Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Back in the '70s there was a popular evangelist named Marjoe Gortner who drew large crowds to tent meetings. And he knew how to whip them up into a frenzy.

On his last "crusade" he invited a film crew to do a documentary on his life and work. The film showed him working the crowds. Then it panned to him in his hotel room after the show was over rolling on his bed in the money he had taken off the unsuspecting crowd. "Suckers," he said as he literally rolled in the dough. It was a sham. The whole thing was a sham.

For some reason that film keeps popping into my mind every time I ponder the "Sarah Palin effect." Here, too, it feels like like we're being played for suckers.

Out in public we've got this charming, charismatic figure who says all the right words (carefully chosen by her handlers) to work the crowd into a frenzy around the theme of "reform" and "no more politics as usual." Behind the scenes we've got a pol who rose to the top of Alaskan politics because she plays political games so well, a chameleon-like figure who does whatever it takes to get elected, including running roughshod over any and all who oppose her. And that's to say nothing about the way this self-proclaimed anti-ear mark crusader sucked up our tax money to buy the favor of her constituents.

In public we've got a polished speaker claiming to be able to speak with authority on national and international affairs. Behind the scenes we find a former sports announcer and small town (really small town) mayor who claims foreign policy experience because she vacationed in Canada and Mexico and on a clear day can see the Russian border from the border of her state.

If what was at stake was less serious this would be good material for a comic novel. But the stakes are too high for comedy. This is tragedy.

What I fear is that we will wake up on November 3rd and say what we've been saying for the past four years - how did this happen? How did we let ourselves get suckered yet again?

That's my fear. My hope is that it won't happen again.

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