Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Look, ma no lies: Palin smears with hypotheticals

Is there a method to Palin's loopy syntax? She inspired a fresh round of indignation and glee by suggesting on Fox on Monday that Obama has been soft on BP because he's received oil industry campaign contributions, and for seeming to suggest that he attracted more oil money than a Republican President would.

In fact, while Palin's Fox riff was a smear (impugning Obama's motives with no factual basis) it did not include an actual lie -- she didn't say that Obama got more money from the oil industry than any given Republican. In elusive, allusive convoluted fashion, she piled hypothetical on hypothetical.  After asking why the media doesn't ask "if there's any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration" (literally, a connection between the oil industry's support for Obama and the oil industry's support for Obama, but you know what she meant), she goes from speculation about what is (or could be) to counterfactuals about what might have been or could yet be:

now, if this was President Bush or if this were a Republican in office who hadn't received as much support even as President Obama has from B.P. and other oil companies, you know the mainstream media would be all over his case in terms of asking questions why the administration didn't get in there, didn't get in there and make sure that the regulatory agencies were doing what they were doing with the oversight to make sure that things like this don't happen.

Palin seems to be dreaming up a hypothetical Republican who hasn't been massively supported by the oil industry. We are literally in fantasyland, where it's natural to body forth the possibility that Obama has been influenced by oil money and then conjure a Republican president who's received "even less" than Obama but whom the media will assume (as it would have with Bush, who received proportionately more of the industry's dollars, but never mind...) is more influenced than Obama is (was).  And just as the slip about "support by the oil companies to the administration" suggests the opposite of what she purportedly means, so the "even" in "even as much," taken literally, would seem to suggest that Obama hasn't received much from the oil industry.  Palin gets lost in her own funhouse.

Moreover, the smear about Obama going soft on his alleged benefactors borrows a ghost of plausibility from the fact that what Palin says about how the media would respond to a Republican president in Obama's shoes is true.  Media would assume undue industry influence on a post-W. Republican President. Indeed, media do assume, I trust, that the Bush administration, e.g. Cheney, made the Minerals Management Service (MMS) a toothless, corrupt shill (or even more of one than it had historically been), and that the Obama administration hasn't gotten around to effectively reforming it yet (UPDATE: today the Times, reporting a new Inspector General's report spotlighting MMS corruption from 2005-07, asserts: "Industry watchdogs say that much of the inappropriate behavior found by the Office of Inspector General had stopped with the new administration. But some repercussions continue.")  Who, knowing anything about Cheney and Bush's industry ties and avowed Republican policy of selling legislation to the highest bidder and putting industry lobbyists in charge of regulatory bodies -- or who had heard of the Inspector General's 2008 report painting MMS as a sink of bribery and adultery -- would assume otherwise?

Equally interesting is Palin's fantasy view of the power of heads of state. Her excoriation of Obama "taking so long to get in there, to dive in there" recalls her memories of when Vladamir Putin "rears his head" and flies into American airspace.  Heads of state are superheroes! And so is Sarah.

Does the expression of these weird fantasies on a national stage matter? Yes.


  1. This is the same Sarah Palin who, as of May 3, was saying the government ought to just let BP handle it all, because BP knows what it's doing.

  2. My guess is that throughout most of her "adulthood," Palin was exposed to public speakers mainly in the context of her fundamentalist/Pentecostalist church. Preachers in that tradition generally are not well-educated (in terms of both general and theological education) and have a tendency to get up on stage and "go with the flow." I think that's what we have with Palin: someone who is obviously VERY CONFIDENT up on stage, but brings very little in the way of actual, factual knowledge and life experience to the table.

    Very troubling, to say the least.

  3. Anonymous...very confident??? Her mien is tense, her hands fly all over the place, she contorts her face to make her points, blinks constantly. Not signs of confidence. She's pulling a con and her manner betrays her thoroughly.

  4. Mel,

    By "very confident" I mean that she has an unusually high opinion of herself and her perceived capabilities. She's clearly not afraid of getting up on stage (or talking to the camera) and just saying whatever comes to mind, facts be damned. Such a person would not properly be characterized as suffering from stagefright.

  5. >By "very confident" I mean that she has an unusually high opinion of herself and her perceived capabilities.

    I believe the term you're looking for is "narcissism."

  6. >I believe the term you're looking for is "narcissism."

    Right. And narcissistic individuals tend to be VERY or OVERLY CONFIDENT.