30 August 2008

The Palin Nomination

The news was greeted with surprise on this side of the Atlantic.

Most of us in Europe were surprised by Senator John McCain’s selec­tion, announced yesterday, of Michael Palin as his running mate. We have been in deep confusion over the American presidential campaign for several weeks, stymied over such questions as why the United States requires two years for a political process that most European nations can achieve, start to finish, in two months. Moreover, the French are puzzled that Barack Obama isn’t already President, since he is so man­i­fest­ly one of the two or three most fascina­ting creatures on earth today. I am confident that, if he loses in November, he will be offered the Presidency of France as a consolation prize.

One cannot overstate Obama’s popularity here. I know that’s the sort of news that dooms the chances of any American politician; the admi­ra­tion of the French, like a penchant for endives, arugula and Swiss board­ing schools, is an automatic disqualifier for high public office. But Obama’s following in France is a fact and it must be recognized. Elect him, and Parisians will begin eating Freedom Fries in solidarity.

Palin (left) is expected to appeal to voters who dress like him.

Against this backdrop of bewilderment, the selection of Michael Palin is especially confounding to our understanding of American politics. We vaguely recall that we have seen him on television wearing a dress, and we have seen him in movies holding either a fish or Maggie Smith. That lady is known here as “Moggy Smeese” and viewed as an out­stand­ing representative of the pernicious triviality of the English. (Our great French actresses are never funny, and that is a point of pride with us.) Palin’s career in comedy makes us wonder why McCain didn’t choose someone more familiar to us, indeed idolized by us: why were Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey passed over? We have reason to believe that Palin, like Moggy Smeese, is English, and previously it had been our under­stand­ing of American government that the President must be a U.S. citizen, as Lewis and Carrey are.

Addressing McCain’s weak support among conservative Christians, Palin also shares Vice-President Cheney’s interest in extreme interrogation methods.

However, we Europeans are constantly learning surprising things about America. Eight years ago, we learned that in the United States, un­like other ostensible democracies, the candidate who receives the most votes on the Supreme Court, rather than in the general election, is the victor. Discovering that America is not truly a democracy has made it easier to grasp much of what has happened since — such as the election of 2004, which we understand to have been decided by suicidal maniacs bent on the destruction of the planet. In France, we probably would not let such people vote; we certainly would not let them rule. We would take to the streets. Aux armes, citoyens! Allez, les Bleus!

This is not Palin’s first run for public office.

Since yesterday, our analysts, both the political and the Lacanian kinds, have struggled to clear up our confusion. They explain to us that Sen­a­tor McCain hopes that Palin will deliver an important bloc of voters whom Obama alienated during the Democratic primaries: name­ly, all those Americans who have memorized every single Monty Python sketch. Obama’s steadfast refusal, even during the Democratic Con­ven­tion last week, to say “Ni,” to sing the “Lumberjack Song,” or to dem­on­strate a Silly Walk, only handed McCain this opportunity.

A McCain–Palin administration would appoint conservative judges.

Only a few pundits have striven to explain that Senator McCain chose a different Palin, who is neither English nor a comedian, nor even a man. This woman Palin, we are told, is the Governor of Alaska, but that sen­tence alone poses insuperable challenges to our comprehension, since the French word gouverneur does not have an accepted feminine equiv­a­lent, and since until now we have been under the distinct im­pres­sion that Alaska was in Canada.

Wherever Alaska is, Palin boasts close ties to the logging industry.

We followed the Democratic Convention with great interest. So many of our all-time favorite personnages were in D’Enfer-Coloradó: both Beel and Eellary Cleen-Tong, former Président Hal Gaure, former Premier Ministre Tiède Kénnédy, and of course Obama himself.

But the Republican Convention won’t be a ratings winner here. We don’t care much for their personnages, particularly the notorious war crim­i­nal Georges Bouche. Though some of us have learned the name of Sénateur Jean Mack-Haine, we find him dull. So he once visited Vietnam — what Frenchman on holiday has not? The Club Med there is passé. Was there really no one better to choose? At least Mite Romné speaks French! (Or so we are told.)

Palin (left) is reputed to be a skilled debater.

It’s possible that we will take a moment to scrutinize La Gouverneur Palin, but mainly to see whether she is as chic as Michelle Obama; we will sigh happily that neither is quite so chic as Carla Bruni. It is a spec­ta­cle, this American election, but generally we prefer American movies: they are shorter, the acting is better, and there’s always the chance of a cameo by Jim Carrey.

The Americans, they are a funny presidential race, n’est-ce pas?

However, Palin’s debating techniques are somewhat unusual.