Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill

Marvellous piece on the background of Sarah Palin by Jonathan Raban in this fortnight’s London Review of Books:

What is most striking about her is that she seems perfectly untroubled by either curiosity or the usual processes of thought. When answering questions, both Obama and Joe Biden have an unfortunate tendency to think on their feet and thereby tie themselves in knots: Palin never thinks. Instead, she relies on a limited stock of facts, bright generalities and pokerwork maxims, all as familiar and well-worn as old pennies. Given any question, she reaches into her bag for the readymade sentence that sounds most nearly proximate to an answer, and, rather than speaking it, recites it, in the upsy-downsy voice of a middle-schooler pronouncing the letters of a word in a spelling bee.

3 thoughts on “Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill”

  1. Thing is, I remember comments exactly like this – “perfectly untroubled by either curiosity or the usual processes of thought” – about Dubya, about Quayle, and Reagan before him. It’s not new, it’s not really accurate (certainly not of Reagan in 1980) – it’s a campaign tactic, and it didn’t do anything to help beat them by misunderstanding/misrepresenting them.

    Whereas the ones who stop and think rarely come off looking well. I was watching footage of Jimmy Carter from 1979/80 about the last fuel crisis (on Steven Schama’s “Future History of America” – did you see it?) – deep thoughts, painfully sincere, absolutely spot-on and correct. And even *I* couldn’t have voted for him as President much as I loved him. Just doesn’t play well to the voters.

  2. Thanks Andrew. Do read the article in full as it goes into some detail of Palin’s antics in Alaska and demonstrates that she has a far more developed political brain than people give her credit for. That she decides, and others before her, to dumb themselves down in this way smacks of a rather disturbing anti-intellectualism that I would hope we avoid in this country.

  3. Sounds like we’re saying the same things, then (and I was SO looking forward to a nice argument!)

    I think it was the Simon (not Steve – sorry about that brainfade) Schama programme again that pointed out that George W Bush lost his first congressional election in Texas because a local Texan politician painted him as a highbrow Eastern Yankee intellectual carpetbagging the seat. At which point, Bush decided never to get caught like that and developed his new “dumb as they come” persona. Hard to believe now …

    Makes you wish for the West Wing universe, where a high-brow liberal can wipe the flaw with a Bush-a-like by opening with ‘Unwarranted mandate is two words, not one” – sheer class. And sheer fantasy with the modern US as it is where they want someone who knows less than their plumber as President.

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