November 1, 2010 at 1:06 am (By Amba)

I just realized that that’s the precise word for my current political mood.  It ceased to be “ambivalent” quite some time ago.

It feels so good to put your finger on something.

Twittering was going on about this article on Politico, saying that a lot of Republicans are trying to figure out how to defeat Sarah Palin for the 2012 nomination.

Damned if it didn’t make her look good to me.  And I was not a fan.  (So why didn’t Democrats’ scorn for her have the same effect?  Because I discounted it so completely.  In the twisted logic of countersuggestibility, that somehow makes sense.)

I twittered that and got an e-mail from Ron:

I’m still unsure if Palin should be president…(first thought: no) but it’s more interesting to see all this stuff play out, while Obama is going in the opposite direction.  If Palin can defeat her own party…she may be getting the training needed to defeat the dems!  2 years is a long way off….

I answered:

I’m not sure she’d be such a disaster.  Gut instinct is worth a lot more than book learnin’.  She could store the necessary knowledge in her advisers.

And Ron wrote back:

let’s say that happens….and she has a successful presidency.  Boy…that will mess with a lot of heads.  Though it shouldn’t.  Isn’t Palin the kind of figure Dems used to be proud came from America? (a la the screwball comedy?)

Bingo.  It feels so good to put your finger on something.  Even when it’s somebody else’s finger.

That’s exactly what Palin is.  She is the first female president out of a screwball comedy:  warmhearted, ditzy and clueless like a fox, a character out of the American folk tradition by way of classic Hollywood.

cross-posted at Cloven Not Crested


  1. Countersuggestible. « Cloven Not Crested said,

    […] cross-posted at Ambiance Published in: […]

  2. Ron said,

    and it’s important to note the educated figures in screwball comedies have a mixed track record. Education itself is usually not attacked, but educated figures are frequently seen as bemused fools ( like in Ball of Fire ,The Lady Eve or Arsenic and Old Lace ) or slothful moochers. ( My Man Godfrey) I can’t say I see an “Obama” figure in classic screwball comedy (suggestions?) but is refreshing to see situations where educated figures aren’t also implicitly authority figures.

  3. Melinda said,

    So why didn’t Democrats’ scorn for her have the same effect? Because I discounted it so completely.

    Also, you’d expect the other party to scorn the candidate. Good is what I do, bad is when you do the same thing.

  4. amba12 said,

    Yes. And also, you could look at Democrats sneering at Sarah and say “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” That is, their thinking she’s bad doesn’t automatically make her good. Republicans hating Obama isn’t a sufficient reason to like him. It’s too predictable and reflexive.

    Triangulation is not a complete escape from bipolarity, but it’s a start.

  5. amba12 said,

    All this springs from the new “logic” of countersuggestibility, which I fear could merely be senility . . . or a combination of fed-upness and stress that is making me fire off without thinking. But both thinking and firing off without thinking have a 50% chance of hitting the mark, so what the hell.

  6. amba12 said,

    If your arrows are boomerangs, you might even get lucky and hit a bull’s-eye by firing in the opposite direction.

  7. Maxwell James said,

    I find Palin more hotheaded than warmhearted, and I’m very tired of gut-instinct presidents who outsource their thinking to advisers (I consider Obama as well as Bush in this category). But I do see the essential comedy of her rise. She’s the Mrs. Hyde to the feminist movement’s Dr. Jeckyll.

  8. wj said,

    And here I read the headline and took it to mean a situation where the campaign ads for someone convince me to vote against them. (See the campaign for Governor in California.) As such, it definitely captures my reaction to this campaign.

    As for Ms. Palin, suppose she were to have a successful presidency — one seen as successful by everybody, which is an enormous hurdle, by the way. That would require a major revision in a lot of thinking. But not, I would argue, bigger than the one required for a lot of people to see her as a success, regardless of what happened during it.

    And good advisors, assuming she was moved to acquire any, would only be relevant if she paid some attention to their input. On the evidence so far (admittedly subject to change), I certainly wouldn’t count on that.

  9. amba12 said,

    Of course, life isn’t a movie, either. Although America sometimes seems not to know it

  10. realpc920 said,

    We elected smart educated Obama as a reaction to gut instinct Bush. So now we could elect gut instinct Palin as a reaction to smart educated Obama. As if it even mattered whether the president knows a lot of facts and dates, or not. The president needs practical common sense and leadership and charisma. Obama, Bush and Palin all have all of that. But to be a really successful president you mostly need dumb luck. Clinton had a good economy and no major crises, but that doesn’t make a president successful, or great. You need a crisis that you happen to react to in a way that turns out, after the fact, to have been sensible. Of course, you can’t know at the time how it will turn out.

    So G. W. Bush would have been successful, even great, if he had reacted in sensible and effective ways to the the crises during his presidency. Obama would have been successful, or great, if the economy had for some reason spontaneously recovered.

    So all I’m saying is, it really doesn’t matter what kind of person the president is — smart, dumb, liberal, conservative, etc. — they just need some common sense and charisma, and certain kinds of luck.

    Palin has as good a chance as anyone of being a successful president. If things started getting better during her presidency, Republicans would give her the credit. And if things got worse, the Democrats would get enraged at her for being dumb.

    Education doesn’t matter. Especially considering some of the political hogwash now being taught in college. The result is people who think they know and understand infinitely more than they actually do. I voted for Obama because even though he is educated, he doesn’t seem to be a know-it-all. He somehow kept his common sense all through higher education.

  11. Peter Hoh said,

    Yeah, that Lincoln dude was so lucky that the Civil War broke out. Really burnished his reputation.

    Snark aside, the point that being a great president depends on chance is certainly true. Lincoln struggled to find competent military leadership during the Civil War. His bad luck was that Lee went with the rebels. He didn’t accept the weak performance of his early generals, and relieved them of their duties. Perseverance in the face of setbacks can lead to greatness, or great failure. Fortunately for the Union, and the nation as a whole, Lincoln found his general, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    It’s too early to judge Obama. There’s no real way to see what would have happened without the stimulus — or if GM had been allowed to fall apart.

    Is there a way out of Afghanistan and Iraq? How does the Health Care bill look 25 years from now? Does Obama manage to find a middle way to begin addressing our debt and our looming entitlement crisis? And how does that play out over the next 20 years?

    Obama could ace all of these, and still not be considered a great president. Tackling the debt, for instance, will stave off a crisis, but that doesn’t earn the greatness points a president gets from beating a crisis. And there is no way to define a win in Afghanistan or Iraq, so finding a way out of those wars won’t count, either.

    And no matter who is in office, the war on terror is a very long one that won’t be won in my lifetime. There won’t be a marker, the way the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War. There will be no negotiated settlement, as with the IRA. Eventually, we’ll realize that it’s been 5 years since al qaeda or it’s affiliates have launched an attack, and then 5 years later, we’ll notice that it’s been 10 years.

  12. Randy said,

    Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

    -Calvin Coolidge

  13. amba12 said,

    He is so right. I didn’t know that quote, or not consciously, but I had independently come to the same conclusion :-P

  14. Ron said,

    Ah, but how do we know when/if the persistent fail? When talent and genius flame out, it’s obvious, they’re shooting stars and then poof! But when the persistent fail? Do you really notice a sea of neutrinos?

  15. amba12 said,

    The persistent fail and then try again. They die trying. The publisher of Natural History is doing that right now. I mean, not dying. Still trying.

    I guess it was the Hubble story that finally really drove home to me how “perseverance isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

  16. Ron said,

    I know the persistent try again, that’s not the point. I’m trying to spot when, despite trying again and again they still fail! No one talks about that! If the answer is “never”…well, what question are we really asking?

  17. Randy said,

    Saw the quote on a little card when we visited Coolidge’s birthplace last year.

    Ron: I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure that knowing when they fail was the point. It seems to me that the idea of persistence paying is not necessarily doing the same thing over and over, rather learning from the experience and adapting that knowledge to continued pursuit of what will work. Edison & company’s repeated failures devising an effective light bulb come to mind as good examples of persistence and adaptation.

  18. amba12 said,

    Perseverance undoubtedly does not have a 100% success record, but its record is way beyond that of anything else.

  19. Ron said,

    Look, I’m not trying to be a stinker! :D It’s just that yarn is always only spun one way; maybe the persistent should know when to quit! (see, ‘pre-nuked Japanese Military in WWII’) Maybe persistence can morph into monomania (and not in a good way!) or maybe it has costs that are too high for most of us to pay! I want to see something more three dimensional, than ‘ant=good, grasshopper=bad’. It’s useful to know when hortatory homilies morph into jejune bromides! ( whew! Had to break out my purple crayon there!)

    Just askin’!

  20. amba12 said,

    The Taoist point of view is that any statement needs its opposite as an antidote to excess. So, sure. Perseverance in a lost cause is what we call quixotic. It can be counterproductive and even destructive. People can become possessed of bad ideas as well as good ones. Hitler had this notion that getting rid of the Jews would make everything all right. And he persevered.

    Hitler may have been scrawny and little,
    but boy oh boy, he sure could hittle.

    The fact remains that monomania, as tragic as it can sometimes be, also put things across that otherwise would never have seen the light of day, that transformed life and culture.

  21. Ron said,

    Yes! Well, I was thinking of more personal failings in my own life where I should have quit in hindsight! But Hitler works too….

  22. Melinda said,

    This is on my reading list for the near future.

    And I was getting indigestion from swallowing hortatory homilies, so I took a dose of jejune bromides.

  23. Melinda said,

  24. amba12 said,

    What a find, Melinda!! A tool for distinguishing between futile and fruitful perseverance!

    “we fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit” Brilliant! I’m ordering it.

  25. Melinda said,

    Thanks. Me too.

  26. realpc920 said,

    It also depends on how you define success. If you want to be recorded in history as a great American president, you will need a lot more than persistence. You will need a great crisis and the skill and luck to steer the country through. Being president when the Civil War broke out could be considered bad luck, if you want an easy uneventful presidency, or good luck if you want to be remembered as great.

    We can each define our own success, so there really is no formula that everyone can follow. It’s much easier to define a formula for failure — if you want to be a failure, listen carefully to the people who try to discourage you. Let them convince you to give up your dreams. Don’t ignore people who try to drag you down to their level because they are envious.

    I think there might be one thing that is true of all highly successful people — they are good at not listening.

  27. amba12 said,

    I think there might be one thing that is true of all highly successful people — they are good at not listening.

    Very good!

  28. Icepick said,

    I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    Persistence means nothing more than speed, strength, wisdom, understanding, or skill. If an extremely persistent man steps out in front of a bus he’ll be just as much a smear on the road as would a derelict.

  29. Ron said,

    Melinda! Great find!

  30. wj said,

    Persistence is certainly important. But what is at least equally important is to understand that it is persistence towards one’s goals, not persistence in one’s methods. And what we all too often see is people who persist in the methods that they (try to) use, and so repeatedly fail. Even worse, some of them essentially double down, trying to do even more of the approach which has already proven not to work.

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