Some of you may know that my title comes from the 1976 film Network. The movie exposes the media’s failure to report how Americans really feel during times of war and upheaval and what they did about it: They got honest. In that spirit, this piece is about honesty.

Like Campbell Brown, I too have had it. I have had it with people like Elizabeth Hasselbeck telling me that questioning Sarah Palin is “deliberately sexist.” Recently, at a Republican rally in Tampa, Florida, Hasselbeck said, “The questioning of Governor Palin’s shopping spree was deliberately sexist.” I disagree.

In fact, I challenge Hasselbeck. When a presidential candidate is running on a ticket advocating reform of government spending, yet approves $150,000 to clothe and paint his VP nominee, how can we trust him? What does reporting a $150k shopping spree have to do with sexism, anyway? Wasn’t Senator John Edwards called out for spending $400 on haircuts? Was that sexist?

Why is it every time a pundit or reporter questions Sarah Palin’s designer clothes or anything, it’s suddenly sexist? Even Elaine Lafferty, the former editor in chief of Ms. magazine, and a faithful Democrat (she claims)—who’s now consulting for the McCain campaign—blogged on Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast that she is tired of the Democratic Party taking women for granted. I suppose Lafferty hasn’t met the thousands of Democrats that I know who support, appreciate and approve of a woman as a leader, but not just any woman. Rather, an intelligent woman.

So I question Palin’s intelligence. If she claims to be in touch with the international community, even if only through reading newspapers and magazines, then why does she foolishly say “I can see Russia from my house” when asked about international affairs? Can one honestly say that’s an intelligent answer? If so, then what is intelligent? I don’t know.

No matter how intelligent Palin may or may not be—and let’s have a healthy debate here at 12th Street on intelligence—I am skeptical of her ability, and as mad as hell about it.

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'On the Road' / c. 1936

Mike Young lives up to his last name, and is more prolific than most. He often wears cowboy shirts.


12th Street:
You told me something this summer that has stuck out in my mind: Some people write poetry when they should be writing country songs. Can you talk more about this?

Mike Young: The country song is a terrific format for a certain kind of emotional distillation. Like if you want to write about dead people, failed dreams, steel wool, alcohol, ghosts. If you want shifting narratives and wordplay. Self-deprecation, even. Country music has all that in spades. And I’m not even talking about good country here. Just mainstream country like you’d see on GAC. Go listen to “Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk” if you think L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry doesn’t exist on the tobacco farm. Tony Tost can speak much better about this (and less glibly, probably), but I am totally not kidding.

What I really meant when I talked to you, though, was probably that there is an undercurrent of honky-tonk emotional angst sort of tucked away, embarrassed, beneath the flashy crust of today’s popular, cutesy, post-avant, soft surrealist poetry. What if these poets just sat down and wrote a dumb country song about how much they miss high school? Or, like, how much they love beer in the afternoon? Eighty percent of the poets I know love beer in the afternoon. So do country stars. What I’m asking for, I think, is more unabashed sentimentality, in both poetry and the afternoon. DFW is right: irony has pervaded/perverted culture. Let Dr. Pepper make their sly, ironic commercials; if you really want to be subversive and shit, acknowledge sentimentality and “take it back.” (more…)