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Nice guy Garrison Keillor not warm on Sarah Palin

November 1, 2008 | 11:58 am

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Garrison Keillor is best known for his wildly popular radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," and his novels telling the further tales of Lake Wobegon; the eighth book, "Liberty," hit shelves this September. Lake Wobegon, a fictional Minnesota town where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," has a kind of rosy glow, an idealized yet funny, idiosyncratic view of smalltown America.

"I've known enough old bores to want not to be one of them," Keillor wrote in a recent column, explaining why, in conversation, he keeps his political opinions to himself. His column (distributed by Tribune Media Services, which I read on Salon.com) is another matter entirely. He is, in fact, a fierce Democrat with no love for Sarah Palin.

When she was first brought onto the ticket, he wrote, "If you want inexperience, there were better choices." Later in September, after she'd begun doing interviews, he called her "a symbolic woman, an eager zealot who is so far out of her depth that it isn't funny anymore." What sympathies he had were beginning to fade. In early October, he wrote: "It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket." By this week, the possibility of McCain-Palin reaching the White House struck Keillor as "miserable in the extreme," and he was calling her "Whoopee the Ice Queen."

Which does sound, well, kind of mean. Garrison Keillor, mean? He has a bit of a dark side -- e.g., his detective Guy Noir and Mr. Blue, his former Salon advice column on writing, love and sex (yes, sex) -- but isn't he, essentially, nice? I think he is, that his worldview is saturated by that rosy glow of Lake Wobegon. Later in that same Whoopee-the-Ice-Queen column, he wrote this about what it would mean to elect Barack Obama president.

Colin Powell was right when he called [Barack Obama] a transformational candidate. We walk through the door and we close it behind us and the simplicity of it is dazzling. That's how it happens. You walk aboard a plane and glance into the cockpit and there's a woman in the left-hand seat, and who these days would even think this worthy of comment? You see Latino men and women moving up whose grandparents picked row crops for a living. In Tulsa, in 1921, there was a big race riot following the arrest of a young black man who was alleged to have touched a white woman on the arm. Fighting in the streets, neighborhoods torched, the National Guard called in -- and this story seems medieval to us, a dark age almost beyond our ken. That culture is gone, gone, gone, and on Tuesday we bury it by the simple democratic process of voting for the best man even though his father was African.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Sarah Palin in New Hampshire, 2008. Creative Commons Attribution credit: Roger H. Goun via Flickr.

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