HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

September 29, 2008
From Liberty Street

Torrent

John Turner


It began with a few dribbles, grew to a trickle and is now moving towards a torrent. It reminds me of the Yorkshire saying, "The beck's in spate."

I have in in mind, of course, commentary about Sarah Palin's fitness to be vice president and what the choosing of her tells us about John McCain. I can't recall any stronger expressions of alarm than this incident has brought forth.

The latest I've read comes from Fareed Zakaria, who, generally has been cautious to the point of seeming incapable of taking a stand. In his column yesterday, he wrote that what Sarah Palin has to say "is often, quite frankly, gibberish." Then he continued, "Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utter unqualified to be vice president."

Zakaria has been around long enough he should know that admitting the obvious terrifies the major media more than anything. But in this case, the obvious is becoming so overwhelming that even the network news agencies can't run away from it.

John McCain has decided to bet his entire campaign on the assumption that a majority of the American people are so uninterested, so ill-informed, so inept in their thinking that they cannot recognize the obvious no matter how much it is brought to their attention. A man who will make that kind of gamble will wager anything, including your life and the lives of all your fellow citizens. He is in the grip of a maniacal notion that would justify the killing of tens of millions in order to secure his peculiar ideas of victory. In fact, those conceptions are all he can think about, and he will allow nothing -- not truth, not honesty, not the well-being of the people of the nation -- to get in the way of his march towards them.

I suppose some might deem that a heroic determination, but I prefer another name for it -- craziness.

I would like to hear someone try to explain to me why a fanatic's unrealistic notion of national ascendancy should be set above the future of my daughters and grandchildren and the future of everyone you care about.

It's clear that the extremists running John McCain's campaign would say that such criticism arises from an unbalanced liberalism. But to say so they would have to ignore the assessment of Mrs. Palin coming from George Will, David Frum, Rod Dreher, Kathleen Parker, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, and even, for God's sake, Charles Krauthammer. That's scarcely a pantheon of liberalism.

The truth can no longer be denied that most informed people in the country are terrified by the notion of Sarah Palin's having an influence on national decision-making. I return to Fareed Zakaria: "In these times, for John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible." That's strong language from anyone and to see it coming from a pure middle-of-the-roader like Zakaria ought to be shaking people awake.

If you watch John McCain carefully, you realize you can't discern any difference in his manner between when he utters a commonplace and when he tells a whopping lie. He continues to say, for example, that drilling for oil off the coast of America will go a long way towards solving the energy crisis, and that he has consistently been an advocate of alternative energy projects. This means either that he is consummately dishonest or that he has deluded himself so thoroughly he doesn't even know when he's lying. I can't be sure which is the case but I tend to think it's the latter. For me, that's the more frightening of the two possibilities. I would much rather have an official who lies regularly but is aware of it than someone who's so remote from the truth he's incapable of knowing what it is.

The coming election will offer unmistakable evidence about the basic political intelligence of the American people. Normally, in elections, there are sane -- if not moral -- reasons for supporting either of two candidates. But that's not the case this time. John McCain's recent behavior has been so pathologically wild that a vote for him and his chosen running mate will bespeak either pathetic ignorance or an unbalanced mentality which matches his own.


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