Sarah Palin seems to be front and center again. Or maybe she’s where she’s always been; front and to the right, just off the radar of relevance but close enough to receive a Queen’s coronation when she steps into the spotlight of what she’s coined as “lamestream media.”
The bio-pic “Game Change” aired last month and our divide found two sides bickering over its accuracy and the danger of America’s near-miss, but it was her appearance on the “Today Show” that has gone the farthest to either enhance or destroy her credibility as a “mainstream” political figure, depending on your pre-disposed point of view.
I have to be honest; I thought she was funny and self-deprecating as Matt Lauer’s co-host; able to interview and add engaging commentary. She was attractive to say the least and I mean that as being a complete media package.
Talk has sprung up regarding her place within the Republican Party and there are those who think she may still play a prominent, if not THE role at the Republican Convention. Sarah Palin manages to move, with grace, alongside the candidates, without ever uttering a single phrase that consists of depth, while serious speculation, along with adoration, follow her.
This is where I turn from her affable performance as a chat-show host and face the harsh reality of American history being written as a dancing narrative of popular culture. From our very beginning, our founding fathers formed a collective brilliance while designing a new government, but were also individually driven by the highest forms of cognition.
Where does a mortal man find words such as these?: “Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.” Those are the words of John Adams, who, along with Jefferson, Washington, Madison and Monroe were disciplined in the art of ideas; drawing philosophical threads from humanity’s abstract motivations and eloquently bringing them to life.
We measure our historical greatness by the wisdom expressed by leaders whose words have become welded into our national consciousness. We have produced, since our nation’s founding, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Martin Luther King; men and women who became philosophers of prudence in the face of great adversity and whose inspiring calls to action still resonate.
Today, however, eloquence seems to be missing from the political discourse. Sarah Palin being at the forefront of a populist movement that does not seem to demand that inspiration be drawn from the well of wisdom and experience, but is satisfied with platitudes designed only to stir an emotional connection.
I have often said, “I do not dislike Sarah Palin, what scares me is the worship of her demagoguery by the thousands (hundreds of thousands) of people who attend her rallies and hang on her every word.” I am genuinely fearful of a growing movement that is not confined to wisdom and truthful admonitions and could elect a Sarah Palin (or a Rick Santorum) to our highest office.
With this in mind I did a little “research” and found some Sarah Palin quotes that were well received by her base and found some compatible quotes from history by which to make some comparisons. The point, believe it or not, is not to embarrass Sarah Palin, rather it is to inspire some reflection by the electorate as to how far we’ve drifted as a nation from the principles of wise leadership.
In 1776, John Adams wrote: “As good government is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.”
In 2009 Sarah Palin offered this: “I think on a national level your Department of Law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out.” (There is no Department of Law, by the way).
John Adams continued about the relevance of laws and a Supreme Court: “The law will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations and wanton tempers of men. On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder, to the clamors of the populace.”
Sarah Palin: “Well, let’s see…there’s, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American…so, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but…” (this was an answer to Supreme Court decisions that she disagreed with).
Abraham Lincoln proffered to America as his first political objective: “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”
In stark contrast, Sarah Palin described ascension to the presidency thusly: “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’ This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer.”
To further her populist reputation, Sarah Palin illustrated her cavalier attitude toward language like this: “Refudiate, misunderestimate, wee-wee’d up. English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” (I would like to repudiate her use of ‘refudiate.”)
General John Vessey had this to say about the command of language; “More has been screwed up on the battlefield and misunderstood in the Pentagon because of a lack of understanding of the English language than any other single factor.”
To be fair, Sarah Palin was mostly speaking off the cuff and many of the statements from past leaders were composed with the benefit of thought over time, but I am standing by my premise. America is moving away from the leadership and wisdom from which our freedom has been forged. It is declining toward an acceptance of a very common rhetoric that does not have interest in our history and the principles of freedom we uphold;. It is content with buzz words and platitudes that validate vague concepts of liberty and patriotism.
Nothing will lead us toward tyranny faster than a misinformed electorate. To quote John Adams once again, “The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.” Not easy to do, but we can start by weeding out the politicians who do not embrace the eloquence by which to inspire us with their ideas.
I thought Sarah Palin made a terrific morning chat-show host. And with just the right amount of news, she deftly worked the medium to create a healthy amount of controversy. I’d probably make her part of my morning…while surfing between CNN, C-Span and my cornflakes. Just keep her away from government—Please!