Are the political obituaries starting on former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin? First there was The Atlantic’s Joshua Green’s superb piece of reporting that chronicled how she was actually a maverick governor who worked well with both parties and reigned in oil companies but changed her persona once she was plucked from relative national obscurity (except for those who listened to her prime GOP booster Rush Limbaugh) to be John McCain’s running mate.
Now there are these comments from Commentary’s John Podhoretz:
…Palin came almost immediately to inhabit a different role in the American body politic—not the “maverick” she was chosen to be by the self-proclaimed maverick McCain, but rather as a populist villain-victim (depending on which side you were on). The fault here lay not with her attackers but within her. She embarrassed herself in two interviews, and decided the blame lay not with her own ill-preparedness but with the media that had come after her. Understandably enraged by the misogynistic and practically psychotic attacks on her, she came to embrace her status as a kind of martyr for the social-conservative views that had not been the truly distinguishing features of her meteoric political career up to that moment. She found herself in Harry Truman’s kitchen, and she couldn’t take the heat.
In some ways, the story of Palin is a story of temptation. Rather than sticking to her guns and deepening her political credentials and her knowledge base, she embraced her celebrity instead. And in doing so, she didn’t defeat her critics and enemies; she capitulated to them. Listen, it’s her life and her fortune and she is free to do what she wishes with it. And there’s no telling what the future holds for anyone in America. But she had and has more raw political talent than anyone I’ve ever seen, and, alas, as phenoms go, it looks like she is headed for a Darryl Strawberry-like playing career.
Indeed: Palin’s problem is that except for those who love her, to many Americans Palin’s choice of a persona has now made her a punch — or cringe — line. Everyone in their life faces an instant where they face a turning point in what may be their “moment.” The path she chose (to be Fox News personality, sniping at people and policies on Twitter and Facebook, being paid huge sums to deliver speeches that usually offered little new) is one many Americans would love. American politics is now set up where it richly rewards people who polarize with both fame and fortune, on the left and right. (On that score, I touched on some of that in THIS column.)
But the bottom line is this: if Palin was seen as a serious candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination you wouldn’t see reporting and analysis such as this. A little over a year ago networks were falling all over themselves to report the contents of her speeches. Now her shtick has grown old and it’s clear that perceptions of her now do not match perceptions of her a year ago.
Or, as Green notes, perceptions of her before McCain picked her and she made some fateful choices.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.