Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonja Sotomayor

Oh my.

I keep thinking I've seen the worst from the Republican spin team (Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, etc.) but the news of their accusations of racism with respect to Supreme Court nominee Sonja Sotomayor really makes me wonder how low they're willing to go? I read her comments from the 2002 speech in context ... something Coulter and crew apparently didn't do or didn't care to do. Sorry, I just don't see it, folks. Seems like she's pretty well grounded in reality to me. Certainly not a racist.

If I didn't know better, I'd think these characters were double agents. The Democrats couldn't have hoped for these three to make themselves look so ... well, ridiculous. And without any help!

Hopefully, most Republicans can see through this stuff and distance themselves from it. But I'm more doubtful than ever about the G.O.P.'s ability to re-energize itself. It won't happen anytime soon. The conservative "voice" in this country has been highjacked by these self-appointed mouthpieces and their noisy cohort on the Fox "news" crew and made to look foolish. Thoughtful and compassionate people like me in the Pro-Life movement have little hope of advancing their cause with this kind of assistance.

One bright light: Their unwise comments could do a lot to help secure a more fair hearing for Ms. Sotomayor in the Senate. One can hope.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ann Coulter Does Not Speak for Me

For a long time, I've been hearing the name Ann Coulter. Apparently an evangelical Christian and pretty definitely a Republican, she has written at least one book that excoriates "liberal" values. In fact, the reason I first heard her name was in connection with the fact that she created quite a storm among her own constituency (politically right-leaning evangelicals — no, that's not redundant) for wearing what some thought was too-suggestive, off-the-shoulders garb on her book cover.

I ran across one of her latest salvos just now, in which she claims that Sarah Palin would have carried the day for the Republicans had she not been weighed down by her not-truly-Republican running mate, Mr. McCain.

I happen to be an admirer of Ms. Palin. As Ms. Coulter notes quite accurately, Ms. Palin has done a pretty good job in Alaska, confronting Alaska's good-old-boy Big Oil problems. Ms. Coulter conveniently forgets that her Republican pals were on the other side of that one. What is notable is that Ms. Palin, like her supposedly ne'er-do-well running mate, Mr. McCain, went against her party's typical stance on that issue, one reason she appealed to the "maverick." And she did, indeed "walk-the-walk" on social issues important not only to the so-called "religious right" but to many people across party lines.

But reading the rest of Ms. Coulter's diatribe, I got the feeling I had entered a parallel universe, one in which everything is turned upside down or inside out and nothing is as you remember it.

As I remember the run-up to the election, things went like this: Ms. Palin, the surprise selection as Mr. McCain's running mate, immediately boosted the Republican hopes in the polls. An attractive woman and a good speaker, she was initially a plus for the ticket, with her soccer-mom directness and velvet-fisted humor that made you think she was tough enough to duke it out with the big kids on the block in Washington. Politically, it appeared to be a shrewd and calculated move to disarm the Democrats by trumping them with a female running mate even as the liberal Democrats watched Ms. Clinton go down to defeat by Mr. Obama.

Ms. Coulter seems to have forgotten that the polls held, even after she "walked the walk," but her (and Mr. McCain's) fortunes began to fall when Ms. Palin's poor grasp of international politics surfaced in a series of interviews. I talked to some people, pre- and post-election, who were uncomfortable with her views on some social issues, but the people I know who voted against the Republican ticket this time around, without exception, did so because of two things: the fact that Ms. Palin was clearly not yet ready to step into the role and the fact that they did not trust the Republican party (no matter who was at the helm) to guide us through a growing financial crisis that was ever more clearly the result of so called "free market" policies Republicans have championed since the days of the Reagan Administration.

Despite Ms. Coulter's suggestion to the contrary, Ms. Palin would have lost the election whether or not Mr. McCain had been on the ticket. She was not ready to lead the country through the political and financial quagmires in which we now find ourselves. And even most Republicans were privately admitting that before it was over.

I have no argument here with Ms. Coulter about her philosophical bent (although we'd no doubt disagree on a number of issues). And I'm more than willing to ignore the cover photo thing. What I'm upset about is her plainly loose grip on the facts and her apparent pride in the fact that Ms. Palin could have exceeded Ms. Coulter's capacity to alienate liberals — the very people I would think she'd want, as a Christian, to reach and convince with her message.

Ms. Palin is a promising young face. She may yet help revitalize an obviously ailing G.O.P. But if she's to be worthy of the U.S. Presidency, she will take a couple of pages from the Obama playbook: Study to show herself worthy to handle the world's economic and political complexities, respect your foes, domestic and foreign (Mr. Obama makes no secret of the fact that several of the former presidents on which he has modeled aspects of his own political career were Republicans, and he's not afraid to talk to the presidents of Iran and Venezuela), and she needs to cultivate an ability to reach out to and open a civil dialogue with those with whom she doesn't agree.

The Republican party is reeling, and Rush Limbaugh and a small army of angry right-wingers are attempting, unwittingly, to marginalize it for a decade. Ms. Palin is one of the few who have the opportunity, should she care to take it, to remake the G.O.P. into a positive rather than negative force for conservative values. She might even get a shot at piloting the ship of state in 2012. But she'll have to shed some baggage along the way. Mr Limbaugh and Ms. Coulter, if they continue on their present courses, would have to be left with the bags on the dock.