Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"ExPalination" by Robert S. McElvaine

Whatever else the 2008 presidential campaign may produce, it has given us a new word: ExPalination. Someday it may take its place in our language alongside malapropism and Bushism.

Every time Gone Old Party vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin opens her mouth in an unscripted moment (those moments have been precious few, of course -- which is understandable in light of what happens in them), she utters words in answers to questions that offer insights into both her utter lack of knowledge and John McCain's utter disinterest in putting "country first" as demonstrated in his selection of this totally unprepared person.

When Governor Palin is asked to explain something, she gives instead an exPalination. In her latest venture into the land out of which the McCain campaign wants to keep her (the real world where people who might lead the United States are expected to know something), the Katie Couric interview on CBS, Palin was repeatedly put in situations where she had no answer and said, in effect: Well, let me exPalin that to you, Katie.

Here are a couple of the exPalinations the candidate gave in her interview with the CBS News anchor:

PALIN: "He's also known as THE Maverick, though ...."

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time -- not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?

PALIN: I'll try to find ya some, and I'll bring 'em to YA!"

Ms. Couric then asked Mrs. Palin to explain to her why what Palin termed Alaska's "very narrow maritime border with a foreign country" enhances her foreign policy experience.

As much of America has become painfully aware, the candidate offered the following exPalination in response:

"Well, it CERTAINLY does, because our next-door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the states that I'm the executive of."

"It's very important when you consider even in national security issues with Russia," the governor went on to exPalin, "as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska; it's just right over the border."

The nation eagerly awaits a series of exPalinations in Thursday's vice presidential debate. Will she have come up with a new exPalination of her foreign policy experience? Or will she have any new exPalination of how Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience? Will she have some exPalination of what she or McCain have done that make them "mavericks"?

But what we most need is for John McCain to explain to the nation how placing someone like Sarah Palin in line to become president of the United States is putting "Country First." That will require quite an exPalination from him, because it looks to any unbiased observer like Sen. McCain would rather leave the country in the hands of a manifestly unqualified person than lose an election.

[Historian Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College. His latest book is Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America .]

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