Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Cult of Sarah

The August 2009 issue of Vanity Fair contains a can't-miss piece about Republican Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's rise to become Senator John McCain's runningmate during the 2008 presidential election. The article is part bio-sketch, part historical narrative, part gossip column.

Here is just a taste: "The caricature of Sarah Palin that emerged in the presidential campaign, for good and ill, is now ineradicable. The swift journey from her knockout convention speech to Tina Fey’s dead-eyed incarnation of her as Dan Quayle with an updo played out in real time, no less for the bewildered McCain campaign than for the public at large. It is an ironclad axiom of politics that if a campaign looks troubled from the outside the inside reality is far worse, and the McCain-Palin fiasco was no exception. As in any sudden marriage of convenience in which neither partner really knows the other, there were bound to be bumps....By the time Election Day rolled around, the staff had been serially pummeled by unflattering press reports about the gaps in Palin’s knowledge, her stubborn resistance to direction, and the post-selection spending spree in which she ran up bills of $150,000 on clothes for herself and her family at high-end stores. The top McCain aides who had tried hard to work with Palin—Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist; Nicolle Wallace, the communications ace; and Tucker Eskew, her traveling counselor—were barely on speaking terms with her, and news organizations were reporting that anonymous McCain aides saw Palin as a “diva” and a “whack job.

Or how about this: "Election Night brought what McCain aides saw as the final indignity. Palin decided she would make her own speech at the ticket’s farewell to the faithful, at the Arizona Biltmore, in Phoenix. When aides went to load McCain’s concession speech into the teleprompter, they found a concession speech for Palin—written by Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, who had also been the principal drafter of her convention speech—already on the system. Schmidt and Salter told Palin that there was no tradition of Election Night speeches by running mates, and that she wouldn’t be giving one. Palin was insistent. 'Are those John’s wishes?' she asked. They were, she was told. But Palin took the issue to McCain himself, raising it on the walk from his suite to the outdoor rally. Again the answer was no."


Erick said...

Thanks for putting this up... but do you really read Vanity Fair?

msm3567 said...

I am a U of A graduate myself, albeit in Statistics. I found your blog and it looked interesting. It seems to be a reasoned and fair commentary of politics without an obvious partisan agenda. On this post, I disagree about Sarah Palin. I don’t consider myself one of her big supporters but do feel she was treated unfairly if not viciously by the press and her political opponents. Do you believe there was some hypocrisy in the political reaction to her? If she had been a Democrat, do you think the same criticisms would have been used? Even the riff between her and McCain? Criticizing McCain for choosing her based mainly on ‘getting elected’? As if that was the first time that has happened. I’m not saying that she was the perfect candidate. For me, the names of her children were almost worthy of disqualifying her. But I do feel that most of the reaction to and commentary about her was particularly vicious and if she had been a Democrat, she would have been reacted to very differently by the press. I remember one particular comment “… she’s as much a woman as Clarence Thomas is African-American”.

Anyways, I enjoy your blog and wondered what your thoughts were to my view.

DC said...

E-Rig--I don't regularly read V Fair but their political commentary is interesting because it is in-depth & well researched.

msm3567--I do try to be as fair as possible. Speaking for myself, I would have had just as hard a time accepting her as a serious candidate if Palin were a Democrat. To me, it came down to qualification & qualification only. Is this person equipped to be VP or God forbid, president should the unthinkable happen? There answer in my mind is an absolute no, regardless of policy or ideology.

The big question is: would there have been a similar reaction had Obama chosen a Palin-like figure for his runningmate? I think yes, except that the sides would switch. Republicans would have been howling that she was unqualified and a loose cannon & Dems would have been split between those that would support the ticket no matter what and the reasonable ones that would have major reservations. And the media reaction would have been the same with the sides switching as well--FOX would be skewering her, right wing media would attacking, CNN would be raising issues regardless, & MSNBC left wing talk radio would be screaming that the media was treating her unfairly. Late night comics have a field day regardless of ideology.

Thanks for your thought provoking questions.

msm3567 said...

Thanks for responding.

I do agree with you that the same howling would have come except from different camps. But I do believe the mainstream press including CNN has a left-leaning bias and there was an assumption that nominating a woman would limit the howling from them based on gender alone. Bad assumption. As a matter of fact, I believe that the view was so maddening to the left, that the criticism went over the line.

I guess I have trouble about what is deemed ‘qualified’ or ‘unqualified’ in the context of our political system. To me, there is a legit debate whether VP requires less experience than Congress. If the unthinkable happens, then being President is not like it is portrayed on TV as a one-person-show. Ultimately, there is limited power and many safeguards. Truth be told, I think a man with the same experience as Palin would have been reacted to differently as far as the ‘qualified’ factor.

Anonymous said...

msm3567 Do you consider FOX to be part of the mainstream? You criticize the blogger and media for bashing Sarah, yet you would consider eliminating her based on her children's names?

Time for the GOP to get on board the paradigm shifting in America and help out.

msm3567 said...

Yes, I consider FOX News to be part of the mainstream media. While its talk shows may be right-leaning, I don't believe its reporting is. Actually, I feel CNN & MSNBC have been more biased as a reaction to FOX News. I remember when news was news sans the agenda.

My point on the names was that I am not a Palin supporter. I do consider the names of her children to be 'out there'.

Finally, I do not represent the GOP yet do understand the paradigm shift you refer to. From conservstive to liberal? Don't think so. The country is pretty evenly divided.

What is unfortunate is that the electorate has become so policially polarized and also dumbed-down. As an example, how does the President of the United States affect the US Economy under capitolism.

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