than we expected her to do–we had lower expectations for her; b) she was also able to demonstrate a gut and unflappable command of complicated issues; c) she represented a different approach and she stuck to her metaphoric guns. In her view, raising taxes and paying them is not “patriotic.” Sending your troops into harms way to protect America’s freedoms is “patriotic” as is developing independent energy so that America does not continue to fund countries that hate America. Palin supports what is happening now in Iraq and views it as where America is fighting Al-Qaeda. Biden does not. In her words, directed to Biden she said: “Your solution is a white flag of surrender.”

God knows what the fact checkers will reveal by morning, if not any minute,about whether McCain or Obama did or did not vote for particular resolutions and what their votes or failures to vote really signify.

Did anyone notice that Palin, after her strong statement of support for Israel, said that America would move its Embassy to Jerusalem? Assuming the two state solution both she and Biden said they favored still meant that Israelis would control an undivided Jerusalem, her statement was a revelation.

Did anyone notice that both candidates favor only limited civil rights for same sex couples? And that neither mentioned the word “woman,” not even once, (except for Biden’s pronouncing the Violence Against Women Act but very quickly)?

I am “tired, and I gotta got to bed, I had a coupla drinks and they went right to my head”….but tomorrow, stay tuned for some thoughts about why I’m not sure that Obama is really your typical African-American and what I think about McCain’s choice of a woman–this particular woman–for his Vice-Presidential running mate.

PLEASE NOTE: The blogosphere is weighing in brilliantly on the Great Debate. Biden was not factual, Palin provided her own contrast and corrective to the mainstream media’s mischeivous mischaracterization. Read Fausta, Epamonidas and SerandEZ & Friends.


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