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Out of sync with their own smears

Palin and McCain, imperfect together

I’m traveling today, with scant time to ruminate at length in the usual way. But what I saw last night, on my hotel room television, should suffice for now.

The Republican running mates were being interviewed by Brian Williams on NBC, and at first I was reminded of the climactic scene in

when the college marching band heads down a dead-end alley, collides with a brick wall - and, as bodies and instruments fall every which way, it keeps belting out the same pre-programmed music.

For instance: Having hit the wall in his campaign, there was McCain, still talking about…Bill. Ayres. again.

And then it got really interesting. Call it a tale of two episodes.

In the first episode, Williams asked Palin who the elitists are. Palin replied: “Oh, I guess just people who think that they're better than anyone else. And John McCain and I are so committed to serving every American. Hard-working, middle-class Americans who are so desiring of this economy getting put back on the right track. And winning these wars. And America's starting to reach her potential. And that is opportunity and hope provided everyone equally. So anyone who thinks that they are - I guess - better than anyone else, that's - that's my definition of elitism.”

Williams: “So it's not education? It's not income-based? It's –”

Palin: “Anyone who thinks that they're better than someone else.”

Williams: “- a state of mind? It's not geography?

Palin: “Course not.”

At this point, McCain decided to help out: “I - I know where a lot of 'em live (laughs)...Well, in our nation's capital and New York City. I've seen it. I've lived there. I know the town. I know - I know what a lot of these elitists are. The ones that she never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown. I'll be very frank with you. Who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”

See the problem? Palin says that the scourge of elitism has nothing to do with geography (“Course not”)…and then McCain jumps in to say that the scourge of elitism is all about geography (“I’ve seen it. I’ve lived there.”). He was so specific that he singled out the very people with whom he has lived and worked and socialized for the past 26 years.

The bottom line? At this point Palin and McCain are so out of sync with each other that, even when they try to polarize by broad-brushing millions of their fellow Americans, they can’t even synchronize their own smears.

It got worse. A few minutes later in the interview, we had episode two. This was when William asked, “Governor, are you a feminist?”

Palin: “I'm not gonna label myself anything, Brian. And I think that's what annoys a lot of Americans, especially in a political campaign, is to start trying to label different parts of America different, different backgrounds, different…I'm not going to put a label on myself. "

See the problem? In episode one, she thought it was just fine to label people – specifically, anyone whom she deemed to be an elitist (translation: anyone who criticizes her and McCain). But in episode two, when asked to label

, she declared the practice out of bounds.

And then, seeking to defend her stance, she contended that a lot of Americans are “annoyed” by labeling, especially when candidates “start trying to label different parts of America” – yet this is precisely what she has been doing lately on the stump (“the pro-America parts of this great nation”), and this is precisely what McCain had just done, a couple of minutes earlier.

They’re out of sync, and nearly out of time.  The death spiral continues.