Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Alvin Greene can be the ultimate political chameleon: keep your answers short

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I pride myself on being one of the few people who knew of Sarah Palin before the world did. In fact, I was writing about her two days before the announcement, even referring to her as “popular Gov. Sarah Palin.”

But even I can’t admit to knowing who Alvin Greene was before his jump into the political spotlight. After listening to Greene, it isn’t clear whether he knows who he is.

The great thing about the reaction to Greene is that he has one thing in common with Barack Obama: everybody makes Greene out to be what they want him to be, not based on what he actually is as a person.

Greene reminds me of Chauncey Gardener — Peter Sellers’ character in “Being There.” Chauncey’s simplicity is seen as wisdom throughout the movie. If Greene only spoke up a little more, he could rise to Chauncey status.

Politicians — or our perception of them — has risen to a new level. They are joyous or evil incarnate with little in-between.

The milquetoast Obama was seen as an extremist by more than one side of the circular equation, yet he always was milquetoast. This isn’t meant to be seen as an insult, just the reality no one was watching. I was asked in a recent conversation what I thought of President Obama, not knowing the person’s political persuasions. I replied that I thought he was what I thought he would be. Turns out that woman was rather conservative, as she put it “not a teabagger” but she sympathized with the teabaggers.

Her perception of Obama was a whole lot different than the many supporters who thought Obama was going to save them. Neither group turns out to be correct.

What Greene will turn out to be might remain a mystery, and that could be a good thing. After all, Jim DeMint had a rather good chance of winning re-election, even in this climate, no matter the Democratic Party nominee. Can’t wait for the debates in this race.

Since Greene has nothing to lose — literally — he might try going stoic. Be the man of few words. “Yes” and “No” can be in vogue as one-word answers. Think back to Joe Biden’s short answer in one of the early debates — got the then-Senator some buzz that may have helped him become vice president.

“I can’t believe Greene said that.” — not likely to happen. “I like Greene’s straightforward answer on that question.” — much more likely to happen.

And in this anti-incumbent fever, where Scott Brown can become a U.S. senator, why not Alvin Greene?

Then there is the aforementioned Sarah Palin. She has the opposite issue — Palin thinks of herself as a victim when almost no one else does. Her victimhood can be seen as a political ploy or strategy, but to be fair to former Gov. Palin, she seems sincere that she thinks she is a victim. Even though she’s not.

This came to light when Palin’s buddy Greta Van Susteren interviewed Palin (again). Nevermind that the two are fellow colleagues of Fox ‘News’ but also Van Susteren’s husband, John Coale, has been an advisor to Sarah Palin. Then again, Fox ‘News’ never seems to care about conflicts of interest, (e.g., Gretchen Carlson’s interviews with Rep. Michele Bachmann and Derek Jeter).

So Van Susteren was more than happy to help Palin feel the role of the victim by asking her whether the former Alaska governor had breast implants.

“No, I have not had implants,” Palin said. “A report like that is about as real and truthful as reports that [my husband] Todd and I are divorcing, or that I bought a place in the Hamptons, or that [my son] Trig is not my own child.”

As much as I’ve written about Sarah Palin, I don’t even care. And I will give Palin the benefit of the doubt on two points: I don’t think she has had them, and I don’t think it’s our business if she has, unless there is a medical issue AND she is running for office. After all, the former governor never released her medical records when running for vice president.

But Van Susteren’s question gives Palin the chance to be the victim, and Palin’s answer was typical Sarah. “Look how the lamestream media picks on me,” she might have said. “And here are a few more examples.” Palin correlates the breast implant question and places them on an equal footing with other questions.

Like most rumors, some of them are true and some of them aren’t. People in Alaska, before Palin became famous, were questioning whether Trig was Sarah’s child. People in her office, when Sarah announced she was 7 months pregnant, questioned whether she was even pregnant. Even if Sarah Palin is correct, her behavior spoke otherwise — if she was the victim in the Trig episode, Palin could have put it to rest. But there are still too many unanswered questions.

Palin only becomes the victim when Van Susteren, an unbiased benefactor, asks her the question. The rumors don’t make Palin the victim; she feels it even if no one notices or cares. When she gets the publicity, Palin uses it to show that she is the victim.

Alvin Greene has no shot of going through the Palin route, but he might benefit from her actions. Unlike Palin, Greene is an actual victim. But unlike Palin, Greene doesn’t want to be known for his victimhood. If he plays his cards right, Greene might not be known for anything, until he becomes Sen.-elect Greene.

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