Throughout the clip, Jon Stewart juxtaposes comments about [Alaska Governor and Republican V.P. nominee] Sarah Palin by [former Republican strategist] Karl Rove, [FoxNews blowhard] Bill O'Reilly, ["lying sack of shit"] Dick Morris, and [McCain's senior policy advisor] Nancy Pfotenhauer with other comments previously made by those same people about [Virginia Governor] Tim Kaine (Rove), Jamie Lynn Spears (O'Reilly), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (Morris, Pfotenhauer). The juxtaposition exposes a high level of hypocrisy among these conservative commentators: they all defend Palin with the same swords they use to attack Kaine, Spears, and Clinton. If you haven't already, please watch the video (better yet, the full episode): it's one of those laughs that'll make you cry.
Note that Rove's comments are the only ones that Stewart has to provide some context for — the other three commentators simply contradict themselves, but Rove chooses his words in just such a way that, without the relevant context, pretty much anyone could hear his two sets of comments back to back and not notice the contradiction. Here is the full set of relevant facts about the two Governors:
|Governor of…||Virginia, pop. 7,642,884 (2006 estimate)||Alaska, pop. 670,053 (2006 estimate)|
|Governor since…||Jan. 14, 2006 (966 days)||Dec. 4, 2006 (642 days)|
|Lt. Governor for…||4 years (2002-2006)||n/a|
|Mayor of…||Richmond, VA, pop. 192,913 (2006 estimate)||Wasilla, AK, pop. 5,469?/7,025?/9,780? (various estimates)|
|Also…||2 terms on city council||2 terms on city council|
About Palin's experience, Rove says:
She's a populist, she's an economic and a social conservative, she's a reformer, she's a former mayor, she's the mayor I think of the second largest city in Alaska before she ran for governor…
And about Kaine, he said:
He's been a governor for three years … he was mayor of the 105th largest city in America and again, with all due respect to Richmond, Virginia, it's smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona; North Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada — it's not a big town. So if you were to pick Governor Kaine it would be an intensely political choice, where you said, "You know, I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with is this person capable of being President of the United States."
See how Rove does it? Not only does he deftly contrast "second largest city" with "105th largest city" (forget the "in Alaska" and "in America" parts; that's beside the point), but he also goes on to compare the size of Richmond with the sizes of no less than six other cities that most folks have never heard of, just to drive the point home. (Incidentally: Mesa is the 38th largest city according to the 2007 estimate that Rove likely bases his comment on, and that's larger than Oakland, Miami, and Minneapolis.) The overall impression you're left with is that there's more to Palin than meets the eye, and that Kaine is very much just small potatoes — precisely the opposite of the categorization that the actual facts of the matter might otherwise lead you to.
As anyone following the Palin nomination knows, Republicans have been bending over backwards to shine the best possible light on her relative lack of experience, especially given that "lack of experience" has been one of their main rhetorical themes used against Barack Obama: the fact that she has been a mayor and a governor (as opposed to a mere U.S. Senator, like Obama, Biden, and even McCain) gives her "executive experience"; the fact that Alaska is relatively close to Russia gives her "foreign policy experience"; the fact that Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. in terms of geography (but the 47th in terms of population) gives her … what, large landmass experience? What Rove did here is more of the same, of course, but I think it deserves special mention here because it's the best example I've seen in this campaign of language being used to manipulate and deceive people. Plus, it's a damned funny video clip.
[ Hat tip to Ed Keer. ]