Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2011

RHETORICAL BOOKENDS.... The political world spent a fair amount of time yesterday pondering the career-changing errors of Sarah Palin's video message, and its petty, defensive, resentful qualities. A half-day later, that same political world saw President Obama speak at a memorial service, delivering an inspiring address.

The New York Times noted this morning that the day was therefore "bookended by two remarkable -- and remarkably different -- political performances that demonstrated the vast expanse of America's political landscape.... Unless -- or until -- Ms. Palin runs for president and wins the Republican nomination, there are not likely to be many single days in which the two very different politicians are on display in such dramatic ways."

I can only assume Republicans won't care for the comparison. Jonathan Martin noted what was plainly true: Obama thrived where Palin failed.

At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest -- or capacity -- in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.

Palin was defiant, making the case in a taped speech she posted online why the nation's heated political debate should continue unabated even after Saturday's tragedy in Tucson. And, seeming to follow her own advice, she swung back at her opponents, deeming the inflammatory notion that she was in any way responsible for the shootings a "blood libel."

Obama, speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, summoned the country to honor the victims, and especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, by treating one another with more respect. "I want America to be as good as Christina imaged it," he said.

It's difficult to imagine a starker contrast.

Watching Palin yesterday morning, she looked caustic and small. Watching the president last night, he looked like a giant national leader, which in turn made Palin shrink even further, to the point at which she's hardly visible.

And what a relief it would be if this turn of events made it that much more difficult to see her again going forward.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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I hope we can all finally say to Sarah Palin, "Say Goodnight, Graceless."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 13, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I truly hope that finally, Palin does indeed shrink into absolute nothingness. Something that should have happened the day after she stepped down as the Gov. of Alaska.

Posted by: nodak on January 13, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

As I mentioned in the other thread, in response to Eeyore's comment, Obama's speech was all about "us". Palin's speech was all about "them". No better summaries of two very different approaches to politics.

Posted by: Basilisc on January 13, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

In contrast to Obama's speech, Sarah's looked like a cheap stunt. Sad.

Posted by: pol on January 13, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

It might turn out that these days really ended Palin's political carreer. And not because of some crosshairs, but because of an 8 minute video she released as some kind of "state of the union" address.

Can be some of the less lunatic Republicans feel the urge to prevent her from becoming the GOP nominee.

Posted by: Vokoban on January 13, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Sarah is becoming the existential meaning of the great children's classic Peter and the Wolf.

Storyboard: A tot in the world of adults wants attention and puts his community into confusion to the point of peril by falsely creating crisis. In the end, the tot has not the trust of his own community.

Sarah's first cry of wolf - "Pals around with terrorists"

Sarah's second cry of wolf - "Death Panels"

And, now, "Blood Libel"

Go home Sarah and heal thyself before the real wolves come and get you (Besides, I know you have a shit-load of guns, and home is really where the heart is)! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 13, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Palin's is a piece of chalk screeching across a blackboard, Obama a balm amid heartbreak.

But remember: She had but 8 minutes. He had 34.
I half expect her to demand equal time.

Posted by: Jerry Elsea on January 13, 2011 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Um... There are some of us who would rather enjoy the idea of Palin running for president just to see her 'debate' Obama.

Besides the benefit of splitting of the Republican party into two: The Corporatocracy Party and the Teabaggery Party.

Posted by: ellroon on January 13, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Sarah is a vile egotistical blot on western civilization. She has buried her own political ambitions with that ill timed and caustic video which hopefully will be brought up at every opportunity so that we might realize exactly what type of person she is. But it doesn't take a mind reader to predict that she will however, be making the rounds very soon defending herself on Faux Nooze while the likes of Hannity, Beck and O'Reilly lob softball questions at her. I regret that it is unlikely she will go quietly into the night.

Posted by: John R on January 13, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

@Basilisc - I claim no special wisdom, but I think my post in the earlier thread applies here too (without the stray garbage characters stuck in):

President Obama: "But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Sarah Palin: "Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

Posted by: Eeyore on January 13, 2011 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Watching Palin yesterday morning, she looked caustic and small."

She also looked old, angry, defensive and just plain mean. In a way, it was her Dorian Gray portrait brought out of the attic for all to see.

She wasn't speaking to the nation or to all Americans last night. she was talking to her fans. That's the Sarah Palin they wanted and that's what she gave them. Politically, she's dead in the water, but she has to maintain her fan base...that's her cash cow. I think from this point she'll begin to diminish nationally, and eventually she'll be like Elvis in his last years, or Doctor Laura currently, relegated to the bible belt.

That was a truly ugly appearance, in every way,for her. I think her 15 minutes were being stretched to begin with, but I think the fascination will finally begin to wane.

Oh, and "blood libel"? That was very deliberate. That was no accident.

Posted by: SaintZak on January 13, 2011 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

" Sarah's looked like a cheap stunt."
Posted by: pol

-perhaps that is because she is a steep c. . . . .

Posted by: DAY on January 13, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

There are lots of rocks in Alaska. I'm sure she can find a suitable one to crawl under

Posted by: wordtypist on January 13, 2011 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Not entirely fair to compare the two. For one, Obama hasn't been accused of inciting the shooting, so of course Palin sounded defensive. Also, her reference to the "hatred and violence" incited by the media may have been a complaint about the sharp rise in death threats against her since Saturday.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 13, 2011 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

President Obama was Lincolnesque: the theme of the speech ("How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?" "...make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.") and even some of the words (Gabby called it "Congress on Your Corner" - just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.") were, as the Times said this morning, intended to 'bind up the nation's wounds' in the same way as Lincoln's words at Gettyburg and on other occassions.Obama did what great Presidents must do and know how to do; he offered us leadership.

Palin did just what we might expect from a minor celebrity whose 'star' is fading and who has embarrassed herself: she went to ground, consulted her media mavens and then made an angry, defensive and self serving statement, and ass of herself, again.

Posted by: robert on January 13, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

We must remember that Palin is only the spokesbimbo for the plutocracy movement. I doubt her handler/manipulators will quietly disappear. They may just choose to retire her in favor of another loon. Maybe the NRA would take her on now that Charlton Heston is gone.

Posted by: me4texas on January 13, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

DAY, Bad, bad boy. Mustn't do.

But that was very, very clever! Five stars.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 13, 2011 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Palin looked like she was trying to claw her way out of a corner. She knows her brand has taken a hit, but (as she proved yesterday) she has no idea how to successfully navigate out of a tough situation.

This is probably the best example of what a terrible leader she is. She willingly, maybe gleefully, got herself into a ditch by using inflammatory rhetoric. She dug the hole deeper yesterday.

To where does she lead? Looks like she is lost to me. It really looks like her failed attempt yesterday to regain control over her brand's image has demonstrated to the right that she is a waste of their time and money.

If she puts out one more inflammatory statement, she will be completely radioactive. Her ego and lack of self discipline will drive her to do it, too. I'm smiling at the thought.

Posted by: jcricket on January 13, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

The president's speech was very good, very presidential.

I don't see why you think Mrs. Palin should not have defended herself against the completely false accusations that she had in some way contributed to or caused a mass murder. Would you be praising her today if she had turned the other cheek? I didn't think so.

Posted by: DBL2 on January 13, 2011 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK


Palin hasn't been accused of inspiring the shooting. Rather she has been accused of being a major contributor to the environment were people like Jared can flourish. And she can't complain about that because it's true.

As for "Obama hasn't been accused of inciting the shooting," yes, he has. If you've been reading the right wing blogs, the meme there is that Jared was fighting tyranny and is something of a misguided hero similar to McVeigh.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Palin will fade away as soon as smart people like Steve Benen stop wasting effort analyzing every tweet, email and/or video message she sends out. If you want Palin off the national scene, STOP BEING A PALIN PARROT. Just ignore her and write about other stuff.

Posted by: Taylor Wray on January 13, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK


You've hit the nail on the head. Sarah Palin is all "Brand". There's no "there" there. She's all about herself, Sarah the Momma Grizzly, Sarah the gun totin' moose dressin' straight talkin' gal. She has no more substance than a bottle of dishwasher detergent or a new line of designer perfume.

Posted by: Eeyore on January 13, 2011 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Watching Palin yesterday morning, she looked caustic and small. Watching the president last night, he looked like a giant national leader, which in turn made Palin shrink even further, to the point at which she's hardly visible." What a great observation, Steve. Spot on. I'd add to Basilisc's comment that Obama's speech was about 'us' and Palin's speech was about 'me', which pretty much captures the difference too. BTW Michael Tomasky had a brief devastating takedown of Palin at The guardian yesterday too.

Posted by: macleodcartoons on January 13, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Texas Aggie wrote about Palin: "Rather she has been accused of being a major contributor to the environment were people like Jared can flourish." What exactly does this mean if not that she bears some responsibility for a mass murder? Even today, even after we now know that the killer never read the papers, never listened to the news, never watched TV, didn't care about politics in the way we all do, and became fixated on the Congresswoman in 2007 because she didn't answer some crazy question he asked, you are still claiming that Mrs. Palin is responsible for his acts.

Maybe a saint would turn the other cheek, but if I were the one basely accused like that, I would not. You should hang your head in shame.

Posted by: DBL2 on January 13, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Obama reestablished the center. In so doing he made all but the most partisan folks stop and take a breath. Sarah was very much part of the conversation yesterday morning. Now she's irrelevant. She truly seems to have no sense of what it means to appeal to people without excluding.

Posted by: jomo on January 13, 2011 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

I've never thought that Palin was serious about running for the presidency - it's too much work. Like Gingrich, who surely knows he can't win, I think she's just keeping the speculation alive so that she retains her value as a speaker and to keep earning big bucks. Watching her now, she seems bewildered. She realizes that she's been fading for some time now, but she isn't smart enough to see why or how to stop it. "They're taking away my wonderful warm spotlight! Why? What did I do?" Total self absorbsion means she has no self-awareness, no analytical ability, no empathy.

Posted by: johio on January 13, 2011 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

And what a relief it would be if this turn of events made it that much more difficult to see her again going forward.


Posted by: CDW on January 13, 2011 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

This morning, even the BBC reported they were getting all kinds of e-mails praising Obama's speech. One said, "This is a turning point in his presidency."

Besides the offensive "blood libel" remarks and besides the narcissism of $arah Palin's video, it showed something else -- she's too thin-skinned ever to be a leader.

More lies have been told about Barack Obama and his policies in the last two years (many by Palin herself) than people will ever waste their breaths on over the half-baked Alaskan former governor (I like that line so much I'm throwing it out there as much as possible).

Once again: $arah Palin has jumped the moose.

Posted by: Molly Weasley on January 13, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Here is a link to a collection of screenshots of tweets, etc. calling for Palin's murder. http://patterico.com/2011/01/12/bad-irony-alert-the-blood-libel-on-palin-resulted-has-resulted-in-an-%e2%80%9cunprecedented%e2%80%9d-increase-of-death-threats-against-palin. But of course, that has nothing to do with any "environment of hate."

Posted by: DBL2 on January 13, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

DBL2 You (and Sarah Palin) sound like children I taught -- some of whom had been told by parents to "never say you're sorry." Those students were the ones with the biggest behavior and social problems, not surprisingly.

I worked hard with my own children and my students to explain that saying, "I'm sorry" or "I apologize" or even "I'll do things differently" doesn't mean you purposely did something, it means that you are sorry about the result, about what you see in front of you. You can even say it about things that have nothing to do with your own actions: "I'm so sorry that happened to you."

But to never reflect on one's own words (and then to rail against "the press" for their words) is immature in the highest degree. To feel so entitled to your own (violent) images and words and yet so persecuted by the complaints about your words? That's beyond immature.

Posted by: Jen on January 13, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

DBL2 - you're obviously a Palin fan, which means you probably aren't going to find a lot of support here. That said, I'm pretty sure everyone here condemns death threats aimed at anyone else, including Palin. However, please keep in mind that there's a difference between anonymous nuts commenting on blogs or send threats and the climate created when Party leaders call for exercise of 2nd amendment rights or using bullets if ballots won't defeat Harry Reid or saying that citizens should be armed and dangerous. Some one pointed out once that both sides have their nuts; the difference is that the Republicans listen to theirs.

Posted by: johio on January 13, 2011 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Despite having nothing to do with the shooting, Sarah Palin's name was dragged into it before the bodies were even cold. Naturally, she's offended by the association. She can't just ignore it.

While it would be nice if she also took a moment to reflect on why it's so easy for so many people to fault her for her choice of rhetoric, I ain't gonna hold my breath.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 13, 2011 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

But it would be sooo entertaining if she ran for Pres.

Posted by: Polaris on January 13, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

1. Personally, I have big problems with the current legal definition of insanity, but it is what we have, and under that definition I would have to say that Sarah Palin is unable to distinguish good from evil.

2. The right-wing hysteria is creating an interesting trap for itself. How do we reconcile their two baselines that (a) the Tucson shooter was a left-wing nut case, incapable of rational action, and (b) the sole responsibility for shooting 20 people and killing 6 belongs to the shooter? Do the righties want to let him off as insane or do they want to punish him?

Posted by: Brownell on January 13, 2011 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Someone should tell Palin that it takes more than posing with the flag to look presidential.

As for DBL: Dishonest conservative is dishonest. Film at 11.

Posted by: Gregory on January 13, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Watching the president last night, he looked like a giant national leader, which in turn made Palin shrink even further, to the point at which she's hardly visible."


Indeed, Steve, and put much more eloquently than what I posted on mudflats blog last night.

Palin was scolding in her speech. It was interesting to watch her "bangs" quiver back and forth as her head twitched, seemingly angry in what she was saying. Though it started out as a call for us to do better, there was no inspiration or comfort in how she spoke, and then of course, it ended up being all about poor little her.

The president was calm, but also impassioned (about as much as he ever shows), reasonable, called on us to be better than we are. His final thoughts about us being the America that Christina imagined was brilliant. (For all of the concerned rhetoric from Republican lawmakers about our "kids and grandkids" in the debate about the increasing deficit, where is the reality of that when so many people's kids and grandkids are suffering NOW? From hunger & lack of housing, poor education, job opportunities, etc. I'm convinced they're talking about their own kids and grandkids, who probably don't have much to worry about!)

Christina sounded like a wonderful little girl, who may have become a public servant herself. I hope she inspires many of us, old and young, to reflection, and to action. President Obama called to the best in all of us, using Christina, Rep. Giffords and the rest of the victims as examples.

OTOH, the former half-wit AK governor left a bad taste in our mouths.

Posted by: Hannah on January 13, 2011 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Despite having nothing to do with the shooting, Sarah Palin's name was dragged into it before the bodies were even cold. -- Grumpy, @11:08

I think that's because of that clip of Giffords interview, on TV, where she mentions her worry about the map with the crosshairsnd what possible outcomes could be. And then, next thing you know, there's Giffords herself as the target, in real life.

Posted by: exlibra on January 13, 2011 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

It occurred to me this morning that Palin's speech was actually an act of monstrous, disproportionate egocentricity on her part. She actually thought she could displace Obama from being at the center of everyone's thoughts last evening, and that she would naturally draw all the news toward covering her. Imagine what colossal ego it would take to imagine such a thing, especially given Obama's keen ability to connect his learning, his heart and his thinking to beautifully chosen words.

Proving once again the immortality of Keith Olbermann's description of her....

Posted by: jjm on January 13, 2011 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Sheriff Dupnik's comment that he doesn't know a public servant who doesn't receive threats is really discouraging. That Palin is receiving even more threats since Saturday is depressing. Threats of violence are vile.

Where can Palin go from here? Her history says she will continue as she has been doing, dividing everything into us vs them and playing the victim. Her hard core followers will remain, but she will fade in national importance unless she does something dramatic. Just mouthing vitriol will not cut it. She will get less and less attention. She'll probably end up married to Rush.

Posted by: Seould on January 13, 2011 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK


For what precisely should Mrs. Palin apologize? For using martial metaphors that are common in politics ("war room," "battleground state," "campaign," "targeted district," etc., etc.)? That's ridiculous.

If you were more honest, you would admit that you want Mrs. Palin to apologize for effectively rallying voters to oppose President Obama's agenda.

FWIW, I am not a Palin fan, and I hope she is not nominated in 2012, but it's pretty obvious that she was falsely accused of contributing to a mass murder and it's not hard to understand why she would decline to turn the other cheek to such libel.

Posted by: DBL2 on January 13, 2011 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Despite the conventional wisdom of the beltway class pundits, President Obama is an honest, strong, inspirational, thoughtful leader.

When he makes a mistake, he's not too proud to apologize and invite his antagonists over for a beer to try and improve the situation.

Palin, like her benefactor McCain, is petty, vindictive, dishonest quitter. She is incapable of accepting responisbilty for or learnig from her mistakes.

Posted by: Winkandanod on January 13, 2011 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

DBL2, who has accused SP of "contributing" to a mass murder? President Obama hasn't. The leaders of the Democratic Party haven't. I haven't.
What SP HAS been accused of is using herself, and supporting the use by others, of dishonest, deliberately misleading, inflammatory rhetoric in political speeches. Speeches, by the way, that receive MUCH more coverage than most speeches by the President.
If she felt she was completely innocent of ANY contribution to the state of affairs that resulted in what happened in Tucson, then why did she immediately imagine that all eyes were turned on her? Why did she react so defensively? Were she NOT such a contributor, or thought she wasn't, why such an outburst as displayed on the video?
I do know that if "I" have a clear conscience concerning something, I don't immediately presume that fingers are pointing at me when the subject somes up...

Posted by: Doug on January 13, 2011 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

You are correct that President Obama did not make any accusations against Mrs. Palin. Although it took him a few days to get around to it, when he spoke he put out the fire raging in the media about how "right-wing" hysteria, notably lead by Mrs. Palin, had contributed to the massacre in Arizona. No Democratic leader (except perhaps for Cong. Clyburn) joined in that lynch mob, either. It was purely a media play - lead by bloggers, journalists and TV newsies.

It's true - the political class, both left and right, by and large behaved honorably in this case while the media behaved disgracefully.

As for your conscience - if you were accused by Paul Krugman and by numerous other famous journalists and bloggers of committing some heinous crime, I'm sure you would want to defend yourself, especially if it was an accusation made by numerous parties, not an isolated case.

Posted by: DBL2 on January 14, 2011 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK



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