Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Sarah Palin

Straight-shooting Republicans keep hitting themselves in the foot

Mitt Romney in Maine
If you want keen observations on Campaign 2012, you'll want to read the columns by my colleague Doyle McManus.

For example, in Sunday's column, McManus pointed out that the drawn-out and increasingly negative Republican presidential race will take its toll on Mitt Romney among independent voters.

Lo and behold, on Monday The Times reported on new poll results:

President Obama for the first time has opened a sizable lead over his most likely Republican opponents, thanks to growing support among independent voters, according to a new Pew Research Center poll….

Obama led [Rick] Santorum by 10 points among registered voters nationwide (53%-43%) and led [Mitt] Romney by 8 points (52%-44%). Obama’s lead over Newt Gingrich, who has faded in the GOP race, was 18 points (57%-39%). In previous polls in November and January, Romney and Obama were roughly tied. Obama has moved up because of support from independent voters, 51% of whom now back him against Romney, a gain of 11 points since last month.

Now, had you read McManus, you would have already had that information, gleaned from an insider: 

"The long primary fight is driving independent voters away from Romney," the Obama campaign's senior strategist, David Axelrod, told me last week.

The question, though, is why?

I mean, it's strange, really, how an entire party can be driven to political suicide by a small number of fervent "true believers."

Democrats saw it many years ago with George McGovern. Republicans went through it before with Barry Goldwater.

And here we are again. The Republican Party of today appears increasingly tone deaf when it comes to appealing to independent voters, much less swaying any Democrats.

Take this statement from House Speaker John A. Boeher on Monday, regarding the Republicans’ acceptance of the Democrats' goal of extending the payroll tax cut for middle-class Americans:

"This is not our first choice," said Boehner and his leadership team, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), in a joint statement. "But in the face of the Democrats’ stonewalling and obstructionism, we are prepared to act to protect small businesses and our economy from the consequences of Washington Democrats’ political games."

Sorry, John, you lost me at "not our first choice." 

Now, I'm sure many Americans will appreciate the Republicans' efforts on behalf of small businesses -- whatever that means -- and they'll also appreciate how hard it must be to put up with those stonewalling Democrats, who have the nerve to want to keep a tax break for regular working folks.

And I'm also sure that Sarah Palin and Santorum and the other tea partyers who live in what is apparently a parallel universe will vote Republican in November, even if that means voting for Romney.

But the race is won in the middle, where the independents hang out, and nothing the Republicans are doing right now has much appeal to those folks.

But don't take my word for it.

Just read Doyle McManus.

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-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

In politics, don't put the blame on dames or their names

Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Is our California democracy more democratic than Iraq's? Than Tunisia's?

If you answered "yes, of course," does that mean that a proposed ballot measure I'll describe in a moment will fly with Californians?

I doubt it, but here's the back story:

Iraq's constitution, adopted in 2005, reserves 25% of parliamentary seats for women, to thwart the Islamists who might hold more influence in the post-Saddam Hussein government and who don't want women in public political roles at all.

And in Tunisia, the rules require that half the names on a ballot be women's, and that the names be alternated by gender so people can't do straight-ticket guy voting. The assembly that's writing Tunisia's constitution will probably end up with a document putting women in about one-third of Tunisia's assembly.

So what does any of this have to do with California politics?

A proposed initiative is collecting signatures to place on the ballot a state constitutional amendment to double the number of legislators in Sacramento -- and require one female, one male.

This would mean 160 Assembly members and 80 state Senators, and some very crowded women's bathrooms.

Rose-Ann-VuichWhen Rose Ann Vuich was elected California's first female state Senator in 1976, there was no bathroom for women legislators -- only for men. They had to convert a closet into a bathroom, and it's still called "The Rose Room."

(Vuich's campaign prefigured Sarah Palin's by more than 30 years; Vuich dinged her GOP opponent for supporting a "freeway to nowhere.") And every day, several times a day, whenever one of her colleagues addressed the Senate's membership as "gentlemen," Vuich rang a bell on her desk to remind them that she was there -- and, implicitly, that more women would follow her.

There are two things about this measure I don't expect Californians to like. The first is minting more politicians. Californians don't think much of the ones they have already. Doubling their number is doubling down on dislike.

And the second -- a 50-50 ratio between men and women legislators -- well, as desperately as California and the nation need more women in visible and official positions of authority, voters would balk at being told to do it.

California was the first state to send two women senators to D.C. Maine, Washington and New Hampshire followed suit. There's now a grand total of -- are you ready? -- 17 women in the U.S. Senate. Women are just a tidge over half the U.S. population but only 17% of the U.S. Senate.

The breakthrough year for women in the Senate was 1992, the Year of the Woman, after the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings showed an all-male committee questioning female witnesses.

California's equal-representation proposal is the brainchild of someone named B.C. Keith. The secretary of state's office refers to B.C. Keith with the pronoun "her," so I have to assume Keith's a woman.

I also have to think that, like British blockbuster women writers J.K. Rowling and P.D. James, B.C. Keith understands that a more gender-neutral name, using initials only rather than female first names, can make a difference to male readers or voters, whether you're selling a novel or a political idea. It's a sad state of monogrammed affairs.

Given that the 2010 elections meant fewer women in Congress than there had been in 20 years, is it possible that women candidates, like women authors, or maybe even women in business or science, feel they've got a better shot at succeeding if they, to use the Shakespeare line, feel constrained to "unsex" themselves in their names?

Keith's measure isn't likely to go anywhere -- but what if there's a chance that a D.G. Feinstein or a H.R. Clinton or a M.S. Curie would have a better shot at success than a Dianne or a Hillary or a Marie? If so, maybe there's a little something we can learn from the Tunisians after all.

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-- Patt Morrison

Top photo: Sen. Dianne Feinstein is seen on Aug. 24, 2005 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Rose Ann Vuich is shown in 1976. Credit: Associated Press

Shakespeare whodunit

Shakespeare
If I may borrow from the Bard, it's "much ado about nothing."

The movie "Anonymous" has stirred the simmering pot of those who find reasons, and adequate spare time, to question whether William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the most remarkable works in the English language, or whether Shakespeare was a man used as a "front" by others who didn't want their names attached to the works.

The renowned entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, who's written lawyerly books about English history, talked at length to me about the matter, in which he pronounces himself agnostic.

Most of the readers who emailed me were not. They were impatient with the questions about something that wasn't even an issue for more than 200 years after Shakespeare's death, until an American writer named Delia Bacon, who thought of Shakespeare's works not as the Tudor box-office popular theater that they were but as exalted, hieratic writ, began looking for hidden codes and ciphers to reveal the "real" author -- to her mind, Francis Bacon (no relation). From then on, myriad people have argued on behalf of many candidates for authorship, and most recently, the Earl of Oxford has taken the lead.

Over the weekend, a group of students even protested outside the ArcLight in Pasadena, defending Shakespeare's honor -- and authorship.

We live in age in which people see conspiracies everywhere, even when there are none. Just because there have been conspiracies and cover-ups does not mean everything is a conspiracy. Carl Sagan said we are pattern-seeking creatures. There is no man in the moon, except in our heads. He also said absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Some readers were offended by the snobbery that concluded a man from Stratford couldn't have had the imagination or the genius to write those plays. (In the fashion that almost everyone who claims to be reincarnated was originally Cleopatra or Napoleon, I don't hear people claiming that the works of lesser poets or playwrights than Shakespeare were penned secretly by other hands.)

Our era has swung so far the other way in its contempt for expertise as to devalue it completely, which is at least as perilous as the opposite extreme. As one reader emailed me sardonically, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the experts," paraphrasing Shakespeare's line about lawyers. Thanks in part to the bilious stew of political venom, we've strayed way, way off course from Daniel Patrick Moynihan's reasonable notion that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.

The New Yorker recently ran a cartoon of "Doc Palin," the former Alaska governor. Wearing a white coat and flexing a saw, she declares, "I'm not one of those phony-baloney 'insiders' who went to 'medical school.' I just go by my God-given sense of right and wrong!"

We heard more in this vein from the film's director, Roland Emmerich, who declared, "There's just this arrogance of the literary establishment."

Right on! Why stop there? What about the arrogance of the plumbers' establishment, or the chefs' or auto mechanics' or accountants' or carpenters'? The neurosurgeons' establishment? The astrophysicists' establishment? Who does that Stephen Hawking think he is, anyway? What about the screenwriters' establishment, and the larger writers' establishment? Just because you can type doesn't mean you can write. And, Mr. Emmerich, what about the arrogance of the directors' establishment that thinks it can make films that are better than anything from a 22-year-old who can run Final Cut Pro editing software?

I've read that the makers of "Anonymous" are distributing "educational materials" to schools because, as Emmerich was quoted as saying, we shouldn’t teach children "a lie." This is a Hollywood version of creationism: creating a "controversy"  and then demanding that we "teach the controversy."

As for conspiracy thinking, it has the disadvantage of being so cumbersome and layered as to defy credibility. The standard rejoinder to every fact, every piece of evidence that shows the conspiracy theory to be wrong, is that the evidence was fabricated or forged, that the "real evidence" was destroyed, and even that the person putting forth the information is in on the conspiracy. Perhaps the wackiest version of this I ever heard was after Popular Mechanics did all the metallurgy and engineering and physics -- all the scientific heavy lifting -- to show once and for all that the World Trade Center towers collapsed because, just as the world saw, two commercial planes loaded with jet fuel flew into them. The conspiracy theorists' rejoinder? Popular Mechanics was part of the conspiracy.

Conspiracy thinking about government paradoxically holds that the government is simultaneously incompetent and yet so deviously capable as to pull off some hugely complex event in secret, fabricate or destroy evidence, and persuade or force multiple hundreds of people to keep massive secrets for years. It was supposedly Ben Franklin, or maybe someone hiding behind his name and pen, who wrote, "Three people can keep a secret, if two of them are dead."

The sheer volume of these ginned-up conspiracies also discredits and dilutes the legitimate pursuit of real conspiracies by "crying wolf" with the silly and bogus ones.

It's a shame that there are no royalties at stake for Shakespeare's plays; if there were money in this, it would be settled in court in no time.

The best device for everyone's logical tool belt is an old but a reliable one: Occam's Razor. Here's a better definition, but extremely simply put, it says the simplest theory about something is preferable to more complex theories.

In other words, to use a phrase attributed to Sigmund Freud but not conclusively proved to be (Freud believed Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare): "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

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 -- Patt Morrison

Photo: Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy English literature students gather Friday in front of ArcLight Cinemas in Pasadena to protest the release of "Anonymous," a movie that attempts to discredit Shakespeare. Credit: Tim Berger / Pasadena Sun

Sarah Palin's smart not to run, supporters say [Most commented]

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin wasn’t ever really going to run for president, was she? That’s Donald Craig Mitchell’s guess. In an Op-Ed that discusses Palin’s decision not to run, Mitchell says she’s long prioritized her celebrity career over her commitment to public office, reminding us of Palin’s lucrative deals that followed after she quit as Alaska’s governor, including a seven-figure contract with Fox News.

After three years of tweeting, hinting and eyelash-batting, on Wednesday Sarah Palin announced that she was not running for president. Her Facebook friends are disappointed. But for Sarah-watchers in Alaska like me, the announcement was long expected, old news. […]

For the past two years that's how Palin has spent most of her time: promoting books, making paid television appearances, giving paid speeches. During that time she made no effort to establish campaign organizations on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Nevertheless, with the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary election less than a month away, until Wednesday millions of Americans were still wondering about her intentions.

While some readers on our discussion board side with Mitchell — and also express relief that Palin isn’t joining the race — others have used the space to support Palin’s decision.  Here’s a sampling.

Props to Palin for choosing high-paying gigs — obviously something lazy liberals don’t understand

As someone who supported Sarah Palin and wished she had run I can assure you I don't feel scammed. I can speak for many of her supporters who feel the same way. I can also tell you we already knew it was a long shot that she was going to run. It's funny that those on the left make a list of high paying jobs as though it was an insult. What is it about the left and not wanting to work? So wink, wink, nudge, nudge no I never felt teased. 

As for her PAC we are mostly well informed and we knew that no matter if she was going to run or not by law she wouldn't have been allowed to use those funds. So you see no one was ripped off on that.

Here's a funny thing though. I came to this hit piece when I saw it in the sidebar while reading an article on the Fast and Furious operation. Surely your venom would be better served on that article. You know the Obama administration pumping illegal weapons into Mexico? Weapons that are killing many Mexican citizens and have indeed been traced to the killing of federal agents.

I'm sure I could go on that article and see all your user names there, right? I won't hold my breath. 

--Cuttingboardblues

Washington is too corrupt for Palin

I do not blame Sarah one bit for dropping out of the presidential race. Too much corruption in the Washington, D.C., crowd. I would not run if they paid me one million dollars per day. I choose better friends than those running our country. I pray that God will give our politicians wisdom so that wise decisions are made, and making certain that God is in these decisions. 

--Len Heinrichs

Palin’s one great-lookin’ 'outsider'

Sarah Palin is far more effective as an "outsider" than she could possibly be as an elected politician. And, she's having more fun and making a lot more money.

She's a smart, conservative, principled, honest, successful great-looking woman — a left-winger's nightmare.

Way to be, Palin; keep up the good work.

--candorman

Perhaps she'll teach Obama how to give a speech

Whenever Mr. Obama accidentally enters the terrifying world of extemporaneous speech, he collapses in a heap of uhs and ahs and usually ends up with his foot in this mouth.

Perhaps now that she is not entering the presidential race, Mrs. Palin, who is a brilliant and inspiring extemporaneous speaker, might offer to give Mr. Obama speech lessons. He certainly could use them.

--joinamerica

Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

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Campaign 2012: Taking nominations for a new GOP crush

Sarah Palin and Chris Christie
Three of the Republican Party's great young hopes -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida -- dropped out of the 2012 race in quick succession this week. Christie and Palin were presidential hopefuls; Rubio's name was tossed around as a running mate. This comes on top of the plummeting poll numbers  for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was a seemingly unbeatable candidate until he actually joined the race.

That leaves the current field intact, with nine candidates drawing enough support to appear in the televised debates but only three -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Perry and Herman Cain -- polling in double digits. And as the party faithful's futile longing for Christie, Palin and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin shows, none of the folks in the race today is setting a critical mass of Republican pulses racing.

If President Obama weren't so unpopular and the economy so terrible, you might think Republicans were in trouble. They're not -- they have several candidates already who seem perfectly capable of beating the president.

Nevertheless, if you could persuade someone to get off the sidelines and run for the GOP presidential nomination, who would it be? And for those of you likely to vote in the GOP primary, which of the nine at the top of the polls today -- a group that also includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Govs. Jon Huntsman of Utah and Gary Johnson of New Mexico -- would you like to see drop out? Don't say Donald Trump -- he's already gone.

Leave your comments below.

--Jon Healey

Credit: Charles Krupa (Palin) / Associated Press;  Jae C. Hong (Christie) / Associated Press

Sarah Palin: Where has the mystery gone?

Sarah Palin

It's been a hectic week for America's political junkies and celebrity watchers, and it's only Thursday.

We've had Joe McGinniss' new book, "The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin." You want salacious stories? As The Times' book critic, David L. Ulin, writes in his review:

McGinniss claims that Palin snorted cocaine off an overturned 55-gallon drum during a snowmobile excursion, slept with college (and later NBA) basketball star Glen Rice when she was an unmarried 23-year-old sports reporter (McGinniss talked to Rice for the book and he confirmed the relationship) and had an affair with Brad Hanson, Todd Palin's business partner, apparently as payback for her husband's infidelities. (Both Palin and Hanson, he notes, have denied the affair.)

Oh, and she's not much of a mom either, McGinniss reports:

"Friends recall," McGinniss observes, "that when Todd was working on the North Slope, the children literally would have a hard time finding enough to eat. 'Those kids had to fend for themselves,' one says. 'I'd walk into that kitchen and Bristol and Willow would be sitting there with a burnt pot of Kraft mac and cheese on the stove … and Sarah would be up in her bedroom with the door closed saying she didn't want to be disturbed.' "

This comes on top of this week's startling new look at former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. As The Times said in an editorial Thursday:

A newly released series of interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, recorded in 1964, just months after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, offers an extraordinary and occasionally shocking glimpse of a woman enshrined in our popular culture as a figure of grace, fortitude and civility. In the conversations, the then-34-year-old widow reveals herself as variously audacious, narrow-minded and unsparingly tart. She called Indira Gandhi "a real prune — bitter, kind of pushy," and said she had told Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at a dinner to stop boring her with statistics on Ukraine. (He laughed.)

After being told by her husband of some of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s alleged sexual peccadilloes after "that freedom march thing," she called the civil rights leader "a phony." She declared that women should never be in politics — "we're just not suited to it" — and recalled that she told an interviewer, "I get all my opinions from my husband" (all evidence here to the contrary).

And finally, on a much smaller scale, there's Johansson-gate.  

Scarlett Johansson has reportedly contacted the FBI after naked pictures of her surfaced Wednesday on a popular viral-media website.

The 26-year-old actress' name was among 50 or so possible victims mentioned in March in connection with an investigation of a hacking ring targeting celebrities' email accounts and smartphones, looking for dirt. The somewhat fuzzy photos posted Wednesday on BuzzFeed are of a woman who appears to be Johansson, taking iPhone pictures of her own bare backside and breasts.

Whew! No wonder the economy is struggling. Who can work when there's this kind of news to click on?

And that doesn't even include the asteroid that streaked across the Southwestern U.S. skies Wednesday night.

Like that asteroid, these stories streak across the Internet. They fascinate. They spark arguments. We find significance in them, or not.

And, like the asteroid, we debate the truth of what we read, or see. 

Some see an asteroid; some see a UFO. (Some see a government cover-up of a UFO.)

Some see the Palin book as lies, a vicious and unsubstantiated attack on their hero. Others say, "I told you so."

For those who admired Jackie Kennedy, these new revelations may be hard to take. But for those who detest the Kennedys? "I told you so."

And Johansson?  Do we believe it?  Does being a celebrity make you fair game? Do we care? Should we care?  

When she was alive, Jackie Kennedy carefully controlled her public image.

Today, the gloves are off. Palin may want to control her image; so, probably, does Johansson. In today's media environment, it's impossible.

But does having more information mean we're better informed?

I say no. 

I say, like Jackie, that a little mystery goes a long way.

And I also say this: Don't keep naked pictures of yourself on your cellphone.   

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Photo: Sarah Palin. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Why Sarah Palin won't run ... and wouldn't win [Most commented]

Sarah Palin for president

Sarah Palin's indecisive, thin-skinned, addicted to the spotlight and very well paid for being a "political" personality. What she's not is ready to run for president. Here’s Doyle McManus' take:

Two years ago, one of the elders of the Republican Party, former Richard Nixon aide Fred Malek, gave Palin some friendly advice on how to prepare for a presidential campaign. Malek told Palin, then still governor of Alaska, that she should do three things: finish at least one full term in office, master some tough subjects such as fiscal policy and foreign affairs (and give speeches to show it), and build a staff that could serve as the core of a campaign machine.

But Palin didn't do any of that. Instead, she has devoted herself to less-demanding activities that have kept her in the public eye and provided a handsome income besides. She wrote (or, more precisely, coauthored) a bestselling memoir that made at least $7 million. She starred in a television travelogue that earned her a reported $2 million. She makes $1 million a year from a three-year contract as an exclusive "contributor" to Fox News. And she has given dozens of speeches at rates that sometimes top $100,000 per appearance (although she agreed to do this weekend's tea party rally in Iowa for free, organizers say). That adds up to an average gross income of at least $5 million a year since she left her $125,000-a-year job as governor.

Later in his column, McManus urges the former Alaskan governor to "end the fan dance [and] let her forlorn suitors know whether she's ready to make a commitment."

 To read many of the opinions on our discussion board, Palin won't run -- unless it's to a spotlight or a pot of gold. Here are a few of the comments.

Another adjective to describe Palin

Calling someone out for their stupidity is not fascination, fear, or reverence. It's calling someone out for their stupidity.

For those of you who think the liberal media piles on Sarah Palin, let me ask you this...does the liberal media call Condoleezza Rice stupid? Do they call Olympia Snowe stupid? Kay Bailey Hutchinson? Absolutely not. They may disagree with them and have articles slanted in the opposite direction, but no one calls these ladies stupid.

Sarah Palin is genuinely, unabashedly, stupid.

--disbelief

Palin's enjoying her time in the spotlight

Sarah Palin is not going to run for president.  She knows she can't win the nomination, much less the presidency, and she is enjoying the adulation that she knows will disappear when the nominee emerges.  Let her have her fun, and if people keep sending her money, that's their choice. 

--TimBowman

Is Palin brave enough to face Michele Bachmann in a debate?

She's not going to run.  Sarah would be top bill in the media if she said she was running -- she wouldn't have to start bus chases, crash GOP events, repeat string-along one-liners, or any of the other minor "issues" to keep her gig alive.   Regardless if she's viewed as a media junky or candidate, she'd benefit -- she has nothing to gain by dragging out her decision -- delays have already cost her supporters who've moved to Perry or Bachmann.  If anyone thinks her delay has a valid reason, think how slow decision making makes a bad executive -- thankfully, her running for president is not an important issue (like whether to hit a terrorist when info pops up with a narrow time window).

Scariest thing for her now is the Tea Parties may lose interest in her when she doesn't run.  Yesterday's willingness to toss aside all the work and sacrifice organizers and supporters made to see her on Saturday to keep O'Donnell away is without precedent -- both for her and any other public figure.   It says Sarah's all about Sarah/her emotions and no one else.  I don't think Sarah likes Bachmann either (some festering resentment from getting bumped from her perch) -- one has to wonder if she'd ever face Bachmann in a debate.  Sarah's going to be in Seoul during the next debate -- this is her third dodge to avoid one. 

--snyderchris87654

Who would vote for her?

Who in their right mind would vote for a candidate who didn't participate in the debates?  If you don't know where they stand on difficult issues, you can't make a logical decision.

--WhatIsWrongWithYouYahoos

Just wait for the convention

By the desperate tone of this article Sarah Palin has got all of you in the main-creep's media coming and going like chickens without a head. Ha! Ha! Ha! She who laughs last, laughs best. You all gave her your best cheap shots from 2008 till today in an orchestrated effort to destroy her but look at who is crying now. I hope she never makes a choice and keeps all you liberal Palin haters with your skivvies all tied up in knots until the Republican National Convention. It would serve the media right if the 2012 convention nominated her in a draft by acclamation. Palin and Rubio in 2012!

--Socorro V

*Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

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Photo: Buttons showing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former President Reagan are displayed at Tea Party Express tour kickoff on Aug. 27 in Napa. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Partisan pictures: Movies vs. campaign ads

Moore The fuss over Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden -– which is slated for release on Oct. 12, 2012, just a month before the presidential election -– raises some interesting questions about what separates feature films from campaign commercials. Conservative bloggers see Bigelow’s movie as the latter, an attempt by liberal Hollywood executives to produce an October surprise by glamorizing one of President Obama’s greatest achievements in office. Never mind that it’s not even clear whether Obama (or rather, an actor playing Obama) is going to appear in the movie, or that it will chronicle any of the president’s actions.

Whether or not Bigelow or her distributor Sony Pictures are deliberately trying to influence the election, it’s getting harder to draw the line between movies and campaign speech these days, especially when it comes to documentaries. Was Michael Moore’s "Fahrenheit 9/11," released six months before the 2004 election, a campaign commercial? (That is, a commercial for then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, since it was ruthlessly critical of President Bush.) Is "The Undefeated," this summer’s film about Sarah Palin, a documentary or political propaganda? Citizens United, an independently funded conservative advocacy organization at the heart of last year’s controversial Supreme Court decision that did away with campaign funding restrictions for corporations and unions, makes straight-to-video "documentaries" boosting the likes of GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and blasting the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Popcorn-fest or pandering?

Personally, I’d draw the line at commercial appeal. That is, a movie produced as a moneymaking venture qualifies as a bona fide commercial film, whereas a movie funded by ideologues solely for the purpose of boosting a political view is a campaign ad. But this definition has its drawbacks. Citizens United, which is very clearly in the business of generating right-wing propaganda, would no doubt dearly love to make money on its films and broaden their mainstream audience; if its films lack commercial viability it's because they're so poorly produced, not because the organization intends them to be mere advertisements. If anybody out there has a better definition, pipe up!

--Dan Turner

Photo: Michael Moore. Credit: Sean Kilpatrick / AP

Michele Bachmann: a serious candidate? [Most commented]

Bachmann
Republican Michele Bachmann seems to be a serious presidential candidate, especially when compared to Sarah Palin, according to Op-Ed columnist Meghan Daum.

In the race between the two conservative moms, Bachmann undoubtedly comes out ahead, Daum says. Even though she might scare liberals, so far, she seems to know what she’s doing; we’ll just have to wait and see what dirt gets dug up. Here’s an excerpt from Thursday’s column:

It's the word "authentic" that stands out here. I find Bachmann's extremism reprehensible, but you've got to give her this: She's genuine about it. She doesn't favor empty publicity stunts over lawmaking. Bachmann is a believer in every sense of the word. She believes what the Bible says, and she believes what she says, including that Glenn Beck can solve the debt crisis. And even though she's made it clear that she's sought God's counsel in every campaign she's waged, she also hired legendary strategist Ed Rollins for this one.

That suggests a level of accountability for her views and personal choices that we've rarely seen from Palin, who gives the impression that she's too down-home for fancy advisors. The Palin narrative, after all, is in the "gee whiz, how'd this happen?" vein. She's a hockey mom first, not a mayor, governor or historian. Her teenage daughter's out-of-wedlock pregnancy resulted not from inadequate parenting or a broken educational system but just because, the Palin camp seemed to imply, she was part of an ordinary imperfect American family with ordinary challenges.

Readers were split on Bachmann, and most simply stuck to bashing each other.

A Perry-Bachmann ticket would do well

Perry-Bachmann would be a very strong ticket in 2012...one the lefties will hate with a passion, but a ticket that can carry most of the same states Bush did in 2000 and/or 2004. Obama already lost his Osama bump & his approval rating is back down below 50% and still dropping...he will be VERY beatable in 2012.

--Opticon180

Bachmann’s articulate and competent

I like Michele Bachmann.  She's a deadly combination of competence, experience, personal narrative and good looks.  The fact that she has libtard temples throbbing makes me like her all the more.  Just look at some of the hate-filled posts here.  Ain't it something?

Bottom line: Obama isn't running against Bachmann or Romney or Pawlenty or even Huntsman.  He's running against his own damned self and a weak, failed presidency.  It almost doesn't matter WHOM the Republicans nominate, as long as that person has a plausible alternative plan they can articulate forcefully, and Bachmann has that in spades.

--GregMaragos

Bachmann’s too religious to be a plausible candidate

Ms Bachmann sounds like a plausible candidate until we learn she's another Bible thumper. I hope someone on a TV interview asks her how old the Earth is. If she says, "6000 years, according to the Bible, which is literally true" then she is unfit to govern.

--psb962

Church and state need to remain separate

I will agree that Bachman is way more politically capable than Sarah Palin ever was or will be.  With that said, Bachman's unabashed following of Christianity should be setting up red flags.  I am all for freedom of religion but what happens when school curriculum is altered because of contradictory views or people's lives are drastically changed because of someone else's religious views?  Faith is a powerful thing but to impose that on others, many of whom are irreligious, would be catastrophic for any politician.  Keep religion out of office and in the home.

--Mind Tricks

She’s brave for running despite inevitable liberal attacks

Ms. Bachmann may not win the nomination, but she will make a significant contribution to the discussion during the primary. Regardless of the false accusations and attacks, Ms. Bachmann is quite intelligent and has much more integrity than anyone in this administration. She also has the guts to run knowing full well the vicious attacks she will face from hateful libs. As for a few gaffes, a book could be written about Biden's gaffes, and Obama has quite a tally too, from 57 states to being 3 years off on the date.

After three and a half years of Obama, I believe a strong majority of people will vote for whoever wins the GOP nomination.

--Boris Badinov

Bachmann needs to offer more solutions

So far, she is the most sincere Republican candidate, and comes closest to being the Anti-Barak.  That said, she's going to have to give us more on solutions and less on morals alone.

--TimBowman

She’s just better at covering up her faults

Give me a break. We're to take Bachmann seriously because she does a better job than Palin of covering up her ignorance and lies?

--Navydad

*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.

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Does Sarah Palin warrant the media coverage she gets?

--Samantha Schaefer

Photo: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana June 17, 2011. Credit: Sean Gardner / Reuters 


Does Sarah Palin warrant the media coverage she gets? [Most commented]

Sarah PalinSarah Palin continues to be the talk of the town, but as Op-Ed contributor Michael Carey put it, the media are to blame for making Palin and her recently released emails the McGuffin of national politics. And the content of those 24,000 pages didn't exactly unearth anything we didn't already know: Palin was an average governor in many respects until John McCain brought her into the national spotlight on the presidential ticket.

Here's an excerpt from his Op-Ed article:

"What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out," Hitchcock once said. Even with the attentive redaction of Palin's emails, there are hundreds of pages of dull bits.

It may be shocking, but as governor of Alaska, Palin spent a lot of time trying to do the job she had been elected to do, surrounded by people who sometimes agreed with her, sometimes not. This is not the banality of evil; it's the reality of governing.

Readers are divided between hating Palin for leaving her position as governor of Alaska and hating the media for conducting an inquisition in her inbox rather than turning the spotlight on President Obama and what he should be accomplishing with his term. Here are their thoughts  on Palin and whether she warrants the media coverage she gets. You'll notice that they too are spending time talking about Palin.

What is so shocking? She is not the person neither side paints her to be?  There was no smoking gun of corruption or other misconduct? 

What was shocking was the demand for release of these emails when there was no basis therefore beyond a witch hunt (please spare us the trivialities of "Troopergate"), and the same people making the demand made no similar demands of Vice-Presidential candidate and known plagiarizer Senator Biden.

The bottom line with Sarah Palin is that what you see is what you get.  I don't find her to be of presidential caliber, but she is not the incarnation of evil many in the media make her to be, and efforts to do so are a waste

--TimBowman

She did a better job running Alaska than Obozo is doing ruining the U.S.

--StephenJ.Smith

Twenty-four thousand pages of email voyeurism reveal a politician who has successfully hidden her virtues behind closed blinds. As Alaska governor, Palin was kind to her staff, responsive to her constituents and protective of her state. She sought God's guidance in difficult decisions, made time for her family and found media questions on the provenance of her youngest child to be "flippin' unbelievable."

Heaven forbid.

--joinamerica

There is only one reason why this woman is always in the news. She is a product of the Hollywood Liberals to muddy the Republican's chance of winning next election.

The media portrays her as annoying whenever the Republicans has a chance of winning.  Now she is being touted as someone ' great in her job ' so she can run again next elections.

Her daughter was in Dancing with the Stars and the media helped Bristol in dismissing that baby daddy as a total scumbag.

Republicans, let’s not get tricked into this circus, we have to get our country back from these circus makers.

--Travol

She did her job for 1/2 term in office. She stalled for years turning over emails that were obviously cleaned up before they were turned over to the press. She spent much of her 1/2 term campaigning for V.P. with Sen. McCain, so I guess she must have telecommuted to work? She abused her power in office to get a State trooper fired who was divorcing her sister. Now what was your point?

-- HotRod

The liberal media should spend their time investigating Obama and asking him pertinent questions like, why are you bombing Libya, why did you sell guns to Mexican drug lords, why did you spend $3 trillion dollars on "stimulus" yet created no new jobs? But no, they think it's more important to rummage through Palin's trash. Incredible.

-- jjmart

*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.

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Photo: Sarah Palin delivers an address in Southern California earlier this year. Credit: Robyn Beck / Associated Press

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