Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah, A Woman for All Seasons

The day after the great debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, everyone was prepared to pass judgment.

I didn’t catch the debate. My wife Andrée had arranged for us to see at UConn the Bolt play, “A Man For All Seasons.” And so when the two bumped heads, we found ourselves in the sold out Nafe Katter Theatre's packed house watching Michael McKensie, playing St. Thomas More, scowling at Thomas Cromwell’s pragmatism:

“ALICE: They say he's a very penetrating lawyer.

“MORE: What, Cromwell? Pooh, he's a pragmatist-and that's the only resemblance he has to the Devil, son Roper; a pragmatist, the merest plumber.”

McKensie spat the word “pragmatist” far out into the second row. It is an explosive line and ought to remind us, in this the age of pragmatism and cynicism, that once there was something more honorable than reasons of state.

After viewing the debate, what strikes me most forcefully is how wrong everyone was about Palin, except of course the people in Alaska, who knew she was not an air-head, as was widely reported by wishful thinking progressives. I’m afraid her performance may destroy both the joke lines of the late night comics and the rather brutal cynicism of the usual Connecticut liberal air-head commentators.

“Air-heads?” say you. Not in Connecticut! Why, sir, they are all Yale graduates.

Well then, educated air-heads. Here is the problem:

Does anyone remember the imperious and impatient Queen of Hearts in Alice and Wonderland? “First the verdict,” says she, “then the trial.”

Unfriendly Palin commentators are the Queen. They’ve already written the script for their columns and have only to plug in the atmospherics: Sarah the idiot commits another unforgivable gaffe. That is how I read the pre-debate commentary in the Courant and most other liberal newspapers. You cannot believe how frustrated these people get when the facts on the ground do not support their prepared narratives: First the commentary, then the debate.

Ideologues are committed to narratives; realists spin narratives from events. Realists report; ideologues distort. Realists prepare a bed to lay their facts in; ideologues trim their facts to the bed. They are Procrustes, whose name means “he who stretches,” the Greek innkeeper who kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers. He advertised a “one size fits all bed.” Procrustes proclaimed that the wondrous bed exactly matched the sleeper’s length. He did not say that once secured in the bed, Procrustes himself adjusted the length of the sleeper by stretching him on a rack, if he was too short, or trimming his legs to fit the bed, if he was too tall.

Palin’s success in the debate has forced the wishful thinkers to beat a hasty retreat.

Before the debate, they were spouting like witches at a Black Sabbath. They have since calmed down. The wreck on Wall Street has put a spring to their step and a grimace to their lips.
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