By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The definition of hubris

Long ago, a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri, he followed an unlikely path — he followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency. And a writer observed, “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity,” and I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman.

Sarah Palin in her convention speech, Sept. 3, 2008, comparing her qualifications for the vice presidency to those of Harry Truman.

Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon and stars and all the planets had fallen on me.

Harry Truman, speaking to reporters on April 13, 1945, upon learning that Franklin Roosevelt had died and he had ascended to the presidency. Truman was serving in his second term as a U.S. senator when FDR chose him to be his third-term running mate, and had won plaudits for his work as chairman of a committee that investigated military waste during World War II.

[O]n January 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, will be ready. I’m ready…. I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can’t blink.

Sarah Palin, Sept. 11, 2008, responding to Charlie Gibson’s question asking her whether she was ready to be president of the United States.

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  1. Chalicechick

    Does she not get that when she says “a writer,” that makes googling the quote, finding out Wetbrook Pegler wrote it, and then finding out Westbrook Pegler was a whckjob, more or less reflex?CC

  2. Dot Lane

    You’re assuming she actually did some research and had input into the writing of her acceptance speech. Given the way she tiptoed through anything substantive, like her attempt to prove she can sort of say the names of exotic world locales, I have my doubts. Hand puppets don’t use Google, so far as I know.

  3. Dunwich

    She’s a “cocky wacko.” Lincoln Chafee I didn’t hear the quote about war with Russia. I hope it wasn’t said with her usual Tracy Enid Flick look of determined zeal.

  4. Aaron Read

    Oh for God’s sake people, can we accept that Palin is a useless airhead who’s sole purpose is for McCain to appeal to the right-wingers and win the election?!?STOP TALKING ABOUT PALINAbsolutely NOTHING you say about Palin…short of Bristol having an abortion…is going to convince the right-wing conservatives to not vote for McCain. He has won every last one of their votes as of last week, and nothing is going to change that.START TALKING ABOUT **MCCAIN**The addition of Palin CAN significantly damage McCain’s chances at winning over the Independents that, for so long in this election, we all though McCain had a lock on.Have Biden go after the independents by smearing McCain as a right-wing fruitcake who kowtows to all the Bush cronies.Have Obama stay on message as an agent of hope and real change, energize the base.As long as the media stays focused on Palin, they really are acting as McCain’s “base”.

  5. acf

    Lincoln Chaffee didn’t say that Sarah Palin is ‘cocky wacko’. I know that makes a stirring headline, and argument for political nerds to hang their rage on, but it is cutting and pasting words for effect. What, in fact, he said was that he considered her assertion that Obama was too concerned with Al Qaeda terrorists getting read their legal rights to be wacky, and that her tone was very, very cocky. It’s a grammatical distinction, to be sure, but important, none the less.

  6. The Arranger

    Pegler, the source of Palin’s quote she used to describe Truman (and by extension herself) , once called Truman a “thin-lipped hater.”Bob in Peabody

  7. Rick

    Palin Derangement Syndrome Some of the symptoms are: 1.She gets in your head and drives you crazy.2.You are afraid she will get elected…and it drives you nuts.3.A Republican picked someone who will appeal to the base of his party….and it drives you bonkers.4. You feel the Democratic VP pick is so superior to her and can’t understand her appeal….and it drives you insane.5. You think the vetting process of a Republican candidate should be done by the Daily Kos not the Republican party…..and it drives you mad.6. She owns guns for Christ sakes.

  8. awk

    Let’s drill down further (word play intended). During On Point this morning, all participants — including the conservative — deplored the lack of knowledge she demonstrated during the Gibson interview. However, they seemed to give her half a pass in not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is by saying that she needs some time to come up-to-speed on diplomatic matters.I would think that any semi-literate news reader/viewer/listener would know what the Bush Doctrine is. One shouldn’t need to be a professional politician or diplomat. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that even her Cliff Notes mentors failed to include it in her briefing because they also thought so.This is truly beyond pathetic. And quite dangerous and worrisome. It reminds me of Senator Roman Hruska, who, when confronting the criticism that Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee — Albert Haynesworth — was given a “mediocre” rating by the ABA, famously said that mediocre people also needed representation on the Court.

  9. Dot Lane

    John McCain, in October of 2007:”I have had a strong and a long relationship on national security, I’ve been involved in every national crisis that this nation has faced since Beirut, I understand the issues, I understand and appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face from radical Islamic extremism…I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn’t a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn’t a governor for a short period of time.” So really, I’m just taking John McCain’s position that Sarah Palin isn’t prepared. Wait–what’s that you say? You say McCain is now saying there is someone with less mayoral experience than Giuliani and less experience as a governor than Romney who is qualified to step in and handle foreign policy if she has to? But that would make McCain a hypocrite! Or is going back on your principles to win an election the mavericky thing to do?

  10. Bill H.

    Democracies bring out not only the best of societies, sometimes they bring out the worst, and this threatens to be one of those times. McCain/Pailn is a cynical call for knee jerk reaction, an in-your-face thrust of the same order that calls for the abolition of the Massachusetts income tax. Tell us your fears and we’ll pander to them. It’s all about us, and to hell with tomorrow.

  11. O-FISH-L

    Perhaps the true definition of hubris is Charlie Gibson and the NY Times getting the Bush Doctrine wrong, then belittling Palin for it. This is from Dr. Charles Krauthammer, who coined the term in 2001 to define the first of at least four variations of the Bush Doctrine. Apparently Gibson and the Times wanted Palin to respond not to the current version of the Bush Doctrine, but to the outdated version three of four. You can’t make this stuff up!As Krauthammer said beautifully tonight, “Yes, Sarah Palin didn’t know what it is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn’t pretend to know — while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and “sounding like an impatient teacher,” as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes’ reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.”

  12. mike_b1

    Gee Fish, you sound just like a guy who is content with Palin, the economy, and the world. Funny you never mentioned any of that before. You must think the $100B we’re spending this month in Iraq and Afghanistan is worth every penny.

  13. MeTheSheeple

    I think Fish is really on to something with the changing “Bush Doctrine” and Palin’s attempts to describe a set of ideas as a single stationary thing.I mean, tonight the second part of the interview aired and a transcript was posted, and Palin can’t keep straight whether she was for the bridge or against the bridge, except she was always right and always consistent. But that’s OK — there must be two Palins at stake here.Same thing with earmarks — one Palin loves earmarks for her state and the other Palin sees them as wasteful. They’re just both getting interviewed simultaneously, and the corpus callosum is clearly getting overwhelmed.That silly media, trying to insist there’s only one Palin and that one Palin should be questioned for all the Palins’ actions. Long Live the McCain-Palin-Palin-Palin ticket!

  14. MeTheSheeple

    On a related note, someone’s suggesting there are at least 76 John McCains. As they used to say in the computer industry — the nice thing about standard is, there’s so many to choose from …

  15. Nial Liszt

    Have Obama stay on message as an agent of hope and real change, energize the base.This isn’t Afternoon Tea. It is a friggin’ street fight for the most powerful position on earth with political 2x4s the weapon of choice. Think it’s a coincidence that the only Dem who has succeeded in the last seven elections, is the only one who could play this way? Winning on the issues has nothing to do with it. You win by getting the votes of the last ten percent who decide by some gut response.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    MTP: There may be something to the observation that the Bush doctrine has shifted over time. But Palin’s defenders want us to ignore the plain truth: she didn’t know what Gibson was talking about even after he explained it to her, and she was unable to engage beyond skimming the surface with her talking points.Contrast that with George W. Bush’s response to Andy Hiller’s “gotcha” question during the 2000 presidential campaign, when Bush was asked to name the president of Pakistan. He couldn’t, but he basically knew who he was — he described the circumstances under which he’d come to power.Not that Bush is or was any foreign-policy savant, but it was that second layer of knowledge that Palin completely lacks.

  17. MeTheSheeple

    Knowledge and experience tend to be related, and the “experience” factor has been debated at length since Obama and then Palin became prospective leaders of this country.Just an observation, then, going back to “this Bush doctrine”/”these Bush doctrines”: It’s hard to find more experienced leaders than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney … and it’d be awfully hard to find someone who said the initial planning for the invasion of Iraq was a masterpiece. As even the initial round of histories has it — and I suspect “Fiasco” will be the gold standard for decades — such highly experienced individuals were even on track to bungle things worse, but for a few professionals who’d tried to argue profusely. At one point, the invasion was supposed to have been done with 25,000 troops.So experience and knowledge only get you so far if the judgment’s lacking, and perhaps values. Seems like voters would do well to consider a total package of the candidates, rather than these factors in isolation. People have been raising comparisons lately to Harry S Truman, who was woefully uninformed; he was, however, an experienced legislator with strong critical thinking skills, good values and pretty decent judgment.I truly hope voters take such rational decision-making into account, even as the talk lingers on lapel pins and lipstick-bearing hockey moms, lipstick-bearing bacon, and the like.

  18. Mark

    Ahhhh the ranting of the far-left.I love it.Dan angry that, god forbid, a major party vice presidential nominee consider herself ready for the job.Dot Lane assuming she is unqualified – probably solely because she is a woman. (or a conservative woman – damn traitor)Aaron Read hoping Palin’s daughter has an abortion.You’re all so progressive.

  19. Dot Lane

    You really can’t read for context can you mark?As I wrote, I am simply assuming Sarah Palin is unqualified using John McCain’s criteria for determining who is qualified to be president and who isn’t. And you’re right Mark, as a 25 year old woman I am assuming she is unqualified because she is a woman because I am engaged in the practice of self-loathing. I also secretly believe women shouldn’t have the right to vote, shouldn’t be allowed to hold property, and that you have every right to stare down my shirt because I’m asking for it. So now, according to you, I’m a sexist, and Peter Porcupine thinks I’m a bigot. How charming. Take your condescending lecture on sexism and save it for complaining about how McCain/Palin lost because liberals hate women.

  20. Doug Shugarts

    Rick- Howie Carr called. He wants his column back.

  21. MeTheSheeple

    A letter-writer to the Boston Globe went through the sexist arguments in a hurry. Thought it was interesting reading this morning …

  22. Joe Bones

    Yeah, “O-FISH-L”. Looks like you took a bite of the hubris apple yourself. Charles Krauthammer coined the term “REAGAN Doctrine” — not “Bush Doctrine” — by making it the title and subject of his April 1, 1985 Time Magazine piece. Can’t blame you for the mistake … been hearing it ever since Limbaugh made the same mistake on the air years ago.Typical Republican disinformation, consisting mainly of Limbaugh quotes and FoxNews propaganda. Every time O’Reilly or Rush comes up with another howler, it seems to echo through the trailer parks for decades …

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