Palin Ruins the Party For Everyone

19 09 2008

“Gov. Sarah Palin and other elected officials have been disinvited from an anti-Iran rally scheduled for Monday at the United Nations, organizers of the rally and the campaign of Senator John McCain said.”

“Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a leading promoter of the rally, disinvited Ms. Palin, Mr. McCain’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, and other politicians after Democrats, Jewish organizations and members of Congress protested that her appearance would turn the rally into a partisan political event.”

“But Mr. Hoenlein said, ‘I hope that we at least will be able to host the governor in the near future.’ ”

“On Wednesday, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that she would skip the rally after learning that Ms. Palin would be there. ‘Her attendance was news to us,’ said Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines.”

“For its part, the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, had planned to send Representative Robert Wexler.”

“By Thursday afternoon, the cacophony was so intense that Mr. Hoenlein rescinded the invitations to both campaigns.”

” ‘The message of the rally was about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being at the United Nations and his nuclear weapons program,’ said Mr. Hoenlein, referring to the president of Iran. ‘And that was being obfuscated in the media frenzy.’ ”

” ‘This,’ he added, ‘is not about Governor Palin.’ “

Well, yes and no.

Now, I know that it isn’t supposed to be about Palin. It’s supposed to be about Ahmadinejad and his contempt for Israel. Politics, however, is based in diplomacy – or at least it should be.

As I was reading the comments section of the New York Times article, one blogger wrote,

“…such a serious event really is not the time or place to make a political point, for either side of the aisle.”

True, but politics and events like these are intertwined. Ignoring the state of politics and trying to organize a rally that includes politicians seems suicidal. It’s hard (impossible?) to engage in politics and ignore social mores. Respect, deference, cordiality, politeness – all used in politics as tools of diplomacy.

Senator Clinton, as a New York State senator, had every reason to be included in this event being held in New York City. For all her faults, she is very diplomatic and an asset at any international event. As an organizer for the event, I would have been very careful not to put Senator Clinton, or any high ranking official really, in an awkward situation. Out of deference her team should have been informally asked if it would tick her off to share a stage with Palin – for any reason. Same goes for the hierarchy of officials in attendance, proportionate to their rank. Stupid move on organizers part – and with the publicity this is getting, bad for their relationship with Senator Clinton I’d say.

When I first heard about this I tried to imagine how it would appear if the situation were flipped. What if Palin was my political hero. What if her presence on the presidential ticket was a coup for feminism and indicated a genuine shift in the nation’s direction toward a more equal, inclusive society. And she was disinvited. Why? Because a tyrannical hypocrite was appalled that she was expected to have to share a stage with her, and that hypocrite/anti-feminist withdrew from the event. Well, good – all the better for the cause. In fact what better way to draw a distinct line between a politician who embodies progress and one who represents regression than that exact situation?

And as I thought about this upside down world and how I might react to it, I remembered a key difference – summarily plague vs. power.

This isn’t about Govenor Palin. It’s about us.

It is one thing when the good samaritan begins to travel alongside a force of malice on a winding road and the force of malice is chased away by the very presence of the good samaritan. It is quite another thing when the opposite occurs, and it is important for feminists to note the qualifying differences. To stand one’s ground is often tantamount to victory, even if no further advancements occur. When your mortal enemy is climbing atop your mountain, don’t flee. Giving them that kind of power over you only reinforces the (possibly false) idea that you are not strong enough to face them. On the other hand, sometimes we are indeed not strong enough to face our enemies alone. “Safety in numbers” as the saying goes. There is nothing wrong with asking for help – and if you can’t get it then there is nothing wrong with removing yourself from that situation. Live to fight another day.

I guess it all comes down to knowing yourself and knowing whether or not you can face something without help. It is not surprising to me that Hillary Clinton is feeling more fragile these days than she usually does. It is not surprising to me that rather than face Palin, and the media frenzy that would follow, she has opted to remove herself from the situation. It is not surprising to me that Senator Clinton felt like she wouldn’t have enough support (political, emotional) to help her face Govenor Palin’s loaded presence. What does surprise me is that we can sit back, safe and warm in our private, anonymous chairs, and let it happen.

Who watches the watchers? Indeed, who protects the protectors?

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