Sarah Palin is a ridiculous reality show mom who managed to become unbelievably famous despite living in Alaska. America was not aware that there was a market for a Kardashian family of the tundra, but thanks to the shrewd talentspotting talents of Bill Kristol we are all aware of it now, probably it works out very synergistically for the Palins and their wardrobe sponsors that all the other reality star families walk around in tank tops and Havanias all the time; I would very much rather not spend another 30 seconds thinking about that; the end.
Anyway though, having never been raped in Wasilla, I have trouble holding anything against Sarah Palin or any of her kids, and finally thanks to this weekend’s New York Times magazine I understand why. It is beyond the capacity of natural human consciousness to crave even a small fraction of the attention Sarah Palin has accumulated over two short years. And yet we continue heaping it upon her, unable to stop ourselves, as though our neurotransmitters are not our own but those of a gargantuan and slow-moving gelatinous mass exerting a gravitational pull on the collective frontal lobes that is somehow as exhausting to succumb to as it is to resist …
…and then I got to the part in Draper’s 8,000-word story where she quit her job governing Alaska, all the way last summer. An all-too-familiar episode, and yet for the first time reading about it, I found myself thinking, “Good for you, S-Palin!” If my subconscious used outdated Oprah-y lingo like “You go, girl!”, it might have thought that instead. Because governing, it seemed clear, had become as “toxic” an activity for Sarah Palin as reading that article had become for me. How I wished I could quit! Reading the story, and this stupid business. But I persevered in hopes that if I did, I might be able to save a reader or two the existential ennui by paring its contents into a listicle of most grating things about this weekend’s 8,000-word Times magazine cover story about Sarah Palin:
1. Braindead stock “you think you know, but you have no idea” paragraphs that betray no sign the writer even remotely believes the bullshit he is shoveling:
Less well known was the Palin who agitated for more access to the media (other than Katie Couric), who was seen more than once passed out on her hotel bed half-buried in briefing books and index cards and whose thriftiness when it came to her wardrobe was so obvious that one senior strategist clucked of the Palins, “These people shop at Dillards!”
That, in lieu of actual evidence itself, liberally deploy meaningless adjectives to describe supposed evidence the writer pretends he has collected that suggests Palin is not nearly so braindead as she seems.
Palin has taken steps to close the substance gap. As Davis put it to me, “She works very hard to get things right, because she understands the margin for error — and because it’s the right thing to do. In Hong Kong 14 months ago, Palin delivered a dense world-affairs speech that she co-drafted with Randy Scheunemann and Rebecca Mansour. This past June in Norfolk, Va., Palin ripped Obama’s “enemy-centric” foreign policy in a spicy but detailed address. (In that speech and elsewhere, she has cited the wisdom of Joe Lieberman — though not on the matter of human-induced climate change, a concept she derides as a “snow job” and this “global warming Goregate stuff.” Lieberman told me, “Well of course I disagree with her and have been disappointed by it.” Lieberman also said: “My impression is that she and Todd are the kind of people I’d like to have as my next-door neighbors. That’s a separate question from whether she’s capable of being president.”) Earlier this month, Palin gave a speech on monetary policy, criticizing the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, which, according to Mansour, was written entirely by Palin and herself.
2. Aforementioned term “substance gap” which according to the story is Palin’s biggest obstacle to winning the presidential nomination in 2012, with the possible exception of her also considerable supposed “gravitas gap.”Once the writer has established that he does not personally think Sarah Palin is ignorant or dumb, no quite the opposite, that being ignorant and dumb is simply a negative perception she will have to contend with as long as she continues to exist, the rest of the story is told in terms of public “perception” of Palin, which Palin to her credit seems to find to be an inordinately tedious topic.
3. Of course, “perception” is no longer what it was back when everyone dismissed Palin as an “incompetent ditz”, at least as these things are talked about within the “Beltway echo chamber”—a phenomenon he inexplicably characterizes as “endearing” (a descriptor about which I thought, apologies Jake Tapper, about as endearing as a gas chamber… but I digress)—which has since decided Palin is “a social-media visionary who purposefully circumnavigated the power-alley gasbags and thereby constructed a new campaigning template for the ages.”
Because she knows how to use Facebook.
4. But not just that! Palin is a more prolific author of status updates and Tweets than anyone might have expected her to be. Which may force the chattering classes to refudiate their prevailing narratives about the magnitude of the “gaps” between Palin & themselves & all the 798 other ppl they follow.…
The story opens with Palin and Todd staying up until 3 in the morning on election night, emailing candidates and operatives from their New York hotel room, with Sarah on her iPad and Todd possibly thumbing away on the BlackBerry he often uses to research the various news topics for his wife before big interviews. All the admiring paragraphs lavish over her ability to play with an assortment of familiar gadgets, often all at the same time, at all hours of the day. By Draper’s account, the “refudiate” thing actually reflects positively on Palin, because it shows she writes her own Tweets, “without consulting anyone,” and Tweeting prolifically is something to admire. In another of the story’s positive passages, Sarah types a section of her book on her laptop while her ghostwriter asks her questions about another section, while reading the crawl on Fox News. In more skeptically rendered episodes, she turns down a Tea Party rally in New Hampshire and visits Iowa to deliver a speech but leaves without scheduling any other event. Writes Draper:
We are left to wonder whether these omissions suggest disorganization, lack of foresight, ambivalence, distrust of politicos or some combination of the above.
Which leaves me to wonder mainly, WTF has happened that ostensibly respectable media coverage of Palin has become more vacuous and narcissistic than Palin herself? We are talking about a woman who quit the governorship just over halfway through her first term to devote more time to her family and her much more lucrative career as a full-time self-promotional vehicle…but the big sign she might be a disorganized slacker is her failure to pack in as many rallies as she might have in a year she’s not actually running for anything (besides maybe a few extra covers of InTouch Weekly?) Oh let’s not kid ourselves; we know what this is about. Palin is now a multi-platform lifestyle brand, and as fellow self-promoting members of the media in this nonstop 24-hour blah blah, we get to evaluate her on terms we understand. After all, she still doesn’t have half the Twitter followers that Ana Marie Cox does; can she really be that “serious” about whatever it is she’s doing here? (Which is to say, offering up a lot of non-answers to our relentless stream of inquiries about what exactly it is she’s doing.) She’s a fucking reality star, people! And yeah, sure she’s proven capable of getting a lot of people to commit voter fraud on behalf of her firstborn daughter, but “serious” is not quite the word for any of it. “Serious” is the word for just about every problem this country faces that day after day we ignore in lieu of Sarah Palin, security cameras and “The Situation.”
5. What is serious, however… is that the Times magazine probably pays a guy like Draper $4 or $5 a word.