Which means it must be just about time for a US Congressional election. Yup, here come those midterms. So people are going to start talking to and about Sarah Palin again. Great.
The latest piece that’s got various people agitated is an article on Palin from Vanity Fair that digs out what seems like every bit of nastiness and negativity about her that can be found, a lot of which consists of pointing out that Palin is very ambitious, that this makes her more than a little self-serving and insincere, and that the drive of her ambitions appears to make her prone to both bullying and vengeful streaks.
Wow. What a newsflash about 9 out of 10 politicians on the planet that is. There really aren’t a lot of sweethearts in politics, no matter what “side” one is on. I say this knowing that, what with me being just as tribal as anybody else, that it’s awfully tempting to read a litany of petty and some-not-so-petty flaws about a Big Opponent and go “see, sie’s just as bad as I always thought sie was” and get all triumphally schadenfreudish. But it’s important, sometimes, to avoid giving into that temptation, because sometimes it comes back to bite you.
Because as Liss points out, Palin doing what nearly every other politician does is, according to Michael Goss, apparently super duper extra terrible because (wait for it) She’s A Woman. There’s almost nothing in this article about Palin’s policies other than that she panders to conservatives that the writer appears not to like, and no major revelations of impropriety that we didn’t either already know (Shopping Spree, TrooperGate) or that don’t appear merely mundanely shady, if you can imagine such a thing, in terms of political operatives for someone who still thinks she’s got a maybe shot at the Presidency: i.e. playing some sort of shell games with setting up flit-by-night organisations that pay for her speaking fees in order to get around political donations legislation. Sure, it’s suss: but is it really Great Big News? Meh.
But let’s get back to that bit about maybe still having a shot for the Presidency: the bit that jumped out at me in the VF article was this bit about who is planning to make a big speech this year on September 11 in Anchorage.
When Devon calls to tell [Moore] that Glenn Beck has booked the Dena’ina Center, the largest venue in Anchorage, for a speech on September 11, 2010, she sits bolt upright and yells. Immediately, they start trying to figure out what the news might mean. “Listen, listen, listen: Why in the world do you imagine Glenn Beck would come to Anchorage on 9/11? You think he might have a special guest? With a special announcement? Oh,” she says, her whole face falling as the implications of a Palin campaign kickoff hit her, “Jesus Christ.”
It’s important to know whether Palin is possibly going to announce a run for office again. It’s not important to know that she has a nasty temper and an unforgiving streak. A tendency to employ creative accountants might also be important, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it hardly gets half as many lines in the article as the history of the Shopping Spree.
By all means criticise politicians who advocate policies to which one is opposed. But do it by engaging with the policy debate, FFS.
Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, media, Politics
But how can you engage Palin on policies? All she does is warble and spout phrases, even more so than the typical politician. Palin is an example of pandering, proud ignorance and lies that is poisonous to political debate precisely because it cannot be attacked on factual grounds. She lies, nobody cares. She invokes folksy wisdom or mother instincts, and to go against that means enraging her base more than showing her errors.
I’m not arguing for the obvious sexist commentary that is out there about her, but to attack her on policies? She would have to have policies, and even more so, these would have to be based on something at least close to facts and not vague feelings about moral rights and wrongs.
Don’t attack her as a woman, but for the person she presents herself to be – yeah. I think you can go for that.
Certainly unless and until she announces that she’s running for office, she doesn’t have any policies as such. I grant you that does make it more difficult to establish where she stands on the economy, climate change, foreign policy etc – but that’s what really matters. Articles like Gross’ aren’t the way to go about it, especially when he gets it so wrong right from the start: his opening vignette that’s meant to show Palin as an insufficiently caring parent makes a huge honking error, describing baby Trig as being backstage at a rally where he never was, and so much of the rest of it is merely unattributed smears and innuendo.
The stuff about the ‘prayer warriors’ and the flit-by-night PACs? That interested me, and was worth reporting. That ties into how a potential Presidential candidate will operate.
The rest of it is a hatchet job that detracts from the meat of the matter. It distracts progressives from matters of fiscal probity and her views on separation of Church and State, and it allows conservatives to thump their barrels about how unfair all these smears are and how it’s all just proof of how she’s really wonderful because she’s scaring the Left.
To Patrick, I’d say criticise away – to me she’s the equivalent of a Fred Nile or a Steve Fielding who has risen to a position way, way over her abilities. People need to be aware, though, when their criticism crosses over to qualities they wouldn’t criticise in a male politician (not looking at you, but more at the commentary you’ll surely get in other places if she does run.)
Some more coverage:
• Julia Baird at Newsweek: Will Feminists Rally Around Sarah Palin?
• News Hounds: Palin Too Chicken To Rebut Vanity Fair In The Mainstream Media?
• WaPo blog: A limp response to Palin (calling Palin out on the language she used in her criticism of the VF piece)
and one from a marketing blog:
• Brand Sarah Palin vs. Brand Alaska