Was Sarah Palin More than Passingly Sarcastic?

One of the memes being spread by some Democratic reporters and other Obama supporters after Sarah Palin's speech was that she was very sarcastic.

I don't know whether these commentators don't understand what "sarcasm" is or whether this is just another example of the blatant orgy of sexism with which Sarah Palin has been greeted. Already spreading this falsehood are 1,769 stories on Google News and 2,861 blog posts.

In her acceptance speech Sarah Palin was not particularly sarcastic. Mostly, she just said what she means. She made fun of Obama, but sarcasm played an exceedingly minor role in her pointed attacks.

Sarcasm is using words that on the surface would seem to mean the opposite of what the speaker actually means. Examples would include: "Oh, that's great," said after something terrible happened, or "You're such a gentleman" after a man did something rude.

I went through the text of Sarah Palin's prepared remarks and found one sarcastic aside and one sarcastic word in the context of a very unsarcastic statement, but no other likely examples. Here was the single sarcastic clause in her speech:

But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot — what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it.

The line "after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet" is sarcastic because, though she paraphrasing Obama's own words, she doesn't believe he will do this. Though sarcastic, there's nothing terribly odd, unfair, or inappropriate about paraphrasing his own excessively lofty rhetoric.

The only other probable example of sarcasm is just one word, the use of "accolade" to refer to Harry Reid's insult. But except for that one word, the overall statement wrapped around that word is not sarcastic: Palin means what she says.

Harry Reid, the majority leader of the current do-nothing Senate, not long ago summed up his feelings about our nominee. He said, quote, "I can't stand John McCain." Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps no accolade we hear this week is better proof that we've chosen the right man. Clearly what the majority leader was driving at is that he can't stand up to John McCain.

Here are the other 11 negative comments about Obama or the Democrats or Democratic administrations from Palin's speech:

1. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.

(Here I think Palin is being playful, but she means what she says.)

2. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

(Palin is using understatement here.)

3. Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems — as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all.

4. I've noticed a pattern with our opponent. Maybe you have, too. We've all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers. And there is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate.

5. This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign.

6. Victory in Iraq is finally in sight ... he wants to forfeit. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay ... he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al-Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights? Government is too big ... he wants to grow it. Congress spends too much ... he promises more.

7. Taxes are too high ... he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan, and let me be specific. The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes ... raise payroll taxes ... raise investment income taxes ... raise the death tax ... raise business taxes ... and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars. . . . How are you going to be better off if our opponent adds a massive tax burden to the American economy?

8. Here's how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change. They're the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners, or on self-designed presidential seals.

9. Among politicians, there is the idealism of high-flown speechmaking, in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things. And then there is the idealism of those leaders, like John McCain, who actually do great things. They're the ones who are good for more than talk ... the ones we have always been able to count on to serve and defend America.

10. My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of "personal discovery." This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer.

11. And though both Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden have been going on lately about how they are always, quote, "fighting for you," let us face the matter squarely. There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you ... in places where winning means survival and defeat means death ... and that man is John McCain.

In the next post, I consider whether Obama was as negative in his acceptance speech as Palin was (he actually said more negative things than Palin did, but his lines were less pointed.)