Resurrecting their reputations
By Elan Barnehama
In an odd way Sarah Palin’s performance on Saturday Night Live this past weekend and Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama on Meet the Press served similar purposes for each public figure. While both events accomplished their immediate election related goals, each appearance seemed to support a personal agenda to regain and rebuild personal reputations.
Sarah Palin has become more and more irritated withher handlers and the top brass of the McCain campaign who have mishandled and muted, if not censored, her. They have allowed her reputation to suffer and it’s become increasingly clear that she will do what it takes to emerge from this election with her national reputation intact. She’s starting to speak to reporters (her own decision?) and recently wondered out loud about the ineffectiveness of the campaign’s robo calls. At the same time, she offered her take on what she would do if she were in charge of the campaign.
Palin seems to be simultaneously trying to keep the McCain campaign afloat while looking for a lifeboat. Is she thinking that she will be the 2012 presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party? Ask Hillary about celebrating that title to early. Or does her future lie, like Gov. Huckabee, as a TV talk show host. If she were auditioning for that future last Saturday night on SNL, she clearly showed her readiness. For many, myself included, she hasn’t shown that same readiness for the role of Vice President or President—but that audition is far from over.
For many, Democrats, Republicans, Independents alike—I’ll lump them together and call them centrists—Colin Powell was the one last hope of stopping the Bush Administration’s rush to war. Many centrists had hoped that he would have spoken out publicly against the ill-planned invasion of Iraq. But, he either didn’t or couldn’t stop the momentum within the Bush White House and for that, he shared the blame for our misguided actions in Iraq.
It was hard to imagine that Powell did not know he was presenting false information about Saddam’s threat to the world. Maybe he didn’t know, but it’s easy to think that he should have. And maybe he did speak out against the Iraq invasion within the Bush cabinet meetings, but he didn’t speak out to the press and his silence to the press was an affirmation of the Bush Administration assertions about the ties between Saddam and 9/11.
While Colin Powell’s complaint about the narrowing of the Republican Party sound genuine and heartfelt, he too seems to be trying to recover from the tainting his reputation took during his tenure in the Bush Administration. This election offers Mr. Powell an opportunity to recover what was once his unique place in American politics.
It’s likely that both Palin and Powell will be successful in their personal pursuits. But, what’s also become increasingly likely is that, after the last vote is counted on November 4th, neither Sarah Palin nor Colin Powell will be able to bring this country together to resurrect our national reputation and to begin to rebuild our country. What once promised (again) to be a unifying election has (again) turned into anything but.
Elan Barnehama is a writer living in Western Massachusetts. He has taught at several colleges and was, most recently, a Senior Writer for Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His commentaries have aired on public radio and appeared in newspapers. E-mail Elan at: email@example.com.