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"You Can't Blink," So Wink -- Is America on the Threshold of a Palin Presidency?

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Two female acquaintances, both in their late 30s and who work in the publishing industry, are extremely articulate, but whenever I bring up the name Sarah Palin, they suddenly become tongue-tied with unfocused anger and seething rage. The conversation often goes like this:

Me: "What did you think of Palin when she said..."

Them: "I can't believe she's... even in the race...she makes me so mad...I don't know what I will do if she and McCain win..."

It's more than Palin's lack of experience or insufficient gravitas that causes their distress; it's the Alaska governor's wacky beliefs, rabid partisanship, willful ignorance, and perky assertiveness that's a toxic blend of Texas cheerleader mom and Mary Kay saleswoman of the month (Northwest region). And while she won the ultimate lottery ticket when McCain impulsively selected her as his running mate, her handlers shrewdly allowed her to quickly morph into a power-mad Bride of Frankenstein. This once-in-our-lifetime GOP creation simultaneously amuses and horrifies us.

Take the VP debate. She played by her own rules. While Biden seriously attempted to answer moderator Gwen Ifill's softbally questions, Palin's tactic was "Ignore, Baby, Ignore." She relentlessly fired away at Obama as well as repeatedly championing McCain's "maverick" status. There should have been a tightly enforced embargo on how many times she was allowed to say the "m" word. Her sunny, chipper stage chatter threw off an annoyingly persistent illogic which often had an Alice in Wonderland quality of surrealness. Big government was both good and evil in the space of a single sentence. No cliche was left untouched. She filled the stage with helium balloons of empty gibberish. And when things got tougher at the end -- she was probably running out of things that she had memorized -- she tried to go Reaganesque by mocking Biden: "Say it ain't so, Joe."

Damn! I wanted Ifill to ask Palin if she believed man and dinosaurs roamed the earth together.

What many biased viewers tuned out was her complete nuttiness because they liked her energy and bully-pulpit polish. But to say she won the debate, as many in the Fox News camp or on Drudge maintain, is simply partisan-fueled crazy hogwash. She was barely even in this debate, but was acting out her own solipsistic brand of political karaoke and then expecting Mr. and Mrs. Joe Six Pack to text message that they were going to vote for her.

But because there were no major gaffes on her part she passed this critical test. Her performance muted the conservative columnists who were braying for her to withdraw. But what test did she pass?

What happens in Alaska should have stayed in Alaska.

In the space of just five weeks, America has gotten a crash course in the Palin phenomenon. She went from being the running mate who won't blink if asked to be president to the one who now winks.

What frightens many about Paliin is not only her low-wattage intellect, which is on par with Bush's congenital incuriosity, but her own certitude about the way things ought to be in politics and life. She's a lot like Dubya, whose deviations from a rigid belief system are automatically dismissed. This kind of binary thinking allows Palin to puff up her herself with charm-school self-confidence. She's a BS artist, a Picasso with empty partisan platitudes as her canvas.

We don't need one, two, three, or even four books from Bob Woodward to tell us that she will be an even worse president than Bush, because it's entirely likely that this woman who has less of a grasp on the machinery of American political institutions than a tenth grader taking a civics class, could be standing by McCain's side when the Erratic One takes the oath of office in January.

A lot of us won't know what to do if Obama-Biden lose the election. It's not like we would want to move to Alaska so as to get as far away as possible from Washington.

And though Obama is ahead in most polls and has a slight edge in some key battleground states, Democrats are anxiously waiting for the other GOP shoe to drop -- which could take the form of a series of scurrilous race-baiting ads linking Obama to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, or a newly manufactured crisis in the Middle East courtesy of McCain insiders in the Bush-Cheney administration. Palin's weekend salvo linking Obama to terrorists is a troubling hint of things to come. Though one could assume that back in July, Palin, with her communication degree and brief stint as a sportscaster probably thought that the Weather Underground, which Bill Ayers had founded in the 60s as a student radical, was an organization of television meteorologists.

The GOP plays to win, even if the victor, like George W. Bush, ends up being a colossal train wreck for the party. With McCain-Palin, they got a two-fer. Three years into a McCain presidency, he will be asked to step down as commander-in-chief (those doggone mental and physical health problems, you betcha'), and we will have President Palin who will use her incumbent advantage to take on Hillary or anyone else who dares to get in her way.

The red-letter day when she places her hand on the bible and takes the oath of office as president is the day that American civilization, as we once knew and cherished, goes permanently south.

There are not enough Palin voodoo dolls in this country that will absolutely guarantee that this might not happen. So it will be four more tense-filled weeks until Election Day, as we check the polls and ever-shifting electoral map, especially with the iffy states like Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado.

Perhaps my innate pessimism has the upper hand here, but I believe that McCain will win in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Virginia. In the privacy of the voting booth, a lot of Americans will be unable to go with the black candidate. In the end, this election is about race -- not women, not the economy, not the Iraq war. The Undecideds will decide whether they can trust a black man to run the country.

Palin is, in essence, a sideshow, a carnival spectacle of momentary interest. But if her ticket wins, and she becomes Ms. Heartbeat Away from the President, America's standing in the world will drop even further than it already has during Bush's eight-year reign of terror, incompetence, and unchecked hubris.

Late-night comics might mock Palin's (lack of) intelligence. But haven't they been doing that for years with Bush, though most took a fear-based breather for about 18 months following September 11. Bill Maher can call Palin a moron on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and we might laugh watching at home, but in the final analysis, the joke might be on us.

So steel yourself, for what could be a continuation of America's political nightmare if the GOP holds onto the White House. If that happens, then on November 5, many of us will probably call in sick from work. Talk about post-partisan depression setting in. Let's just hope the nation comes to its senses and averts this category-five political disaster. McCain was insane for choosing Palin. This doesn't mean the rest of the country also must go bonkers.

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