Wendy Button John Edwards

It’s usually the wordsmiths who fool the people. This time, the speechwriter left the campaign, seeing through the rhetoric.

Having worked in politics, I know that absolutely none
of this is on the level. This back and forth is posturing, a charade,
and a political game. These lines are what I refer to as “hooker
lines”—a sure thing to get applause and the press to scribble as if
they’re reporting meaningful news.

What’s that pull quote from? The informative blog by Wendy Button,
former (and recent) speechwriter for Sen. Obama, and before him,
Senators John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. This was a
Democratic insider who was, finally, ostracized.

This drift started on a personal level with the fall of
former Senator John Edwards. It got stronger during the Democratic
National Convention when I counted the substantive mentions of poverty
on one hand and a whole bunch of bad canned partisan lines against
Senator John McCain. Some faith was lifted after Senator Hillary
Clinton’s grace during a difficult hour. But that faith was dashed when
I saw that someone had raided the Caligula set and planted the old
columns at Invesco Field.

The final straw came the other week when Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher
(a.k.a Joe the Plumber) asked a question about higher taxes for small
businesses. Instead of celebrating his aspirations, they were mocked.
He wasn’t “a real plumber,” and “They’re fighting for Joe the
Hedge-Fund manager,” and the patronizing, “I’ve got nothing but love
for Joe the Plumber.”

Having worked in politics, I know that absolutely none of this is on
the level. This back and forth is posturing, a charade, and a political
game. These lines are what I refer to as “hooker lines”—a sure thing to
get applause and the press to scribble as if they’re reporting
meaningful news.

That’s a painful but telling description, “hooker lines”, and regrettably, they’re working to lure the elite media.

As the nation slouches toward disaster, the level of
political discourse is unworthy of this moment in history. We have
Republicans raising Ayers and Democrats fostering ageism with “erratic”
and jokes about Depends. Sexism. Racism. Ageism and maybe some
Socialism have all made their ugly cameos in election 2008. It’s not
inspiring. Perhaps this is why I found the initial mocking of Joe so
offensive and I realized an old line applied: “I didn’t leave the
Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me.”

The party I believed in wouldn’t look down on working people under
any circumstance. And Joe the Plumber is right. This is the absolutely
worst time to raise taxes on anyone: the rich, the middle class, the
poor, small businesses and corporations.

It’s about time. A true, classic Democrat, all about the purity of
the debate based on whose values are best for the ‘little guy.’

Not only has this party belittled working people in this
campaign from Joe the Plumber to the bitter comments, it has also been
part of tearing down two female candidates. At first, certain Democrats
and the press called Senator Clinton “dishonest.” They went after her
cleavage. They said her experience as First Lady consisted of having
tea parties. There was no outrage over “Bros before Hoes” or “Iron My
Shirt.” Did Senator Clinton make mistakes? Of course. She’s human.

But here we are about a week out and it’s déjà vu all over again.
Really, front-page news is how the Republican National Committee paid
for Governor Sarah Palin’s wardrobe? Where’s the op-ed about how Obama
tucks in his shirt when he plays basketball or how Senator Biden
buttons the top button on his golf shirt?

What?

What planet am I living on? Everyone knows that when it
comes to appearance, there’s a double standard for women politicians.
Remember the speech Speaker Pelosi gave on the floor the day of the
bailout vote? Check out how many stories commented on her hair that day
and how many mentioned Congressman Barney Frank’s.

Here we are discussing Governor Palin’s clothes—oh wait, now we’re
on to the make-up—not what either man is going to do to save our
economy. This isn’t an accident. It is part of a manufactured narrative
that she is stupid.

How honorable, even brave, of this woman to de-camp and reconcile herself with ‘values voters’. Because we’re all values voters.

How many other political operatives have been bold enough to come out with this kind of honesty?

Governor Palin and I don’t agree on a lot of things,
mostly social issues. But I have grown to appreciate the Governor. I
was one of those initial skeptics and would laugh at the pictures. Not
anymore. When someone takes on a corrupt political machine and a
sitting governor, that is not done by someone with a low I.Q. or a
moral core made of tissue paper. When someone fights her way to get
scholarships and work her way through college even in a jagged line,
that shows determination and humility you can’t learn from reading
Reinhold Niebuhr. When a mother brings her son with special needs onto
the national stage with love, honesty, and pride, that gives hope to
families like mine as my older brother lives with a mental disability.
And when someone can sit on a stage during the Sarah Palin rap on
Saturday Night Live, put her hands in the air and watch someone in a
moose costume get shot—that’s a sign of both humor and humanity.

You betcha’.

Has she made mistakes? Of course, she’s human too. But
the attention paid to her mistakes has been unprecedented compared to
Senator Obama’s “57 states” remarks or Senator Biden using a version of
the Samuel Johnson quote, “There’s nothing like a hanging in the
morning to focus a man’s thoughts.”

And now, we’re seeing news stories about the ‘mock lynching’ of
Sarah Palin in a Los Angeles yard display. This is outrageous. And the
more it goes that way, the more it reveals about the race itself.

But thank God for election 2008. We can talk about the
wardrobe and make-up even though most people don’t understand the
details about Senator Obama’s plan with Iraq. When he says, “all combat
troops,” he’s not talking about all troops—it leaves a residual force
of as large as 55,000 indefinitely. That’s not ending the war; that’s
half a war.

Never mind the details. People are impressed enough with the speeches, and hardly paying attention to such details.

But under or beyond the rhetoric, one of those who wrote it is
feeling remorse over what is being lost in the actual political
process, after the words drift away.

I can no longer justify what this party has done and
can’t dismiss the treatment of women and working people as just part of
the new kind of politics. It’s wrong and someone has to say that. And
also say that the Democratic Party’s talking points—that Senator John
McCain is just four more years of the same and that he’s President
Bush—are now just hooker lines that fit a very effective and perhaps
wave-winning political argument…doesn’t mean they’re true. After all,
he is the only one who’s worked in a bipartisan way on big challenges.

There it is. The money line. “Talking points…are now just hooker
lines” that are effective and ride the wave of momentum. But that “doesn’t mean they’re true.”

There is so much coming out so late. Depending on where voters are
looking and listening, chances are they aren’t even hearing anything
but the finessed talking points and the politically expedient polls.

But the poll that counts is on November 4.

Before I cast my vote, I will correct my party
affiliation and change it to No Party or Independent. Then, in the
spirit of election 2008, I’ll get a manicure, pedicure, and my hair
done. Might as well look pretty when I am unemployed in a city swimming
with “D’s.”

That’s fine. Swimming with mainstream America is not nearly so cold or harsh as the shark tank fighting to catch a wave.

How much deeper you resonate with the people when you level with them.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....