The existence of some sort of vast, left-wing conspiracy in the American media has always seemed like so much bull-pucky to someone whose spent their life in the media. Yes, reporters tend to lean liberal. They want to save people, places, things -- you name it. And their reward system only fosters this sort of thinking. Nobody wins a Pulitzer Prize for getting government to do less; you win a Pulitzer for getting government to do something to help someone. You win a Pulitzer for helping to grow government, not shrink it.
I was at the Anchorage Daily News way back when it won a Pulitzer for a moving collection of stories that to the general public seemed mainly to further the idea that the main problem in rural Alaska is alcohol and that most other problems there can be remedied by government -- be it Native, local or state -- staunching alcohol consumption. There are now a bunch of dry villages out there. Unfortunately, the problems of Bush Alaska don't appear to have diminished much. Suicide, sexual assault, fatal accidents and chronic unemployment remain huge problems.
What improvements there have been have come at the individual level. Some people have made some villages better, and some people, sad to say, have saved themselves by joining a large-scale migration to the cities of the 49th state, where there are jobs, better law enforcement and bars. Some former rural residents have trouble with alcohol in the city, too. Most don't. Most, in fact, have no more problems than the rest of us be we black, white, Latino, Asian, Sioux or some mix of who knows what.
They're so busy working to support themselves and their families they don't have time for drinking, which underlines a fundamental reality: Government can't really save people, but jobs can. When people find jobs, they build lives that allow them earn things that encourage them to become better citizens because they don't want to lose those things. And the fact is that government really isn't all that good at creating jobs, because most government jobs create nothing.
None of which is going to stop journalists from wanting government to do things to "help'' people. It's a noble sentiment. Cut them some slack. Maybe they're liberal. But a vast, left-wing conspiracy on their part to make it appear conservatives are fools?
Enter Sarah Palin
It has always been too far out there to believe, or it least it was until Gov. Sarah Palin, a woman elected to office as a uniter not a divider, metamorphosed into former Gov. Palin, the Great Divider.
That someone with so few ideas, and the few so divisive, could get so much attention in the American media has to make one wonder: Is Palin simply being used to undermine conservative ideas and values? Is Palin out there babbling because a left-leaning media wants her out there babbling?
Remember the big hoo-haw over her comments last summer about Paul Revere "ringing those bells and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free." Why was that even a story? Some would-be, might-be, really-not-going-to-be candidate for maybe the presidency, maybe not, fumbled her history. Who cares? There really was no there-there. But the story was everywhere.
It's almost like the media was playing Palin, and all conservatives by extension, as people who will let any damn thing that passes through their head come out their mouth. It's almost like the media was trying to make conservatives appear ignorant by encouraging Palin to speak.
Enter Dick Cheney
But how about we let Palin speak for herself on the subject in a televised exchange with Greta Van Sustern, supposedly a conservative commentator (more on that later), who asked Palin about conservative, former vice-president Dick Cheney's observations that Palin lacked the qualifications to be vice president:
Well seeing as how Dick -- excuse me, Vice President Cheney -- never misfires, then evidently he's quite convinced that what he evidently read about me by the lamestream media, having been written what I believe is a false narrative over the last four years, evidently Dick Cheney believed that stuff. And that's a shame. So he characterized me as being a mistake.
Children diagram those sentences. Could there be a political figure with worse grammar than Palin? Admittedly, President Barack Obama's public uh-uh-uhhing is pretty obnoxious, but at least he's got the subject-verb-predicate thing down. Palin? Not so much. Here's more:
And I think that the mistake would have been me just deciding that, hey, I love my 86, 87 percent approval rating up there in Alaska as the governor, moving and shaking and watching corrupt politicians and businessmen go to prison for crony capitalism, um, working on 16 to 20 percent of domestic energy supplies being able to be increased via Alaska's resource development. Ethics reform legislation that I was working on. That led to that 86 percent approval rating.
OK, as Alaskans, let's just ignore the misstatements of facts there and focus on the grammar that is "working on 16 to 20 percent of domestic energy supplies being able to be increased via Alaska's resources development'' there. The "there" at the end being the only Palinism missing from that statement.
Palin and Huey Long
What would the late conservative giant William F. Buckley say about this?
I can take a guess: "A political party built on the babbling of rubes from the sticks cannot survive.''
Babbling populism, which is what Palin spews, has been off-and-on popular in this country for decades. Usually, it has come from the South.
U.S. Sen. Huey Long from Louisiana rode it a long way in the 1930s with a theme amazingly close to the God and "crony capitalism" pitch of Palin. Long hammered away at the idea that a handful of people controlled most of the country's wealth. "In one radio broadcast,'' according to one Long biography, "he told the listeners: 'God called: Come to my feast.' But what had happened? Rockefeller, Morgan, and their crowd stepped up and took enough for 120 million people and left only enough for 5 million for all the other 125 million to eat. And so many millions must go hungry.'"
Long sounds like a Palin who can speak English. In fact, the only real, obvious differences between Huey then and Sarah now are these: He was a Democrat, and she's a Republican. He spoke English, and she speaks some sort of Wasilla-babble.
Enter that vast, left-wing conspiracy. A reasonable person might wonder if Van Susteren is its Fifth Column. Look at where Van Susteren grew up in the 1960s and '70s -- Appleton, Wis. It was in the heart of the Midwest heartland of liberalism at the time. This was Sen. Gaylord Nelson country. He is the Democrat credited with founding "Earth Day,'' which started the ball rolling toward where we are today with federal regulations requiring cowboys tow port-a-potties with them on cattle drives.
Look at where Van Susteren went to school: the University of Wisconsin in Madison, followed by Georgetown University Law. Here is what Conservapedia.com has to say about the former: "The University of Wisconsin-Madison is widely considered to be one of the most liberal public research universities in the nation." As to the latter, all that needs be said is this: LBJ (President Lydon Baines Johnson), the architect of the "Great Society,'' from which was born the Nanny State -- attended Georgetown. It was, and is, an enclave of Jesuit good intentions. And "the road to hell is,'' as they say, "paved with good intentions.''
Sure, maybe Van Susteren changed her stripes after graduating from Georgetown in 1979 and going on to her first career as a defense attorney, another liberal passion. Maybe. Then again, her sister ran for the Senate in 2006 as a Democrat, and her husband is John B. Coale, one of the do-gooder activist lawyers involved in trying to stick it to Union Carbide after a deadly and unfortunate, chemical-plant accident left almost 4,000 dead in India 1984. His own website describes him this way: "John P. Coale has long been a crusader for private citizens adversely affected by the negligence of large corporations, and a leading advocate of social and institutional reform through the court system."
"Social and institutional reform through the court system?" What synonym for that is there other than "card-carrying lefty?''
So why would someone who lives with a card-carrying lefty, someone whose sister recently ran for the Senate as a Democrat, put Palin on television as a spokeswoman for conservative views in this country knowing the woman is likely to babble like a dingbat, as Palin usually does?
Palin a pawn in a vast left-wing conspiracy?
If it looks like a left-wing conspiracy and it quacks likes a left-wing conspiracy...
Could it be that Sarah Palin is its pawn? She is the essential rube from the sticks pattering on about "common sense'' as the solution to everything. That appeals to some in this country. There has always been a strong undercurrent of American resentment against the so-called "intellectual elite.''
I'll frankly admit I don't much like them. I've met too many who were little more than what my hardworking, college-educated, blue-collar father used to call "educated idiots.''
But most of us are smart enough to recognize we don't want a neurosurgeon trained at the "University of Common Sense'' doing surgery on our backs or, for that matter, someone from the "Academy of Common Sense'' trying to fix our computers. Actual knowledge trumps common sense every time. Intelligence is a good thing.
Granted, decent grammar isn't the definition of intelligence. It is simply one of the lowest bars for starting to quantify it.
There are plenty of people out there who speak and write the language well who still aren't much smarter than a post. But what can you say about one born and reared in this country who lacks the ability to meet even this lowest of common denominators? Better yet, what can you say about the motives of the people who would be pushing that person onto television as a "spokesperson" for anything?
Isn't a spokeperson supposed to be able to speak sensibly?
Where are the big ideas?
Personally, I'm starting to wonder if there really is a vast, left-wing conspiracy to undermine conservative ideas and principles. It's the best explanation for why Palin gets the attention she does. Because she certainly isn't getting it for her big ideas. She has none. The Sarah Palin plan to break the country out of the lingering recession is nowhere to be found. The Sarah Palin scheme to help average Americans take care of their health has never materialized.
Palin doesn't have time to brainstorm ideas to advance the country -- "progress it,'' as she might say -- because she's too busy being the confrontational dunderhead worrying about attacks on the First Amendment rights of the head of a chain of fast-food chicken joints. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy said gays folk are ungodly. A bunch of gays and their friends said Cathy was an ass. Now they're yelling at each other.
Sad to say, this is a demonstration of exactly how the First Amendment is supposed to work. It is supposed to defend Cathy's right to say homosexuality is bad as much as it is supposed to defend the right of gays to say, "You should boycott Chik-fil-A,'' or the right of animal right's advocates to say, "You should boycott McDonald's,'' or -- for that matter -- the right of Medred haters out there to say, "You should boycott AlaskaDispatch.com."
Palin appears as clueless to the meaning of the First Amendment as she is to the outcome of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA), which induced nothing, despite what she might believe. Surely you remember her proposal for a natural gas pipeline project, the one she referenced at the Republican National Convention in 2008 when she read the speech (and beautifully so) that someone had written for her:
I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history. And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion dollar natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence. That pipeline, when the last section is laid and its valves are opened, will lead America one step farther away from dependence on dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart.
Listen up America: There is no pipeline. There never was. There was a "deal.'' It turned out to be a bad deal for business. Thus it went bye-bye before anything "began." The likelihood now is that there never will be a pipeline to "help lead America to energy independence.'' Alaskans, though, hold out hope, there might be one to help Japan free itself from nuclear power.
The pipeline from here to America is about a real as Sarah Palin is deep.
She's a pretty face on a head full of nothing. And at some point you have to wonder about the left-wing conspiracy taking advantage of that to undermine conservative ideas and values.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com