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Mike Judge, the creator of King of the Hill and Beavis & Butthead, once told a story on Letterman about how, one day, his Joe Six-pack next-door neighbor was inexplicably removing the back windshield from a 1978 Chevy Nova.
So Judge walked out to the parking lot of his apartment building and asked the neighbor, "What are you doing?" And the neighbor gleefully answered, "Huh-huh-huh! Huh-huh! Now it's like a truck!"
In the freakishly hamfisted world of Sarah Palin, Mike Judge's neighbor is qualified to be vice president of the United States.
Yesterday, Palin said the following to talk radio wingnut Hugh Hewitt:
"Oh, I think they're just not used to someone coming in from the outside saying you know what? It's time that a normal Joe Six-pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency, and I think that that's kind of taken some people off guard, and they're out of sorts, and they're ticked off about it."
There's so much awfulness in this quote, it's difficult to know where to begin. Out of sorts? Ticked off? Oh you betcha.
For the last eight dark years we've had a president who continues to be framed as a Joe Six-pack type. And it's been a disaster.
No-one, at this point, is disputing the toxicity of the Bush presidency.
Here's the difference, though, between President Bush's Joe Six-pack persona and Sarah Palin's.
For better or worse, George Bush -- and I can't believe I'm writing this -- had attained a respectable level of schooling while also coming from a family deeply rooted in American politics. In other words, be it the fake Crawford "ranch" and his cowboy drag, George W. Bush is mostly pretending.
He's "Joe Six-pack" insofar as he's running away from his silver-spooned, cheerleading, Skull & Bones background. That doesn't mean he's any less ignorant. He's still a disconnected, incompetent nothing.
But at least he possesses something resembling the heft required of the office. And it's worth noting for the sake of context that he initially ran for president as the "guy you want to have a beer with" in 1999 and 2000 -- a time of relative peace and prosperity. Bored Americans figured, Whatever. Might as well.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is, by all indications, a bonafide hooplehead -- so dangerously out of her depth and so delusional -- perhaps blinded by ambition -- that she is in total denial about the real-world ramifications of her ineptitude.
Instead, she's excusing her embarrassing television interviews and farcical candidacy as an historical breakthrough for "normal Joe Six-pack Americans."
Of course this is great news for the 27 percent who think Bushie is still doing a heckuva job. And I guess it's good news for anyone who wants to be president but doesn't want to go through all of that hard work and fancy book-learnin' to get there.
But if there's one thing the history of this decade has taught us, it's that for the foreseeable future we should vigorously ignore the 27-percent-Bushies at all hazards -- or at least we shouldn't be encouraging them, as the McCain-Palin ticket appears to be doing. Normal Joe Six-pack Americans, she says.
We learned the other night that Sarah Palin reads every periodical in existence. "All of 'em," she said.
So she must know that:
- we're engaged in two wars, while a third war is heating up with nuclear Pakistan, and a fourth with a potentially nuclear Iran.
- We're drowning in one of the worst financial meltdowns since the Great Depression.
- We have an energy crisis.
- A climate crisis.
- A Medicare crisis.
- A healthcare crisis.
- Crumbling infrastructure.
- Increasingly frequent natural disasters.
- And what about that guy who apparently rears his head over Alaska all the time like that weird Sunshine baby on the Teletubbies -- President Bush calls him Pooty Poot. What about him?
- Compound all of this with the fact that Senator McCain is 72-years-old.
Do we really want a "normal Joe Six-pack American" sitting in the Oval Office in January tasked with managing these problems?No wonder everyone is ticked off.
And Senator McCain, knowing all of this (as well as the average heights of Koreans apparently), acquiesced to the far-right by selecting Sarah Palin anyway, just prior to launching a general election campaign centered on the ridiculously incongruous theme of "Country First."
If John McCain was really interested in putting country first, he would ask Sarah Palin to step off.
Palin herself appears to be, as I said, too ambitious to voluntarily step off, so it really comes down to McCain.
What'll it be, Senator?
For the good of the country as well as its increasingly buffoonish reputation, you have to do this.
Of course you won't, but it's worth a shot.
Just putting country first here. By the way, I bet with this economic meltdown, Mitt's looking awfully good about now, eh?
In a greater sense, Sarah Palin, in her ungainly scramble to justify her total lack of quality, is inadvertently revealing a startling lack of patriotism.
The vice presidency is chiefly about being ready and able to take over the office of the presidency. Subsequently, the presidency is a position of enormous historical and national importance, requiring the VERY BEST America has to offer -- especially NOW.
Idealistically, it's a position of merit and a title of great honor. Not necessarily the grandiose, kingly role envisioned by founders like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, but heretofore an office of significant prestige.
So by suggesting that just ANY "normal Joe Six-pack American" can do it not only insults and diminishes the office, but it also insults and diminishes Sarah Palin.
Of course Sarah Palin probably doesn't realize that by implying that just any ignorant hoople can be vice president, she's not only suggesting that she herself is an ignorant hoople but, most importantly, that she can be easily replaced by any ignorant hoople plucked by the mullet out of any random monster truck rally.
In other words, it's a frivolous position open to anyone who can read a teleprompter without choking on his or her own tongue.
I mean, is she seriously advocating for equal job opportunities for Joe Six-pack?
It's about time, she seems to have said, that normal Joe Six-pack Americans were in control of our most important and most complicated jobs. Joe Six-pack presidents. Joe Six-pack astronauts. Joe Six-pack police detectives. Joe Six-pack surgeons.
Imagine being wheeled into surgery for a triple bypass and just before they push the anesthesia, you see Sarah Palin walk into the operating theater with a hatchet. A nurse offers her some sterile gloves and she blurts out, "Thanks, but no thanks! Oh I love doin' amputations!"
Scary. But it's about time, right?
The presidency, as we've learned the hard way, matters. An incompetent chief executive, no matter how he or she has been packaged, tends to breed disaster. There was a time when we could rest assured knowing that, even if the president wasn't all there, he was surrounded by competent people who could grab the wheel if he blacked out.
those who are supporting the Republican ticket based on superficial appeal need to ask themselves: since when has the word "competent" been used to describe the current batch of operatives surrounding John McCain and Sarah Palin?
These are the same handlers who came up with the laughable "Alaska is right next to Russia" line. Put it another way, the man who first coined that line was Steve Doocy.
In the real world -- a world in which America needs serious people making our most serious decisions -- Alaska's proximity to Russia has less to do with national security experience than a '78 Nova without its back windshield has to do with a truck.
It's just not.
Likewise, Joe Six-pack, while qualified for many decent jobs (governor of Alaska, too, I guess), is simply NOT qualified for our highest national office.
And sorry, Sarah. You're just not up for this, regardless of what you've tricked yourself into believing.
McCain's Big Gamble Comes Up Snake Eyes
I watched the vice presidential debate in a ballroom at the Four Seasons hotel in Aviara, just north of San Diego, along with a couple of hundred women attending Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit -- a receptive audience, you would think, for a debate featuring a woman who might become the most powerful in the land. It was an ideologically mixed crowd, including representatives of ExxonMobil, a major sponsor of the conference.
If the reaction of the Republican women in the room is any indication, it was not a very good night for Sarah Palin.
The only noises heard during the debate were groans when Palin turned her folksiness meter up to 11 (which was often), and applause when Joe Biden delivered his best moments of the night: making personal his understanding of the plight of single parents sitting around their kitchen tables, looking for help; and his impassioned pushback on Palin's endless description of John McCain as "a maverick."
The loudest ovation of the night -- at least in that ballroom (granted, not the most representative-of-America crowd) -- came when Biden said that Dick Cheney was the most dangerous VP in history.
After watching this debate, I am convinced that if the country somehow has a collective mental meltdown and elects Sarah Palin, she will be even more dangerous than Cheney. Not only does she want more power for herself than the Constitution grants -- or than Cheney took for himself -- but she is so obviously not equipped to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, it takes your breath away that McCain picked her.
McCain claims to be putting his country first, but the debate proved beyond any doubt that he has actually chosen to put his country on the betting line and roll the dice. And they've come up snake eyes.
Friday morning, Meg Whitman, the co-chair of McCain's campaign, will be on a panel with Penny Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair, discussing the campaign. After the debate, I asked Whitman what she thought of Palin's performance. "Good enough," she said.
But good enough for what, exactly? After Thursday night, the only thing Palin proved herself good enough for is starring in her own reality show.
Watching Biden and Palin on the same stage was like watching a tennis champion walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon only to find himself facing an over-eager amateur from the local high school.
Or as Pat Mitchell told me, "Biden was taking part in a vice presidential debate; Palin was taking part in a junior high debate."
Here's how Esther Dyson put it: "It's pretty clear that Biden spent decades getting ready for this debate, learning from experience; Palin spent a couple of weeks, learning from handlers and speech coaches."
The only subject on which Palin displayed superior knowledge was when she corrected Biden on the proper delivery of "Drill, baby, drill!" Christie Hefner thought Palin's sex-tinged twist on the chant should be appropriated for a commercial. Perhaps for Viagra.
Other than that, Palin's grasp fluctuated between wafer thin and skin deep.
The moment that most drove me to want to send her a book on Greek gods and heroes was her head-scratching response to the question about her Achilles heel. She apparently didn't know what that meant since she spent her allotted time listing all of her attributes as opposed to her most glaring weakness.
Ann Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andme, told me: "I was dying to hear something -- anything! -- from Palin that wasn't pre-rehearsed."
Throughout the entire 90-minute debate, Palin came across as an over-wound windup doll, sporting a pasted-on-smile expression that never varied, except when she winked. Which she did repeatedly -- and pathetically.
It was the folksiest appearance since Hee-Haw went off the air.
"The home-spun homilies have to go," Martha Stewart told me. "And, oh my god, words do have ending consonants."
In the greatest disconnect of the evening, Palin repeatedly went to the Reagan well, offering up such Gipper classics as "there you go again" and that "shining city on the hill." But, really, during a week in which John McCain hopped on board Bush's $700 billion bailout, did Palin not see how incongruous it was to insist that government isn't the solution, it's the problem?
And declare that all we need to get this country back on track is for the government to get out of our way? Isn't that what got us where we are today? Or had she been so busy cramming for the debate she didn't have time to read one of the so-many-she-can't-name-one newspapers she reads?
Joe Biden's only insincere moment was when he told her: "Governor, it was a pleasure to meet you."
A better exit line would have been: "Governor, it's a pleasure to think that, God willing, in 33 days, you'll be back where you belong -- shootin' moose and takin' on those big oil companies in Alaska."
My patience with Palin is waving the white flag of surrender.