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Pepe Escobar and Paul Jay react to Sarah Palin’s speech

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Good evening, and welcome to The Real News Network and ongoing coverage of the Republican National Convention. Joining me now live from the Xcel Center in Saint Paul, Minneapolis, is Real News analyst Pepe Escobar. Pepe, we just heard Sarah Palin speak. What’s your take?

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Well, I’ve got news for you, for America, and for the world: welcome to the lipstick pit bull. That’s what Sarah Palin really is. It’s very interesting to see how the Republicans organized the buildup in the stadium.

JAY: Here, hold up. Let’s just explain for people, just in case anyone missed this reference in the speech. Palin cracked a joke, saying, “What’s the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom?” And the answer is “Lipstick.” So go ahead.

ESCOBAR: It’s very interesting the way the Republicans billed this night towards Sarah Palin, the apotheosis of Sarah Palin. People had an inkling that she might be a tough woman, but not the way she expressed it, in fact. It all started with Governor Mike Huckabee. He was very condescending towards Obama in the beginning. Basically, he was saying that Obama brought from Europe, his triumphal tour of Europe, in fact, or “excellent adventure,” as Huckabee defined it, dangerous ideas, almost socialist, in fact—welfare state, more taxes. And he contrasted to what basically every Republican want: less taxes and less state; less governance, in fact. Then the stage came to Rudy Giuliani, which—he is still a sore loser. That’s the impression. You know, he behaves like a sort of third-grade stand-up comedian, cracking jokes all the time. The audience, they absolutely loves it—he can get away with practically anything. And he can even criminalize the profession, the activity, and the socially important activity, of being a community organizer. He practically described Obama, as a community organizer in Chicago, as a criminal, and, obviously, the audience absolutely love it, just like right now behind me. He talked a lot about offshore oil drilling, which is a key golden theme of John McCain’s and Sarah Palin’s platform. And he even coined his own slogan: drill, baby, drill—echoes of “Burn, baby, burn,” 1968 [sic], but that’s a very different slant towards it. And in terms of foreign policy, we are all Georgians. Rudy praised McCain for his “We are all Georgians,” without bothering to explain what really happened between Russia and Georgia. The demonization of Russia of course has been rampant throughout this convention. And then the stage was set for Sarah Palin. The first part of Sarah Palin’s speech was very interesting. It was a mix of themes, like Opportunity Knocks crossed with The Simple Life. And opportunity knocks if you live a simple life, if you are righteous, if you are honest, and that paves the way for the American dream, which culminates for Sarah Palin tonight, over here. So the first part was all about family. She introduced her family: her husband, the snow machine champion, steelworker, working-class roots, long-time boyfriend, more than 20 years; five kids, one of them with Down syndrome. So the empathy with the audience was absolutely total. And then she bared her teeths. She attacked Obama and Biden frontally, on absolutely all fronts, no holds [barred]. And then we saw her lipstick-pit-bull character. And she was absolutely enjoying it. She was not opposed. She has been rehearsing this script more or less for three days now. She’s been holed up in a hotel, in the Hilton in Minneapolis.

JAY: And, apparently, with a team of writers [inaudible]

ESCOBAR: With more than ten McCain writers, not to mention a few lawyers thrown into the mix, not to mention the lawyers who were sent to Alaska to post-vet Sarah Palin. And the speech originally was written for a male candidate. This speech was written like it was finished, like, a week ago. Rick Davis, a McCain campaign manager, told us that it was written for a male candidate. They had to rewrite this for the past three days. Sarah Palin was part of it. But you could see that some of the absolute key jokes, and almost everything that she cracked, in fact, was written. She didn’t seem spontaneous when she was trying to crack a joke, because the jokes, they were eerily similar to the jokes that Giuliani had cracked, like, half an hour before.

JAY: But that was an effective speech. One has to say what they were trying to accomplish they accomplished, don’t you think?

ESCOBAR: Yes, in terms of a hatchet job on Obama and Biden, it was very effective. They painted Obama basically—the writers and Sarah Palin—they painted Obama-Biden as elitist, completely disconnected from America, embroidered, practically, and embedded with Washington special interests against the best interests of taxpayers: they’re going to raise your taxes; it’s going to be a horror; you know, they are defeatists in terms of the war on terror. And—okay, Paul, go ahead, but I have to talk about Sarah Palin’s foreign policy next.

JAY: Yeah. I was just going to say, on that front they seem to be able to get away with something which is rather obvious in terms of a hole in the logic, which is that everything that Palin accuses Obama and Biden of being in terms of lack of executive experience, it all applies to McCain, every word of it. Yet there’s this weird leap of logic that somehow all Biden’s years in the Senate equal McCain’s years in the Senate, and McCain has no more executive experience. But I guess this doesn’t matter. This is about selling mythology and slogans.

ESCOBAR: Selling mythology. Yes. Absolutely.

JAY: And they’re very good at it.

ESCOBAR: Yeah, they were very good at it. And they, at least within the confines of this very small arena compared to Denver, for that matter, or compared to the Invesco stadium, they sold it. The product is sold. There were hockey moms’ placards and panels all over the place. And, in fact, the people were buying the mythology of a hockey mom who can bare her teeth and get things done, with executive experience, unlike, as they were putting all the time, the whole Democratic ticket.

JAY: On foreign policy, we’re back to victory through strength.

ESCOBAR: Oh, yes, absolutely. And there are some pearls in terms of foreign policy. Obviously, Sarah Palin, she hasn’t traveled outside of the United States until last year. Apparently, she’s only been to Canada, to Mexico, and on a very short trip to Kuwait and Iraq—which does not mean Kuwait and Iraq, as you know; it means American military bases in Kuwait and Iraq. And that’s it. Her foreign policy experience is absolutely nil. But this is what the screenwriters had her say. For instance, “Russia wants to control a pipeline in the Caucasus.” This is complete baloney. Vladimir Putin, Medvedev, and the Russian leadership, they never said that they wanted to control the BTC, which is a private pipeline owned basically by BP and the Azerbaijani government, goes through Georgia, and ends up in Turkey. Never. She said that Iran wants to bomb the hell out of everybody [inaudible]

JAY: No, no. Iran controls too much of the world’s energy supply and gets to threaten it. Venezuela—.

ESCOBAR: Exactly. And they want to shut down the Persian Gulf, which is something that nobody knows. Maybe Admiral Mullen would be interested in this particular bit of information, that Iran wants to shut down the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz.

JAY: The Republicans are very good at getting a message down to a very simple proposition, and it seems like the entire energy/climate-change crisis and economic program all comes down to “drill, baby, drill.” That seems to be the entire program.

ESCOBAR: That’s it. I would sum up their platform basically as—they put it better than anybody else—drill, baby, drill.

JAY: In terms of this issue of taking on the oil companies, she’s still restating something that we’ve been doing stories and others have been doing stories on this, on taking on the oil companies. Apparently, there are some reforms that she did in Alaska that were effective in terms of increasing public share of the oil revenues. And so one probably, from what we know so far about this issue, we can put it on a credit side for her in somewhat a legitimate way. But she—. Yeah, go ahead.

ESCOBAR: The problem is, Paul, you cannot extrapolate this to the rest of America. Look, there are some very important statistics here. The state of Alaska, they own all oil-producing lands in Alaska. They get more than 90 percent of their budget from oil companies. They lease these oil fields. So, basically, Alaska is like the UAE, it’s like an emirate, and Palin’s like a sort of sheik. She could be the emir of Qatar, for that matter, but she is in Alaska. So you cannot compare the problems of Alaska, which are practically nil—Alaska is, you know, navigating in money—in fact, to other states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, or even Florida. It’s not an example.

JAY: And she’s still repeating this issue of saying no to the “bridge from nowhere,” which is a proposition that’s been discredited on The Real News, and even on CBS, that in fact she never said no to the bridge. But, again, it doesn’t really matter, it seems, what the truth of what this is; it’s about this craft of selling these slogans, and at least tonight there was some craft.

ESCOBAR: Yes, they can get away with it, at least with this audience, and I would venture to say, at least with 40 percent of American voters, they still can get away with everything. I think the “drill, baby, drill” motto’s going to be very, very important in the next two months.

JAY: Great. Thank you very much for joining us, Pepe.

ESCOBAR: Thanks, Paul.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.