At the very outset I must admit that I did not vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin in the last U.S. presidential election. Forget her kowtowing to the neo-conservative, Likudnik, Christian Zionist cause, and harmful divisive views on everything that mattered from internal politics to international affairs, she appeared so vague and so damn stupid in her interview with Katie Couric that I could only take pity on those brain-dead supporters that voted for her and McCain. Well, I am not alone in that evaluation of Palin’s performance.
In her new book “Dirty Sexy Politics,” Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator McCain, says that Katie Couric’s interview with Palin before the vice presidential debate had been disastrous. Meghan writes, "Unhappy with her performance, Palin seemed to blame the interview on the campaign. And she continued to blame other poor interviews and snafus on the campaign too.”
The selection of Palin as a running mate for McCain itself was a blunder and shocked many voters and pundits. McCain’s daughter reveals the choice caused plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, too. She says that Palin brought “stress, drama, complications, panic and loads of uncertainty” to the campaign, and “she was turning out to be somebody who leaves a wake of confusion and chaos – to the point of dizziness – wherever she went.”
With such dismal performances in interviews which only highlighted how little she knew on anything, and how dull she was, it is a miracle that Palin did not have her political Waterloo. She is alive and kicking. In the post-election era, thanks to the media, she has been transformed into an iconoclastic voice within the neo-conservative and disgruntled section of the population, including the so-called Tea Party movement, and has emerged as the de facto Republican leader to resurrect the party. She endorses candidates, who appear to be winning. She’s got her own TV show. She appears in the Fox News. In November, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” is set to premiere on TLC. Her daughter Bristol Palin, who gave birth to a child out-of-wedlock, will be competing on “Dancing With the Stars” this fall. Sarah is also going to Iowa to be the headliner at a Republican fundraiser. That state will be the first state to hold a contest in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Obviously, Sarah Palin has become a celebrity these days. In her spare time, she is charging $75,000 for each speaking engagement, to which she must be flown first class, as per her standard contract, or in a private plane that “must be a Lear 60 or larger.” And excuse her typos, she even Twitters!
Just as with any celebrity, people are interested to learn more about this former Miss Congeniality from Alaska. In a recent Vanity Fair profile, Michael Joseph Gross provides more than a glimpse to satiate people’s cravings. The author says he wanted to write a positive piece, but was shocked by what he learned as he researched his story on Sarah Palin.
“The worst stuff isn’t even in there,” Gross said on “Morning Joe” Thursday; “I couldn’t believe these stories either when I first heard them, and I started this story with a prejudice in her favor.” In the profile, Gross paints Palin as an abusive, retaliatory figure with an extreme ability to lie. “Her on-the-record statements about herself amount to a litany of untruths and half-truths… This is a person for whom there is no topic too small to lie about,” he said. “She lies about everything.”
Gross says, “Warm and effusive in public, indifferent or angry in private: this is the pattern of Palin’s behavior toward the people who make her life possible.” A onetime gubernatorial aide to Palin said to Gross, “The people who have worked for her–”they’re broken, used, stepped on, down in the dust.” On the 2008 campaign trail, one close aide recalled, it was practically impossible to persuade Palin to take a moment to thank the kitchen workers at fund-raising dinners. During the campaign, Palin lashed out at the slightest provocation, sometimes screaming at staff members and throwing objects. Witnessing such behavior, one aide asked Todd Palin if it was typical of his wife. He answered, “You just got to let her go through it… Half the stuff that comes out of her mouth she doesn’t even mean.” When a campaign aide gingerly asked Todd whether Sarah should consider taking psychiatric medication to control her moods, Todd responded that she “just needed to run and work out more.” Her anger kept boiling over, however, and eventually the fits of rage came every day. Then, just as suddenly, her temper would be gone. Palin would apologize and promise to be nicer. Within hours, she would be screaming again. At the end of one long day, when Palin was mid-tirade, a campaign aide remembers thinking, “You were an angel all night. Now you’re a devil. Where did this come from?”
Palin gives the impression she is serious about family and promotes family values. According to Gross, some details of the Palins’ private life, however, suggest a reality at odds with Sarah’s image. In speeches, Palin pays tribute to the man she still calls “the First Dude” (husband Todd), but the reality is that the couple has considered a divorce.
Sarah Palin is nasty with everyone including her husband Todd with whom she had fought many times. Quoting a frequent houseguest of the Palins,’ Gross says that the couple began many mornings with screaming fights, a fusillade of curses: “‘F**k you,’ ‘F**k this,’ ‘You lazy piece of shit.’ ‘You’re f**n’ lucky to have me,’ Sarah would always say.” (This person never saw Todd and Sarah sleep in the same bed, and recalls that Todd would often joke, “I don’t know how she ever gets pregnant.”) According to Gross, whatever the nature of the relationship, “Todd is now as much a part of Sarah as Hillary Clinton is of Bill. Whether they like it or not, the Palins, like the Clintons, are probably stuck with each other.”
Palin presents her family as a religious family that finds strength in the teachings of the Bible. Of course, we know better from her teenage daughter’s sinful life! Sarah is now a grandma of a bastard child Tripp! Levi Johnston, the father of the kid, has posed nude for the Playgirl, and has trashed Palin for her hypocrisy. Gross tells us that even her children saw hypocrisy in her. A campaign aide is quoted by Gross as saying that one of the Palin children found her mother’s public displays of piety especially annoying. Though Palin prayed and read the Bible every night, aides never saw the family join her for devotionals. “You’re just putting on a show. You’re so fake,” one of the children said when Palin made a point of praying in front of other people. “This is not who you are. Why are you pretending to be something you’re not?”
Gross is not alone in unmasking Palin who is not the hockey-mom that people heard about during the last presidential election campaign. In an October 2009 issue, Levi Johnston mentioned, “The Palin house was much different from what many people expect of a normal family, even before she was nominated for vice president. There wasn’t much parenting in that house. Sarah doesn’t cook, Todd doesn’t cook–”the kids would do it all themselves: cook, clean, do the laundry, and get ready for school. Most of the time Bristol, now 18, would help her youngest sister, Piper, 8, with her homework, and I’d barbecue chicken or steak on the grill. I only saw Sarah help Piper–”the youngest before Trig–”with homework a few times, and I’ve only seen her read a book to her once. I actually never saw Sarah reading much at all–”once in a blue moon, I’d see her reading a book, and I’ve never seen her read a newspaper. The Frontiersman and the Anchorage Daily News were always there in the morning, but the only one who looked through them was Todd. The Palins didn’t have dinner together and they didn’t talk much as a family… Sarah was always in a bad mood and she was stressed out a lot. Sometimes she would wonder why she took the job as governor. It was too hard, she said; there was so much going on. Todd was always out in the garage working on his snow machines and drinking beer or screwing off… They’re good on television, but once the cameras would leave they didn’t talk to each other. In all the time Bristol and I were together, I’ve never seen them sleep in the same bedroom. (I don’t know how she got pregnant.) Even during the Republican National Convention they slept in different bedrooms at opposite ends of her suite… If Sarah and Todd did talk–”they really don’t communicate at all–”they were fighting… Sarah Palin has said she’s a hockey mom and a hunter, but that’s really not the case. She pays no attention to her kids when the cameras aren’t around.”
If you think that you have heard enough about Sarah Palin’s personal life, here is some more gems from Levi: “After Tripp was born, Sarah would pay more attention to our son than she would to her own baby, Trig. Sarah has a weird sense of humor. When she came home from work, Bristol and I would be holding Trig and Tripp. Sarah would call Trig–”who was born with Down syndrome –” “my little Down’s baby.” But I couldn’t believe it when she would come over to us and sometimes say, playing around, “No, I don’t want the retarded baby–”I want the other one,” and pick up Tripp. That was just her–”even her kids were used to it.”
Sarah Palin is vindictive and mean. Gross informs us that when Palin was mayor, she made life for one low-level municipal employee so miserable that the woman quit her job, sought psychiatric counseling, and then left the state altogether to escape Palin’s sphere of influence–”this according to one person with firsthand knowledge of the situation. The woman did not want to be found.
This latest revelation from Gross should not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Troopgate –” when Palin dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan’s crime: he had resisted persistent pressure from Palin, her husband, and her staff, including State Attorney General Talis Colberg, to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten; Wooten was involved in a child custody battle with Palin’s sister after a bitter divorce that included an alleged death threat against Palin’s father.
For any politician, such true narratives in the Vanity Fair should have been enough to commit a political hara-kiri. But don’t expect such hara-kiri from Palin. She is a perennial politician who continues to amuse and amaze gullible voters. As I have noted earlier about the near-Ground Zero Muslim cultural center controversy, with the right-wing media, morons, bigots and extremists behind her, she can transform a local issue into a national issue, and who knows may be an international one into making!
Like Gingrich, Giuliani, Lazio, Pat Toomey, and many Republican leaders today, Sarah Palin is a political opportunist who knows how to stoke fear and bank on fear-mongering. Politics with racism and bigotry is always easy by painting the “other” group (often a minority) as sub-humans or harmful beings that are bent on taking “control”. But as every student of history knows by now fear-mongering is a way of the fascists and Nazis. It does not lead to peace and security. It does not belong in a society that claims to be open, plural and forward-looking, a model of a modern liberal democracy that integrates and not divides. The likes of Sarah Palin are an anathema to that very principle and must therefore be defeated.
Asked about Palin’s political future, Gross said it depends on what the media lets her get away with. “If we decide to let her keep lying and getting away with it, she’s gonna still be around,” he said. “But if we start returning to the standard that a politician has to talk with people, and a politician has to tell the truth, then she’s outta here, because she can’t stand up to that.” Gross is right.
But will American public listen and disown the modern-day Medusas, Hecates, and fork-tongued hypocrites?
. Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury by Michael Joseph Gross, Vanity Fair, October, 2010, http://tinyurl.com/2b9r6gf
. Me and Mrs. Palin by Levi Johnston, Vanity Fair, October 2009, http://tinyurl.com/nlydd8
. Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury by Michael Joseph Gross, Vanity Fair, October, 2010, http://tinyurl.com/2b9r6gf