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.


Anonymous said...

VP Debate Pushed Undecided Voters to Obama
An Ipsos/McClatchy poll found that Gov. Sarah Palin's performance in last week's vice presidential debate actually hurt her running mate, Sen. John McCain, among undecided voters.

Before the debate, undecided voters were leaning 56% to 44% for McCain. The day after the debate, the numbers tilted 52% to 48% for Sen. Barack Obama.

Said pollster Clifford Young: "It's suggesting an overall tendency of undecideds toward Obama, so it is significant. We're catching an underlying trend that's going on."

The poll also found that Sen. Joe Biden won the debate, 54% to 46%.

October 5, 2008

Don Pesci said...

Yours is pPretty nearly a perfect example of the Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy.

Let's see, what else happened prior to the debate? -- something about the meltdown of Wall Street, owing mostly to the collapse of money markets caused by congress’ unwillingness to monitor GSE’s (Government Supported Enterprises) AKA Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, more about which in an upcoming post.

The PHEPH fallacy goes like this: Because B follows A, B is the cause of A. It ain’t always so.

Incidentally, the guy who supported the monitoring of GSE’s in 2005, a fail safe point in the collapse, was Mr. McCain as may be seen by the following letter:

“Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae's regulator reported that the company's quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were "illusions deliberately and systematically created" by the company's senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

“The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae's former chief executive officer, OFHEO's report shows that over half of Mr. Raines' compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

“The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator's examination of the company's accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

“For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs — and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

“I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

“I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.”

Alas McCain’s colleagues were unwilling and Fannie and Freddie went off the cliff.

Sad, so sad.

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