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No There There, Although There’s Plenty There To Be Found

[ 22 ] September 2, 2010 |

I basically agree with Melissa about the most recent Vanity Fair profile of Sarah Palin, which is almost as devoid of content as the last one.   If you were feeling really charitable you could say that in this particular case the obsession with trivia was a more important factor than sexism.    Certainly male politicians –  including Bill Cinton, Al Gore, and John Edwards — have been the targets of similar hatchet jobs, although I do think it’s true that women are more likely to be attacked for their child-rearing or for showing anger around their staff.   But whatever role of sexism per se — and I think it’s pretty evident in the article’s focus — the anecdote about Piper being used for an applause line gives away the show.   The way modern political campiagns use children as campaign props might be distasteful, but as a criticism of any individual politician it’s about as devastating as pointing out a politician dressing more formally in public than they do puttering around the house.

What’s especially frustrating about this is that there most certainly is a good long negative profile to be written about Palin for a general audience.      Calling her followers to “refudiate” tolerance and religious freedom in lower Manhattan is just the latest example of her being an extremely pernicious public figure, and her claims about her accomplishments and stands have been mostly lies and half-truths from the beginning.    An article that detailed this type of information in a high-circulation monthly would be useful.   An article that discusses her low tips to bellboys, twitter ghostwriters, and the similarity of a the nickname of a supporter’s blog to an adult swinger’s site haha — not so much.

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  1. wengler says:

    I think the major problem I have with most profiles like this is that they are truly condescending and evocative of an elite oligarchic attitude of who should rule the US.

    Sarah Palin is George W. Bush without the patrician background. You want to know about how 4 years with Sarah Palin as President would be like? Remember the last 8 years of Bush.

    And yet in all the critical profiles I have seen of Sarah Palin, they are nearly always mentioning some class-based snark that really reveals the character the author and gives Palin, a truly mean idiot, the grievance she needs to stoke her know-nothing base.

    One of the common things I see is ragging on how she went to 5 colleges. So what? Bush went to Yale and Harvard. And he’s still an idiot. These profile builders are very tied into the elite Ivy League education job network. We see it in the journalist core and also in the White House. And so many of them are also mean idiots. Palin is fueled by the resentment that this corruption provides. It’s not a coincidence that not once did one of these magazines charge that Yale and Harvard are legacy clubs conferring degrees on people who do not deserve them.

    Sarah Palin must be approached in much the same critical way that Bush was at the end of his second term. Tag her as the empty slogan monkey that she is. She has no value or substance to give as a leader of the United States. She will not make America a better place. Forget the biography stuff. It is not relevant as to whether you want Sarah freakin’ Palin as the one to decide whether or not we launch a nuclear holocaust.

  2. Is it really accurate to say that all politicians use their kids as props? I’m not so sure. Palin’s children seem to me to be used in a way that is qualitatively different from the way the Obama children appear in the media. Chelsea Clinton wasn’t a prop either, or, for that matter, Amy Carter.

  3. t jasper parnell says:

    Or Reagan’s kids. Like Ron Jr., although for different reasons, one assumes.

  4. Vlad says:

    I agree with the above two comments: it’s giving Palin more credit than she’s due to act as though focusing on her motherhood is some kind of out-of-the-blue sexist move. An important part of her public persona is that she’s a mother, and she’s building a movement of mothers, and her movement of mothers should be heeded because, well, mothers know best (at least when they agree with Palin). And she’s always used her decision to have Trig as a thinly-veiled claim to moral superiority. In this sense, I do think that her campaign, or whatever you want to call what it is that she’s doing now, is qualitatively different than what the Obamas do with their daughters, the Clintons did with Chelsea, etc.

    If she’s going to make her supposedly superior parenting skills an important part of her argument to the public, it seems fair enough to point out when the reality doesn’t meet her rhetoric. I’m not saying this should allow unlimited comment on her parenting — and I’m also not saying that sexism can’t be mixed into all of this — but the Vanity Fair article didn’t seem to go overboard in either sense.

  5. c u n d gulag says:

    In general I agree.
    However, what one treats and/or tips wait persons, bartenders, etc., is revealing about a person.
    One woman I read not too long ago wrote about something her late father had told her about choosing a potential mate. Don’t look at how he treats you in the restaurant on a date, look at how he treats the wait staff, because that’s how he’s going to treat his family.
    If you have a tendency to be cruel to to those people, I think it reflects on your attitude on life, equality and fairness.
    So, I do think how Sarah treats these people does matter.

  6. c u n d gulag says:

    In general I agree.
    However, how one treats and/or tips wait persons, bartenders, etc., is revealing about a person.
    One woman I read not too long ago wrote about something her late father had told her about choosing a potential mate. Don’t look at how he treats you in the restaurant on a date, look at how he treats the wait staff, because that’s how he’s going to treat his family.
    If you have a tendency to be cruel to to those people, I think it reflects on your attitude on life, equality and fairness.
    So, I do think how Sarah treats these people does matter.

  7. Murc says:

    The only thing in the article I personally found useful and really worthy of extended coverage was the ghostwriting stuff, which I consider to be one of the filthy little secrets of American politics and something that needs to be hauled into the light a lot more often. Aside from that… dammit, Vanity Fair.

  8. Ed says:

    I think the accusation of using her kids as props is a mite harsh, although the passing of Trig from family member to family member at the convention probably qualifies. The Obamas once allowed their girls to be interviewed by a gossipy television show and were criticized for it – the experiment was not repeated.

    Even if Palin didn’t want to talk about the kids, as a mother of young children (and bear in mind she isn’t a wife, she’s the – former – officeholder and candidate) her relationship with her children receives much more attention than a father’s would. Any politician would try to turn this extra scrutiny into a strength and not a potential vulnerability and she has done that with a fair amount of success.

    The article itself is an embarrassment. Palin has a temper. She argues with her husband. She discussed the Levi-Bristol situation with McCain’s aides. Her private behavior is sometimes at variance with her public persona. Shocking stuff.

    • calling all toasters says:

      You’ve missed all the stuff that is more damning. The phony PACs as a way of putting political contributions right in her pocket– this creates questions that will dog her if she ever runs for office. The apparently ghostwritten tweets and Facebook postings– will the media now continue to report on these as if they are news? That she’s not actually a hunter and that she is vicious to those below her station except when she’s in the public eye. These go right to the heart of her appeal with the GOP base. If these stories become the new narrative, no one will ever remember supporting her.

      • The apparently ghostwritten tweets and Facebook postings– will the media now continue to report on these as if they are news?
        Yes, since Barry Goldwater didn’t actually write Conscience of a Conservative. And I doubt that McCain wrote any of his. And Reagan…yeah, right.

        • calling all toasters says:

          Ghosteriting is an old, common practice, and people understand it as such. Hell, they couldn’t write a book, either. But who the hell ghosttweets except for Palin & Co.? The appeal of following tweets is that you are following your favorite celebrity around, that you have some sort of access to them in a personal, up-to-date, and spontaneous way. Palin’s phoniness here would be jarring to her admirers, if they could bring themselves to believe it.

    • dave says:

      Her private behavior is sometimes at variance with her public persona.

      One of the significant things suggested in the profile [as in many others] is that it is always at variance – that her ‘public persona’ is a flat-out lie, which is rather more than one could say of most politicians, even a rube like W.

  9. calling all toasters says:

    Oh, yes, let’s have some articles looking at how she is dishonest in her speeches and too far right in her opinions. That’ll strip the bark off her. It’s not like she’s buoyed up in the eyes of her maniacal followers (and the perpetually fascinated media) by her persona. It’s because she’s exactly like every other Republican in her lack of honesty, nasty rhetoric, and uselessness on policy. That’s what makes her different– not the idea that she’s a huntress/hockey mom/reg’lar gal. Hockey Mom Newt Gingrich has that, fer chrissake. Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty, too. It’s a fool’s errand to try and undermine a superstar’s false persona. It didn’t work on Tiger Woods, and it won’t work here.
    Do I have that about right, Scott?

  10. James E. Powell says:

    If one were to write an article that explains Palin’s policy preferences and analyzes the likely effects of her policy preferences on American life, and if the same article explained her decision-making processes, and if that article included an explanation of how her whole act is not about governing, but rather about her getting rich off the right wing rubes, no corporate press/media would publish or broadcast it. Even if one did, no one would read or watch it.

    Sarah Palin is a brand that will only keep selling so long as no one really looks closely. Her brand makes money for the corporate press/media. Moreover, she is very useful to the corporate ruling class in that her act crowds out any sober discussion of policies.

    Sarah Palin is like Britney Spears. Spears could neither sing nor dance, but still made millions for herself and for large corporations.

  11. map106 says:

    Hey, Dean was disqualified for a manufactured “scream”. Why shouldn’t Sarah for an incredibly bad temper.

  12. As you know, Scott, you snark with the Sarah Palin profiles you have, not the Sarah Palin profiles you might want or wish to have at a later time.

  13. Pug says:

    Sarah Palin plays the hated “MSM” like a violin. They hang on every word she says, they profile her endlessly and grovel for any coverage of her they can get. I don’t understand why they can’t leave her alone. Most of the country doesn’t care much for her anyway.

    Palin, meanwhile, makes lots of money, appears only on Facebook and Fox News and regularly rips the media that makes it possible for her to be a celebrity.

    If they ignored her as fastidiously as she avoids them, she would become nothing more than a Fox News commentator with a Facebook page, just another minor celebrity.

  14. Halloween Jack says:

    I’m pretty shocked at how badly McEwan misses the point of the article. It’s not that no other politician uses their kids as props, has arguments with their spouse, etc. It’s that Palin constantly and aggressively positions herself as the perfect parent, the perfect spouse, a close personal friend of every person who buys her book or pays to hear one of her speeches; this is someone who claims to have resigned her governorship because someone teased her kids. It’s in reaction to that that the article makes sense. (And it’s not as if Palin is the only person to have received that sort of examination of their personal lives; I’ve seen some pretty harsh personal profiles of John McCain and McEwan’s erstwhile employer, John Edwards.)

    Yes, the article is flawed; in particular, I was dismayed at the treatment that Shannyn Moore, one of the Alaska bloggers, received. But wanting an article that runs down her already-well-known positions on this issue or that shows a severe misunderstanding of the basis of her appeal to her fans, and Gross’ efforts to counter that.

    • Ed says:

      (And it’s not as if Palin is the only person to have received that sort of examination of their personal lives; I’ve seen some pretty harsh personal profiles of John McCain and McEwan’s erstwhile employer, John Edwards.)

      It’s not the harshness so much as the unrelenting triviality.

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