Being Condescending Toward Palin
Posted by languageandgrammar on September 30, 2008
We know that this is a blog about language and grammar, not politics, but we can stand it no longer. This nonsense about how difficult it will be for Senator Biden not to appear condescending to Governor Palin in this week’s vice presidential debate has to stop.
Nearly every single “news” programs on cable television (news is in quotes because these are not news but, at best, a combination of news and opinion) has extensively discussed the topic. How can Biden debate her and not sound condescending? How will he be perceived if he attacks her positions? It just goes on and on and on, day after day after day, as if guests and hosts were asked to lock their common sense in the dressing room before heading to the set.
The only reason that people are concerned about whether Biden will be viewed as being condescending to Palin is that there is a great deal of uncertainty about Palin’s qualifications to be vice president. That’s why people are concerned that Biden will look like a big, tough man bullying a poor, defenseless woman.
There has NEVER been any such discussion about Biden, Senator Barack Obama, or Senator John Edwards being condescending to Senator Hillary Clinton, nor should there have been. Did you ever hear a talking head saying before a debate, “How does Barack Obama talk to Clinton and not come off as condescending?” Clinton was running for president, just as they were. They were as respectful, or as disrespectful, to Clinton as they were to the other candidates; if anything, they were tougher on her because she was a serious candidate. She was their peer, not a little girl trying to do a man’s job.
The whole thing about Biden having to be careful to not be condescending toward Palin is because people, especially those on the political right, are concerned that Palin will look childish in comparison to Biden— not because she’s a woman, not because she’s younger, and not because she’s less experienced but because she may not be able to answer questions in an intelligent manner. So just to be sure, they’re making a preemptive strike so that if she doesn’t do well, they can distract attention from her lack of qualifications or preparation and shift the focus to Biden’s “condescension” toward her. Setting the stage in this way is, itself, what is condescending to Governor Palin. They, themselves, are implying by the very idea that Biden will be condescending that Palin will not be able to handle the debate. And, by the way, why is Senator Biden suddenly being characterized as condescending? Has this been a theme in his 30-plus years in Congress because this is all news to us. This seems to be something that the right-wing started as a preemptive strike, and it has shifted to a larger part of the media.
Remember, the woman is running for vice president, with a running mate who is in his 70s. There is a legitimate chance that she will be the president if she’s elected vice president. And we know very little about her. She has done, what, two interviews? And nothing she said in either has done anything to prove that she’s ready to be president–but they did raise very serious doubts about her knowledge on a whole host of important topics.
The only respectful thing to do–and something that is of vital importance to the country–is to treat her like any other vice presidential candidate. Maybe everyone, including her own Republican party, should give her a chance to either fail or succeed on her own.
Sherry and Paul
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