HOT FOR TEACHER
While it is obvious that the coastal wings of the Republican Party wish Sarah Palin would just go away, it is not going to happen. As a Fox News watcher, every time some "guest talking head" appears to discuss the Republican 2012 candidates (an absurdity in itself), it is excruciating watching the "guest head" self consciously avoiding Palin's name. Yet Vanity Fair, the "American Magazine of Culture, Fashion, and Politics", definitely understands that a 9000 word article on Palin helps sell issues. Democrats, of course, dislike Palin. They must sense some danger, because their emotional reaction to her is too visceral. They may want to pretend she is Dan Quayle, but she is not. But parts of the Republican media and party seem almost embarrassed by her as well. While agreeing she has received atrocious treatment from the mainstream (i.e., Democratic) media, somewhere, deep down inside, there is some agreement. Without doubt, because of her natural charisma and popularity, this media "bias" helps her cause. This is cognitive dissonance at the deepest level. The Vanity Fair article touches on almost every conscious and subconscious fear of Palin by both parties.
Todd Purdum's article on Sarah Palin is fascinatingly focused on her sexuality. Talk about being Hot For Teacher. Palin, a sub-4 hour marathoner who still runs daily, actually listens to Van Halen, among others, while running. As a quick aside, the photo below appears in the May 2009 issue of Runner's
Magazine. While Vanity Fair attacks in plain sight, Palin has a quiet guerrilla media strategy of her own in certain niche outlets. In the article, she pokes fun at the president by saying "I'd come out ahead in run against Obama". It is clear Vanity Fair's Purdum has a strong attraction for Palin (also see Alec Baldwin's comments later in this essay). But Palin is far from blind to the effect she has. She knows "looks sell", like any sentient politician, actor, or public figure. Reagan knew that. Kennedy knew that. Obama appears bare chested on countless magazine covers, does he not? Why does she point to Obama as the person she would beat in a run? Because that is her target.
Purdum's article was widely attacked as a hit piece by the "right". But, ironically, it could not have been more helpful to Palin had it been explicitly designed to be so. For all practical purposes, Purdum reawakened her fan base and her attack base. Two for the price of one. Purdum calls Palin "the sexiest brand in Republican politics" and "Alaska's charismatic governor". In her appearance at a pro-life event in Indiana, Purdum comments that she was dressed all in black, as opposed to her election season garb of "red Naughty Monkey Double Dare pumps"--(what are Purdum's little dreams before he goes nitey nite?). He describes electricity and star power at this event, as Palin is followed by "eight television cameras and a passel of reporters". Right before a local newspaper photog gets ready to snap a picture, Purdum, with a clear eye for detail when he is motivated, notices Palin "for a split second stops, pauses, turns her head and shoulders just so, and smiles". Partially repeating himself, Purdum again states "Palin is at once the sexiest and the riskiest brand" in the Republican party. In fact, he states her supporters' fascination with her is "viral" (Purdum is in full Freudian projection mode). In fact, this "viral fascination" is global, as Purdum reports she has turned down countless interview requests from almost every country in Europe.
She is apparently neither "Anna Nicole Smith not Margaret Chase Smith", but a phenomenon all her own. Again, Purdum can't back off from the sexual imagery of Palin as he says "she is by far the best-looking woman ever to rise to such heights in national politics" and "the first indisputably fertile female to dance with the big dogs". Fertile female? Dancing with the "big dogs"? The guy is in a fever. Purdham cannot stop as he tells his readers the "pheromonal reality has been a blessing and a curse". So far, I am not getting the curse part. He does say if she looked like Susan Boyle no one would have given her a second chance. And if Obama looked like Slappy White, I'm sure his candidacy would have been hampered as well. OK, we get it. She is clearly attractive and appealing looking. Purdum is not the first left wing commentator to focus on Palin's sexual appeal. Alec Baldwin caught the bug on Saturday Night Live as he called her "bible spice" and a "beautiful, beautiful woman", ironically, on the David Letterman show. Letterman, of course, also had his infamous fantasies about her "slutty flight attendant look". But all politicians, and people for that matter, come as a whole. They are not made up of disparate parts. Sarah Palin is Sarah Palin. But what is the nature of the cognitive dissonance within the Republican party? Why do they wish she would go away?
Palin is a unique politician. She is by far the most known and popular candidate----Among Republicans, Most Popular GOP Figure Is Palin. But she also has a large, mostly silent, group of critics within the Republican Party itself. Her support comes from "middle America". Her silent critics really are of the intelligentsia. By silent, I mean there is not an overt movement against her--it would backfire--but there is definitely fear that some of the left's most crude comments have an element of truth. Charles Krauthammer, while recognizing the existence of Palin Derangement Syndrome, represents the "standard critique" among many in the conservative movement. One needn't try and put too fine a point on it. They simply think she is not smart or sophisticated enough. There is probably a further belief that, while her media coverage was brutal and unfair, it will be very difficult to over come. Except this phrasing or argument is never used. Instead, we see a more euphemistic expression. Krauthammer and others have argued that she has not spent enough time "doing her homework". Obviously, this group has bought into the "not ready for prime time" critique. I'll be honest. I am not quite sure what is meant by this. It sounds good. But what is actually meant? Does she need to read some Hayek and Friedman? Or maybe some Santayana and Durant? Or does it mean she should memorize the CIA World Factbook? How about studying whether the Fed's current attempt to print money is a failure as it is redeposited back into the Fed by banks as excess reserves? Is this inflationary or deflationary evidence? Does Romney have a view? Should we care? I would like to know what all this "studying" should be about.
While I did find it disappointing she did not comment on Iran, isn't it likely we know what she would have said? We know she opposes the mini-mouse dictator. We know she is opposed, and has been for some time, for "negotiations without preconditions" with Iran. Obama has already bought the big one on that. If he tries to negotiate with them, he will be reviled. He needs to get tough, not nice, with Iran. Her recent speech in Kosovo showed a natural empathy for our troops, versus Obama's fake empathy for Iranian protesters. Governor Palin Speaks to the Troops. We already know many of Palin's views on issues. For a summary of comments she has made on a variety of issues, one can review them on the general political website "On the Issues"; Sarah Palin on the Issues. A president is not an academic. A president is not drafter of legislation. A president must present a political vision on a variety of fronts, and from that point on, others are responsible for the details. A president must provide confidence to a nation.
Obama's vision is to Mirandize enemy combatants; criticize America's past; kow tow to the "Supreme Leader" of Iran and much of the world's dictators; criticize Israel relative to Iran; promote extensive, if not total, government intervention in energy, finance, autos, and health care. These are principles that he espouses and believes in. He is the promoter in chief of these perspectives. Is there any doubt where Palin would stand on any of these issues? How much "studying" does she really need to do to counter any of these ideas? I certainly believe to be a successful candidate, she has to be persuasive in her ability to communicate. But that is not why she is being criticized. She is being told she needs to "study".
I am all for "studying and preparation". But I cannot help believe this is largely a red herring issue. Perhaps she will not and cannot be persuasive. We will find out. She clearly disagreed with McCain on many points. But her opinions are obvious and there for all to see. They have been stated in public. She opposed bailouts; she even opposed the AIG bailout as it was happening (so did I)--even as all the super duper geniuses were in favor of the bailout. Who ended up being right? She supports choice in education; she is against carbon caps and supports cheap energy; she is for lower corporate and personal income taxes; she was for the "surge" in Iraq; she supported the "surge" in Afghanistan; she is opposed to Iran getting nuclear weapons; would not "second guess" Israel if they needed to take action to defend themselves. She did not have to wait to see what issues Obama would have trouble with before taking these stands.
I think it is very clear where Palin stands on issues. You may or may not agree with them, but I doubt there is much confusion on what she is likely to support. But authors like Purdum and popular cultural vehicles like Vanity Fair obsess with her sexuality and ludicrous unattributed gossip. Many Republicans run from her because they do not like where she stands on religion, abortion and other cultural issues. I think they mistakenly attribute to her a political lack of sophistication too. Do you really have any doubt she would not appoint a Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, or that she agrees with the recent ruling by the high court in the so called Ricci decision?
These seem obvious to me. But she embarrasses the sophisticates.The Vanity Fair article, in addition to expressing the "Alec Baldwin view of Palin", also simultaneously makes the contradictory point that she is both a vicious Machiavellian politician, who dominates her opponents, while also being a diva air head. But both cannot be true. The Republican party and their media allies may feel uncomfortable supporting her, or that she is polarizing, or believe she will never be ready for the big time intellectually. They may end up being correct in the end on one or more of these points. But the talking "guest heads" are off base if they don't think, as of 2009, she is the one to beat. There is a long way to go, and in fact more important things to worry about in politics than 2012 (like 2010, for instance, and the several gubernatorial races coming up). But when I see pundits mention NJ candidate for Governor, Chris Christie, as a potential presidential candidate in 2012, and not mention Palin, then these people definitely have a problem.
Palin clearly is not of the establishment. This encourages wild and vicious attacks. Many have said she has focused too much on these personal attacks to the detriment of her political future. The opinion polls today, at least, do not confirm that view.