Sarah Palin, American Centrist

In the fusillade of accusations that has been flung at Sarah Palin since McCain chose her as VP-nominee, there is one thread in common; that Palin is an extreme right-winger. There are several possible reasons for an accuser to take this position, but it occurred to me yesterday that the most important one may be accusers who are honestly confused about where the American center actually is.

Of course, the political map is not neatly describable as a one-dimensional spectrum. I myself, as an anarcho-capitalist radical quite willing to dump on both Left and Right, am an existence proof of that. Nevertheless, we actually have a lot of psephological information on where the “center” falls, in the sense that if you choose polar “Left” and “Right” stands on particular issues, polling can locate the position between them held by the median number of Americans.

One can then at least ask the question “Where is Palin with respect to that median?” I’m in an interesting position to address that question, because on pretty much all of the hot-button “culture wars” issues I have radical positions opposed to Palin’s but nevertheless believe on good evidence that her position is closer to the median than mine.

Let’s start with the blob of accusations around religion and creationism. I’ll make my position on these clear: I think conventional faith-based religions (including Christianity and Islam) are forms of contagious insanity more damaging than any ideology except socialism. Creationism is not just a doctrine for blithering idiots, it cannot be maintained against evidence without an active and perverse desire to remain a blithering idiot.

So when I tell you that I think Sarah Palin’s religious position is pretty near dead center in the American spectrum, you can be pretty sure I’m not fudging to make that position look good. Let’s see… raised Catholic until her family took up one of the Pentecostal denominations, left that because it was too weird, and now attends an independent church where, according to the not-exactly-Right-leaning magazine Newsweek, “The sermons of its ministers steer clear of politics and hot-button social issues and dwell instead on scripture”.

Now, if you have anything like my violent loathing for the type, the name Wasilla Bible Church and that stuff about dwelling on scripture will raise the not-unreasonable suspicion that the outfit is Biblical-literalist — you know, the kind of wackjobs who think π must actually be three because otherwise that passage in 1 Kings would be wrong. Bzzzt! False alarm. Pastor Kroon says “the task of believers [includes] scrutiny, he said, for errors and mistranslations over the centuries that may have obscured the original intent.”

OK. During 50 years of contemplating a religious landscape containing Inerrantists, Dominionists, Christian Identity yahoos, and Pat Robertson, this Wiccan has felt more than a few moments of Christians-wanna-burn-me fear. But my paranoia-meter isn’t even twitching off the peg here. This is normal. This is mainstream-Protestant. This is boring. Yes, I’d be happier if Palin were a Unitarian or a Quaker, but anyone who thinks her church affilations are “extreme right” or evidence of religious mania is suffering from a serious lack of perspective and really needs to get out more.

But the really good news is Palin’s statement that she does not allow her religious convictions to dictate her political positions. Observers in Alaska (including one I know personally) agree that she lived up to this one as Mayor and governor, showing no appetite for hitting any of the religious-conservative hot-button issues. That is what definitely puts her in the American center, separating her from both right-wing Dominionism and left-wing liberation theology.

Now let’s talk about Creationism. If Palin had ever proclaimed her support for it, I’d have to consider her either a liar trolling for the yahoo vote or aming the aforementioned blithering idiots. In fact, however, the entire “Palin is a creationist” meme seems to be spun out of one ambiguous sentence in a 1996 debate, which she later backed away from. The sentence was “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

I’ll start by noting that this quote smells to me awfully like a deft avoidance maneuver preferable from an ass-covering perspective to saying something more honest, like “Bletch. Creationists are a bunch of ignorant pinheads but I need their votes.” Palin is a politician. But since I can’t actually read her mind to verify this interpretation, let’s take her at her word for the rest of the discussion.

I disagree with the stated position. I don’t think the schools ought to give Creationism any more respect than they give Flat-Earth theory. But, again, extreme-right this is not. The extreme-right position is that evolutionary theory is an evil plot to contaminate our vital bodily fluids and shouldn’t be taught in schools. And Sarah Palin has, dammit, uttered a compromise formula that is probably much closer to the median or mean U.S. position than I am.

Abortion. Again, I’m on the other side from Palin on this one. I’m pro-choice. I think the notion that “life begins at conception” is absurd; the fertilized gamete doesn’t have anywhere near the informational complexity required to be considered human. While I’m not a big fan of killing fetuses in the third trimester, I oppose abortion restrictions for the same practical reason I’m opposed to so-called “reasonable” gun controls; because I don’t trust the agenda or the intentions of the groups pushing either, and think they are both pursuing salami-slicing strategies that threaten fundamental liberties.

Palin is “pro-life”. This is not an extreme position; most Americans see far more merit in the “pro-life” argument than I do, if only because conservative propagandists have done a masterful job of confusing the categories life-like-bacteria and life-like-sapient-human. Again, Palin is (regrettably) closer to the median than I am.

Palin refuses to make an exception for rape or incest. This is, in fact, the only position of hers I’ve discovered that puts her a significant distance from the U.S. median. The rape-or-incest exception has very wide support even among those who self-describe as “pro-life”.

While I disagree with Palin on the general issue, I actually consider her stance against the exception is an indication of sounder moral reasoning than most pro-lifers employ. I’ve written before that I think the exception reveals a nasty, fundamental disconnection between what pro-lifers want and what they say they want; if you’re going to be “pro-life” at all, Palin’s is the honest and consistent place to come down. So, personally, I have to actually give her points for integrity here.

On other sex-related issues Palin has governed as a moderate. She supports comprehensive sex education in schools and supports birth control use. I agree with her support for comprehensive sex education, and note that it may actually put her somewhat to the left of dead center (though not as much as her position on the rape-or-incest exception pulls right).

Palin’s record on gay marriage is mixed; she is on record both as opposing it and as blocking a prohibition on gay benefits. On this one the median American belief seems to be an unhappy muddle of opposition to formal government-sanctioned recognition of gay marriage with a refusal to condemn gays for coming out and desiring it. Palin is right on top of that position, making her far more mainstream than my libertarian proposal that we kick the government out of the business of recognizing marriage altogether and let people form whatever communes they want.

Does this picture add up to a frothing theocrat or hot-eyed right-wing culture warrior? Um…no. Not at all. On issue after issue (with the single exception of the rape-and-incest exception), what I discover about Palin seems to put her right smack in the broad middle. Far closer to it than me, usually, even with respect to issues we’re on opposite sides of.

Furthermore, the sense I get from her speech and presentation is that she really is like that; she doesn’t display the kinds of equivocation you see in a politician who is constantly trimming sail to the electoral wind and delays making a in issue commitment until he’s backed into a corner. Though I suspect the “Teach both” quote is that kind of waffle, I could well be wrong, and have yet to encounter a more definite example in her public statements.

And a note to all you anti-Palin left-liberals: on every major issue I’ve discussed, I hold what you’d consider the left or extreme-left position and have described Palin as closer to center despite the fact that this tends to legitimize a position further right than you (or I) would prefer. This is what a lawyer would call “an admission against interest”, like Bill Clinton ‘fessing up that left-wing anti-gun measures lose elections for Democrats, or the Anglican Church announcing earlier today that it owes Darwin an apology.

Accordingly, you should treat my estimates of where the center is as a best case from a Left point of view; if I’ve been engaging in wishful thinking, it’s likely that the results are worse news for the Left rather than better. And you should pay careful attention to my finale about preference falsification, because otherwise you may be in for a very rude shock.

Finally: the attempt to paint Palin as a hard-right nutjob says much more about the prejudices of her accusers than it does about her. It could say that they’re cynically promulgating a smear they know to be untrue. But the degree of nutty shrillness I’m hearing doesn’t sound like cynical calculation. That makes it seem more likely to me that the Democratic left genuinely doesn’t know where the medians of opinion in the U.S. are and genuinely doesn’t grasp how squarely Palin is sitting on them.

This isn’t a new idea; I’ve read some studies suggesting with evidence that left-wing ideological control of the mainstream media and universities has led to a gigantic case of preference falsification under which not only the Left itself but the entire population (including most conservatives!) believes the medians on many issues are fairly far left of their actual locations. (Thus, for example, both pro-and anti-Second-Amendment Americans tend to seriously overestimate the actual level of support for gun control.)

To the extent this is true, Sarah Barracuda Palin is a larger threat — and a larger promise — than anyone has figured out yet. She may be uniquely positioned to pop the preference-falsification bubble. If that happens, the distribution of political opinion might not change much, but popular perception of that distribution would shift dramatically rightward, and democratic legitimacy with it.

My opposition to Palin on the key issues I’ve described above means this would change the political environment in many ways I don’t like. But if her national political career is anything more than a flash in the pan, brace yourself, because there may be serious changes coming.

85 thoughts on “Sarah Palin, American Centrist

  1. My opposition to Palin stems from the fact that her only unscripted discussion to date was that interview with Charlie Gibson. She’s apparently been hired by the Republicans to deliver pre-written speeches. Can we get someone in here who speaks her own opinion?

    Jon Stewart had a nice clip of her on last night, where she started out calling for an overhaul of regulation of the financial markets, and then finished off with “so we can get government out of the way of private-sector progress”. Apparently the current crisis has been caused by too much regulation…at least, according to Sarah Palin, or maybe it’s just the guy who wrote her speech.

  2. ““so we can get government out of the way of private-sector progress”. Apparently the current crisis has been caused by too much regulation…at least, according to Sarah Palin, or maybe it’s just the guy who wrote her speech.”

    You’re begging the question. “Getting government out of the way of private-sector progress” would also mean not having quasi-governmental agencies along the lines of Fannie and Freddie. It would also mean no bailouts. When large corporations know that the government will bail them out it’s no longer “private-sector progress” is it? Incidentally, this has been going on for a very long time – witness Chrysler during the Carter administration.

    “Public risk, private gain” is not capitalism. Capitalism means the markets punish stupidity with failure. Government has perverted that with the expected results.

  3. You “think conventional faith-based religions (including Christianity and Islam) are forms of contagious insanity more damaging than any ideology except socialism. Creationism is not just a doctrine for blithering idiots, it cannot be maintained against evidence without an active and perverse desire to remain a blithering idiot.”

    I would maintain most Christians (and probably most Muslims (there are over 100M each in Indonesia and India alone, probably more than in all of the Near East), but I am only guessing) are not creationists in the sense of denying evolution or asserting that the universe was created in six days.

    I know for a fact that Catholics are particularly comfortable with the “Big Bang”, and with evolution, even natural selection, so long as natural selection is not held as evidence of the absence of a Divine plan. Basically to say there are natural sciences separate from theology, and that to better understand natural sciences allows a deeper sense of wonder at the creation fits within Catholic thought.

    Now is any of the preceding testable in the sense of the Scientific Method? Of course not, which is why it is prudent to keep faith and science at arms-length, to avoid cross-talk.

  4. You pushed one of my buttons when you brought up the π thing. The numbers in Kings are obviously rounded to the nearest integer – that just makes sense, and not even the most literalist of believers claims otherwise. So if the diameter was between 9.5 and 9.7, one would expect the Bible to say “ten”; and that would produce a circumference between 29.85 and 30.47, or in integers “thirty”. No contradiction, and no problem.

  5. And here we see the danger of even mentioning a hot-button topic as an example; people get stuck on the hot-button topic and can’t even seem to see the real point.

    And you went off and hit at least four, one each for each comment preceding this (assuming I get in after Milhouse). Good going!

    I’ve actually decided to vote for Palin for just this reason. If she can do anything to puncture the media and academic-leftist dominance (my true ire against leftism; the goals I approve of, the academic orthodoxy is right up there with the other toxic memes you mention even if we discount its intimate connection to socialism), then it’s worth it. (And yes, I said “vote for Palin” on purpose.)

  6. I think the US voting system actually encourages the “1-dimensional political axis” busness, both in perception and in reality. The single-office-one-winner voting system basically mandates two parties (that isn’t written down anywhere, but it’s the dominant strategy in game-theoretic terms); this is, somewhat suprisingly, apparently one of the few things the writers of the US constitution completely biffed on. But in any case, we’re stuck with two parties, and people vote or one or the other, and then ex post facto rationalize themselves into believing positions of that party they otherwise wouldn’t.

    In some ways this may in fact increase happiness with democracy; it turns out than in an environment where everybody’s political opinions actually *do* fall on a 1-dimensional spectrum Arrow’s Theorum doesn’t hold and you can have a voting system that produces winners and losers, but not perverse results…

  7. The writers of the constitution did not plan on a two party system. The popular vote was intended to whittle down the mass of candidates (even today you will find over 20 if you look) down to just a few choices.

    It’s similar to the way a company might have a committee select viable resumes, then the board chooses from the top few.

    Sadly, it has never come down to something like 40% 40% (remaining 20% split amongst other candidates) and the Electorate really having to choose. It’s been close, but the electorate has never been given the real challenge. Alas, the masses are disenfranchised yet fail to go vote for a moderate or third party “because they’ll never win” – that is the tragedy.

  8. Roxanne: while skepticism regarding Palin remains wise, I urge readers to check what Mark Levin claims is the unedited version of Sarah Palin’s interview, and see what they think afterward. Obviously, your stated complaint was that Sarah Palin needs to give more unscripted interviews, not that you came away with a negative impression from that interview – but your next paragraph seems to indicate that you’re not too fond of her. I’d hate for that impression, even if prophetic, to be based just on subtle editing and a Daily Show clip.

  9. Roxanne: I think Paul Brinkley is right; that interview was edited in the direction of hatchet job. I’d have been somewhat surprised if it hadn’t been, given Gibson’s history.

    Also, be careful about taking your cues from Jon Stewart. In the few clips I’ve seen, his supposedly apolitical irony actually tilts pretty far left; I suspect that in 2008, he is probably one of the single human beings most responsible for keeping the preference-falsification bubble inflated. Democrats find him reassuring because he validates their world-view without seeming slanted, but I suspect he’s going to seem very, very dated and misleading in a few years.

    >Apparently the current crisis has been caused by too much regulation

    As phrased, that’s not literally true. However, government interventions that load risk on taxpayers while leaving profits to private parties are at the root of the problem (look up “moral hazard” sometime), so Palin’s argument that government has to get out of the way is actually sound. To be more precise, Federal coppering of downside risks rewards and generates irresponsible behavior in everyone from first-time home buyers to the CEOs of banks.

    The problem she has correctly identified is that there have been some kinds of risk (such as bank failures, or foreclosures on low-income minority homebuyers) that the government found politically impossible to leave on the people who ought to be carrying them and exercising due diligence. Thus: federal deposit insurance, and national banks being pressured to carry an acceptable percentage of loans to minorities whether those loans were performing or not.

    This was far from the only contributor to the CDO meltdown; arrant stupidity by a lot of private-sector finance types was worse. But it’s a significant enough one that Palin wasn’t talking through her hat.

  10. >If this pagan doesn’t feel Christians-are-gonna-kill-me vibes coming off Sarah Palin, he really hasn’t been paying attention.

    Careful, Jeff. By applying that same kind of guilt by association to Barack Obama with respect to Jeremiah Wright, we could easily conclude that Obama wants to put white people in concentration camps. Do you really want to support or legitimize that kind of reasoning?

    As a matter of practical politics, attacking Sarah Palin has done nothing but drive middle-American voters into McCain’s arms in numbers that are very likely enough to swing the election. The state of New York is now in play. New York! Florida is gone, kiss it goodbye. There’s evidence that Obama has given up on Virginia to hold Pennsylvania, but I think he’s going to lose here anyway. When you’re in a hole, the first rule is: stop digging.

  11. How can you say that traditional Christianity is “contagious insanity” yet going out in the woods and worshiping Odin (or whatever it is that Wiccans do) is perfectly normal, perfectly healthy?

    And, Eric, I don’t know if you mentioned it in an earlier post, but what is your view on Judaism, i.e. reform and the more conservative types; and how do you feel about Israel?

    Been lurking a long time, wanted to post. And thank you for hosting an intelligent and interesting corner of the internet.

  12. On the contrary. Obama should definitely keep digging, for the good of his party and the nation.

    The harder he falls, the better the odds are that the Democratic party will purge the lunatics, or at least keep them away from the levers of control.

    Obama is the favored candidate of the folks in the party that have forced it to shift so hard to the left that only six years passed between Joe Lieberman being the Democrat candidate for Vice-President and Lieberman being kicked out of the party. When your veep candidate is, two election cycles later, being cheered from the floor of the other party’s nominating convention, it’s pretty conclusive proof that you’ve gone completely off the rails.

    The Democrats are not, as presently constituted, a viable long-term political party. When folks my grandmother’s age finish dying off, the Democrats will go with them. And as angry as I am about having only TWO viable parties in this country, how angry do you think I am about the prospect of having only ONE?

    So yes. Obama needs to go down HARD. As a lesson to the lunatics who put him in play.

  13. Obama does need to go down HARD.

    Have you guys heard of the efforts of the Obama campaign to shut down a radio host in Chicago who has had on guests Obama doesn’t like by having his supporters call and flood the station with e-mails?

    Can you imagine the outcry if Sarah Palin did such a thing?

    Would Obama even be the candidate if he was white guy Barry Obama? How many guilt ridden white libs are going to vote for him simply because of his race? What other reason is there to vote for him? He has been so distressingly vague about what he would do if elected (hope and change, anyone?)

    Mccain Palin 2008

  14. >How can you say that traditional Christianity is “contagious insanity” yet going out in the woods and worshiping Odin (or whatever it is that Wiccans do) is perfectly normal, perfectly healthy?

    Not just Christianity but all faith–centered religions. You sound like one of the majority of intelligent people who don’t know there’s any other kind. There is. Faith is the key, it’s the toxin most (not all, but most) Wiccans have purged from our belief systems. See Islamofascism and the Rage of Augustine. for discussion.

    Technical point: Odin is the Asatru Free Assembly’s bag, not ours, and even they tend to avoid him except for special purposes. Odin…well, let’s just say he’s a powerful groove but he is not…nice.

    What we do is perfectly healthy. Not going to pretend it’s perfectly normal, not in this culture :-)

    >[W]hat is your view on Judaism, i.e. reform and the more conservative types; and how do you feel about Israel?

    Judaism is the least nasty of the post-Zoroastrian religions, mainly because it spent a thousand years getting the shit kicked out of it. One of its more fortunate losses was that it’s not really faith-centered any more (there are exceptions, haredim and such, and I don’t like them much). Instead it has become what scholars of religion call “orthpopractic” rather than “orthodox”, which is to say good standing is a matter of correct practice of the socially-approved rituals rather than the state of your beliefs. Thus, I can participate in Jewish ritual (have done so at friends’ weddings) and get along better with rabbis than with priests.

    I wouldn’t have minded being born Jewish myself, and have always tended to have a lot of friends who are Jewish. My mother told me once that before she met, courted, and married my father most of her boyfriends were, too. In both cases, I bet this is mostly selection for the higher average IQ going on; my mother was pretty gifted, so she went where the smart boys were. I tend to go where the smart people are, too.

    I guess I can amplify that a little. The Jews aren’t my people genetically, but I identify with them for the same reasons fascists have always hated and persecuted them — because they represent modernity, cosmopolitanism, trade, worldliness, intellectual inquiry. I wrote about this after 9/11 in We Are All Jews Now. And I told a Jewish colleague once that the Jews are my canary in the coal mine — any cultural or political environment that begins to treat Jews badly is shortly going to become a shitty place for me, too.

    Probably not a big surprise, then, that I’m pro-Israel and always have been. Aside from the fact that I’ve felt a lot of sympathy with Jews, it’s not much of an exaggeration to describe Israel as an outpost of civilization in deserts haunted by hostile barbarians. My feelings as a member of Western civilization are engaged here – and yes, I felt this way long before 9/11.

  15. I don’t think there is a popular “center,” at least in the David Gergenish sense in which most people use the term. The “center” is almost entirely a construct of the corporate/state elites making up the establishments of most of the major parties. To the extent that there’s a “center” of consensus in Main Street America, it consists mainly of the areas in which the libertarian, populist and decentralist elements of both genuine Left and genuine Right coincide. I’ve long argued that those on the Right who are into homeschooling, gun rights, and free juries, are really on the same side as those on the Left who favor cooperative economics, human scale technology, organic truck farming, etc. It’s the managerialist liberals and neoconservatives, the two wings of the state capitalist establishment, who are our common enemy.

  16. >I don’t think there is a popular “center,” at least in the David Gergenish sense in which most people use the term.

    For purposes of my analysis, there doesn’t have to be a popular center in the Gergenish sense (that is, self-characterizing “centrists” with a broadly coherent set of political commitments). All there have to be is issue-specific centers. Sarah Palin’s gift (I’m close to ready to call it genius) is that she positions herself on as many issue centers as she can, recruiting voters from many overlapping groups of voters near partticular issue median. I don’t know whether this is calculation or instinct and personality, but suspect the latter.

  17. Obama should definitely keep digging, for the good of his party and the nation.

    If Obama fucks this up, he’s not only screwing himself, he’s dooming us as a nation.

    If the allegations of his Clintonian approach to criticism are true, then that’s definitely something I’m not fond of, but we’ve suffered through eight years of an administration so egregiously corrupt it makes us pine for the good old days of Nixon. An administration which has, so far, gotten away with illegal wiretapping, torture, exacting petty revenge against a CIA covert agent, and undermining the Constitution any which way it sees fit. I see no reason to believe that a McCain administration will be substantively different.

    In fact, if the Republican memetic war machine keeps successfully painting legitimate outrage over how Repubs conduct their affairs as the hysterical rantings of a foamy-mouthed left wing, there’s no telling what a McCain administration would be able to get away with.

    By the way, one of the scariest things about Palin is that she may indeed be a centrist with respect to the American political axis. (N.B.: The European “center” is considered hard, hard left in America.)

  18. > I see no reason to believe that a McCain administration will be substantively different.

    Nor do I. I do, however, see ample reason to believe that an Obama administration will be significantly WORSE.

    When the Terror War is over (I don’t expect to live to see it, and I’m not exactly old) it may again be safe to trust a Democrat, as the Democrats are currently constituted, with the White House. There’s no atrocity against the rights of men and the limits of Constitutional government that can’t at least theoretically be undone by the next guy.

    A man whose core supporters and formative influences sincerely believe that the United States is unworthy of defense is morally unfit to be President of the United States, at any time. But in wartime, electing such a person amounts to a national mass form of what psychologists refer to as “suicidal ideation”. It must be discouraged by all means at our disposal, and those who advocate it must be deterred away from the levers of control, for their own good and for the good of the rest of us.

  19. Matt: the more rights that are ignored, and the more governmental limits that are overstepped, the harder it is to undo the damage. Anonymity, privacy, freedom of speech and assembly, the right to habeus corpus and trial by one’s peers: these things are oxygen to any protest movement. It’s a lot harder to get people to, come out in support of your cause when doing so would put them on some government watchlist, possibly get them arrested and imprisoned without charge, have their communications monitored, etc. And there’s no better way of introducing such laws than by starting a war, particularly one against a shadowy, unknown enemy who could be anywhere.

  20. Miles: You’re absolutely right.

    Um…you ARE aware, I would hope, that just about every Constitutional outrage perpetrated under Bush II was initially proposed by Bill Clinton, right? If not, it kind of undermines your credibility as a commentator on the partisan implications of Constituionalism. If you are in fact aware of the history, I’m compelled to wonder how you think your point relates in any meaningful way to my expressed preference as to which party occupies the White House.

    Also, you may wish to keep in mind that, while starting a war is a very effective tool for power-grabbers, _we_ didn’t start this war. We’re just trying to _finish_ it.

  21. > gotten away with illegal wiretapping, torture, exacting petty revenge against a CIA covert agent,
    > and undermining the Constitution any which way it sees fit

    Oh hi canards, how are you?

    Can you cite the illegal wiretapping, please?

    Torture? Pfft. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s not torture if you can get over it with a long nap and good cry. Inflicting permanent disability qualifies. Jumping out of the shadows and yelling “Boo!” is a game you play with children.

    You’re bringing up Plame? Really?

    Please cite instances of the Constitution being “undermined”. Please define what you mean by “undermined.”

    The Bush Administration is not clothed in the purest Samite, and all its officials are not wearing halos and playing harps. It’s called politics.

  22. an administration so egregiously corrupt it makes us pine for the good old days of Nixon.

    Care to cite an actual example or three of corruption in the administration? Compare, e.g., to its predecessor.

    An administration which has, so far, gotten away with illegal wiretapping,

    Of a sort that is absolutely routine – and legal – in almost every other country. That it happens – probably – to have been illegal in the USA speaks more about the laws than about the administration.

    torture”,

    Maybe. Three people were waterboarded – if you want to call that torture, then they were tortured. So what? Whatever name you want to give it, it was clearly justified.

    exacting petty revenge against a CIA covert agent,

    Never happened.

    and undermining the Constitution any which way it sees fit

    This administration seems to have at least as much respect for the constitution as any in the past century or so. Got any evidence otherwise?

  23. Eric, you make sense. This post and another answer you gave to a post of mine has put my mind (mostly) at ease regarding Palin’s level of religiosity.

    But there are other reasons for the misconception besides preference falsification or a smear campaign.

    The American Internet sites are frequented by many foreigners. I’m Brazilian, for instance. I think that the American center is considerably to the right of the European center, the Canadian center, or the South American center. So Palin may seem like a “religious whacko” to non-Americans.

    (As an aside, it’s not unreasonable for foreigners to worry about such things. American policy has a lot of worldwide influence, after all. There was talk that Bush was going to cut finantial aid to Brazilian AIDS programs because we don’t have abstinency-only sex education).

    I also think that the “Palin scare” comes from her comparisions to John McCain. McCain was the guy that many right-wingers disliked and would vote for “holding their noses”. He is the divorced guy, the pro-stem cell research guy. He isn’t associated with religion at all. And he chose Palin as a counterpoint to it, in a way. She looks more religious than she actually is, because she is often compared to him.

    Third reason. Many real extreme right-wing religionists embraced Palin with enthusiasm, and this also scared many people on the left. “Like, if those people love her so much, she must be one of them!”

  24. > Torture? Pfft. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s not torture if you can get over it with a long nap and good cry.

    By that definition, bamboo under the fingernails doesn’t qualify as torture.

  25. Third reason. Many real extreme right-wing religionists embraced Palin with enthusiasm, and this also scared many people on the left. “Like, if those people love her so much, she must be one of them!”

    The converse of this is the people demonizing Palin would vote for Sharia laws before John McCain. I consider the fact that the Religious Whacko Right endorses her to be a null signal on actual policy, much the same way that I consider the Socialist Whacko Left’s endorsement of Obama to be a null signal.

    Both sides are projecting their hopes and dreams on a candidate who will not be able to enact them. Our High And Mighty Shrub is an actual Pentacostal, and while he’s not a frothing RTLer, his opposition to abortion on demand is greater than anyone we’ve had in office since Roe vs. Wade.

    Notice his utter lack of progress on the issue. Admittedly, he’s had the distractions of a foreign policy gone to hell and an economy that’s been tanking practically since he got it for various causes, but even with his appointments of Supreme Court Justices, he has hewn to pretty strict Constitutionalist leanings.

    Indeed, the Libertarian/Minarchist in me thinks that Bush II will be remembered far more kindly by history than Clinton or Bush I was.

    I think it is regrettable that we waterboarded three people in custody. It undermines our moral credibility; I intensely dislike the belief that it is ‘not torture’ for various justifications. Analogous treatments (medically taping someone’s nose and mouth shut and having them breathe through a tube which is blocked or opened by the interrogator) ARE considered torture.

    That being said – I am well aware than in war, ‘shit happens’. In terms of relative ‘shit happening’, I would claim we are closer to the side of the angels with our conduct than our foes are, and by a long shot.

    I am absolutely certain that if McCain is elected, banning it under all circumstances will be one of the first 10 executive orders he’ll enact. I’d be willing to bet he’s got the wording worked out already.

    On 9/11, CNN had a series of blog posts from people reflecting on where they were 7 years ago, etc. One was from a Muslim who said, in essence, “The US should leave Muslims alone and we’ll leave you alone.” It was couched in liberal-left catechisms, about how violence never solves anything, the surge is a failure, and how every Muslim killed breeds three more ready to be martyrs for the cause.

    My response – which got moderated out within 15 minutes – was this:

    “I think of United 93. Our martyrs sacrificed their lives to keep others from dying. Your martyrs kill Muslim school children in playgrounds. If you want Islam to be left alone, clean up your own messes.”

  26. Matt:
    > Um…you ARE aware, I would hope, that just about every Constitutional outrage perpetrated under Bush II was initially proposed by Bill Clinton, right?

    Well, I remember Clinton proposing some pretty bad stuff, but nothing like what’s happened since. But I’m having trouble following your logic: the guy who proposes an act is worse than someone who actually does it?

    Milhouse, I have two words for you: extraordinary rendition.

  27. Milhouse,

    “The numbers in Kings are obviously rounded to the nearest integer” – that actually makes sense, given that neither decimal fractions nor Arab numbers were known, so they couldn’t just write 3.14 in a straightforward way. F.e. the Egyptian approximation of PI expressed in Roman numerals is CCLVI/LXXXI and I guess it would not look much neater than that in Aramic or Hebrew or Greek or whatever either, and this sort of painstaking way to describe the circumference of a round lake would just be kinda out of place in a religious text.

  28. >The numbers in Kings are obviously rounded to the nearest integer

    In principle, the source of the error doesn’t matter. Whether it was rounding, lack of notation, or an incorrect value of pi doesn’t matter. Any of these cases makes Biblical literalism untenable. Any statement in the Bible that is demonstrably not true, or for which you have to perform this kind of fudging to make it true, has exactly the same implication for a literalist or inerrantist program.

    Because once you excuse one error in this way, the door is open to inexact or metaphorical readings elsewhere. There’s no principled place to stop, to say that one kind of fudging is OK but another isn’t. If it’s “round off”, the question becomes “What else did they omit for convenience?” Even “they lacked the notation” is fatal; there are lots of places where you could say “Well, they must have meant this meaning that I favor, but lacked the vocabulary to express it”. And if you have to quibble with the difference between vocabulary and notation, you’re already screwed.

  29. Matt (and others),

    “When your veep candidate is, two election cycles later, being cheered from the floor of the other party’s nominating convention, it’s pretty conclusive proof that you’ve gone completely off the rails.”

    A related question: how the hell did Reddit in two years turn from an interesting geeky news site to a home of extreme left lunatics who seriously think the NYT is “shrilling for the Bush administration”? I think these have a common cause.

    Theory: the Democrats were taken over by activists who organize and spend most of their time on the Internet – Kos, Huffington, MoveOn, and, sadly, Reddit. And Obama is a kinda the candidate of Internet communities too, Reddit was drooling all over him even before he made public he’s gonna run. (I wasn’t very much interested in American politics before as there is a ocean between us, but Reddit kinda pulled me in.)

    And the anonimity and the wide audience of the Internet encourages other kind of behaviour than one would do in meatspace, trolling is the most obvious example (see: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/ ), but apparently there are others. It seems it encourages extremism and craziness in general, in many forms, not just trolling. I mean, for example, take something entirely clever and decent like Austrian Economics, add the anonimity and the audience of the Internet to it and what you get is infowars.com, a totally crazy tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory website.

    So the revised formula is like:

    Normal person who is interested in politics + anonimity + audience = crazy extremist,

    crazy extermists + activism organized on websites + said activists exerting a lot of influence over a political party = said political party gets off the rails.

  30. “Judaism is the least nasty of the post-Zoroastrian religions, mainly because it spent a thousand years getting the shit kicked out of it.”

    Actually, what happened is that Maimonides took a clue from Aquinas and pushed Aristotle into it Judaism. And this is exactly why I have a ambivalent opionions about Christianity an Judaism.

    Yes, their faith-based roots suck ass. But in the Middle Ages Socrates/Aristotle/Plato were pushed into them and boy, those rock. We are still struggling to think at least approximately as clearly as they did. I’m not talking about Aristotelean two-valued logic or Plato’s crazy idea of the dictatorship of philosophers, or Aristotle’s funny physics, those ideas suck.

    I’m talking about the clarity of the way the thinked about practical stuff. Aristotle would not have been the least surprised, for example, that people with Computer Science degrees (episteme) cannot write code at all (phronesis). Or Plato correctly identified that there is a difference between how people describe political ideas they believe in (doxa) and how a neutral, objective political scientist would describe them (episteme). And so on. I just can’t help but admire the Late Scholastics for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_salamanca

    And this isn’t in entirely in the past. Looking at the Christians of our age, the Charismatic Neo-Protestants suck indeed, but I’ve talked with many intelligent, educated Catholics who were clearly well-trained in the Classical Greek/Scholastic tradition and therefore could reason very clearly. If I ignore their stories about creation and resurrection and stuff like that, their opinion about wordly things is usually very logical.

    So it’s an ambivalent thing. It annoys the living crap of me if someone asks me whether I am “saved” (typical Charismatic Neo-Protestant stuff), but when I argue with Progressives about why can’t they redesign human nature or something like that on an Internet forum, I often find myself backed by a few Católicós.

    *shrug* Perhaps faith-religions need something like that 2-dimension Political Compass, to make it clear it’s not really a black-or-white, faithful-or-heretic thing, but there are many views. One dimension could be the Bible vs. The Greeks axis, the other one, dunno, maybe the Gnostic vs. Orthodox axis (is the world good, is worldy life a good thing).

  31. Shenpen: Reddit has plenty of conservative and Libertarian lunatics, too. I encounter them all the time. Have you forgotten the frenzy over Ron Paul? I’ll agree that the overall climate is liberal, though.

    [Minor point: the word is "shill", from criminal slang for a con-man's assistant. The shill is the guy who pretends to be a neutral member of the public and declares that the game is honest, to help convince the mark to enter the game. Shills can be shrill, but it isn't necessary.]

  32. “The Jews aren’t my people genetically, but I identify with them for the same reasons fascists have always hated and persecuted them”

    And the interesting thing is that the reason behind all this is that they became completely Hellenized after Alexander. A tribe of goat herders got infused with the commercial-philosophical-intellectual Greek spirit so strongly that after all that collapsed they were more or less the only ones who managed to preserve that intactly. Jewishness (in the wordly sense) is basically Classical Greekness. Anti-Semitism and the poisoning of Socrates are exactly about the same things.

    BTW I find concepts like “cosmopolitanism” and “modernity” a bit vague, but I think you are just describing individualism in a roundabout way, which is OK.

  33. “Reddit has plenty of conservative and Libertarian lunatics, too. I encounter them all the time. ”

    The only kind I find is the fanatical Rothbardians (Private-Freedom etc.) I haven’t seen any of the other types, sadly. Or maybe they are downvoted below my threshold :-)))

  34. >BTW I find concepts like “cosmopolitanism” and “modernity” a bit vague, but I think you are just describing individualism in a roundabout way, which is OK.

    Not quite. Individualism is related to what I’m driving at here, but I’m really talking about the anti-tribal or post-tribal attitude of someone who knows that it is not only functionally necessary to deal with different cultures/religions/ways-of-life in a tolerant live-and-let-live way, but *right* to do so. Merchants doing what we would now call international trade learned this sooner than anyone else for obvious functional reasons, and the Jews have been important players in that game for long enough that the lessons have pervaded their culture.

  35. Miles, extraordinary rendition started under Clinton, and in any case I fail to see what problem you have with it. It certainly doesn’t show a disregard for the constitution, unless you can point to the clause in the constitution that prohibits it.

    Eric, rounding irrational numbers isn’t an error of any kind. “Ten” is the correct word to use for a number that lies between 9.5 and 10.5. As Maimonides pointed out (Perush Hamishnayot, Eruvin 1:5) any representation of pi in numbers is going to have to be an approximation, and the most logical approximation in a general work is the nearest whole integer.

    Shenpen, Maimonides (1135-1204) is very unlikely to have “taken a clue” from Aquinas (c. 1225-1274).

  36. Milhouse, I don’t pretend to speak for Eric, but rounding irrational numbers isn’t an error until you start claiming that because the Bible says so, PI = 3.

    We know that the Bible contains metaphor, poetry, analogies, similes, rounding… It’s the people that assert that everything in it is absolutely true that do not. And PI = 3 is a good example why this approach is wrong.

    Ultimately, it does not matter. The people who really think that, because the Bible says so, PI = 3 aren’t going to be persuaded by any reasoning, logical or of other kind, valid or not.

  37. But AFAIK no significant percentage of actual Biblical literalists have ever actually claimed that pi must be exactly 3. Saying that “everything in it is absolutely true” does not imply that pi is exactly 3; therefore the fact that pi isn’t exactly 3 is not “a good example why this approach is wrong”. If you want to prove that, you need a different example. Finding one may or may not be hard; my entire point is that this isn’t one.

  38. This is like the old canard that Roman Catholics who believe in transsubstantiation must think that if a host was made with poison and is then consecrated it becomes safe to eat. The fact that it remains poisonous would be a good refutation of transsubstantiation, only if Catholics actually held that belief; but they don’t, and never have, so trotting the argument out only discredits the trotter.

  39. Ken: what? Usually saints are dead by the time they are canonized… Are you thinking about trial by ordeal?

  40. Milhouse: for the love of Yoda, do you seriously think it’s okay to kidnap people, ship them out to countries in which they’ll be tortured, and extract confessions from them? You don’t have a problem with that?

  41. I think it’s OK for the CIA to capture enemies of the USA, anywhere in the world, whether to bring them here or to hand them over to whoever wants them most. I also think it’s OK to deport people who have no right to be here; if those people are unfortunate victims of circumstance then we should take care where we send them, but if they’re hostile to the USA then I don’t see why we should care what happens to them at their destination.

  42. Adriano: the trial is posthumous and the saint-to-be is represented by an attorney of sorts. The term “devil’s advocate” comes from the official who serves as “prosecutor” in these cases.

  43. Daniel, I know. In the light of that, I still wonder how a dead person can have faith. Maybe because I’m an atheist.
    And to be precise, I didn’t mean that trial by ordeal had anything to do with canonization, only that it made more sense to me in the context.

    To summarize: I didn’t understand the relationships that Ken implied between canonization and smearing Palin.

  44. >But AFAIK no significant percentage of actual Biblical literalists have ever actually claimed that pi must be exactly 3.

    If that’s so, the results of my web searches don’t make any sense. And the only Biblical literalist I’ve ever discussed this with directly actually does think that passage is literally and exactly true, no rounding; he tried to explain it by proposing that the word indicating shape has been misunderstood and the vessel wasn’t circular. When I explained that this would move the equivalent of the C/D ratio upwards rather than downwards he simply refused to believe me.

    You’re attributing way too much sanity to these ying-yangs, Milhouse — making a reasonable person’s defense of unreasonable people.

  45. >To summarize: I didn’t understand the relationships that Ken implied between canonization and smearing Palin

    Ken was being elliptical., probably because his tongue was rammed into his cheek so hard it was impacted. Happens this Wiccan went to Catholic high school, so I can explain. Lives of genuine saints are supposed to conform to a particular narrative pattern in which you find God, experience trials for your faith, and perform miracles.

    Ken is intimating that the shitstorm Palin’s been put through would try the patience of a saint. Or is equivalent to a trial of faith. Or something like that. :-)

    The “trial” after death is a different sense of the word.

  46. I understand now, thanks. But I’ll believe those are miracles when they are elected, not before. Still, it was a bit stretched to compare her with a saint. For that matter, most every politician that has ever been in a campaign fits the comparison.

  47. Palin is the only candidate so far that’s been told that for certain if she showed her head in the South Bronx, she would be subjection to gang rape by black men. Ostensibly, this is part of a comedy routine, put on by a Jewish lesbian who is enraged at the Republican party.

    I want you to imagine the hue and cry if comedian invited Obama to be the guest of honor at a KKK lynching.

  48. >Still, it was a bit stretched to compare her with a saint.

    Humor. It was humor. A joke. Laugh.

    >For that matter, most every politician that has ever been in a campaign fits the comparison.

    Under American-media rules, Democrats are normally presumed to be saints from the get-go and not normally required to face trial by calumny.

  49. Eric, I understand it was a joke. I was just pointing out that I didn’t find it funny. Might be just me.

    Ken, people from the far (I’m thinking Limbaugh et al.) right have said “equally” (FSVO) nasty things about or to Democrats. Or people who oppose them. Many times. It doesn’t so much embiggen the person as show the quality of the speaker.
    I cannot imagine the hue and cry, I simply do not experience the elections like you. I don’t live there. I just think “oh, goody. Another jackass”.

    Still, I don’t see the big deal about this. Although I do despise that kind of criticism, and think that it’s only good to drive independents away. I’m just saying that every side has engaged in it. I don’t admire Palin more for being subjected to this crap. It just tells me “don’t buy tickets for that idiot”.

  50. Adriano:

    Usually in American politics, there are certain lines that don’t get crossed. Bernhard crossed them there. The fact that she crossed them is more important than the specifics of what she said; the utter LACK of response by the main stream media on this is even more telling.

    That echo chamber is amazingly well isolated if this passes without condemnation from the Democratic side. I suspect it will remain so. It is further evidence of Eric’s original point – that the radical left wing of the Democratic party really don’t know how to deal with Palin.

    And yes, the comment about the Trials of Sainthood were a joke; I don’t think the Democratic Party could have deliberately come up with something likelier to boost Republican turnout than this.

    Palin is no saint. All these attacks do is make her more electable to the independents.

  51. >I don’t think the Democratic Party could have deliberately come up with something likelier to boost Republican turnout than this.

    Indeed. Makes me think of Conquest’s Third Law: “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.”

  52. (esr) > Though I suspect the “Teach both” quote is that kind of waffle

    Her recent backtracking on climate change (she denies she was backtracking) is another. First she says that the climate change is not anthropogenic, then ‘human activity may have contributed to it’. Read: it was absolutely not man-made as long as Palin was only concerned with Alaska and its oil industry, but now that she needs to appeal to a larger audience, it’s negotiable.

    I think there is much less to her than meets the eye. She is indeed a centrist, because her only real positions are on abortion and gun control. On everything else she’ll say whatever gets her elected, nevermind if it’s not the same thing she said yesterday. She does not seem to be particularly learned about many things, least of all foreign policy. ESR says Obama smells of defeat, I say Palin smells of a gaffe of epic proportions. She came pretty close in that one interview. The word ‘doctrine’ is not in her vocabulary and I suspect there are other large pieces missing, too.

  53. Mike, good politicians don’t have to be “particularly learned about many things,” they have to be effective leaders and managers who hire and listen to the right particularly learned people. (Of course good politicians need a few other qualities as well.) I’m not advocating ignorance, just saying that experts are often terrible politicians, while non-experts often do pretty well (I’m thinking of Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan).

    esr, I think you’re right about Palin in a way I haven’t seen articulated before. This could explain the amazing displays of vituperation and hatred we’ve seen from the left in the last few weeks. In a sense she’s a kulak. She’s represents “rich” farmers and independent businesspeople who made it out of the prole/peasant class, even while under the old order that the progressives wish to replace. Thus she refutes their thesis about the plight of the masses and is a traitor to her class and gender. Her outdated superstitions, traditionalism, centrist American views, her very existence contradicts the progressive transnationalist secular socialist worldview. She “sends the wrong message.”

  54. Indeed. Makes me think of Conquest’s Third Law: “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.”

    Game design reference:

    In “Pick your points and make a fleet battle” games, I tend to say “You pick half of your enemy’s forces, he picks half of yours, both of you draw for victory condition cards, and fill out the fleets needed to meet them.

  55. >The word ‘doctrine’ is not in her vocabulary and I suspect there are other large pieces missing, too

    I’m not sure the political strategy she seems to execute by instinct (e.g., find the most possible issue medians and sit squarely on them) is compatible with being a conviction politician.

    Other large pieces? Dunno yet. Palin doesn’t seem to be any kind of deep thinker or intellectual, but I don’t think she’s stupid. Her track record (good performance at several occupations with low-to-moderate demands on analytical thinking, followed by a star turn as a politician) indicates somebody who is a pretty quick study on anything not utterly beyond the level of complexity she can handle. The impression I get is of a 115-125 IQ with a lot of energy, good mental habits, and a restless, somewhat novelty-seeking personality that’s somewhat at odds with her conservative imprinting.

  56. >”She does not seem to be particularly learned about many things, least of all foreign policy.”
    So Obama’s trip to Germany thus makes him qualified? She is running for VP, he’s more ambitious. I’d like to see somebody ask Obama, off the tele-prompter, if he’ll actually pick an Arabic speaker to negotiate with Iran. I’d wager he’d fall for it.

    Ragardless, you’ve just nailed it. You don’t think she’s “particularly learned.” That’s it. Obama is seen as an elitist. McCain and Biden have been in DC so long that they probably have buildings named after them. Palin is, without a doubt, the only “outsider” in the race. Everybody always makes noise about sending “non-establishment” people to Washington to stop the “business as usual” seen there. Whether sending a “normal person” to DC is a good idea or not, that is what she is.

    It’s the populist bit. It’s been staring me in the face. I noticed it at one level but not at that level. That is the real difference between Obama and Palin. With Obama you get an inexperienced insider. It’s binary:
    McCain/Biden: Experienced insiders
    Obama: Inexperienced insider
    Palin: Inexperienced outsider.

    This really doesn’t speak well to Obama’s chances does it? He’s neither experienced nor a “man of the people.” Who exactly is he supposed to represent?

  57. (PapayaSF) > Mike, good politicians don’t have to be “particularly learned about many things,” they have to be effective leaders and managers who hire and listen to the right particularly learned people.

    Agreed. I would think that it would be easier to do that if you didn’t have to look up ‘doctrine’ in the dictionary first. She’s certainly not running the risk of being too expert; on the contrary, I have a feeling she’s just plain way out of her league here, but as ESR says, dunno yet. Maybe we’ll find out.

    (SomeDude) > So Obama’s trip to Germany thus makes him qualified?

    I didn’t say anything about Obama.

    Anyway, all the talk about being an ‘outsider’ and ‘stopping business as usual in Washington’ may help the McCain/Palin ticket, but as SomeDude wrote, she’s running for the vice presidency and her influence won’t be anything like Cheney’s. McCain the insider would still pick the staff, and if you can extrapolate from the people running his campaign, they’ll be no outsiders. McCain has actually used the words “Bush’s third term”.

  58. Um, why do you think she doesn’t know the word “doctrine”? At worst she didn’t recognise the term “Bush Doctrine”, a term made up by the foreign policy commetariat, and which still has no one definition; there’s no particular reason she should recognise it, since she doesn’t pretend to have followed the output of these commentators closely. At best she did recognise the term, but had no way of knowing which definition Gibson was thinking of, so she asked him to define it; that’s what any smart person would do.

    On anthropogenic warming, she’d previously said it hasn’t been proven that people are responsible; now she’s saying we can’t prove that people are not responsible, at least in part. Both are obviously true.

    As for McCain, he didn’t confuse Spain with Mexico, he just didn’t recognise the name Zapatero. No particular reason he should; I don’t expect presidential candidates to memorise the name of every two-bit head of government as if it were a geography test. He gave the right answer anyway, if only by accident.

    Adriano, if you think Limbaugh has said anything even approaching the nastiness of Bernhard’s rant, please give an example.

  59. > Um, why do you think she doesn’t know the word “doctrine”?

    Um, take a look at he Gibson interview?

    > at worst she didn’t recognise the term “Bush Doctrine”, a term made up by the foreign policy commetariat, and which still has no one definition

    There is this thing called “National Security Strategy of the United States” put together by the National Security Council, as well as other documents. Most countries in the world have something equivalent and people refer to the major principles in them as ‘doctrines’ when talking about international relations. It happens every day all over the place.

    It’s true that, on paper, the current US doctrine is not very different from the ones that have been held for the past decades. This would have kinda-sorta provided an answer for Palin to give: technically, the Bush doctrine is not all that different from Clinton’s or Bush 41′s. Clinton’s doctrine included strong language on regime change in countries that failed to behave etc. Of course, there is a not-so-slight difference in the execution of the doctrine by the present administration compared to eg. Bush 41.

    > On anthropogenic warming, she’d previously said it hasn’t been proven that people are responsible; now she’s saying we can’t prove that people are not responsible, at least in part. Both are obviously true.

    I think is precisely the sort of disingenuous political waffling that ESR wrote about in relation to ‘teach both’.

    > As for McCain, he didn’t confuse Spain with Mexico, he just didn’t recognise the name Zapatero. No particular reason he should;

    This is the leader that pulled Spanish troops from Iraq after the terrorist attacks in Madrid, but hey, who’s counting.

  60. Milhouse: I’ll concede. I was about to search wikiquote, but, as I said, I really don’t care that much and I don’t live there. It would just begin a delicious flamefest. So: “No, I really wouldn’t know if Limbaugh or others have said anything so stupid”. Sorry for bringing the example up.

  61. Miles, that’s a usage of “doctrine” that is completely unfamiliar to me. More importantly, it is not what the “Doctrine” in the phrase “Bush Doctrine” means. I had wondered whether something was going on when you kept using “doctrine” in lower case. If there is such a usage, it’s confined to the higher echelons of foreign policy wonks, and there’s absolutely no reason to expect Palin (or Gibson) to understand it. “Doctrine” is an ordinary English word with ordinary English meanings that I’m sure she understands, but none of them are what you described.

    The phrase “Bush Doctrine”, always capitalised, is modeled after the “Monroe Doctrine” — a unilateral bold statement by a USA president of a policy that the USA will enforce on the world, whether it likes it or not, and which lasts well beyond that president’s incumbency. The Monroe Doctrine lasted over 100 years. Whether any of the various pronouncements that go under the nickname “Bush Doctrine” will actually be remembered as such by history remains to be seen. For now it’s just a tag that various pundits, starting with Krauthammer, have attached to various policies; they’re more honestly candidate doctrines that might or might not survive.

    The National Security Strategy document may be the “doctrine” of the Bush administration, but it’s not in any official way the “Bush Doctrine”. For one thing it’s way too long. “X Doctrines” have to be pithy: they used to have to be expressed in one sentence; now they can be the length of an op-ed column, but not a 600KB+ PDF.

    As for Zapatero, yes, that’s who he is. I see no reason why McCain should have memorised his name. He’s insignificant. By removing Spain as an ally he made Spain insignificant to the USA. If McCain ever had to deal with him he’d have a briefing; though when Carter still managed to get Malcolm Fraser’s name wrong, it did more damage to Fraser’s reputation than to Carter’s. For that matter, if McCain had been asked what he thought about the Spanish President (or Prime Minister, take your pick of title), he may very well have answered properly; but when in the middle of a discussion of Latin America he’s confronted with the name, and no context in which to put it, there’s no reason he should instantly remember it, as if it were that of some dear and important ally.

  62. Milhouse:
    back in April McCain explicitly said that he wanted to move past earlier disagreements with Spain and said specifically that he wanted to Zapatero to visit him at the White House if he is elected president
    On the interview’s context:
    “After the interviewer presses him a couple times on the point and tries to focus him on the fact that Prime Minister Zapatero isn’t from Mexico and isn’t a drug lord either McCain comes back at her saying, “All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the Hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that’s judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region.”
    Then there’s a moment of awkward pause before she says. “But what about Europe? I’m talking about the President of Spain.”
    last citation from http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/217802.php

  63. “He’s neither experienced nor a “man of the people.” Who exactly is he supposed to represent?”

    I seriously think that, at least partly, the Internet communities. MoveOn, Code Pink, Kos, Huffington, and, sadly, Reddit. Again: he was kinda a favourite of Reddit BEFORE he announced he’s gonna run.

  64. “As for McCain, he didn’t confuse Spain with Mexico, he just didn’t recognise the name Zapatero. No particular reason he should;”

    He might have confused him with Zapata of the Zapatistas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapatista_Army_of_National_Liberation – still, it isn’t exactly one of the telling signs of a genius. Another one is that he isn’t just ignorant about economics, but he is even proud of it. If there are any registered Republicans here: why couldn’t you just choose someone intelligent, like Romney?…

  65. I seriously think that, at least partly, the Internet communities. MoveOn, Code Pink, Kos, Huffington, and, sadly, Reddit. Again: he was kinda a favourite of Reddit BEFORE he announced he’s gonna run.

    I remember Paul and Kucinich being preferred candidates before it was clear Obama was the only real anti-war contender in the ’08 race.

  66. Yes, he probably was thinking of the Zapatistas. Again, my point is that there’s absolutely no reason why he ought to memorise the name of every head of government in the world, and recognise them instantly. You say it’s not the sign of a genius, but I fail to see why remembering that sort of thing indicates anything significant about the person’s suitability to be president. Geography teacher, maybe, but not president. A president doesn’t have to remember that sort of thing; he gets briefings.

    As for why “we registered republicans” chose McCain, I don’t think anyone commenting here voted for him. But there are rather a lot of registered Republicans, and in some states one doesn’t even have to be one in order to vote in a Republican primary. I was very disappointed with the primary result, but these are the candidates we’ve got. Since I live in NY, and therefore there is no possible way my vote can influence the result, I had been planning to vote for Bob Barr; now I intend to vote for Palin, which unfortunately means also voting for the grumpy old man who comes with her.

  67. >As for why “we registered republicans” chose McCain, I don’t think anyone commenting here voted for him.

    You’re probably right.

    Just as a matter of interest, my Republican choice out of the early primary contenders would have been Fred Thompson.

  68. One complicating matter of using the maternal surname “Zapatero” is that the norm in Spanish-speaking countries is to use either both surnames, or only the paternal (in this case “Rodriguez”)
    It would be understandable if someone from a state with a large Hispanic population would be confused by that usage.

  69. The Monster: Really? When talking about world leaders? When the one in question is a NATO member? When the interviewer states “I’m talking about the president of Spain?”

  70. But he didn’t say “I’m alking about the president of Spain” until later;McCain can’t be expected to have taken it into account before it was said! The topic had been Latin America, and hearing the name in that context he naturally assumed it was someone in the region. Had he prepped like a grade-3 student for a geography test, he would have recognised the name instantly, and realised that the focus had shifted to Europe; but I see no reason why he should have done so.

  71. >What about taking it into account _after_ it was said?

    You jest, surely. McCain is well aware that because he is a Republican, the correction would be ignored or edited out unless it could be used to make him look worse than the original error. In an environment of media bias, his best strategy is the Reaganesque one – sail on, hoping the inevitable sniping will make the journos look petty and partisan. Which is exactly what he has done, and exactly what they are.

  72. “[God] is the biggest underachiever of all time. He just had a good publicist. If something good happens, it’s his will. If something bad happens, ‘he moves in mysterious ways’.”

  73. See I Kings, 7:23. See discussion above; rounding to the nearest integer is not inaccurate, it’s just shedding unnecessary precision.

  74. Paul Brinkley 9/17/08 1:26 pm makes a good point.

    Mention is made of Sarah Palin’s “Gibson” interview. There was much to-do about her needing to respond without knowing the interview questions in advance, without notes, without a teleprompter. Presumably this would produce UNSCRIPTED answers.

    This objective, even claim, that the answers will be unscripted is absolutely FALSE! The evidence is seen in the Mark Levin claims and similar evidence by others, showing that various responses were edited by ABC. For all we know, there may have been questions-and-answers that were totally left out of the ABC product(or were there safeguards against such stealthy ABC conduct?)

    The answers are indeed scripted, not by Palin but by ABC. The answer to this dilemma, is the live interview(like The Debates.) Then everybody has access to all that was asked, and all that was answered. Anything other than a live interview leads to an untruth.

  75. she’s a socialist. alaska is the biggest welfare state in the union. $3000 for every man, women and child. a family of 5 gets a check for $15000 for doing nothing. she’s raised windfall taxes on oil companies to redistribute wealth to fund these payouts. straight out of hugo chavez’s playbook. alaska gets $1.20 for every federal tax dollar it puts in. why? to take your tax dollars and build those bridges to nowhere. like ‘uncle ted’ did. a tax raiser. a wealth redistributor. a big spender. and she’s a hawk. get ready for war on terror part deux which means an explosion in the national debt and a land grab on what’s left of our rights. make no mistake, she’s big government. surprised you didn’t catch this one, esr.

  76. Looks like America has spoken; we’d still rather have a man as President than a woman.

  77. I think that its more complex than just a man vs woman thing. I think that the US was not ready to elect a politician that would not answer a question publicly with a straight answer. If she had been able to answer any questions that were asked of her with a solution (whether it was right or not), rather than a spin answer like, “We’re gonna get to the bottom of it, and because John McCain is a Maverick, we’ll go at it with everything we have, because we’re like hockey mom’s.”, she might have been taken seriously. Answers like that don’t inspire trust.

  78. You are blinded by science!
    Palin is in the center allright, the dead center of the radical religous right.
    You are by your post giving, (albeit innocently) credibility to an illiterate who is supported by millions of illiterates.
    Civilized men cannot ever succumb to this temptation.

  79. actually i like Sarah Palin very much. she is a very good role model for all women. i believe that she is a great politician and did something very well in Alaska.

  80. Sarah Palin is a good leader. i can say that because she did some projects in alaska that helped lots of people .

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