Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Palin" and "progress" not synonymous

Who is playing who—the media or Sarah Palin? I used to think it was the media; now I’m not so sure. The fascination with Palin continues unabated with the latest TIME magazine cover story which muses about “Palin in Progress.” One might be forgiven for wondering why an editor might think “Palin” and “Progress” are synonymous; for anyone to waste time on the question at all on this wastrel is probably not a useful occupation of one’s time anyways.

There are those people who take politics seriously (in reality a minority) who have formed their own opinion of Palin, based upon her various curious pronouncements that the media has provided her a forum to expectorate, and who seem to fall into two oppositional camps: those who believe that her frequently incendiary and incomprehensible remarks are either “beneficial” for the country to hear—or have the potential to be a truly destructive force; the "populist" senatorial candidate Greg Stillson in the Stephen King novel "The Dead Zone" comes to mind. Those are not the people TIME is trying to reach, but those who haven’t been paying attention. Why “grace” another cover with Palin’s pudgy mug? She “graciously” allowed the magazine an “exclusive” interview; well, not really an interview, but an exchange of e-mails that may have been answered by one of Palin’s filters. The appreciative TIME reporter Jay Newton-Small thus salivates all over Palin, revealing such amazing “revelations” as the overcomeness of Palin when she discovered that posting on her Facebook page something she heard over at Fox News about “death panels” in Obama’s health care reform plan could excite a great many dimwitted (my word) people. There was no such thing as “death” panels in Obama’s plan, although there may be within private health insurance companies; I once overheard an older man refer to Group Health as “Group Death.” All the flack that the “off-hand” remark excited nearly brought down the health care reform agenda (according to TIME), and gave Palin the idea that any “incendiary and inaccurate” remark she made gave her power to persuade small, bigoted minds at will (TIME didn’t say that). Palin “was surprised by her post's galvanizing power. With just a few keystrokes, she discovered, she could ruin White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' day, or as she puts it, ‘I find it a great way to communicate with people directly without the media filter’"—just her’s.

The fact that Palin appears to have only a vague familiarity about the things she talks about is of little import either to her “fans” or the media. TIME claims that Palin has a “sixth sense” about detecting an opponent’s “weak spot,” although this is more along the lines of the juvenile “low blow” than anything substantive. It doesn’t take a “sixth sense” to expose Palin’s weak spots, but like the media in general, TIME simply fears to examine them, because it has long abandoned hard news since it began pandering to a gender agenda two decades ago. Palin repeatedly disparages the “blamestream” and “lamestream” media, but these appellations are only appropriate when examining the weakling media’s utter failure to examine more deeply Palin’s rather empty-shelled and checkered political career. Palin’s arrogant, impulsive, self-obsessed, vindictive, thin-skinned demeanor tells us more than she wishes—or the media wishes us to know. A largely ignored Vanity Fair story a few months ago revealed a vicious personality behind closed doors, the kind of personality within which shapes “policy” not based upon logic but cupidity, rashness and the desire to be contrary; Palin’s complaints about “good old boys” merely denotes her contempt of anyone who stands in her way or engages in intelligent—i.e. confusing—discussion.

TIME describes Palin as a “demanding taskmaster,” and she has had a dozen or so staffers abandon their posts in the past year. The reality is more likely that Palin’s dislike of hard work and taking personal responsibility means that being insufficiently compensatory for her laziness with annoying details will not be tolerated. TIME also claims that Palin was once a “moderate” but has turned “steadily to the right” since 2008. Huh? Didn’t anyone at TIME listen to her campaign speeches in 2008? Palin was brought in by John McCain not just to attract disgruntled Hillary supporters like Harriet Christian, but because he needed her to shore-up the Republican extreme-right base, which would backfire on him when “centrist” voters took a good look at Palin. This was a person who excited listeners to shout “kill him,” as in Obama. TIME tells us that Palin “shrewdly anticipated the Tea Party’s rise.” Once more, the mainstream media simply has it wrong: Palin merely rode the wave. After all, how could Palin know that the billionaire Koch brothers would take a declaration from a right-wing blowhard on CNBC and behind the scenes fabricate a “movement” almost immediately after Obama took office, with a bucketful of pre-packaged propaganda lines already at hand? How come a British newspaper had to tell us this?

TIME reminds us that that Palin favored “mamma grizzlies” in her 2010 endorsements, most of whom failed because they were as erratic and extremist in their rhetoric as Palin. Nevertheless, TIME thinks Palin is “poised” to take over Washington D.C. (along with her potty-mouthed daughters) from the “good old boys” as she allegedly did in Alaska; Nancy Gibbs, one of those angry Hillary Clinton supporters, gives us that tiresome whine about “a woman being allowed to vote for a woman for president.” Does that mean just anybody—like Palin? Palin is in many ways like Hillary. Democrats did not really trust her, because of her support of Bush’s war and questions about her temperament (later exposed in the book “Game Change”), but the media kept shoving her on us, so she was the “frontrunner” by default because Democrats felt they had no alternative—until Obama’s arrival on the scene; he was at the time simply more compatible for the liberal base to digest. At the same time, Hillary’s positive ratings tended to be rather less impressive than her negative ratings. Not surprisingly, one of the more fascinating aspects about the Palin “phenomenon” is the fact that, as we see in the TIME article, there has been very little serious critiquing of Palin’s actual “stature.”

A recent Gallup poll showed that more people had a negative view of Palin than positive, yet the media continues to inflate her “importance” and “popularity.” Take for instance her endorsement of Tea Party candidate Joe Miller in her home state of Alaska. Palin and incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski were not best friends, the latter having criticized Palin for “abandoning” the Alaskan people after she abruptly resigned with 18 month left in her term as governor. When Miller won the GOP primary, it was declared far and wide that this was proof of Palin’s ability to sway the masses to her bidding. A few months later, Murkowski easily won as a write-in candidate. What happened? Not so much talk about that. Here’s a thought: As the poll indicated, most people are not as impressed by Palin as the media is. There may be a core of right-wing fanatics who get-off on her simple-minded slogans that often have a stincture of violence, but while she may be “popular” within a more expanded segment, that doesn’t mean she is either trusted or respected. Alaskans may initially have been amused by Palin’s endorsement of Miller, particularly given her “celebrity” as someone from a state generally ignored as a backwater. But do Alaskans respect Palin? It’s a fair question. Palin’s approval ratings continue to plummet despite media efforts to prop her up, and so it is in Alaska. A January 2010 poll showed Alaskans were evenly split on their opinion of Palin, and another in April showed an unfavorable rating of 52 percent. And why not? A few days after her resignation as governor in which she initially refused to offer illumination, she had this to say about why she quit:

"Especially when all these lawmakers are lining up for office. Their desire would be to clobber the administration left and right so that they can position themselves for office. I'm not going to put Alaskans through that."

You can just smell the hypocrisy through and through, but what does this say about Palin’s personality? She always attacks the “good old boy” network. Why? Because she can’t handle adversity? She doesn’t like people standing in her way? Why did she transfer to five different colleges in five years? Is Palin, despite her tough talk, actually weak and a coward? Bullies are, after all, noted cowards. They talk big, and like to push people around (Palin had a reputation for that in Alaska), but run away at the first sign of something bigger than themselves. Her statement, due to its mendacity, clearly implies that it is not Alaskans she is concerned about, but herself; after all, at the time she had already accumulated $500,000 in legal bills fighting Troopergate, and Alaska was small potatoes when multi-dollars for speaking engagements were flashed before her eyes. She was a “star” who couldn’t be bothered with facing her demons—kind of like Lindsay Lohan.

Perhaps no person in the history of world has done less to inspire such endless adulation. Her Wiki page describes her as an “American politician, author, speaker, and political news commentator.” That might all be true technically-speaking, but it’s a hell of lot less impressive or substantive than it sounds. Since “resigning” from the governorship of Alaska, she has made $13 million—from speeches that are mainly a collection of nasty zingers and sound bites culled from the vaults of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and that ilk (occasionally aided by notes written on her hands), and ghost-written books of simplistic platitudes and right-wing propaganda that TIME hilariously puts on the same bookshelf as Thomas Jefferson’s writings. Her sole “talent,” if truth be known, is being a white woman with an attitude for a media that is looking for one. I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton, but Clinton has ten-times the smarts and is actually performing a function (Secretary of State) that requires a reasonable amount of competence, common sense, hard work, and commitment. And, of course, you must not desert the field when the going gets too “tough.”

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