While watching the speakers at the Republican National Convention (I Watch This Crap So You Don’t Have To™), I am really struck by the dismissive way the Republican Party has been framing Barack Obama. But more than that, I’m struck by the way their words are often inherently contradictory. Do they think that we just don’t listen?
Rudy Giuliani about McCain:
“a man who believes in serving a cause greater than self-interest”
“he was called to public service again”
Ah, a cause greater than self-interest. We’ve heard this many times before. And I have a lot of difficulty with somebody who talks about being beyond “self-interest” when he cheated on his first wife multiple times. I tend to make a lot of inferences about character from this type of behavior, especially when somebody has children. Yeah, I’m judgmental. And he’s hypocritical.
Plus, should I mention the Keating 5 here? What about using his daughter to further his political ambition? For that matter, what about marrying somebody who could assure him the money and connections to get where he is today?
Giuliani, speaking about Obama:
On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? He worked — I said — I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume.
Let’s get one thing straight. Community organizing is service. It is, hopefully, a “cause greater than self-interest.” And I am always thankful to the gifted people who make use of their Ivy League educations to work as community organizers.
Obama wasn’t born into privilege. And he didn’t marry money. So he could have just taken his gifts and used them in his self-interest. But what Obama represents is one of the biggest reasons why I favor affirmative action in schools and in hiring. (I should note that I DO NOT KNOW if Obama was a recipient of affirmative action. He seems pretty damn smart, so I think it’s entirely likely that he got in on “just his merits.” Ahem.)
Because the truth is that African Americans and other people of color with college educations typically give back more to the community than do white Americans. Because they know the need.
So did Obama waste that Ivy League education?
On the other hand, if you are a legacy admit or your father used some influence to get you into a privileged spot, you might not recognize just how lucky you are. Because you might squander all that privilege and opportunity and turn out to be a student at the bottom of your class. And frighteningly enough, you still might end up as President.
Sarah Palin also dipped into the doublespeak:
I realized that sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power-brokers. That’s why true reform is so hard to achieve.
Yes, true reform is hard to achieve. But who are we talking about here? “Entrenched interests and power-brokers”? Sounds more like McCain than Obama to me. McCain, for all his reputation about being a “straight talking maverick,” has voted with Bush 100 percent of the time this year and more than 95 percent of the time last year. Now that’s reform for you.
Reform often comes from the grass-roots level. But Palin has a slam for those community organizers who are working towards reform:
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.
George Pataki also hammered on the “but it’s not a job” riff:
“[Barack Obama] was a community organizer. What in God’s name is a community organizer? I don’t even know if that’s a job.”
yet in talking about McCain, he talked about how “he puts the people first before himself” and about his “commitment to the people.”
So what you have here is a testament that only working in the government counts as any kind of service. PTA moms and hockey moms take note–what you’re doing isn’t real work. Volunteers who staff and donate to food pantries and work at soup kitchens–that’s not service. Educated individuals who run not-for-profits while taking home measly salaries–you’re wasting your education and your gifts. Those of you who have spent your time and talent working in the communities–bringing mental health care, finding resources, demanding change in the government, calling for accountability–you have been seriously dissed.
So community organizers, I call on you to get busy. Because we know that real reform can come from the grass-roots level. Let’s get back to work.