Achilles' Heel?

The Vice President debate has just wrapped and the spinning has begun. I'm petty, so will focus on just one question: Did Sarah Palin simply dodge Gwen Ifill's question, or did she not know the meaning of "Achilles' Heel?"


Anonymous said...

Post Debate Observations

Friday, October 3. 2008
First, the debate.

Most Democrats will claim Biden won and most Republicans will say Palin won, but it isn' t the truth.

I'll give the first 15 minutes to Biden and call the rest a tie. Biden performed as I would expect someone with 35 years of experience debating in the senate to perform - well. Palin was painful to watch during the first 15 minutes and then, apparenly finding her stride, went toe to toe with Biden; quite an accomplishment for someone with virtually no debating experience.

Now, the venue.

I agreed to take this gig as a favor to a friend. I had certain preconceived notions about what it would be like, but, sadly, even those low expectations were not met.

The KOIN folks told me it would be a non-partisan event. If you really wanted a non partisan event you wouldn't hold it in the most liberal neigborhood in Portland, so, as I say, I had certain expectations. When I arrived at the event I noticed the only organization with a table set up was the Bus Project. So much for even the facade of non-partisanship.

The crowd was exactly what I expected, only more so. Booing everything Palin said and mocking every colloquialism she uttered. It was like being in a room full of petulant, spoiled three year olds who had overheard their parents swearing one too many times. One liberal bloger shouted profanity throughout the event and, in spite of KOIN assurances at the beginning of the event that this would not be tolerated from the crowd, in spite of the fact that there were a half dozen KOIN people within six feet, he was never reprimanded - until I popped off at him.

I suppose the thing I detest most about the Hawthorne types is that they think they are smart, despite all evidence to the contrary. Look folks, if you're over thirty, living in Portland, and you make barely more than minimum wage, it's not because of Bush or "the corporations," it's because you're not very bright, have made poor life decisions and are taking no action to correct, are a PhD candidate or are in the military. I am fairly confident in saying there were no PhD candidates in the audience and I sure as heck didn't see any uniforms.

The crowd further demonstrated its tolerance and maturity in the post debate comment interviews. A woman got up and said she really couldn't comment on the debate because of all the booing every time Sarah Palin spoke and the remaining crowd, as though rehearsed in advanced, all derisively boo-hooed and waaaaahhh'd in unison.

Worst of all the @#$%% food and drink lines were a mile long, only one of three windows being staffed.

Thumbs down to KOIN, thumbs down to the crowd and thumbs down to the Baghdad.

On a final note, I want to thank the woman from Blue Oregon who helped me find the WIFI button on the laptop I borrowed. I should know better by now than to rely on equipment I have never used before.

MightyToyCannon said...

Tim, thank you for commenting on my post. I’m presuming you’re not a regular reader of Culture Shock, but have been assigned to respond to blog posts that are critical of John McCain or Sarah Palin. Isn’t the internet a wonderful tool?

For other readers, Tim’s post refers to the live blogging he did from the Bagdad’s debate-watching party last night. Tim’s post was originally on – “a place for conservative Oregonians to gather and share news, commentary, and gossip.”

I don’t know whether or not the Bagdad event was billed as “non-partisan,” but Tim is right in observing that such an event in the heart of SE Portland is unlikely to be balanced. He apparently felt alone in the crowd, just as I would have felt had I attended the Republic National Convention and been surrounded by seemingly angry people chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” and “Drill, Baby, Drill” all around me. But then, I qualify as a “Hawthorne Type,” which Tim detests because “they think they are smart, despite all evidence to the contrary.”

Now back to my question, which Tim’s robo-response didn’t address: Did Sarah Palin simply dodge Gwen Ifill's question, or did she not know the meaning of "Achilles' Heel?"

When a job interviewer asks “What is your greatest weakness?” the practiced way to answer is: “I suppose my co-workers would say that I work too hard, care too much, and am too organized and honest.” That’s pretty much what Biden did. Had Palin listened to the question, she very easily could have said, “I suppose my Achilles’ Heel is that some people think I’m a Maverick who’s willing to take on her own party.” Then she could have proceeded to recite another rehearsed attack on Obama.

But she didn’t do that. Instead, she gave what seemed to be her closing remarks. My sense is that she didn’t understand the question. So she doesn’t know Greek mythology, what’s the big deal? In the total scheme of things, I frankly don’t care. But when coupled with her inability to respond to Katie Couric’s questions about the newspapers and magazines she reads, or other Supreme Court cases, she strikes me as someone who is unread and incurious. I think that’s a weakness for a candidate for VP – let’s call it her Achilles’ Heel.

I’ve always been curious about how we learn and pass on cultural references, how words and phrases enter and stick in our language (and shape our world views). I have no idea how or when I learned that “Achilles’ Heel” refers to a seemingly small, yet fatal weakness. I can’t recite Achilles’ story, except in broad brush strokes. Yet somehow, I know what the phrase means, can use it in a sentence, and can respond to the question, “What is your Achilles’ Heel?”

How do we learn these things? Perhaps by reading a lot, being curious, and getting a good education that includes a healthy dose of the arts and humanities. I don’t know whether Sarah Palin reads a lot (or what), or much about her education (other than attending five colleges).

I don't think Palin is stupid, and please don't accuse me of making a sexist attack. For the record, and to show a tiny bit of intellectual honesty, I think Palin did a very good job in the debate. She certainly wasn’t the train wreck which many were expecting (and for which some were hoping). She did an admirable job of communicating the way Republican campaign strategists like: Use short sound bites, attack with distortions of the facts, adopt a folksy tone to connect with “Joe Six Pack” and “Hockey Moms,” and blame the media elite.

shobiz said...

Thanks, MTC, for that sharply perceptive response to the Republogger's robo-comment. As always, I am inspired by your critical thinking. But then, I'm a "Hawthorne Type," as well, so I guess I'm biased. Luckily, I do make quite a bit more than minimum wage, and although there are no PhD candidates in my house, we do have a board-certified MD.

Speaking of that, I have to say I find it highly unlikely there were no PhDs or PhD candidates in attendance at the Bagdad last night. Maybe the woman from Blue Oregon who helped Mr. Lyman with his laptop has an advanced degree. Hell, there's probably a PhD candidate working the McMenamis beer taps. (That might explain any poor service Mr. Lyman received: the bartender was in the back working on his thesis.)

In any case, kudos, and here's to an education that includes arts and humanities. I'm a big fan of colloquial metaphors that derive from folklore. It's something of a... what's the word? Erm... weakness.