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Lipstick on Which Pig?

Joyce Marcel

DUMMERSTON, Vt. - This is for all of you who are truly frightened by Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin: give it a rest.      

The corruption scandals, Troopergate, her musings on how to ban library books, the moose slaughter, the drill-baby-drill, the creationist stupidity, the pregnant underage daughter and the acceptance of statutory rape as a marriage-brokering tool, the bridge to nowhere and all the rest of it - including the story on the front page of The New York Times on Sunday about how she hired most of her junior high school yearbook to run her government - well, yes, Sarah Palin reeks.   

Meanwhile, the real danger of her candidacy has been ignored. It took Frank Rich, on the Times' op-ed page on Sunday, to point out that McCain, in his desperation to be president, has so compromised himself that he allowed the party to pick a running mate who is younger, stronger, more vital and more forceful. With McCain so weak, Palin and the men who pull her strings will take over the office of the Imperial Vice-Presidency, Dick Cheney's operation, which is already up and running the country. The Republicans are proposing another weak, lame presidential figurehead, with the real power concentrated behind closed doors.   

I'm not arguing that Palin wouldn't be a real danger to what's left of our democracy, but the reality of the 24-hour news cycle is that for every lash, there's an immediate and equal backlash. The Palin bounce? It lasted exactly two weeks. The news media, like so many young children stricken with an advanced case of attention deficit disorder, is easily attracted by bright and shiny objects.      

This week it moved to another narrative: is the second great depression coming? And if so, when?       

Every time a large financial institution founders, the press is on it like a pack of wolves. But they move on once they've stripped the story to the bone. Our crumbling financial infrastructure has been crumbling for quite some time, yet after Bear Stearns fell and Countrywide was bought out, all we heard about was Palin, pigs and lipstick. Now these names have returned to the news, and the names of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers are being added to the Wall of Shame.    

The crumbling of the American economy raises many critical questions. The first, of course, is whether our banks - and our savings - are safe. Eleven federally insured banks and thrifts have failed this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures bank accounts and CDs up to $100,000, is reporting that its funds have dropped below the minimum target level set by Congress. A Treasury Dept. loan might be needed to shore the fund up if Washington Mutual or another struggling financial institution fails.   

The Feds - using taxpayer dollars - helped Bear Stearns in its sale to J.P, Morgan Chase & Co. They just bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now they're shoring up AIG. America's capital market is going up in smoke. We're still fighting two foreign wars. Where will the money come from to bail out the FDIC, or will the government even care? Is anyone asking these questions?      

Still, FDIC officials have said that 98 percent of U.S. banks are still sound and well funded. So don't panic. For now. Given the financial turmoil, we return once again to the political reality that it's the economy, stupid.      

So how fit is McCain to be president? This is a man who has admitted that he doesn't know much about economics. A man whose chief economic advisor (until he was forced to fire him) was former Senator Phil  Gramm, Mr. Enron-Loophole, Mr. "Nation of Whiners," Mr. Reduce-Government-Oversight-on-Banking-Insurance-and-Brokerage-Activities or, in other words, the architect of what's happening right now.       

On Monday, McCain said, "The fundamentals of the American economy are strong." On Tuesday, forced to backtrack, he said he meant that "American workers, the backbone of the economy, were productive and resilient." Still backtracking, he then called the economic situation "a total crisis" and decried the "greed" in Wall Street and Washington. He sounded like a babbling fool.        

McCain's solution? A commission to study what went wrong.      

This isn't 9/11. We know what went wrong. The moneychangers wrecked the temple. We don't need a commission. We need a new government.   

According to James Kunstler, who writes a well-respected if slightly profane financial blog whose title I cannot repeat here, "The Republicans must be clearly identified as the party that wrecked America... it's hard to imagine the American people giving the clean-up task to the very group that created the mess -- no matter how many cute little faces Sarah Palin can make on TV."  

Obama's strength in this campaign has always been issues, particularly economic ones. Right now he's vague about solutions, but he's a bright man who listens to bright advisors.       

The country is looking ito the abyss. Suddenly the bleats about lipstick on pigs, sexism, elitism and all the other Republican tricks don't seem to mean a thing. The campaign is back on Obama's ground - are you really better off than you are eight years ago? And if not, who do you blame? "The party that wrecked America," that's who. Do you really want four more years?     

Economically, legally, morally, politically, scientifically - wherever you look, the Republicans have failed. They've even failed with FEMA again. Supposedly, the damage from Hurricane Ike in Texas is as bad as it was in New Orleans, so FEMA has instituted a 2,000-foot no-fly zone to prohibit the press from taking pictures. Brownie's successors aren't doing a heck of a job, either.        

Sarah who?

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Joyce Marcel is a columnist for the Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer and The American Reporter ( A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through Write her at

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