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As I noted last night, Sarah Palin can best be described as "Spiro Agnew in heels."  Her speech attacking Obama and the TM comes right out of Agnew's old playbook:

Agnew was known for his tough criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-Vietnam War activists. He was known for attacking his opponents with unusual, often alliterative epithets, some of which were coined by White House speech-writers William Safire and Pat Buchanan, including "nattering nabobs of negativism" (written by Safire), "pusillanimous pussyfooters", and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history". He once described a group of opponents as "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."

In short, Agnew was Nixon's "hatchet man" when defending the administration on the Vietnam War. Agnew was chosen to make several powerful speeches in which he spoke out against anti-war protesters and media portrayal of the Vietnam War, labeling them "Franco Un-American".

 It was entirely fitting that Buchanan was in the house to witness the show.

Palin also has some obvious parallels to Tracy Flick, the ambitious aspiring high school politician in the 1999 movie "Election":

It is election season at Carver High School, and it is time for the student body to choose their elected representatives for the student council in the upcoming year. So far the only candidate running for the presidency is Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon of "Pleasantville"), an ambitious overachiever with superior academic performance, unbridled ambition, and far too many extracurricular activities. And though she may seem to be a model teenager at first glance, underneath the spirited facade is a manipulative, petty, and self-absorbed narcissist.

In her (thankfully) brief political career to date, Gov. Palin has fired or attempted to fire a police chief, a public safety director, a librarian, a museum director, and a host of others.  "Sarah Barracuda" has, thus far, not let anyone or anything get in her way.  Her open disdain about Obama's community organizing background and her open attacks on the TM show that she believes that what worked in Wasilla and then in AK can work for her nationwide.

There is a dangerous human tendency to conflate one's personal ambitions w/ the public good.  Every candidate to high office tends to engage in such a conflation--the guy on the top of the GOP ticket clearly does.  What's unique about Palin's conflation, however, is that there's absolutely nothing to back it up.

While I share Thad Cochran's fears about the idea of John McCain w/ his finger on the button, McCain does have a long Senate career marked w/ some genuine achievements.  While there are serious problems w/ his overall worldview, he actually has taken the trouble to form such a view.  Palin's worldview is, in essence based upon her perception as to what will sell to the target audience that will help her further her career ambitions at a given time.

She was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.  She was a supporter of Ted Stevens before she was against him.  She and her husband have supported AK secession before such support became a political liability.  Of all of the offensive aspects of her speech last night, probably the most offensive were her claiming the "reformer" mantle and her concommitant lying about her position on the bridge.

What was equally noteworthy about her speech was its echoes of the 1964 GOP Convention.  Rick Perlstein has chronicled the incessant media-bashing of that Convention:

The logy Mark Hopkins elevators gave the insurgents, flooding into town for what Goldwater biographer Robert Alan Goldberg called the "Woodstock of the right," at least two chances a day to bait Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, anchors of NBC's nightly newscast—and crypto-liberals, according to their harassers. "You know, these nighttime news shows sound to me like they're being broadcast from Moscow," one conservative observed to another on the way down, loud enough for the two newsmen to hear. Brinkley forbade his son, Alan, to show his NBC insignia, except to security.

The volume of right-wing rage at the media was novel at this Republican convention. Unprecedented, too, was the attention focused on the issue of television coverage.

We all know how the 1964 electionturned out.  A blunt AZ GOP senator who flew in the military and who held trigger-happy views lost in one of the largest landslides in American history.  Ironically enough, the current GOP nominee took over that nominee's Senate seat when the former nominee retired.  While none of us know how this election will turn out, the possibility of a Dem landslide now exists.

The generic party preferences favor the Dems by a large margin.  Major Dem gains in both houses are almost inevitable at this point.  This GOP Convention, like the 1964 one, is, obviously, rallying the hard-right base.  It is hard to see, however, how it will appeal to broader constituencies whose support is essential for victory.

It is now apparent that the McCain/Palin ticket is, arguably, just as dangerous at the W/Cheney one.  Fortunately, there is little reason at present to expect the current ticket to prevail, in large part b/c of the job performance of its predecessors.  There should, accordingly, be no need to bring Buchanan back to craft cogent alliterations for VP Palin.

It's time to get on w/ the task of consigning this GOP ticket to the historical ash heap where it belongs.

Originally posted to RFK Lives on Thu Sep 04, 2008 at 06:38 AM PDT.

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