We might all think that, come Tuesday, if indeed all goes as expected (nail-gnawing encouraged), Sarah Palin will mercifully retreat from public view and we won't have to wince any more at every one of her awful, ain't-I-cute? winks, or at least not until her love-America-by-preaching-hate supporters try to build her up into a 2012 presidential candidate.
But I've got bad news for anyone who - unlike Palin and her core supporters - actually travels to other countries with some regularity: We Americans are going to be answering for this one for a long time.
A couple of nights ago, I was at an East Berlin night spot called Kaffee Burger talking to a German guy demanding answers of me. Yes, sure, it looks good for Obama, and yes, sure, that will be a big step forward for the U.S. and probably the world, too, but the disturbing question about Palin remains: How is it even POSSIBLE that such a person could get so close to so much power?
To be clear, it's not the stuff about the wardrobe and the makeup. Those stories hop the Atlantic, as surely as the latest financial temblors, but what makes the real impact is Palin's dizzying combination of ignorance and arrogance, no matter what the subject, no matter how little she might know about it.
Put it this way: To get a feel for what it's like listening as a European to Palin's flourishes of happy, overconfident nonsense, whether on Putin's head traveling into U.S. air space or whatever else, just pretend you were one of those good people in Erie, Pennsylvania, this week when Palin mentioned the Phillies and expected easy cheers! Talk about tone deaf. That's a little like asking Mets fans to cheer the Yankees for winning another World Series.
The point is: It's all about understanding geography. If you're sitting in Encino, California, and you hear Palin failing to make much sense in talking about the Georgia crisis, in fact outlining a scenario where we would "perhaps" have to go to war with Russia, you might not care that much about what she says. Here in Europe, where Cold War doctrine envisioned Europe as the playing field where Russians and Americans would battle it out, you have a right to recoil - in anger and disgust - at even having to imagine having a person with so little world knowledge in a top U.S. leadership role.
We've heard an awful lot of talk this political cycle about how people in other countries don't like us much any more, thanks to Bush, but usually this talk is vague and shallow, which, come to think of it, is how we Americans are widely seen in Europe: vague and shallow. Add cocky to the list and the "Hockey Mom" self-caricature has a risible ludicrousness that is likely to keep them howling in other countries all over the world for years, from Canada and Mexico to Palau and Japan, no matter what comes of Team Palin's over-the-top-ambitious designs on rewiring the McCain campaign as the first stage of the Palin-in-'12, with-god-on-our-side-who-can-stop-us? bandwagon.
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