In the movie Educating Rita, a naive, honest, forthright young woman is educated to the point that she has a more erudite and polished way of expressing herself and appreciating literature, but she loses her purity and appealing freshness and vitality. When we meet her, she expresses herself in a unique voice and discovers the world of classical literature and poetry with wonder and describes it in her assignments in a very raw, vital, visceral and personal way.
Her instructor, played by Michael Caine, informs her that this is a very unique and interesting frame of reference, but it will cause the examiner to fail her. So instead, she learns the canned criticisms and pedantic responses to the technical aspects of meter and literary allusions and iambs and assonance and other tropes. She is successful in pleasing the examiners, but loses the heart and soul of her love for literature.
This is the danger to Sarah Palin as a candidate, that the political handlers will suck everything that is good and decent and appealing right out of her, and mold her into another slick, glib, talking-points spouting, mealy-mouthed automaton, just like the rest of the Washington crowd.
Full transcript of Charlie Gibsons interview with Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. Mark Levin has it posted on his website with the parts that were left out through “Decieptive Editing”. Reading it made my blood boil.
If she goes on to a long career and two terms as VP then two as president, the media will never love her, no matter how polished and smooth she gets at evading or obfuscating just like Joe Biden does so well. So why give up that fresh, honest appeal?
Ed Morrisey worries about a cult of celebrity rising up around Sarah Palin. That risk doesn’t bother me as much because of the short time until the election.
The press isn’t done with the initial attacks on Palin yet, it will take weeks for that scenario to play out, the lull when they perhaps start moving on to the stories that are somewhat positive (since they will have exhausted the negative, and new narratives and stories are what drives them even more than the essential urge to destroy Republicans) and by the time the election rolls around they will not have time to tear her back down.
In fact, the overbearing and hysterical attacks on her so far have pretty much inoculated her from any press attack at all. The danger to Palin, as I see it, is not negative stories, a gaffe or a scandal, but becoming just another packaged candidate, a ticky tacky box in the row of modern-day politicians, mouthing platitudes and meaningless drivel instead of speaking honestly and forthrightly.
My theory on how the media does a disservice to liberals is this: the media will tolerate less from Republicans than the public will, and it will tolerate more from Democrats than the public will: thus, John McCain knows to distance himself from James Dobson, even though he is not a member of Dobson’s congregation, yet Obama did not discard Rev. Wright, not at the launch of his candidacy, nor even after the first big blow-up: it took the American public’s ire to cause him to jettison the old man as damage control, because the press never would have attacked him for it.
This is how Democrats lose elections. The press should have pounded John Kerry about the Winter Soldier problems at the outset, as they surely would have any Republican who had an analogous problem. The pounded President Bush over tiny matters regarding his TANG duty, but left Kerry alone for huge matters regarding his Vietnam duty.
This finally had the effect that if the press had, after the Dan Rather Memogate fiasco, come up with valid reasons to condemn Bush, no one would have listened. This is what is going to happen with Palin: the press is at a point now where they could come up with a valid scandal and no one will listen, because they have pounded false and tiny stories so hard the public is inured.
However, they have ignored the William Ayres story so assiduously that if evidence comes out that Obama was a close confidant, the Republicans can present it as a fresh and very compelling story that will resonate with the public and damage Obama.
This is how the press errs when it tries to influence elections.
Ross Douthat also worries that McCain’s team, in over polishing Gov. Sarah Palin, which smooth out the roughness and make her into a modern-day, slick politician, which is more acceptable to our media vultures but which destroys her essential honesty and appeal.
At this point, I’m no longer that all that worried about Sarah Palin crashing and burning, Quayle-style, because John McCain plucked her from obscurity before her time. Now I’m worried about one of the GOP’s most interesting talents being absorbed, and formed as a national politician, by a McCain campaign that’s been deeply unimaginative on every front except the wars to win the weekly news cycle – and that seems happy, after the brief burst of risk-taking and creativity that produced the Palin pick and McCain’s strikingly post-partisan acceptance speech (and gave them a big bounce in the polls, not coincidentally), to slip back into a cynical and deeply unimaginative style.
It reminds me of the movie Educating Rita, where Michael Caine’s character, Dr. Frank Bryant, is tutoring the very honest and open character Rita (Julie Walters), but she is uneducated about literary tropes and terms. In edifying her, he is distressed that she now knows the formulas to literature, but she has lost the essence and the freshness and ability to appreciate them, not for things like alliteration and assonance or literary allusions to other works, but viscerally and honestly and from her heart.
I’ve thought the same thing, that most of Sarah Palin’s appeal in her interview with Gibson is that yes, she mouthed some obviously rehearsed and coached talking points, but when she opened up and spoke honestly she was at her best. She didn’t try to side-step many questions a polished politician would have used to prevaricate or flat out refuse to answer as “hypotheticals”, which modern pols use to refuse about anything they don’t want to answer.
Instead, she offered an answer to almost everything, and she was pilloried for it in the press, eager to demonstrate she’s an idiot. But they missed the fact that Joe Biden wouldn’t have answered most of those questions at all, he would have blabbed for 3 minutes on each one and said nothing, or he would have side-stepped the question on Russia and got in a talking point about how Obama will improve the economy, or he would have offered boilerplate.
Sarah Palin did do this on some questions, and this is where she was at her worst, trying to recall the points drummed into her by the coaching team, who knows the game you have to play to satisfy the press.
Which is a shame, because it would be nice to see a politician that spoke from the heart instead of from formulaic shit that most politicians these days spout. Obama has it down to a science, and McCain’s not bad either.
But Palin is still pure, although at this moment they’re doing their best to ruin her.
In the scene where Caine’s character figures out he’s ruined the purity of Rita, and in instilling the conventional “appreciation” and criticism of literature into her, he has destroyed her natural wonder and love for it.
He has given her some of his writing to evaluate, some poetry he has abandoned because the believes it worthless. She tells him her reaction to his writing:
Rita: It’s more resonant than purely contemporary poetry. It has, like, it has in it a direct line through to the 19th-century traditions of, like, wit and classical allusion.
Dr. Frank Bryant: Oh. That’s marvellous, Rita. It’s fortunate that I never gave this to you earlier. Just think if you’d have seen this when you first came.
Rita: Oh, well, I’d have never understood it.
Frank: You would’ve thrown it across the room and dismissed it as total shit.
Rita: I know, but I could never have understood it then. because I wouldn’t have recognized or understood the allusions.
Frank: I’ve done a fine job on you, haven’t I?
Rita: It’s true, Frank. I mean, I can see it now.
Frank: You know, Rita, like you, I’m going to change my name. From now on I am going to insist on being called Mary. Mary Shelley. Do you understand that allusion, Rita?
Frank: Mary Shelley wrote a little Gothic number called Frankenstein.
Frank: This clever, pyrotechnical pile of self-conscious allusion (the poetry he wrote and had given to her to evaluate) … is worthless, talentless shit. There is more poetry in the… telephone directory and probably more insight. However this has one advantage over the telephone directory. It is easier to rip. It is pretentious, characterless and without style.
Rita: It’s not.
Frank: Oh, I don’t expect you to believe me. You recognize the hallmark of literature now, don’t you?
Why don’t you just go away? I don’t think I can bear it any longer.
Rita: Oh. Can’t bear what, Frank?
Frank: You, my dear. You.
I hope McCain’s team doesn’t create a Frankenstein’s monster out of Palin. I see something that is very pure and real in her, and it would be a shame to lose it. I think it comes from not being a career politician, from the necessity of having to be a Mom at the same time as being a Governor/Mayor and it may have kept her perspective grounded and closer to a human being than the aristocracy we have created in this country that Obama and other Harvard and Yale elites think they are entitled to claim.