Palin (In Which I Explain Why I Say These Things)

OK, I can see that we need some context here.

This is from a post on Vision 2020 I made yesterday, defending my use of words like “intellectually sluggish” in describing Governor Palin. Nothing in here is intended to blur my previous apology; it’s only to offer you a glimpse of how it started, what brought about the check in my heart, and how I frame criticisms of public figures.

Again — While this is important in establishing some context, it’s not worth anything if my previous post doesn’t clearly make the point that I am sincerely sorry if anything I’ve said herein maligns the Gospel. One way to never offend people is to just never speak. I won’t do that; that wouldn’t be faithful to my gifts and calling. But I’d be eager to hear from you how the comments below hit you, and please know that if I’ve brought disrepute to the Gospel, there’s nothing else that matters. No observation is worth that.

Vision 2020, November 6, 2008

“It’s hard for me to understand how my assessment — my opinion — of this national figure’s leadership attributes and experience can be stated without using words like “incurious” and “uninformed.” Likewise, the drumbeat of testimony that she’s a prima donna merely confirms other evidence that she’s in over her head and completely oblivious to it. To paraphrase Ann Richards about George H. W. Bush, she was placed on third base by the McCain campaign and seems to think she hit a triple. That she’s behaved boorishly and peevishly while rounding the bases is just an added problem brought about by her sudden appearance on the field.

Please note that I said she was “intellectually sluggish,” by which I mean that she seems not terribly eager to educate herself about the world around her. I think that’s an important trait for a Vice President to have. “Sluggishness” indicates a level of volition here; she is more than able to grasp things better than she does, but there’s no evidence that that’s important to her. If I said she was “stupid,” that would be mean. “Intellectually sluggish” is a nod to her responsibility for making use of the gifts she’s been given. It’s no crime to not know of any Supreme Court cases when asked, unless you’re running for the Vice Presidency with a decent likelihood of becoming the President who must choose three new Supreme Court justices. Then, not knowing anything is bad — “bad” in ways that she, and only she, can remedy. And she can. She isn’t stupid. There’s no organic deficit here. She isn’t Forrest Gump. There’s no evidence that she’s developmentally delayed or otherwise affected. She just hasn’t chosen to power up, which would be of no concern to me whatsoever if she weren’t running for the second-most powerful position in the nation. I’ll gladly acknowledge that I haven’t chosen to study much about astronomy, and I can’t imagine anyone caring — unless I were tapped to become director of Tucson’s Mt. Graham observatory.

One other point that I need to make here is that when Sarah Palin chose to grab onto the spotlight offered her by John McCain, she did so knowing that she’d take her knocks just like any other candidate. Most other candidates, though, don’t gather around them sycophants who gush over her as our nation’s “Esther” or “Deborah,” evoking Old Testament imagery to elevate Palin to the stratosphere of influence and power. She does. Most other candidates don’t take on more than they’re prepared for, because they know they’ll be sifted like flour and found wanting if they can’t demonstrate a grasp of the issues whose understanding is required of the office. She did. And most other candidates don’t risk shaming the party, much less the Gospel, with profligate spending and profligate cluelessness, with more than a sprinkling of petty nastiness and evasion. She has. These things haven’t “happened to her.” These are things she’s chosen; they’re not just random occurences over which she has no control and even less awareness.

I believe you’re aware, Roger, of my policy of not personally criticizing those who don’t identify as Christians, or, in the case of Rove and Cheney, limiting my criticisms to unbelievers whose conduct is so horrendous and yet so unblinkingly accepted by too many Christians that it requires a little Christian comment and rebuke. Further, I said from the beginning that it was wrong to criticize Todd Palin because his daughter got pregnant, and it was beyond wrong to criticize the daughter herself, or any other candidate’s children, or even how candidates raise their children. Palin, though, has chosen to barrel onto the stage unprepared, undeserving, unqualified and uninformed, and has gleefully done so while accepting the accolades accompanying the mantle of Old Testament prophetess and judge repersonified that some of the religious right has cast upon her.

I find that bothersome. I find the tone of her campaign unfortunate. I find the divisiveness she sought, stirred up, and symbolized unpleasant. But “bothersome,” “unfortunate,” and “unpleasant” is the kind of talk that keeps people convinced that it’s not that bad. It IS that bad, and bad enough that a little truth-telling among sisters in Christ probably isn’t going to shatter either of us.”

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