Biden’s Missed Opportunity in the Debate: “Sarah Palin, you’re no Ronald Reagan.”

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It boils down to this:

Joe Biden was equally capable of delivering as knowledgeable, intelligent, insightful and nuanced a discussion of the issues facing our nation and the world 5 days ago, as he was 5 weeks, 5 years or even 25 years ago. Sarah Palin delivered a scripted, well-rehearsed performance last night, nothing more, and it was a performance she was not capable of giving just 5 days ago.

There’s really no more to it than that, except among those who simply *need* to believe that Sarah Palin owns more than an ability to memorize talking points. Have the past 5 weeks not offered enough compelling evidence that, off-script, she is dismally, dangerously unqualified for the job? Much as she tried to chide Joe Biden for referencing the so-called “past” mistakes of the Bush Administration, Sarah Palin’s scriptwriters nonetheless felt the need to validate her candidacy by latching onto the past — namely, the coattails of Ronald Reagan’s legacy.

I would like someone to ask Sarah Palin just what Ronald Reagan meant all those times, when he conjured the vision of that “shining city upon the hill.” And what did you mean, Governor Palin, when you coupled the word ‘exceptionalism’ with that ‘shining city’ last night, as in: “America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill“? Do you even know what is meant by the word, ‘exceptionalism‘ in this context? Or would that be “gotcha” journalism to ask you such a question, as when Katie Couric asked, “What do you read?” on the heels of your statement, “The way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world“?

My educated guess is that Sarah’s answer on the ‘shining city’ question would be the same as her answer to Couric’s question about her reading list: a pause — one beat too long — followed by a mish-mash of hollow words infused with insults against anyone smart enough to know the answer. Lest Sarah be at a loss for words, I’ve done her homework, the same as I did when she asked, “What is it exactly that the VP does every day?” The answer is printed, in entirety, at the bottom of this post.  I offer this, not because I’m a fan of Ronald Reagan — or of exceptionalism — but because, when he conjured the vision of the shining city upon the hill, it was not merely a stage prop. His words were fleshed from a personal belief, born from an established school of thought, about which he knew something. Ronald Reagan not only understood what he was saying. He meant it.    

Sarah proved last night (as she did at the convention) that she is capable of delivering her lines on cue with, alternately, pseudo conviction, curled-lip sarcasm, or a wink and a smile. There are small theatre groups across the country filled with similar talents. What does this have to do with being vice-president of the United States?

We’ve been duly warned: there will be no more unfettered media access (huh?) to Sarah Palin (even as we were told, just a few days ago, that the McCain campaign was going to “allow” Sarah Palin to “be herself” to America). There will be only scripted speeches, no more of that “gotcha” journalism. 

Here’s the thing. I’m sick and tired of living under a government that operates in secrecy, that censors media access, that denies Americans the right to a transparent government, that gives us, instead, a scripted version of the truth in the form of cooked intelligence, manufactured news, propaganda and lies. On that note, I’m also sick and tired of living under a government that believes the rules don’t apply to them. Censoring the media and making special exceptions to the law were the trademarks of the Bush-Cheney Administration. The McCain-Palin team have shown that they would be no different. 

In the past 5 weeks, alone, we have seen the media censored from covering Sarah Palin, we have seen more lies than we can count — so many, that it has become an embarrassment and a joke, even among the most statured conservatives — and we have seen Sarah Palin thumb her nose at a court order, when subpoenaed to testify in the ethics investigation for her alleged abuse of executive power. This is the foundation upon which dictatorships, not democracies, are built. Ronald Reagan at least understood this much, when he described the foundation of that “shining city upon a hill,” in his speech, below:


The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the “shining city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home. 

Ronald Reagan, from his Farewell Address to the Nation, January 11, 1989 

It is a genuine source of sadness to many Americans that these words could not be spoken today, except by those blind to the fate which our country has suffered under the Bush Administration. We see, in Sarah Palin and John McCain, a stubborn blindness to this reality. Otherwise, their platform would not be nearly identical to the Bush-Cheney platform. Otherwise, her speechwriters would not have felt it necessary to have her chide Joe Biden for discussing the fatal flaws in the Bush Administration that have brought our country to this sad state. Joe Biden got it right last night when he said, “Past is prologue,” but he missed a golden opportunity to tell Sarah Palin, “Governor, you’re no Ronald Reagan.”




by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers






Two statues stand outside the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue. One is called “Study the Past,” and the other (left) explains why: “What is Past is Prologue.” On display in the National Archives are the  Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights — the cornerstone documents of the United States. 



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