Whom am I rooting for in this election?
Why not? (1) The U.S.A. is not my government by any choice of mine. (2) I’d rather expend my energy supporting a good cause, like peace or liberty. (3) The candidates of the major parties are uniformly awful.
A candidate cannot become a candidate without going through a process of vetting. The vetting gives us candidates who spout party lines. Not only have they not the least shred of decency and imagination, their minds are weighed down with considerable negative and evil intellectual baggage.
Yes, I accuse them, all of them, of having no decency: no sense of propriety or rightness, no conscience, and no grace. If they had, we would hear very different words and ideas coming out of their mouths.
We already know how bad Obama, McCain, and Biden are because they are familiar. Palin is a new one. She’s awful too, and I mean downright awful!
Let us evaluate some of her thinking and non-thinking.
My main criterion for a decent candidate is that he or she strongly support peace, here, abroad, and everywhere. Palin didn’t use the word "peace" a single time in her acceptance speech. She didn’t speak about peace at all.
If a candidate would express even a minor degree of compassion for the Iraqi people and the American role in destroying that country, that would shock me. It would suggest a degree of conscience.
Palin had the chance to address everyone in this country and influence their ideas. She had the chance to present a new world-view, one that would change old patterns of thought and lead us forward toward peace. She chose the unimaginative path of regurgitating the standard platitudes of her party, no doubt because she lacks imagination and falls easily into the standard paths of thought she has become accustomed to. She showed almost no capacity to lead the American people in any bold new directions that would, in fact, bring us greater peace and greater prosperity.
Is that too much to ask of someone who aspires to be leading the nation? In fact, it is too much to ask. The role of national leaders is not to lead us toward peace and prosperity. If it is, they are doing an awfully bad job of it. Their role is apparently something quite different. Gaining high office mostly seems to be about ambition, ego, winning, pride, position, paying off supporters, being number one, and the joys of having and exercising power.
Palin chose to say a great deal about military matters.
In her first minute, she told us why she accepts: "to serve and defend America." Politicians always say they will "serve" us. That is standard rhetoric. But "defend"? They do not always select that term. Is America under attack? Who has attacked us? Why emphasize defending it? If she had said that she accepted the opportunity to bring peace to America, that message would have been quite different. She didn’t say that.
Within that same minute, she talked of McCain’s unhedged commitment "to the security of the country he loves." She said that he’d rather lose an election "than see his country lose a war."
This was not all. She went on and on and on. Next she spoke of him wearing "the uniform of this country for 22 years." She mentioned her son in uniform. She spoke of sons and daughters in harm’s way. She spoke of her enlisted nephew in the Persian Gulf. She praised Harry Truman, and segued into the good people of America who, among other things, "fight our wars."
She spoke as if we have always had wars and always will, as if they were part of our lot and burden as Americans, as if they were something visited upon us by our role as leaders that we handled with courage and dignity. She did not speak of the horrors and terrors of war. She did not speak of war as a scourge and pestilence or as something that we should work hard at to reduce to a minimum. She did not speak of how American governments, one after another, have fostered needless wars.
Near the end, after promising to give us energy independence and reduce the size of government, she returned to the military themes. She spoke of "war memorials in small towns." McCain "fought for you," the only candidate who did. He endured pain and squalor and a nightmare. He saw evil first-hand in Hanoi. Somehow this has brought him a special compassion and wisdom. This must be why he thinks of the Iraq War as "necessary and just," in his words.
Palin is as bellicose and as supportive of war as McCain is. She told us in this speech: "Victory in Iraq is finally in sight…Terrorists are seeking nuclear weapons without delay…Al-Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America." She spoke against reducing "the strength of America in a dangerous world."
This is an acceptance speech, and it has perhaps some political purpose of "energizing the base," for that is what some headlines read. Maybe so, but that is unlikely. The Republican base is not going to vote for Obama. Do the warmongers in the Republican Party require stoking and stroking before they’ll get out the vote? They already have a candidate at the head of the ticket who is unhedged for war! The Vice Presidential nominee has no need to emphasize his militaristic stance, but she did anyway.
Perhaps one acceptance speech is not representative of her thought. What else has candidate Palin said on the subject of war and peace?
In March, 2007, Palin was interviewed by Alaska Business Monthly:
"Q: We’ve lost a lot of Alaska’s military members to the war in Iraq. How do you feel about sending more troops into battle, as President Bush is suggesting?
A: I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq. I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe. Every life lost is such a tragedy. I am very, very proud of the troops we have in Alaska, those fighting overseas for our freedoms, and the families here who are making so many sacrifices."
On October 30, 2006, she spoke during a debate for the governorship. Her opponent’s name was Knowles. His answers were far more anti-war than hers were:
"Q: If the Secretary of Defense calls on the Alaska Guard to extend its tour of duty, what would be your response?
KNOWLES: I will challenge that on behalf of the Alaska National Guard. They’ve served their time. They don’t need to be extended. They should understand at the top of the Pentagon, that they need a different strategy for this war.
PALIN: I would certainly have to encourage Don Rumsfeld to please look elsewhere when you consider the sacrifices already made. However, I do support our troops and I thank god that we have a voluntary military right now. Bottom line, I do support our troops and I do support our president, and we know that since Sept. 2001, we have not had an attack on American soil and for that we should be ever thankful, grateful, praying for our troops for the safety that they are providing us.
Q: From a philosophical standpoint, in hindsight, do you believe the US was justified in invading Iraq, and if we are continuing on the proper course.
KNOWLES: I think the record books are fairly clear, that there’s a lot of concerns on the basis, the reasons that were given for going to war, were not justified. We’re not going to second guess and say yes I know what we should do. All I know is that we should pray for a strategy that brings our troops home at the earliest possible time.
PALIN: I think that all Americans agree that every life lost there in Iraq and Afghanistan, it profoundly touches us all. And again, as I said in my previous answer, I do support our troops, I support the mission there, that the idea of keeping the enemy outside of our borders.
Q: Are we continuing on the proper course in Iraq?
PALIN: In the past five years, there hasn’t been a successful terrorist strike on United States soil and that’s no accident. It is our gratitude that we need to show to our military, to our troops for keeping us safe.
I support them being over there. I support our president. I support our military. But of course, I want to see that exit strategy being developed and being revealed to our public."
Lastly, from a newspaper interview:
"Q: This year saw the biggest wartime call-up of Alaska National Guard troops ever. Combined with deployments of active-duty forces, thousands of Alaskans are now serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas. What’s your view of the Iraq war, and do you support Pres. Bush’s “war on terror”?
A: I support President Bush’s efforts to stop terrorism by taking the fight to the terrorists. In the Iraq war, I would like to see the president develop an exit strategy to get our troops home."
The great issue of our time is war and peace. Peace is the greatest issue of all times. American leaders have stressed war for a very long time. Sarah Palin is no different from other candidates in this respect.
Is stressing war the only way that candidates can get elected today? Have those Americans who vote been so conditioned for so long that peace now appears as weakness and a peace candidate as a weak candidate?
Election day will, as usual, not see me at my local fire station casting a vote.
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.