by Roger Ebert
I do not like you, John McCain. My feeling has nothing to do with issues. It has to do with common courtesy. During the debate, you refused to look Barack Obama in the eye. Indeed, you refused to look at him at all. Even when the two of you shook hands at the start, you used your eyes only to locate his hand, and then gazed past him as you shook it.
Obama is my guy. If you are rude to him, you are rude to me. If you came to dinner at my house and refused to look at or speak with one of my guests, that would be bad manners and I would be offended. Same thing if I went to your house. During the debate, you were America's guest.
What was your problem? Do you hold this man in such contempt that you cannot bear to gaze upon him? Will you not even speak to him directly? Do you think he doesn't have the right to be running for President? Were you angry because after you said you wouldn't attend the debate, he said a President should be able to concern himself with two things at the same time? He was right. The proof is, you were there. Were you angry with him because he called your bluff?
During the debate, Jim Lehrer repeatedly called upon both candidates to speak directly to each other. Obama looked at you. He addressed you as "John," which as a fellow senator is his privilege. His body language was open. You stared straight ahead, or at Lehrer, or into space. Your jaw was clinched. You had a tight little smile, or a grimace, or a little shake of your head.
I had to do two things at once while watching the debate. I had to listen to what was being said. And I had to process your rigid and contemptuous behavior. If you were at a wedding and the father of the groom refused to look at or speak to the bride, how would that make you feel? Especially if you were the father of the bride?
You made a TV commercial showing the moments Obama agreed with you. Everybody knows he did. Did his agreement show honesty, or weakness? It is significant that you said it proved he was not ready to lead. What is the better leadership quality: (1) Willingness to listen to your opponent, and keep an open mind? (2) Rigidly ignoring him? Which of the two of you better demonstrated the bipartisan spirit you say you represent? Was there anything he said that you agreed with? Could you have brought yourself to say so?
I'm not the only one who noticed your odd, hostile behavior. Just about everybody did. I'm sure many of your supporters must have sensed the tension. Before the debate, pundits were wondering if you might explode in a display of your famous temper. I think we saw that happen, all right, but it was an implosion. I have instructed my wife to exclude you from any future dinner parties.
We now know Palin doesn't read books and it has become very clear she doesn't read newspapers, but how hard is it to remember the names of a few of them.
Will this kind of generalizing really win out because she looks cute when she wrinkles her nose and knowledgeable when she sets her lips? We now know what our politicians should have been studying. Instead of law school, they should have learned to exaggerate their gestures on TV so as not to look flat.
Palin in her interview with Couric:
Asked what newspapers and magazines she reads, Palin said, "I've read most of them." Pressed by Couric for examples, Palin declined. "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years," she said. Again asked to name a few, Palin said, "I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, 'Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."
If she is representative of Alaska, let's pray that is not true.
It seems the side that wants freedom to carry any kind of gun, does not believe in freedom of speech. This is a very sobering column from Kathleen Parker, writing about the response to her column which "outed" Palin. I think of her supporters and of how we are known by the company we keep. I think the supporters of Palin say a great deal about Palin herself. I have now emailed Kathleen Parker in support of her stance. I suggest others do the same, supporting her right to say what she thinks and feels, no matter what side of the aisle she is on. I don't know how to delete the ads but the subject felt too essential not to post.
The Omen In My Mail
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn't, I should "off" myself.
Who says public discourse hasn't deteriorated?
The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I'm familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.
Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party -- not a "true" conservative.
Obviously, I'm not employed by the GOP. If I were, the party is seriously in arrears. But what is a true conservative? One who doesn't think or question and who marches in lock step with The Party?
The emotional pitch of many comments suggests an overinvestment in Palin as "one of us."
Palin's fans say they like her specifically because she's an outsider, not part of the Washington club. When she flubs during interviews, they identify with that, too. "You see the lack of polish, we applaud it," one reader wrote.
Of course, there's a difference between a lack of polish and a lack of coherence. Some of Palin's interview responses can't even be critiqued on their merits because they're so nonsensical. But even that is someone else's fault, say Palin supporters. The media make her uncomfortable.
Or, it's the fault of those slick politicos who are overmanaging her. "Let Sarah be Sarah" has become the latest rallying cry among my colleagues on the right. She'll be fine if we just leave her alone, they say. Between prayers, I might add.
Not all my mail has been mean-spirited. A fair number of the writers politely expressed disappointment; others, relief and gratitude. Still others offered reasonable arguments aimed at changing my mind. I may yet.
In the meantime, though, I would note that this assault and my decision to write about it aren't really about me -- or even Sarah Palin. The mailbag is about us, our country, and what we really believe.
That we have become a partisan nation is no secret. This week has provided a vivid example of where rabid partisanship leads with the failure of Congress to pass a bailout bill vitally needed to keep our economy from unraveling.
I'm sure it is coincidence that, upon the Palin column's publication, a conservative organization canceled a speech I was scheduled to deliver in a few days. If I were as paranoid as the conspiracy theorists are, I might wonder whether I was being punished for speaking incorrectly.
Unfortunately, that's the way one begins to think when party loyalty is given a higher value than loyalty to bedrock principles.
Our day of reckoning may indeed be upon us. Between war and economic collapse, we have enormous challenges. It will take the best of everyone to solve them. That process begins minimally with a commitment to engage in civil discourse and a cease-fire in the war against unwelcome ideas.
In that spirit, may Sarah Palin be fearless in tomorrow's debate and speak her true mind.