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"It's a Chance for [Republicans] to Make Some Gesture About Katrina" - David Brooks Reacts to Hurricane Gustav and the RNC

September 01, 2008


David Brooks

New York Times columnist.

Democracy Now! runs into New York Times columnist David Brooks at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. We get his reaction to Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech in Denver, John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for the vice-presidential nomination, and the effect Hurricane Gustav will have on the Republican convention. "McCain should go down to New Orleans, grab onto a light post Geraldo-style and do the speech sideways, holding on while the wind blows him," Brooks says. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Republican candidate John McCain has shocked political analysts and even members of his own party with the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: She is exactly who I need. She is exactly who this country needs to help me fight — to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second.

AMY GOODMAN: The forty-four-year-old Sarah Palin becomes the first woman to ever run on a Republican presidential ticket. Her surprise choosing came as a shock to political observers who hadn’t even put her in contention. Palin has been Alaska’s governor for less than two years. Prior to that, she served as mayor of Wasilla, a town of less than 10,000 people.

Even members of her own party and family questioned her experience. The Republican president of Alaska’s state senate, Lyda Green, said she thought the news was a joke. Green said, “She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?” Palin’s mother-in-law said, "I’m not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she’s a woman and a conservative.”

McCain has defended the choice and called Palin his “soul-mate.” On Friday, Palin said her selection marked a victory for women.

    GOV. SARAH PALIN: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

AMY GOODMAN: Many political analysts say McCain is hoping to capture alienated Hillary Clinton supporters, while reaching out to the evangelical right. Palin is a prominent member of Feminists for Life and has described herself as “pro-life as any candidate can be.” She is also an active member of the National Rifle Association. On environmental issues, Palin supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, opposes the classification of polar bears as endangered species and believes humans have not caused global warning.

Palin is currently at the center of a controversy in Alaska known as Troopergate. She is accused of firing Alaska’s public safety commissioner because he refused to fire Palin’s former brother-in-law, who worked as a state trooper.

Richard Mauer is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News who has been covering Alaskan politics for twenty-five years. He joins me now on the phone from Alaska.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about Sarah Palin? Give us a thumbnail sketch of who she was. And you’re a longtime reporter, have been reporting for about a quarter of a century. Can you — were you surprised when you heard John McCain’s pick for vice president?

Are you there?

Well, we’re going to try to fix the phone line, but as we do, I thought I’d switch gears for a moment. When we came into St. Paul to cover the Republican National Convention, we went to the baggage claim, coming off the plane, and I met a number of reporters, including Jon Stewart, and if you missed my conversation with Jon Stewart on our expanded two-hour broadcast, you can go to our website at []. I also bumped into New York Times columnist David Brooks, who was at the airport, as well. I asked him about McCain’s choice of Palin for the vice-presidential nomination.

    DAVID BROOKS: I don’t know what to think. I’m sort of vaguely impressed by her record as governor, taking on oil, taking on the Republicans, a reformer. I can see why he picked her. But if she screws up, if she doesn’t have the natural national ability, he’s finished. So I don’t know what to think. It’s a roll of the die.

    AMY GOODMAN: The possibility of the convention happening as yet another Hurricane Katrina, or Gustav?

    DAVID BROOKS: You can tell me what God wants. My view is that McCain should go down to New Orleans, grab onto a light post Geraldo-style and, you know, do the speech sort of sideways, vertical, holding on while the wind blows him. No, I —- you know, it’s a chance for them to make some gesture about Katrina.

    AMY GOODMAN: Obama’s speech, the stadium, 84,000 people?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, I’m in the minority among people in Denver. I thought it was A—/B+. I thought it was a good speech. The forcefulness was really good. I thought the policy part dragged a little, was conventional, as far as I could see. And then the post-partisanship was sort of the tail end, which I didn’t think was as moving as I’ve felt it before. So it was a — God knows it was a good speech, but by Obama standards, I thought a little below his best.

AMY GOODMAN: David Brooks of the New York Times at the airport in Minneapolis.

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