The Sarah Palin Incident – Political Ends and Personal Destruction

By Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

In September of 2008, when Senator John McCain selected Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on the Republican Ticket, my first blush reaction was that he had literally handed the Presidency to Obama on a silver platter.  As it turned out the Palin choice actually was a colossal mistake for the Republicans.  Moreover, the firestorm it triggered truly transcended the 2008 presidential campaign.

  The Palin Family 2007

Governor Palin apparently engenders two, and only two, emotions among female voters – either fear and loathing (not necessarily in that order) or complete admiration. In the last half century, with the possible exception of Anita Bryant, I can’t recall a more polarizing female appearance on the national scene.

Before I get to the meat of the Palin controversy, it’s important to set the national stage and establish the context of the scene in which she appears. We need to recall that women in the United States have almost always been engaged in a continuous and sometimes furious running gun battle for “women’s rights” and everything that $2 phrase represents.

The women’s liberation movement, at least in a modern sense, returned to life in 1961 with the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women under President Kennedy. After a very short time this federal commission dissolved into an amorphous cloud of state level commissions.

Just as it was beginning to look as if the feminist issue had been relegated to a slow death in committee, the National Organization for Women was formed in 1966. NOW’s initial goals, enunciated at its 1967 convention, were passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the repeal of all abortion laws.

The abortion agenda was particularly aggressive since, by comparison, the AMA had only recently (in the same year) voted to support “therapeutic abortions” and then only under three very narrow circumstances. (1) The pregnancy represented a direct threat to the health either physical or mental of the mother, (2) The unborn fetus would be born with a mental and/or physical defect, or (3) The pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

As we now know, ERA was doomed, but there was success with the abortion issue. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v. Wade, (1973) 410 U.S. 113 which overturned all state and federal anti-abortion laws inconsistent with it holdings. The details of the decision are a book in and of themselves. Suffice it to say that abortion suddenly became legal, at the woman’s choice, for any reason, up to the point where the fetus becomes “viable.” At the point of viability, conditions attach to the performance of the procedure. The abortion battle was protracted, and brutal, and continues to this day.  Which is not surprising considering the involvement of organized religion.

In the 1970s and 1980s the concept of “equal pay for equal work” was expanded into the broader, more inclusive concept of “equal pay for work of equal value.” This new definition seems to have included within its ambit an attack on “glass ceilings”. Along with this new concept came a growing sense of feminine pride in achievement and a desire for professionalism in the workplace. Something I have tried to instill in both my daughter and my son.

The remainder of the 20th century and the first years of this century have been filled with a continuing struggle against glass ceilings and a resurgence of anti-abortion sentiment.

With the above context in mind, I find myself observing the explosive discourse surrounding Sarah Palin and wondering if the anger I’m hearing will rob women of their credibility and, as a result erode, their hard earned gains. It seems that Sarah Palin’s mere existence is perceived by many to be an insult.

  The Alaskan Campaigne

The one organization which has ostensibly worked the hardest for women’s rights immediately turned its back on a woman who was attempting to achieve the second highest office in the land. Per, Kim Gandy, of the National Organization for Women, that organization announced it would endorse Obama and Biden. The basis of this rejection of Governor Palin was purportedly based on Ms. Palin’s personal belief in Right to Life.

The internet, as well as the “main stream” media immediately filled with vituperative comment on the Alaskan governor’s personal life, children, husband, and practically anything else even remotely related to her (i.e. her sister’s divorce, etc., ad nauseum).

Right to Life vs. Freedom of Choice

This is a purely religious controversy, laden with unfathomable and unprovable issues. If you believe that human life begins at conception, then an abortion is the intentional termination of a human life (i.e. murder). The language sounds strong, but (setting aside a state of intellectual denial) this is what it boils down to. A crystal clear case of either “yes” or “no.” The relevant question to ask a candidate is not so much, “which belief do you hold?” Rather, it’s “will you force others who disagree with you to conform to your belief?”  The latter is a fair question which seeks to identify the ideologues.

Rather than ask the right question, or even listen to the answer (you can find the Governor Palin’s answer on the internet) a large number of women (including the NOW organization) basically called her a traitor.

The unintended consequence to this, is the inescapable conclusion that feminists are not as interested in women’s rights as they are in their own philosophical agenda. And, any woman who disagrees with them isn’t entitled to equal rights.  (We sometimes see analogous behavior when those who demand freedom of speech refuse to let others talk.)

Governor Palin was even attacked for her decision to give birth to a special needs child with the resulting implication that the child should have been aborted. Of course, not all of this can be laid on the doorstep of the feminists. Much of the negative diatribe emanated from a left leaning press (there is of course also right-leaning press) as well as a left leaning entertainment industry (i.e. SNL).

Regardless, affirmative feminist support for the Governor was conspicuously absent.

From my outside point of view, NOW could have really racked up some points by publically defending the Governor’s right to her religious belief. It’s kind of like the ACLU defending the right of a neo Nazis to demonstrate. Equal rights actually does mean equal rights, whether you agree with the specific exercise or not.

Of course, an argument can be made that if Sarah Palin were to become President then she might have an opportunity to appoint a judge to the United States Supreme Court and shift the balance of the Court to the conservative side. That argument is a proper one, based on the information that the Governor is a conservative. Unfortunately, that argument is only being made to the extent it’s wrapped deeply within character assassination.

Contraceptives vs. Abstinence

Whether or not a women chooses to use a contraceptive or just plain abstinence is another fundamental question of religious belief. Moreover, there is a strong sentiment which suggests that the distribution of contraceptives to minors is tantamount to a societal endorsement of premarital sex. Again, the issue is intertwined with very intense religious beliefs.

Here again the law of unintended consequences lurks in the background. The fact that Governor Palin’s minor daughter was pregnant was used by female detractors as purported evidence that not only can’t the Governor control her own children, her preferred method of birth control is intrinsically flawed. These comments are totally irrelevant to the subject matter of the election and are not calculated to lead to the discovery of useful information upon which to base a vote.

The proper inquiry is – “will Palin attempt to subject others to her preferred method of birth control?” Rather than ask that question, female detractors chose to invade the privacy of a minor child and to suggest by innuendo that Palin’s beliefs are a fortiori dangerous and defective.

From the outside looking in, it appears that the objective of this criticism is character assassination rather than political discourse. For example, if the Governor’s intention was to let others find their own way on the issue, then her personal beliefs were never in issue.

As an aside, if Roe v. Wade were overturned this afternoon, abortion would not suddenly become illegal. The states would simply become free to pass their own laws on the subject.

Equal Pay For Work Of Equal Value

In order to be paid equally, for work of equal value, women must obtain a job of equal value. Interesting. This position is, at its most fundamental level, about glass ceilings. Governor Palin is a woman who has already shattered one glass ceiling, and with some help from her friends might shatter them all.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s accomplishments were buried under an avalanche of character attacks and outright falsehoods. Is it actually impossible to both applaud her for her success in the nomination and at the same time disagree with her politics? Don’t boxers (participants in a brutal full contact competition) shake hands, before they come out swinging? I don’t know about you, but whether or not I agree with her politics, I think Governor Palin’s selection as the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States was a fabulous milestone for women.

Working Moms vs. Stay At Home (“Soccer”) Moms

One of the most deep seated prejudices against women’s liberation has quite frankly been the male perception that women belong at home with the children, and that a business investment in a woman is a waste of precious time and money, because when they get pregnant they will leave and never return. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed in many a management meeting, and it’s always said by men, with a straight face, and in complete sincerity.

We all know, the women’s movement has struggled against this virulent stereotype for decades. So guess what we heard about Governor Palin? – “She has five kids and doesn’t have time for a political career.” And, we heard that from women. We have never heard that about male candidates.

In fact, the criticism of Governor Palin descended to the level accusing her of being a poor mother because she isn’t at home caring for her family. Implicit in this tripe is the implication that Mr. Palin is ineffectual as a stay-at-home dad. How that statement could be made without any evidence boggles the mind.

Playing The Experience Card

The most interesting, and probably most one-sided attack on Governor Palin was the assertion that she had no relevant experience. Let’s take a look at that.

At both the state and federal levels, government in the United States is structured in three branches: (1) the Executive; (2) the Legislative; and (3) the Judicial. The Executive Branch runs the government just like a CEO runs a corporation. The Legislative Branch writes laws and oversees their efficacy (oversight). The legislature runs nothing. It is not responsible for the management of anything. It is not analogous to a CEO, CFO, COO, or any other management position. The judicial branch interprets and enforces the law written by the legislative branch and that’s all it does.

McCain, Obama, and Biden are all Senators in the Legislative Branch. They write laws (btw Senator Obama hadn’t even authored a bill) and engage in oversight. I repeat, they do not manage anything, they do not run a governmental organization, they are not responsible for operations. They are not, and none of them have ever been, in the executive branch of any government. They – have – no – executive branch – management – experience – whatsoever – period.

Governor Palin, on the other hand, did have executive branch experience at both the city and state levels (you’re right not a huge amount of it, but she does have it.). The office of the Presidency is the top office in the executive branch. The conclusion is actually inescapable! Governor Palin had more executive experience than all three of the male candidates!

Does this qualify Governor Palin to be Vice President of the United States? Not necessarily, but it does render the argument that she has no relevant governmental experience completely spurious. Women (including Hilary Clinton) should be universally enraged by what went on here. I certainly am and I’m not even of the female persuasion.

Setting The Flares For The Future

In the first paragraph of this hubpage, I suggested that the Sarah Palin issue transcends the 2008 presidential campaign. I don’t retreat from that statement and respectfully suggest that Sarah Palin represents a clash of honest competing female interests, points of views, desires, wants and needs, and just plain heart felt aspirations.

At the end of the day, it seems that the manner in which women handle the issue of Sarah Palin will in great part define how they, themselves, are treated in the future. This election gave us a rare opportunity to look behind the curtain of the feminist movement and what we see there was decided by the feminists themselves.

At another level, this election became a forum in which a new morality was allowed to run free. It was one in which people could and did say anything and do anything, so long as it served their agenda. It was not enough to disagree, it became necessary to destroy.

By Darwinian selection we are breeding an entire generation of politicians who don’t give a wit for the people they serve. They are, however, very, very good at innuendo, issue avoidance, responsibility avoidance, and of course, character assassination.

By our own complacency we have allowed “winning” to become the arbiter of morality. Wasn’t it Hitler who said, “The winners will decide what is right, and what is wrong.” This my friends is the beginning of fascism – a state where individuals with nonconforming  points of view are destroyed.

By October 2, of 2008 the debate between Governor Palin and Senator Biden was over. The week preceding the debate was filled with some pretty intense press, accusing Governor Palin of outright ineptitude. She was accused of not being able to answer simple questions, and some of the right wing conservatives actually suggested she step down.

I was personally afraid for her to stand toe-to-toe with Senator Biden, a man with more than three decades of experience who had spent the previous 12 months on the campaign trail, giving speeches, town hall meetings, and participating in debates with the democratic Presidential candidates.

Moreover, I was concerned for the Governor’s ability to fend off Senator Biden’s well known ability to become sarcastic and abrasive. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within a few minutes it became painfully obvious that Governor Palin was no pushover. In fact, throughout the debate the Governor emanated a quiet assurance, and a definite ability to both defend herself and to attack in an orderly and effective fashion.

At the end of the day it was clearly demonstrated that Governor Palin is no easy target and that Senator Biden was wise not to believe the press descriptions of her abilities. Prior to the debate, the Senator had said in more than one interview that he wasn’t taking the Governor lightly and that it was his intention to prepare as he would for any experienced opponent. And, in so doing Senator Biden showed Governor Palin more respect than the women’s rights organizations which should have supported her right to compete and to disagree with them.

At this point you might be asking yourself, “Why the history lesson?”  The answer is simple, it’s now 2013 and the “new politics” have settled in like concrete.  Winning is now accepted as sole arbiter of right and wrong.  Ideology has become a powerful god worshipped by politicians and reporters alike.  Innuendo and character assassination are the order of the day.  I offer you the gridlocks of the national debt, sequestrationboarder control, and gun control as supporting evidence.

And Governor Palin?  Well, she recently gave a speech at the annual CPAC convention and she still engenders the same reactions.  If you are a twitter user you might find hashtag Palin an interesting collection of comments.

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Common Sense

by Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

I was heartily disappointed when, in the shadow of the evil that visited Sandy Hook, we were suddenly and aggressively bombarded by the gun control ideologues.  Shame.  This was a time when we should have been giving space to those grieving for their loved ones, so that they might have a measure of peace within which to heal their souls.  Instead, the politics began immediately and we heard the hue and cry for gun control.

Frankly, the timing of the gun control onslaught smacked of a patent attempt to capitalize on the nation’s grief.  It was as if the advocates of gun control had been waiting for an atrocity of sufficient magnitude which might get the better of our judgement, and cause us to act precipitously out of emotion, as opposed to intellect.

As I listened to the growing cacophony, I began to worry that we might actually allow ourselves to become the tools of those who would promote gun control as a panacea for all firearm related  crimes.

It didn’t help when Mr. Biden, a long standing and relentless gun control advocate, was flipped the task of making recommendations to the President.  The bias involved was only thinly disguised as the news outlets leaked, drop by drop, some of Mr. Biden’s thoughts.  Little things, like using Executive Orders instead of laws which must be debated and voted upon by our legislature.

Some of the intelligencia in our foremost law schools even began murmuring about getting rid of the Constitution, which they opined was antiquated and “evil.”  So much for the Second Amendment.

Then, in a speech perfectly timed much like a surfer who waits for a wave until he is actually lifted by the swell, President Obama finally shared his thoughts.

Now even though I didn’t vote for this man, and in all honesty don’t “get” his politics, I was encouraged – at least for a moment.  Why?  Because I heard him say three simple words, “reasonable” and “common sense.”  To my way of thinking the President had put his finger on the exact problem.  Reasonableness and common sense are good things.  And so, for a couple of days I thought to myself I was probably wrong about what was going on, that is, until I realized that the words “reasonable” and “common sense” are subject to many and varied interpretations.  In other words, they are vague and ambiguous.

After all, ambiguity is the camouflage of those who obfuscate.  Ambiguity is that shadowy grey world where anything can be anything, and nothing has objective substance.  Do I sound bitter?  I hope not because I’m not bitter, I’m just stunned by the open manipulation of our political system and our populace, by an anointed few.

Without becoming completely lost in the weeds let’s examine the ideologue’s use of “reasonable common sense” measures to control gun related homicides.  Consider the following.

We are told it is quite reasonable for a few select Mayors to take it upon themselves to demand that banks refuse to do business with law abiding gun manufacturers.  We are also told it’s reasonable for our President to use Executive Orders instead of legislation to further his agenda.

We are told that it is just common sense to ban the sale of “assault” weapons even though there is no intelligible definition of the word “assualt”.  These same people seem to believe that anything which looks “military” needs to be banned.  And that the capacity of clips must be restricted to some magic number (5, 7 or 10 bullets depending on where you might live.) thereby insuring that the bad guys will have more bullets than the good guys.

Never mind that these “assault” weapons are long guns and that the majority of gun crimes involve hand (short) guns.  Never mind that none of these guns are “automatic”, indeed, it is unclear whether or not the ideologues even understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic actions. Never mind that such laws will only affect the honest, sane, law abiding citzens.  Never mind that the Second Amendment does not require a justification for the posession of a weapon.  It’s gun control and it’s all good.

We are also told, with great authority, that the statisics mandate these gun controls.  The only problem is the statistics we now gather only serve to cloud the important issues.  For example, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in 2009 there were approximately 31,347 deaths attributed to firearms, or about 10.2 per 100,000 in population.  In the same time period there were 34,485 motor vehicle traffic deaths and 41,592 deaths by poisoning.  Taken by themselves these numbers tell us almost nothing.  For example, of the firearm related deaths, the CDC reports that 18,735 of the deaths were suicides and 11,493 were homicides.  Without drowning in the details, suffice it to say that homicides by firearm in the United States in 2009 were a fraction of the deaths resulting from other instrumentalities such as vehicle accidents and poisoning.  This fact has not changed in any significant way over time.

Why point this out?  Because it shows us how misleading the statistics can be.  Not only are we being mislead as to the true relative size of the problem we have learned absolutely nothing about causation.  If we use these stats to contruct an instrumentality-based logic, which supports gun control, we will also be constructing a narrative which would support the outlawing of vehicles, poisonous chemicals, knives, bows and arrows, gasoline, fertilizer, fuel oil, glass bottles, etc., etc., ad nauseam.  It’s a failure to recognize the difference between correlation and causation and, it flies in the face of common sense.

You disagree?  Maybe you shouldn’t.  By the logic of the argument, aren’t all of these items responsible for deaths just like guns?  Think about it.  If we remove all vehicles we’ll save 35,000 or more lives a year.

Of course this suggestion is nonsense.  Why?  Because mere instrumentalities don’t have a mind of their own.  Steak knives, unless possessed by poltergeists, simply don’t kill people.  And neither do guns.  Yes, I know you’ve heard this before, however, think for a moment – what is the one common factor in the CDC statistics for knife deaths, traffic deaths and gun deaths?  It’s people!  Not vehicles, not knives and not guns!

Common sense dictates that instead of continuing the useless, unceasing arguments we should be constructing a data suite designed to disclose the causative factors of these homicides and their respective rates of occurrence.

I submit to you that it doesn’t occur to us to remove vehicles, or knives, or gasoline from society.  Instead we address the issue of causation.  For example, in the case of vehicles, research and common sense observation have suggested that maturity, training and lack of impairment etc. are accident causing factors in vehicle use.  As a result, our approach to the use of vehicles seeks to address the causative factors instead of the instrumentality.  In other words, we don’t outlaw Lamborghini’s (a very fast car) instead we pass laws to make sure the driver is properly trained, tested and licensed.  We handle airplanes, trains and large boats the same way.

Why don’t we apply this same rational approach to weapons?  The answer is simple.   There is a sizable number of people who see no value whatsoever in the constitutionally protected right to bear arms.  In fact, some of these ideologues don’t even find value in the Constitution itself.  And, whether well intended or not, this group of people seeks to impose its will on everyone else.  Because of this political agenda we are becoming lost in the weeds.  Instead of addressing the causative factors of gun murders we waste our time arguing about the size of a clip, or the presence of a tripod.

The intensity of the argument has surpassed the irrational.  Within a few days of this writing an east coast newpaper known as the Journal News went so far as to publish the addresses of local gun owners.  This short sighted attempt at intimidation accomplished nothing, and only served to provide a road map to unprotected homes for those who might be planning robberies.  It’s a marvel to behold the extremes of dedicated zealots.

The hallmark argument of this pro-control group is, “Why do you need a semi-automatic weapon?”  The question is totally irrelevant to the issue!  The right to bear arms is just that, a right!   And, this right is not conditioned upon needNeed is simply not in issue.  To engage in this type of constitutional erosion is the mother of all slippery slopes.  Ultimately it will lead to questions like, “Why do we need people over 65 years of age?” or “Why do you need a 24 ounce coke?”  Oh, I forgot.  It’s already been decided for us that we can’t drink 24 ounce cokes.

“Why do you need … ?” could be the subject of an entire book and absolutely none of it would, in a productive way, address the relevant causative factors of crimes involving guns.

I submit to you that a man who is not inclined to commit murder will not be persuaded to do so just because he’s holding a fully automatic weapon.  Nor does the absence of a fully automatic weapon make it substantially harder to kill a room full of people all at once.  Timothy McVeigh is a case in point.  Think about it.  It’s common sense.  Let’s try to find the guys who are inclined to commit murder before they find us, because its damn sure that disarming the good guys isn’t going to help any of us.

Where are the statistics pulling out the factors of emotional maturity, training and mental impairment?  Why aren’t we breaking down the causative factors on an incident-by-incident basis so that we can address the situation intelligently?

Shouldn’t our objective be the reduction of homicides, as opposed to a witch hunt for the instrumentality used?  Can’t one instrumentality be easily replaced by another?  If you take away the bow and arrow can’t it be quickly replaced with a bottle of gasoline and a burning rag?  Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on the causation of the violence?  Isn’t the instrumentality used merely coincidental to the act of murder?  Just a thought.

Stiffer penalties for the violation of gun control laws are a demonstrably failed approach.   Once a person has decided to commit a homicide, ostensibly that person has also decided to commit the violence and has accepted the punishment of death.  Given that fact, what in God’s creation causes us to think that super strict gun control laws will be a deterrent?  If the bad actor is already willing to die, why would a few more laws prohibiting the possession of a gun be a deterrent?  Obviously it wouldn’t.

Can you think of some of the unintended consequences of completely outlawing guns?  How about this?  We can reasonably assume that law abiding citizens wouldn’t break the law.  But as we’ve just realized, the bad actors will have no reason not to.  Result: The bad actors have weapons and the good guys don’t.  Does that work for you?

This might be a good place to remind you that the police are a responding force whose job is to show up  after the crime has been committed.  For those who are still confused, that would be many minutes after you needed to defend yourself and your family.

The problem with genuine tragedy is that it screams for immediate action.  The more heinous the act, the greater the sorrow, and the more ferocious the hysteria to immediately take steps to prevent a reoccurrence.

As a father and grandfather I cannot conceive of a greater sorrow than that of the recent massacre of innocence at Sandy Hook, Connecticut.  But as I listen to the news and I hear the pundits ask, “Why do we need semi-automatic weapons?” and “Why do we need rifles like the Bushmaster?”  I get sick to my stomach.  Off we go on another meaningless treasure hunt!  The ideologues are once again seizing the opportunity to impose their will on everyone else.

Why can’t we set aside the private agendas and stop focusing on the instrumentalities?  Let’s concentrate on the causative factors of gun murders, and within that focus we might find the bits and pieces, and beginnings of a rational and reasonable solution.  Let’s go back to basics such as maturity, training, mental impairment and/or any other factor we can reasonably identify, quantify, and control.

What are the forms of mental impairment (chemical or otherwise) which might cause an occurrence like Sandy Hook?  Can those conditions or propensities be recognized in advance?  If so how?  How prevalent are these conditions in our population?  Can we reliably test for them?  Are there behavioral traits we should be looking for?  And, why aren’t we gathering the information which might help us prioritize the causative factors?

What are the behavioral warning signs that presage this type of violence?  What requirements/responsibilities can reasonably be placed upon parents vis a vis the mental condition of their children/dependents?  What reasonable requirements/standards can be placed on the storage and safekeeping of weapons.  Can weapons be so personalized as to be rendered unusable to anyone but the authorized owner?  What liability might be assessed for the failure to comply with those requirements/standards?  The questions to be answered are endless and to make matters worse, no one appears to be looking for the answers.

Shame on us for the disingenuous politics!  Take a close look at our elected officials.  Do you see how they scramble for the bragging rights of being the first to propose some nonsensical gun law?  I respectfully suggest that they breath through their noses, sit down, and read the recent blog by Lisa Long entitled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother: A Mom’s Perspective The Mental Illness Conversation In America.”  It’s an important read.

Let’s take this dialog to a place that actually addresses the problem.  Lisa Long said it best when she wrote, “… it’s easy to talk about guns.  But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”