Ready to Rumble

Illustration for article titled Ready to Rumble

Does anyone else think Sarah Palin deserves a smackdown? She has lately boasted that the "heels are on and the gloves are off," but she knows that Barack Obama and Joe Biden would look less than gentleman-like and risk offending women voters, if they took her on using some of the tough talk and loaded language she has used against them.


It would be nice if someone just took her out back with a really thick dictionary and gave her a serious tongue-lashing—using words like "avaricious" and "emulous" that perfectly define the scope of her political ambitions and her willingness to say anything she's told to win the White House—even employing racial code words to scare white voters.

Palin looks like she can take as many punches as she throws, and judging by the recent findings of an ethics inquiry by the Alaska legislature, she has thrown many punches as governor. Lawmakers looking into the firing of her state police commissioner concluded in a report released on Friday that she violated the state ethics law and abused her power as governor by pressuring subordinates to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper. The report also said that Palin's husband, Todd, was part of the effort to advance her "personal agenda."(The police commissioner had claimed Palin fired him because he would not fire the former brother-in-law, but the ethics report concluded the firing was within Palin's rights as governor.)

For someone who revels in being a "Washington outsider," Palin sure seems to have mastered the sort of political gamesmanship that is common in Washington. She also seems to share the Bush administration's signature characteristic of not tolerating dissent from underlings.

Palin has proven to be an able political brawler. In response, Team Obama should enlist a surrogate, preferably a woman, who can go toe-to-toe with Palin and respond in a way that also raises the level of discourse way above her head. It shouldn't be that hard given how low Palin has sunk.

While thousands of reporters have written millions of words about Obama's political and personal life over the past two years, Palin routinely implies to her almost exclusively white audiences that he is a shady unknown who "is not like you and me."

Palin and McCain routinely ask, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" Voters should also be asking, "Who is the real Sarah Palin?" Her image as a plain-spoken reformer—authentic, ordinary, non-elitist, a real salt-of-the-earth American, not one of those dangerous, uppity, Ivy League-educated black Americans—is as phony as a $3 bill, and it's just as useless for confronting the nation's daunting economic challenges. It tells us nothing about her abilities to help McCain manage, and hopefully end, the war in Iraq or if she'd be able to take over if McCain dies in office. She has yet to discuss how a McCain-Palin administration would get the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs working again. She can deliver dozens of one-liners about Obama, but has yet to weigh in on the home-foreclosure crisis in any sustained, meaningful and informed way.


One might be tempted to feel sorry for Palin because she's so clearly out of her league, but it's hard to have sympathy for someone dripping with so much sarcasm.

During their recent debate, Palin cutely admonished Biden to stop looking at the past (said Palin: "Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again, pointing backwards again"). But she is now reaching back to the past to revive well-trodden and well-covered issues such as Obama's alleged close ties to William Ayers, the so-called domestic terrorists that Palin accuses Obama of "palling around with." She also wants to revive Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a political issue, as if there is anyone left in the U.S. who has not heard of Obama's controversial former pastor and already formed an opinion about him.


The next three weeks until Election Day promises more of the same. What these tactics should tell Americans about Sarah Palin and John McCain is that they are running scared and have resorted to the Republican playbook's golden rule: When all else fails, use race to turn out the bigoted wing of your party. Raise the specter of a scary black man occupying the White House, and watch your base high-tail it to the polls.

Obama may not be running against Palin, but McCain is using her effectively to run against Obama. The Obama camp should use clips of Palin's self-described "less-than-successful interviews with kinda mainstream media"—an understatement if ever there was one—in political ads to display McCain's recklessness in picking a running mate who can't speak coherently, or with any authority, about any of the complex and important issues of the day.


If it's a fight Palin wants, they should give her one using her own words against her and show voters just how much she is all style and no substance. They might just shut her up for good come Nov. 4.