Animal Politics

It was just how Don Watson said it should be — an act of seduction. "A good speech is a lover’s embrace," he wrote. "You want to sit on the metaphorical mountain and with an arm sneaking round their shoulder speak of things you have in common — your love of trees or cows, the sacrifice of soldiers .." or maybe even the thrill of shooting a moose and dressing it in the field.

Admittedly Sarah Palin’s speech to the Republican National Convention was moose-free, but there was plenty about the sacrifice of soldiers, the wisdom of ordinary working people and the importance of family. It was a pitch perfect conservative speech that was strong on the candidate’s values and character and light on policy.

Just like when you’re field dressing a moose, you need to know what you’re doing when you give a high profile political speech. So not surprisingly, Palin had some help — this time from former Bush speech writer Matthew Scully. Scully started work on the speech before he knew who’d been giving it. The big themes came first and then the biographical details.

And while it was a great speech, it’s the biographical detail that has everyone excited. As talk radio host Rush Limbaugh put it "Sarah Palin: babies, guns, Jesus. Hot damn!" Even the cerebral Will Wilkinson couldn’t make into his second paragraph without exclaiming; "First, let me just get it out of the way: I think she is a tremendously sexy woman". As Will says, politics is often more about gut feeling than rational deliberation — it’s an animal thing.

No doubt for some guys it’s the guns and the hunting that gets their hormones racing. But that’s not true for her speech writer. While Scully is a conservative, he’s not a hunting enthusiast. In fact he’s a vegetarian and animal rights supporter. In an interview for the National Review he spoke about his book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy:

One thing I noticed, reading articles and books by sport hunters, is that they themselves are often uneasy about the things they do. And I hope Dominion will encourage more of that self-examination among the relatively few people — about five percent of Americans — with a taste for bloodsport. Hunting, if it can be justified at all, falls into the category of the necessary evil. When the aim is just the pleasure of stalking and killing, or the pride of a "trophy," the necessity is absent and you have to ask yourself what’s left.

In the past Scully hasn’t been afraid to criticise Dick Cheney for treating birds as if they were skeet. So I can’t help wondering what went through Scully’s mind when he realised he was working on a speech for the gun-totin‘ governor of Alaska.

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cam
13 years ago

Probably suppressing conscience for the good of the team/collective. It must really suck being involved in politics.

saint
13 years ago

I’m not a fan of hunting for the sake of hunting but crikey Don, Alaskans generally hunt for food. And they shoot bears etc when they have to not because they think they are skeet. And some like Palin’s dad also sees game as a science project. Chuck Heath taught his kids what most Alaskan parents teach theirs. He still volunteers in schools teaching “Alaskana” – hunting, fishing, avalanche survival, fending off bear attacks (that bear skin in her office is one he shot), taxidermy…hardly Dick Cheney skeeting stuff.

Frankly most people go hunting for food or to get rid of vermin. Yes even cityborns like me used to go hunting with my dad when I was a kid – it was a weekend out of the city and we got to either rid farmers of a bit of their vermin or else bring home…yep…food.

What’s more, writing someone’s speeches doesn’t mean writing your opinions into their mouths. If Scully doesn’t like writing for other people he can always get another job. And I am not sure why you worry about poor hypersensitive Scully. How would Palin feel having someone so obviously disapprove of her way of life write the most important speech in her life?

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
13 years ago

.. they shoot bears etc when they have to not because they think they are skeet.”

Bears as skeet. I just can’t get that image out of my head. Pull!

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

Didn’t they catapult a moose into the stratosphere in one of those hugely expensive beer ads?

Tony Harris
Tony Harris(@tony-harris)
13 years ago

Yes that was a very strange piece of work (the beer ad I mean) and the logic of it still eludes me.

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
13 years ago

It’s a stag and it’s a Tooheys trademark. Some people think the trebuchet is sending up offerings to the beer gods. The offerings include two women.

It seems like all the weirdest ads on tv are beer ads.

JC
JC
13 years ago

Is this ad as I never saw it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdN3PDeErvw

Quite funny if it is. In fact it’s very funny because of the sheer nonsense.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

What’s the big deal? He’s doin’ a job, writin’ a speech, not pullin’ da trigger. I am atheist, but I’d give my left nut to be her speechwriter. I’d also go huntin’ with her on Labor Day! How refreshing to have some real women enter public life, rather than those crew-cutted bearded barren bints we are stuck with.

You Go Girl!

gilmae
13 years ago

It seems like all the weirdest ads on tv are beer ads.

YA Reason Beer is the Best.

gilmae
13 years ago

But really, a political operator is a partisan whore willing and able to ignore their own principles? Whatever will they think of next?

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

Yes indeed. Far better he work for Linda Macartney’s salad dressing than the putative VP of the United States of America. Please.

observa
observa
13 years ago

Think of them a lot like lawyers gilmae.

gilmae
13 years ago

Or employees.

derrida derider
derrida derider
13 years ago

Yep, employees. A speechwriter is not a policymaker. His job is just to put into words someone else’s views.

Scully did a very professional job. He can always lobby for the people and policies he personally wants on his own time, just like the rest of us.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

And he’d have a hell of a lot more leverage now to save the gay Muslim whales or whatever!

MeatWork
MeatWork
13 years ago

If he will write or say anything for anyone for money or advancement that’s up to him. That sort of whoring, at least, is not illegal, especially not in the US. The cost is to his own credibility when he purports to represent his personal views.

As for the Palin speech, from the little of it that I could take, how was it great? It was predictable redneck, jesus-lovin’ button-pushing. How hard could that really be? Scully says he doesn’t like huntin’, but writin’ that baby was as merciless (and mindless) as shootin’ fish in a barrel.

pete m
pete m
13 years ago

MeatWork – you try giving a speech in front of 40 million viewers 99.99% seeing / hearing you for the first time, but only after the entire US media has put forth mountains of coverage negative to you and your family, and the blogosphere has put forth scandalous lies about you and your family, and on top of that, everyone is saying if you stuff it up there goes McCain’s run. On top of that, as a female, she knows how much she will be judged on her appearance (most times on that alone). At the same time she is dragging her husband and 5 kids along with her, and how guilty that must make her feel.

So to stand up to that pressure, and deliver a speech which from every reaction I’ve seen was a knockout, says a lot about this woman.

Don’t underestimate her.

gilmae
13 years ago

Pfft, she’s a professional politician, and therefore a ego maniac bordering on narcissist. If she was the type to be bothered by the one or two bits of scurrilous slander amongst the storm of information that ensued last week she would have blown her career before now.

MeatWork
MeatWork
13 years ago

My my, Pete. I thought the conversation was about Matthew Scully’s speech-writing ability and instead you have imagined it was about something else leaping valiantly to the defence of poor widdle Sarah. Nothing you say has any bearing on the comments about the Scully or the dog-whistle politics of the speech he wrote for Palin. In any case, try this about the poor defenceless diddums:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/an-wasillan-on.html

JC
JC
13 years ago

MeatW:

You seem more than a little obsessed by this woman, no? But then who can blame you if you’re reading Sullivan as he’s gone positively loonie over Obama.

I listened to the entire speech and didn’t hear one whistle let alone seeing a dog in the audience. Perhaps she left the hunting hounds at home :-)

The speech was pretty shallow but the delivery wasn’t bad.

She’s not my cup of tea but I can see how she appeals to Middle America or what they call fly over country. I’m certain that her speech did nothing to excite city slickers like you and I but then this isn’t the profile they’re going for.

Middle America seems to like her for the moment and if she doesn’t screw up the debate with Biden who is an excellent speaker she could very well carry the side home.

As for the speech writer… well he’s making a living and I bet he agrees with more of what she does than not.

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wmmbb
13 years ago

Wow Don, now I have more sympathy for the speech writer than the speaker. In my opinion, she did a good job. The timing, and the authentic presentation to the Convention was evidence of real and rare ability. But that ability is not necessarily sufficient for her to be President, which is the primary test for the VP.

I suspect that if she does not have something more and authentic to say about policies and problems, her star will fade very quickly, especially for a post-Bush electorate, other than for the fundamentalist Republican base, who I imagine much like One Nation are marginal voters.

pete m
pete m
13 years ago

MeatWork – sorry – misread it as your second paragraph seemed to change topic to her speech, as in giving it – but I see you were discussing the content. No thanks re Sullivan – I don’t want to waste bandwidth on that lunatic.