Joni Ernst Does Sarah Palin

Joni ErnstIt has long been my belief that the media and the Republican Party learned the same lesson from Sarah Palin’s disastrous interview with Katie Couric. And that lesson was that the Republican Party looks really bad when the media get a good, unrehearsed view of their wingnuts (which now make up over half of the party’s successful politicians). It is because the media would prefer not to go through anything as cringingly embarrassing as that interview that Joni Ernst managed to become a United States Senator while not only crazy but utterly unqualified.

This goes way back to at least the 2008 vice-presidential debate. When Biden countered her on the fact that she didn’t answer the first question, Palin replied, “I may not answer the questions the way that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also.” And that was how the debate went: she just talked about whatever she wanted in her own peculiar way also. I don’t suppose that there was anything that could have been done about that. But afterward, the media reaction was mostly relief that it didn’t result in anything like this:

So when Jodi Ernst was running for the Senate, the media did not push the way they would have pushed a regular candidate — a Democrat, or a Republican who wasn’t crazy, ignorant, and of average intelligence. But now she’s in the Senate and there is no reason to think that the media will push her any harder than they have pushed her before. (Note: other than comedians, the media went very easy on Sarah Palin after the Couric debacle.) And the Republicans know that. So they have decided to use Ernst as a trained seal — or something like that.

She is, after all, attractive. She is a woman. She’s not a terrible speaker. So why not have her give the response to the State of the Union speech? But they decided to do it right. Just as Sarah Palin wasn’t going to answer questions in her debate, Joni Ernst wasn’t going to give a response to the president:

Tonight though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

And thus began the nine minute infomercial, “The Republican Party Is Not Scary.” The whole thing was so over-rehearsed that I’m quite sure Ernst did little more than practice for the last week. But the style reminded me of those dreadful animatronic creatures like they had at Disneyland when I was a kid. But perhaps more accurate would be to say that she seemed like one of The Stepford Wives from the 1970s. I was afraid that she might crack during the speech and we would see the electronics inside.

That would be an improvement, however. As it is, I still kind of think that her conservative colleagues are just reptiles inside a human costume. So maybe they are the reptiles and she is just a robot that must be pre-programmed. Clearly, they’ve worked some of the bugs out since the Sarah Palin model. This model sticks to simple sentences and doesn’t launch into open-ended logorrhea. But it is no more convincing.

“I’m Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight. I was just going to give you coffee. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight. I’m Joni Ernst. I was just going to give you coffee. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

6 thoughts on “Joni Ernst Does Sarah Palin

  1. I have a hard time thinking that anyone who reads aloud in a stilted manner, unable to read a sentence with appropriate rhythm and emphasis, is anything but a simpleton. Joni Ernst’s “rebuttal” last night was cringeworthy. Her sentences had pauses in the oddest places, along the lines of “My son goes to [pause] school every day riding the [pause] schoolbus.” Not that she said that sentence, it use it just to illustrate the weird placement of pauses while reading each sentence from the Teleprompter. When I was in school and we had to read aloud, there were some kids, like me, who could do it well — my parents could and so it always seemed easy to me — and then there were those who spoke each word aloud one at a time, not as a cohesive sentence. Ernst seems like one of those kids. Honestly, if you’re going to have someone rebut POTUS, pick someone who can read aloud. But, since I’m a Democrat, it was actually fine with me that Joni Ernst seemed wooden and brainless.

    • To be honest, “of average intelligence” was not my first choice. I went back and forth about the phrase. It is certainly true that compared to the people who are in my life, Ernst is an idiot. But among people I see in the real world, she does seem about average. That in itself is an insult. Leaders of countries are not supposed to be “average” — regardless of what Mike Huckabee might say.

      But I doubt her problems had to do with reading aloud. I am certain she had practiced in front of that teleprompter for days. She probably thought those pauses made her talk sound weighty. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise if the teleprompter displayed exactly what you wrote, “My son goes to [pause] school every day riding the [pause] schoolbus. [Keep smiling, but don’t break your face!]” Clearly, she wasn’t picked because of her intelligence or her skills. The Republican Party wants to push this idea that they are reasonable and determined to get things done — even if the only thing they can name is a pipeline.

      Go easy on those of us who are bad at reading aloud! Reading is as bad a proxy for intelligence as musical ability. But I will allow that doing a bad reading of a speech you’ve been studying for days is not a good sign — if that is the case.

  2. The GOP leadership had to go down deep into their bench of dunces in order to come up with someone as unqualified to give the SOTU rebuttal as this poor woman. We can only guess why she was their choice other than they realize what a joke this part of the yearly ritual has become. I couldn’t watch her after the first thirty seconds, but from what I observed, they could have done better if they had played a rerun of Michelle Bachmann’s or Bobby Jindal’s tapes from years past.

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