Metro Views: You betcha

If Sarah Palin can consider running for the White House, why can’t I?

February is the month to celebrate American presidents. There is a federal “Presidents Day” holiday each year to mark the birthdays of George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). On Presidents Day, which this year fell on February 15, I pondered whether I should run for the White House. Seriously, if Sarah Palin can consider it, why can’t I? My credentials are comparable. She provides political commentary for Fox News; I write a column for The Jerusalem Post. She lives near Asia and the eastern end of the former Soviet Union; I have been to both. She wrote a book; I wrote a book. I did not complete my term as secretary of the Friends of the Teaneck (New Jersey) Library; she resigned early as governor of Alaska.
I can be elitist; I have a degree from Columbia University. But, like Palin, I also can be a woman of the people; I have degrees from two state schools – Rutgers and Penn State. I suspect, however, that neither of them would have given me a degree if my basic speech patterns included “you betcha” and “so how’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?”
I ridicule my absurd idea to run for the presidency by comparing myself to Sarah Palin, but the painful truth is that many Americans seem to believe she is qualified. And there are some myopic Jews who will overlook her lack of experience in favor of her affinity with Israel. (Much is made by these ‘Palinistas’ about her wearing an Israel lapel pin. Enough already. It may look like an Israeli flag, but it probably was a patriotic “Blue Star” pin worn by parents whose children serve in the American military. Besides, even if the pin was an Israeli flag, we should acknowledge it is merely symbolic fashion, not serious policy. This is not high school; if she wears our pin, it doesn’t mean we are going steady.)
The adulation of Sarah Palin reveals quite a lot about her supporters. Among the Republican Party hopefuls, savvy Sarah has cornered the market on the illinformed, the anxious and those who like to dress up in period costumes for Tea Party events. ALL THIS reminds me of the wisdom of the prophet Aaron. That would be Aaron Sorkin, the writer of The West Wing, an American TV series about the workings of a fictional White House. Sorkin also wrote the soaring speech of the fictional President Andrew Shepherd in the 1995 film The American President. That speech seems all the more relevant 15 years after it was filmed.
Shepherd’s popularity had fallen after repeated personal attacks during an election season. Seeking to be “presidential” and to stay on the high road, he had resisted fighting back against an aggressive opponent named Bob Rumson. Suddenly, though, the president has had enough and comes out swinging. “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it,” Shepherd tells the White House press corps. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.” Sorkin’s fictional president says what many think, but rarely say aloud, especially now that so many Americans feel vulnerable or defeated by job losses and housing foreclosures. Only people on the movie screen or on their way out the door will readily express that politics in the US is a messy blood sport – one that seems more suited for moose-hunters and members of the gun lobby, and that disregards the basic needs of society. Public service has been subverted to relentless grandstanding and perpetual political campaigning, like a 24-hour news channel that incessantly repeats the headlines. No one pauses to govern.
This was confirmed on Presidents Day by one of those who, in a surprise move, decided to call it quits – Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, a moderate who hails from a distinguished Indiana family. Many commentators will pontificate about what Bayh’s unexpected retirement means for party politics, partisan agendas and the next A LITTLE more than a year ago, many Americans, including me, were dazzled that the promise of America had come true. As Barack Obama was sworn in, it was no longer a romantic dream that anyone can grow up to be president.
Sarah Palin’s supporters have pushed that idea to the extreme. When acrowd chanted “Run, Sarah, run,” my inclination was to laugh. Butanyone can grow up to be president, without regard to education,experience or other trifling qualifications.
So if you areregistered to vote in the US, and want to vote for a woman, vote forme. I can assure all you voters out there of two things: I love Israeland I am at least as unqualified as Palin is.
You betcha.