Skip to main content

In last Thursday's debate between Vice Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, moderator Gwen Ifill asked both individuals to describe their Achilles' heel. Palin's response revealed her to be the unlettered tundra hick that we'd always suspected:

[Crossposted at ihatewhatyoujustsaid.com]

PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that's extremely important.

But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there also so that connection was important.

But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation. But together, we represent a perfect ideal. And that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this world.

John McCain and I share that. You combine all that with being a team with the only track record of making a really, a difference in where we've been and reforming, that's a good team, it's a good ticket.

1) The Achilles' Heel:

This is standard fodder for Job Interview 101 -- explain your weaknesses. But Sarah Palin clearly doesn't understand the literary reference to the Iliad, much less the common -- even threadbare -- expression of the Achilles' heel that is used to describe a character flaw or personal weakness. I think we know what her Achilles' heel really is: she doesn't read anything.

2) American Exceptionalism:

The term American Exceptionalism is an academic keyword used as a criticism of American nationalism, our belief in a "manifest destiny," and our willful forgetting of all the violence and suffering that attended the founding and  expansion of our nation. It carries the exact opposite meaning that she intended.

3) A Shining City on a Hill

Palin's statement that America is a "shining city on a hill" is falsely attributed to Ronald Reagan. Had Palin  actually read Reagan's speech, she would know that the former president himself acknowledges that the source of the quotation is John Winthrop, a Puritan, and first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Significantly, Winthrop's quote -- which is taken from his sermon entitled "A Model of Christian Charity (1630)" -- is widely discussed as the earliest expression of American Exceptionalism. Winthrop describes the Puritan's presence in the New World as a mission from God. Several million Indian deaths later, the idea appeared somewhat less "shiny." Oh, and Winthrop didn't say "shining" -- Reagan added that part.

And we should also point out that Reagan wasn't even original here: he ripped the idea off from John F. Kennedy who used the line in a speech to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961 as he assembled his cabinet in preparation for taking the office of the president.

Oh, and Kennedy quoted the line correctly.

Originally posted to stockphrase on Sat Oct 04, 2008 at 07:41 AM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Click here for the mobile view of the site