Obama, McCain, Palin & generosity

When I hosted the online retreat a few weeks ago, we pondered – a lot – the idea of not getting in our own way, not disrupting the trajectories of our lives by insisting on our own ways, or complicating things with our own insecurities and neurosis. We also talked about the mysterious value of sacrifice and generosity.

In watching the coverage of John McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, I thought about generosity and the lack thereof and how they play out, and what sort of payback they bring you in the universe.

What I mean is, yesterday, on the fourth day of the Democrat National Convention, John McCain made an ad congratulating Obama – and the Obama campaign appreciated it and wished he would do more ads like those. McCain didn’t have to do that, but he did, and it was a fairly classy thing to do. No, not classy, it generous. It showed a generosity of spirit.

Today, McCain named Palin, and Obama’s first reaction was ungracious and ungenerous.

That got cleaned up and reconsidered, and Obama even took the corrective further, by calling Palin to congratulate her, but first responses often tell us what is in the heart, and the heart of the Obama campaign lacked generosity.

Barack Obama does not easily show much generosity of spirit. He has thrown a lot of people under the bus, when political expediency has demanded it, but I’m thinking specifically of his lack of generosity toward Hillary Clinton, when she suspended her campaign. His coffers are full-to-overflowing, but he did not offer to help Clinton’s debts from them. Instead, he said he’d ask his supporters to cover Hillary’s debts, but then – when the time came – he forgot to do that

Although some of us were liking her months ago, and hoping for this moment regardless of who Obama chose as his running mate, Sarah Palin’s ascension to the national ticket actually owes something to Obama’s lack of generosity toward Hillary. Had he treated Hillary with respect, had he at least pretended to be vetting her for the veep spot and helped her debt, he would have accomplished two things: putting Hillary in his debt, and re-assuring her supporters that they could count on his respect for their interests.

Instead, Obama was not magnanimous in victory, he was sort of flinty and closed, like a spiritual Scrooge; he did not share. And that opened the door for McCain to say, “hmmm…Gov. Palin is smart, she knows energy, she’s a reformer, and a a bit of a ball buster; she’ll energize the base, and hey, maybe she’ll please some (not all) women, too.”

I mean, this is politics, after all, not beanbag. Are we going to pretend, suddenly, that opportunistic moves sully the game? That would be strange; opportunism is the pivot upon which whole battles have turned.

McCain has demonstrated a generosity of spirit many times – when he was offered a chance to leave a Vietnam POW camp, he stayed, because others had been there longer. When John Kerry’s military record was assaulted in 2004, McCain generously defended him, at the risk of offending his own party (and got kicked for it, this election, by Kerry, who did not return the favor). When Bush trampled him in 2000, McCain still campaigned for him in 2004. When his wife brought home a Bangladeshi orphan who she’d encountered in one of Mother Teresa’s houses, he said, “where’s the baby going,” his wife said, “home with us,” and there it was.

I think when we choose to be generous with our spirits and in our give-and-takes with others, that keeps things rightly aligned in our lives – it doesn’t upset trajectories and make a mess of things – and it comes back to us, too, in good ways.

I don’t know much about Joe Biden, so I can’t say, but it would seem to me that Gov. Palin also has a generous spirit. Having five children in an age when most of us have only two suggests openness and selflessness, and trust, too – a willingness to not interfere with the flow. And in an age where babies carrying extra chromosomes are routinely aborted, even by parents who love the child and believe they’re doing the best thing for their son or daughter by aborting, Palin both loved the child and let the child live. To me, again, that says: generous spirit.

In his book, One Man’s America, George Will recalls the birth of his son, Jon, who also has an extra chromosome. The hospital asked Will and his wife if they would be leaving the baby behind, which stunned them. They informed the hospital that no, they’d be taking their son home, where he belonged, with them. But the title of Will’s essay is, “Golly, What Did Jon DO?” As in, how dare Jon have a life in a world where – ungenerously – people wonder why he is even here.

Already the press – predictably and ungenerously (and seeming to be a tad uncomfortable) – has said “gee, shouldn’t Gov. Palin be home raising her Baby-With-Down-Syndrome?” I wonder how long it will be before they’ll be asking so-called experts like this one, “wouldn’t aborting the Baby-With-Down-Syndrome have been the responsible thing to do? And doesn’t Palin keeping the baby show weak judgment?”

(OMG, that didnt’ take long:Sarah Palin’s judgment is despicalble. She knowingly whelped a Mongoloid child earlier this year, probably to pander to the Right to Life Nutbags. Irresponsible decisions like hers dilutes the viability of the American Gene Pool. No wonder why we are falling farther and farther behind in an increasingly competitive global economic environment. Her OB should have cut her tubes after her first child!!!
Posted by: paul Curooke)

His name is Trig. Trig Paxson Van Palin, and her husband, Todd Palin, seems quite capable of helping out in that department, and quite willing. He seems pretty generous, too. Actually, it seems pretty progressive and counter-culture of them, doesn’t it?

It goes without saying that now that they are national people, and running against a ticket the press absolutely adores, the Palins will be grist for the usual mill. It will be interesting to watch, and to see if their generous spirits help them with what we all know will become very ugly, very quickly.

It’s kind of interesting, isn’t it, to muse on how things of the spirit can be reflected (and can affect) politics?

Meanwhile, I contributed to McCain/Palin here.

Tony Rossi sends this along: Nat Hentoff writing about Palin last May:

During her first year in office, as reported by the Associated Press on May 10, she “distanced herself from the old guard, powerful members of the state GOP (and) stood up to the oil interests that hold great power in Alaska, and with bipartisan support in the statehouse, she won a tax increase on the oil companies’ profits.” Last December, this mother of four children, Mrs. Palin, four months’ pregnant, found she was going to have a child with Down syndrome — a condition characterized by moderate-to-severe mental retardation. A school friend of one of my sons had Down syndrome; I have also known functioning adults with the extra chromosomes of that syndrome.

Mrs. Palin’s first reaction to the diagnosis was to research the facts about the condition, since, as she said, “I’ve never had problems with my other pregnancies.” As a result, she and her husband, Todd, never had any doubt they would have the child.

Rod Dreher hears from an Alaskan who is excited

Ann Althouse notes that some on the left are being ungenerous about Palin’s hairstyle. I love it. And Ann seems to understand what they do not. One of her commenters rightly notes that Palin has better veep hair than Biden. Ouch.

Rachel Lucas, is loving Piper Palin’s tiara, and I am too. Adorable.

Ace is blogging up a storm named Sarah, but Gustav sure seems like a pain.

Kim at Musing Minds is starting a Special-Needs Moms for McCain/Palin group.

Fausta has more.

Beth is happy

Related: Palin brings flavor to ’08

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About Elizabeth Scalia