My NewsBusters colleague Noel Sheppard, in the course of detailing how the New York Times devoted four items and over 6,000 words today to attacking Sarah Palin, cited Frank Rich's column and its malicious message. Rich's piece is such a treasure trove for chroniclers of Palin Derangement Syndrome that I'd like to devote a bit more time to deconstructing it.
For sheer paranoid fantasy, it will be hard to outdo the scenario Rich sketches. In having mentioned Harry Truman in her convention speech, Rich sees nothing less than a "creepy" clue to what Palin has in mind. Truman, you see [roll the menacing music] . . . ascended to the presidency due to the death of the president whom he served as VP. Rich imagines a "Palin presidency" that is nothing less than a far-right, McCarthyite coup.
Annotated excerpts from Rich's The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket [emphasis added]:
A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.
Note the "transitional." How long will McCain last once Sarah gets close to the levers of power?
The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they’re wearing lipstick or not.
Ruthless forces smacking their lips. Frank Rich: taking "e-e-e-vil Republican" to new heights of melodrama.
This was made clear in the most chilling passage of Palin’s acceptance speech. Aligning herself with “a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri” who “followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency,” she read a quote from an unidentified writer who, she claimed, had praised Truman: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.” Then Palin added a snide observation of her own: Such small-town Americans, she said, “run our factories” and “fight our wars” and are “always proud” of their country. As opposed to those lazy, shiftless, unproud Americans — she didn’t have to name names — who are none of the above.
Good, honest, sincere, dignified small-town people. What could be more "chilling" than that? Note also how Rich accuses Palin of racism, somehow deciding that she called some people "shiftless." No, he admits, she didn't actually use the word or "name names," but don't you see?: that's precisely what makes it so insidious!
There were several creepy subtexts at work here. The first was the choice of Truman. Most 20th-century vice presidents and presidents in both parties hailed from small towns, but she just happened to alight on a Democrat who ascended to the presidency when an ailing president died in office. Just as striking was the unnamed writer she quoted. He was identified by Thomas Frank in The Wall Street Journal as the now largely forgotten but once powerful right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler [NB: whom Rich later describes as a "rabid McCarthyite."].
So Palin's invocation of Truman was a "creepy subtext" because he became president when FDR died in office. Hard to read this as other than Rich implying the absolute worst about Palin and those "ruthless" minions who surround her.
Surely Palin knows no more about Pegler than she does about the Bush doctrine. But the people around her do, and they will be shaping a Palin presidency. That they would inject not just Pegler’s words but spirit into their candidate’s speech shows where they’re coming from. Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager, said that the Palin-sparked convention created “a whole new Republican Party,” but what it actually did was exhume an old one from its crypt.
Run for your lives! The Night of Undead Far-Right Republicanism is about to walk the land!
As Republicans know best, fear does work. If Obama is to convey just what’s at stake, he must slice through the campaign’s lipstick jungle and show Americans the real perils that lie around the bend.
Thank goodness for Frank Rich, the man with the courage to describe, in the last waning moments before the right-wing coup seizes power and shuts the MSM down, "the real perils" that lurk in the heart of Palin! Creepy, indeed.