Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"What About That Lady Who Just Got Elected In Alaska?"

Jane Mayer's "The Insiders: How John McCain Came To Pick Sarah Palin" in the current New Yorker isn't up to her usual standards. It is not, as the headline suggests, a blow-by-blow account of how the campaign rejected initial choices and wound up settling on Palin. There's no detailing of the internal debates; all Mayer tells us is what we already know: That McCain wanted Joe Lieberman on the ticket and was ultimately discouraged by fears of a convention floor fight with the party hard right. Moreover, she confers far too much stature on Alaska small-timers and the callow blogger Adam Brickley ("an authentic heartland voice"), who last February launched a blog to promote Palin as an antidote to expected Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But as an inadvertent portrait of Palin's capacity to seduce older men into ballyhooing her rise to prominence, Mayer's account is invaluable. The former beauty queen is clearly comfortable with men. The Circe of the Northern Lights has the ability to reduce them to stammering suitors, reminiscent of the Tarleton twins begging Scarlett O'Hara to eat barbecue with them Indeed, although her addition to the Republican ticket was initially thought to be an effort to attract women voters, it's now clear that her primary appeal is to men.

So, when fundraising cruises sponsored by the National Review and the Weekly Standard made port in Juneau, Palin was quick to invite their mostly white, middle-aged male pundits and families to lunch in the governor's mansion, followed by a helicopter tour to a gold mine. (The mine was of particular interest to Palin because environmentalists -- unfairly, in her view -- had invoked  "the Clean Water Act to oppose a plan by a mining company, Coeur Alaska, to dump waste from the extraction of gold into a pristine lake in the Tongass National Forest.") At any rate, in terms of Palin's aspirations, the visit was a resounding success. The National Review put her on its cover ("The Most Popular Governor"), one pundit called her "a mix between Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc," and William Kristol began flogging Palin for vice president.

A subsequent lunch with National Review writers and guests was equally successful. "This lady is something special. She connects. She's genuine." Palin charmed John Bolton by speaking approvingly of his efforts to reverse international controls on the trans-border flow of small arms. (She sure knows how to sweet talk a guy.) And she huddled with Dick Morris for a lengthy, private conversation during which he told Palin that she was of vice-presidential timber. 

But the most revealing comment came from National Review editor James Nordlinger, who subsequently described Palin as  “a former beauty-pageant contestant, and a real honey, too." He added, "Am I allowed to say that? Probably not, but too bad.” Thus the impression one gets of the two lunches: A shrewd, attractive, younger woman bewitches a group of supposedly sophisticated pundits, academics, and experts by the time-tested expedients of showing them a good time and agreeing with them.

What of Adam Brickley, the blogger who first called attention to Palin? Although Mayer portrays him as a knowledgeable comer, his blog (Draft Sarah Palin For Vice President) is a facile, uncritical fanzine that refers to "Sarah" and "Todd" as if they are personal friends. Brickley sincerely believes that Palin upstaged Tina Fey on SNL and considers Obama's tenuous connection to ACORN to be as sinister as he thinks Troopergate is innocent fun. All in all, Brickley comes across as a lovelorn college student transfixed and infatuated by the MILF living next door. This may or may not be authentic, but it's hardly a heartland voice: Brickley is no John Cougar Mellencamp.

Judge for yourself whether Palin consciously uses her attractiveness and sexuality to further her career. Conscious on her part or not, this has undoubtedly happened. She has certainly not been shy about promoting herself to the point to where she has gone too far too fast. She's like a raw minor league talent who makes the major starting lineup based on self-hype rather than actual accomplishments. Except that this isn't a game. Mayer quotes former McCain strategist Matthew Dowd saying that John McCain  “'knows in his gut' that Palin isn’t qualified for the job, 'and when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with. . . . He put the country at risk...'” 

Must Read Dept.: Today, the Los Angeles Times begins a three-parts begins a three-part series on the rapidly failing "system" of individual and employer-provided health insurance, which sounds about as stable as a New Orleans levee. Part I shows that the 85 million Americans with individually purchased health insurance lodge protect their dreams in a house of straw...

FiveThirtyEight has an interesting and readable summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the major tracking polls here. If you've ever wondered why they differ but don't want to take a statistics class to find the answer, this more than suffices...

8 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

McCain still is the best choice the GOP could have chosen to run for president. That is how much trouble that party is in. It will be out of power for decades.

Was Palin a Rove creation?

The Dems need the same scruitiny. Now they have to produce.

Nita Lou Bryant said...

Thanks for pointing us to Mellencamp. I agree with what he said about our nation having lost its compassion. I hope he's wrong about having to bottom out before we recover it, though.

K. said...

Ren: The Repub. nominating process was definitely a process of elimination.

Nita: Sadly, there are too many who rationalize their lack of compassion by calling it compassion -- tough love, as it were. The right has mangled language beyond belief. To them, love is hate and hate is love, tolerance is racism and racism is tolerance. JCM may well be right in saying that a bottoming out has to happen before we begin to straighten this out.

Premium T. said...

Haven't we bottomed out yet???

Scrumpy's Baker said...

Palin definitely uses her attractiveness to get what she wants. While I certainly don't agree with that tactic, it is the fault of these men for being so shallow as to fall for it.

That being said, I have absolutely no respect for her and think she is a complete idiot. However, if the RNC wanted to give me her $150,000 clothing budget, I wouldn't turn it down.

I do wonder what will happen to her faith after election day when God doesn't "do the right thing for America."

Molly The Dog said...

scrump: she'll probably just get some more witch removal from her pastor.

Sylvia K said...

Have to admit I agree with molly the dog, I can't even talk about her total lack of qualifications without foaming at the mouth!

Premium T. said...

I would venture to say that all of us commenting here are more qualified than she is. My two sons, at age 20 and 22, are more informed.