Palin’s purposefully puzzling diction is (sic)

Sarah Palin’s resignation as Governor of Alaska last week is a win for most everybody. It’s a win for Palin herself, who has had enough of politics, and for her five children, all of whom (including the baby) reportedly encouraged the decision. It’s a victory for Alaskans, who increasingly disapprove of Palin’s performance – her approval rating went from 93% in June of 2007 to 64% in August 2008. Since August 29, 2008, when Palin announced her candidacy for Vice-President, it has fallen to 54%. The announcement is also a huge win for Palin’s critics and for comedians, who will have even more opportunities to flog her once she leaves politics and, almost certainly, Alaska to cash in on her newfound status as conservative folk hero.

But I suppose there is one small, and admittedly dwindling crowd whose lives got a little less interesting last week. I’m referring to that special interest group that lives to cringe, the linguistic masochists among us who revel in the pain caused by dangling participles, excessive exclamations, and curious quotation marks. For Sarah Palin has mastered them all – and not by accident, I’m inclined to believe.

Consider a line from the online version of her resignation speech, which attributes her success to the people around her: “It’s because of the people… good public servants surrounding the Governor’s office, with servants’ hearts and astounding work ethic… they are Alaska’s success!” Now, is it possible that among this dedicated group of civil servants, there is not one individual charged with the task of editing Palin’s public communications before posting them online? The speech of about 2,500 words is rife with cringeworthy errors and baffling turns of phrase. Especially perplexing is the constant misuse of quotation marks, as if the speaker is parodying English instead of using it to communicate.

In a recent interview, conservative journalist David Frum compared U.S. president Barack Obama to Johnny Carson, calling him “better than his material.” No one can say the same for Palin, whose acutal delivery of this poorly-conceived speech is even more grating than the written version. The online copy of the address is proof that Palin and her advisors are pushing a brand of communication defined by intentional errors and the ire they provoke.  Those of us who criticize obvious mistakes are labelled elitist and out of touch. Too many of Palin’s opponents have overreached in taking this bait, and their characterizations of her as an unqualified half-wit only energize her thriving base of social conservatives. Palin wants and needs to be defined by liberal ridicule, scoffing and disdain, so that she can be even more tenacious in her defense of all things apple pie and ordinary.

Like Palin, I’m not ashamed to be myself. I think language matters, especially when it is published for mass consumption. The question of Palin’s intellectual capacity is far less important than her stated ability to surround herself with competent people, a claim I reject based (among other things) on the publication of her resignation speech. Palin’s alleged status as a commoner doesn’t excuse her inability to communicate in something resembling proper English, especially on a government website.

However, as an admitted linguistic masochist, my days will be duller without her unique style of political voice and theatre (although Palin herself will be back in some form before you can say “doggone it!”). In memoriam, then, a sampling of puzzling proverbs from Sarah Palin’s farewell from politics, unedited of course:

So I choose, for my State and my family, more “freedom” to progress, all the way around… so that Alaska may progress… I will not seek re-election as Governor.

I wish you’d hear more from the media of your state’s progress and how we tackle Outside interests – daily – special interests that would stymie our state. Even those debt-ridden stimulus dollars that would force the heavy hand of federal government into our communities with an “all-knowing attitude” – I have taken the slings and arrows with that unpopular move to veto because I know being right is better than being popular.

And this political absurdity, the “politics of personal destruction” … Todd and I are looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills in order to set the record straight.

And a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and “go with the flow”. Nah, only dead fish “go with the flow”.

These Troops and their important missions – those are truly the worthy causes in this world and should be the public priority with time and resources and not this local / superficial wasteful political bloodsport.

Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me – sports… basketball. I use it because you’re naïve if you don’t see the national full-court press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket… and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And I’m doing that – keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities – smaller government, energy independence, national security, freedom! And I know when it’s time to pass the ball – for victory.

We need those who will respect our Constitution where government’s supposed to serve from the bottom up, not move toward this top down big government take-over… but rather, will be protectors of individual rights – who also have enough common sense to acknowledge when conditions have drastically changed and are willing to call an audible and pass the ball when it’s time so the team can win! And that is what I’m doing!

You can read the entire speech at http://www.gov.state.ak.us/exec-column.php

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