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The other styrofoam props

McPalin’s Coming Out Pouts
Nasty, Brutish and Shrill

It was August 17, 1992, my brother and I were driving through Iowa cornfields in his beat-up VW bus, on our way to a camping tour of the West, and the Republican National Convention in Houston had just begun. We only had an AM radio in the car. We had a choice: farming reports, god reports or Pat Buchanan’s speech. We voted Buchanan. Starting off by referring to “the malcontents of Madison Square Garden ” (the Democrats had held their convention in New York ), Buchanan reeled off the usual smacks at “abortion on demand,” “radical feminism,” “homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat,” and then turned his attention to the word of the season—change.

Then as now, the retort was the same: “That's change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God's country.” He belittled Hillary Clinton (children’s rights and equality in marriage? “Speak for yourself, Hillary”), Bill Clinton’s days at Oxford (where “he sat up in a dormitory” and “figured out how to dodge the draft”) and Al Gore (“ Prince Albert ”). The convention did its job: it alienated more than half the country for the churlish, falsely middle-American tone it set.

That’s what the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul became Wednesday night. It had started off dull and almost sweet, what with fallen idols like George Bush angling to speak from a closet in the White House and Fred Thompson reminding us what it’s all about when you have nothing to say (“ACTING!” as Jon Lovitz put it), but with Rudy Giuliani and Sara Palin the convention was back in ’92 mode, dividing in hopes of re-conquering what it demolished.

A winning party defines itself, the problem it faces and the ways in which it proposes to solve them. A losing party defines itself in relation to the party it’s looking to defeat, for lack of ideas of its own. Drilling aside, the governor from the Union’s greatest welfare state had little more to offer than bashing the “Washington elite” John McCain has been part of since the days of Richard Nixon, and playing herself up as the victim-maverick, a new twist on a worn tale.

I half expected her to make a link between McCain’s experience at the Hanoi Hilton for five years and her experience at the hands of the media over the last five days. She didn’t have to. The link was implied in the whole theme that she and McCain, the dollop and the dullard, now embody.

The woodenness of McCain’s appearance at the end of the Palin speech, the woodenness of his interaction with Palin says it all: the disconnect between them is tellingly symbolic of the disconnect between their ticket and the electorate, no matter how hard they whored the Palin family and that poor shmuck of a boyfriend who just last week still reveled in his “fucking redneck” image on his Myspace page, until, that is, the GOP’s Mafiosi got a hold of his scruff. The boyfriend make-over is also telling: it’s what the GOP is doing with the McCain-Palin ticket, attempting to turn a wreck into a piece of political modern art and hoping that the public won’t catch on to the hoax.

They’ll get a B-cup bounce. But that’s about it. Americans can be supremely idiotic, as their reelection of Bush proved four years ago. But electing this pair would take an act of imbecility unparalleled in this nation’s history. Peggy Noonan can be right once in a while: they’re finished.

 
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