Once upon a time in America there was at least a tangential relationship between fame and talent. Actors could act. Writers could write. Singers could sing. Of course, there were always freaky novelty acts, but they were in the sideshow, not the main arena. But now we live in the world of “reality stars” -- individuals with little discernable talent beyond a hunger for self-promotion so insatiable that they allow cameras into their private lives to document their personal failings, which then gets fobbed off as entertainment to a voyeuristic public. Infamy has become the new fame. Reality shows the venue for aspiring media monsters to strut the stuff they imagine they’ve got. A place for Goslins and Kardashians to wallow in their 15 minutes and, once there, claim it as a right of entitlement.
But now, out of the west, or northwest to be precise, has come a relatively new phenomenon: the reality politician – Sarah Palin. A novelty act governor who was plucked from obscurity and placed on the national stage. A campaign gimmick. A Hail Mary pass by a veteran politician so desperate to win he would try to fob off a grinning dumb belle as a Vice Presidential candidate. Someone who proved not just in those few short months, but since, that she would never let her ignorance get in the way of her ambition.
Thankfully, it didn’t work. But now… she’s back… with, well, it’s words on paper between two covers so I guess technically one has to describe it as a book. One that it seems should have been titled Profiles in Carnage because apparently her failure to catapult McCain to the White House was everyone else’s fault. Steve Schmidt. Nicole Wallace. Tina Fey. The SNL writers. Charlie Gibson. The liberal media. The AP. Apparently, all these people conspired to make her look stupid. It had nothing to do with her justification for her foreign policy experience being that Russian jets flew over her state. A response so inane that if a junior high school student on the debate team offered it up, she’d be laughed out of the auditorium. And the infamous Katie Couric “what do you read” gotcha question? Even your average idiot on the street trying to appear intelligent could’ve name-dropped “The N.Y. Times and Wall Street Journal” and no one would have been the wiser. These weren’t “gotcha” questions. These were softballs to anyone running for national office. And her answers were not up to par. But she thought they were. And that is frightening.
Ultimately, no one did more damage to Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin. She was handed a national platform on which she could dazzle the country with her brilliance. And she winked, smirked, and crapped all over it. Forget that she’s a woman. Forget that she’s from a more obscure state. Forget that she’s got a voice that sounds like a dolphin with a sinus condition. She could’ve opened her mouth and demonstrated her intelligence and grasp of issues both domestic and international. And people would have rightfully taken notice and been impressed. And if a question momentarily stumped her, she could have honestly copped to a lack of familiarity with the issue along with the intention to look into it, and people would have forgiven her lack of knowledge and possibly even appreciated some refreshing candor from a politician. Instead, we got cutesy evasions. “I’ll check into it and get back to ya.” “Hockey mom” jokes, “bridge to nowhere” lies, and “pallin’ around with terrorists” inflammatory accusations. “Pallin’ around?” This is the appropriate level of discourse for a presidential election?
And what have we been treated to since, when given a chance to comment on policy? Health care? “Death panels!” Economic crisis? “Socialism!” She can commission a dozen ghost-written books and it will never change the simple fact that she is not capable of participating in a substantive discussion on vital issues because that requires having knowledge, thoughts, and ideas. Not just talking points, surface slogans, jingoistic nonsense, and fake, folksy crackerbarrel chatter. She’s the anti-Susan Boyle. She’s physically appealing. But she can’t fucking sing.
And, yet, despite her ridiculous campaign performance and subsequent lack of ability to stand up and take responsibility for her own shortcomings, once again we have to endure the interviews, and the endless news reports about the interviews, during her battleground state book tour, along with the Republican cheerleader chant of “underestimate her at your peril.” Yes, we know, Mr. Gingrich -- everyone thought Reagan was an idiot, too. But just because she’s shrewd doesn’t mean she’s smart. You can’t teach intelligence. And the talking points of the week will eventually sound hollow when there’s no legitimate thought behind them. If there were a God who was paying special attention to Sarah…there isn’t… but if there were, his message to her would be to finish her smirkathon, sell some books, and then take that shit back to Alaska. Bad news for the moose. Good news for the rest of us.
And I would be relieved. Not that Mittens and Huck don’t cause me to wake up with 3 a.m. flop sweat, but this woman scares me. She is, as Carl Bernstein so accurately put it “an ignorant demagogue.” But when so many people are out of work, they get desperate. And desperation is the demagogue’s fertilizer. So, as much as I miss laughing at Tina Fey’s deadly accurate lampooning of her --a performance as satirically brilliant as Dan Aykroyd’s Nixon -- I would happily forgo seeing it again to keep Palin off the national and world stage. We have serious problems that need to be solved by serious people. Not politics’ answer to Kate Goslin.