A tale of two speeches [updated]
You've got to hand it to Sarah Palin -- that was a great speech. It's got the whole world talking, and with good reason:
It's easy to forget that this [Obama] is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate. This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word 'victory' except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.
So that's one Palin speech, a great speech -- a speech that has gone around the world -- and boy, doesn't she come across well. Hannah Strange in London's Times sums up reactions:
Conservatives are swooning, liberals terrified - that's how I would sum up the media reaction to Sarah Palin's big moment in St Paul last night. Never mind that she told a fair few porkies - both about her own record and Barack Obama's - the young governor of Alaska issued a rallying cry to the conservative Republican base that will go down in the annals of the culture wars as one of the most energising opening salvos of recent times
See the rest of Strange's piece for a round-up of reactions. Here's another recent Palin speech however that might innoculate you from all the swooning [hat tip Noodle Food]. If Palin's speech last night made my eyes slightly moist (yes, I confess; how rare it is to see such forthrightness) then this speech made my skin crawl. It's Palin talking a few months ago to the Assembly of God church by which she says she was "saved." (From what exactly she was "saved" is never quite clear.)
She says repeatedly, like a point for the audience to remember, "that God's Will be done." She says that people, you and I, "can't do any good unless their heart is right with God"! She says that U.S. soldiers in Iraq, all of them, are "on a task that is from God." Se says "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan." This is worrying stuff. But then in part two of the video the pastor says quite seriously -- and Palin is on stage for this, smiling through it all -- that "God wants Alaska to be a refuge for people from the 'lower 48' during the Last Days, and this church must be ready to receive them." Wow. Just, wow.
PZ MYers at Pharyngula calls it "a terrifying video ... going on and on in front of her Assembly of God church, talking about the war in Iraq as "a task that is from God", promising the congregants the gift of prophecy, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus … it ought to make any rational human being ill."
I'd like to hear how you react. Watch both parts of the latter speech here.
UPDATE 1: Just to head off an obvious objection: If it's okay to criticise Obama for his choice of guru -- and I believe it is -- then so it's okay to criticise Palin's. If Jeremiah Wright is fair game, then so too is Pastor Ed Kalnins of the Wassila Assembly of God, where she was baptized at the age of 12 and which she attended most of her adult life until 2002 when she left for Juneau -- maintaining, in her own words "a friendship with [this] special, special place." Nico Pitney and Sam Stein reckon "A review of recorded sermons by Ed Kalnins, the senior pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God since 1999, offers a provocative and, for some, eyebrow-raising sketch of Palin's longtime spiritual home."
Pastor Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war "contending for your faith;" and said that Jesus "operated from that position of war mode."
How do you feel now?
UPDATE 2: "Christians and other mystics sometimes argue that religion makes people moral. I disagree: morality is a practical science which can only be understood by rational consideration, not emotionalism ... One particularly despicable influence of religion was out on display when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate." Read on here.
UPDATE 3: I said above that "if it's okay to criticise Obama for his choice of guru -- and I believe it is -- then so it's okay to criticise Palin's." Nick Provenzo reckons there's a significant difference between McCain plumping for Palin, pastor and pentacostalism and Obama defending Wright:
UPDATE 4: You saw all those signs at the Republican National Conventions: "Country First," "Service," "Sacrifice." Myrhaf saw them too: "When you put service first," he notes, "then freedom comes second at best." This is the real tragedy, he says:
While Obama has his own religious demons to contend with (such as his bigoted and raving anti-American ex-pastor whose sermons Obama was all too willing to sit though), Obama's religious background serves to discredit him, while McCain's recent moves are intended as a pragmatic effort to strengthen his chances of winning in November.
The real difference between Obama and McCain? "McCain wants Americans to sacrifice to country; Obama wants Americans to sacrifice to the whole world." But they do both demand your sacrifice.
[At this conference] we watched the beginning of the end of freedom in America, brought to us by well-meaning Republicans who have not the slightest idea that their perverted hierarchy of values will lead to destruction of individual rights. They were all good people we saw on TV tonight. Good, solid Americans.
Their ignorance of economics and philosophy will be the end of the country they love.
If the Democrat Party is a mad farce, the Republican Party is a tragedy. In striving to serve the land they love, America, they will end up destroying it.