Andrew Sullivan, who is perhaps the most dogged nationally prominent Palin critic, has predictably responded to the recent, richly detailed article, written by Gabriel Sherman, and published in the May 3rd edition of New York Magazine. Sherman takes the best in-depth look at Palin’s post 2008 rise that I’ve yet read. Sullivan seems to partially agree, but isn’t critical so much of Sherman’s article as he is of those walking away from the piece with an underestimation of Palin. Sullivan feels his colleague at the Atlantic, Joshua Green, has.
Sherman’s article is, as Green observes, "chock full of Palin porn." It also relies on interviews with a surprising array of informants, Just in time for Palin to include them in the growing list of people she will have to scathe in her upcoming 2nd book, I suppose. Sullivan chooses one paragraph in Green’s post that Sullivan finds troubling:
Palin’s prospects in the Republican Party are a good deal dimmer than her star wattage suggests. She’s tallied middling performances in early straw polls and shows no inclination to embark on the grassroots work required of a presidential candidate. More to the point, this article makes clear that, were there any doubt, her preoccupying concern is "building her brand"–less in a political sense than a financial one. Palin may yet make a bid for the White House. But all evidence suggests that when the time comes to choose between earning money and running for president, Palin will choose money.
Sullivan, who can be almost deft in looking at issues from outside the CW box, hits back:
This is the conventional view in Washington. I think it’s completely wrong, dangerously complacent, and out of touch with profound shifts in media, fundraising and politics. The political parties are weaker than they once were. The elites cannot control grass-roots Internet-driven phenomena. Look at Obama. He seems a natural president now, but Washington dismissed his chances – as they are now dismissing Palin’s – right up to the Iowa caucuses. And because Palin is such a terrifying – truly terrifying – prospect for the US and the world, I think such complacency, rooted in cynicism about Palin’s mercenary nature, is far too reckless.
I disagree somewhat with Andrew Sullivan on this point. Partially from having watched Obama emerge in his early Iowa appearances in the spring and summer of 2007, and partially from having watch Palin emerge since the winter of 1991.
Sullivan’s description of the emergence of Fox-type news coverage is fairly prescient:
Look: what we have seen this past year is the collapse of the RNC as it once was and the emergence of a highly lucrative media-ideological-industrial complex. This complex has no interest in traditional journalistic vetting, skepticism, scrutiny of those in power, or asking the tough questions. It has no interest in governing a country. It has an interest in promoting personalities and ideologies and false images of a past America that both flatter and engage its audience. For most in this business, this is about money. Roger Ailes, who runs a news business, has been frank about what his fundamental criterion is for broadcasting: ratings not truth. Obviously all media has an eye on the bottom line – but in most news organizations, there is also an ethical editorial concern to get things right. I see no such inclination in Fox News or the hugely popular talkshow demagogues (Limbaugh, Levin, Beck et al.), which now effectively control the GOP. And when huge media organizations have no interest in any facts that cannot be deployed for a specific message, they are a political party in themselves.
Add Palin to the mix and you have a whole new machine in American politics – one with the capacity, as much as Obama’s, to upend the established order. Beltway types roll their eyes. But she’s not Obama, they say. She doesn’t know anything, polarizes too many people, has lied constantly and still may have dozens of skeletons in her unvetted closets.
To which the answer must be: where the fuck have you been this past year?
Andrew goes on to very tightly describe the different kind of environment Palin has managed to project herself into, compared to any potential presidential candidate in the past:
It doesn’t matter whether she’s uneducated, unprincipled, unaware and unscrupulous. The more she’s proven incapable of the presidency, the more her supporters believe she is destined for it. It’s a brilliant little gig she’s devised. She may be ignorant, but she is not stupid. She has the smarts of all accomplished pathological liars and phonies. And this time, she will not even bother to go on any television outlets other than Fox News. She will be the first presidential nominee never to have had a press conference. She will give statements by Facebook. She will speak directly to the cocoon that is, at least, twenty percent of Americans. The press, already a rank failure in exposing her fraudulence, will be so starstruck by the chance to make money that we will never have a Couric-style interview again. it will be Oprah all the time. Because Palin lives in an imaginary world, the entire media world will be required to echo it or be shut out.
Sullivan goes on to quote from Sherman’s New York Magazine article:
It was Fox’s Roger Ailes who had the insight that the American right was an underserved market, one with a powerful kind of brand loyalty. Fox News has turned a disaffected segment of the populace into a market, with the fervor and idiosyncratic truth standards of a cult. Wingnut-ism has been monetized, is one admittedly partisan way of looking at it. Palin stokes the disaffection of her constituents and then, with the help of Fox, offers to heal them, for a price.
And Sullivan concludes with a warning:
And with that power and that potential funding, how can someone who said she wanted to be president as long ago as 1996 resist? Josh can dream all he wants. She is the biggest political power after Obama in this country. And, unless the full truth emerges with such force it cracks even the FNC/RNC sealed universe, she will run against him in 2012.
I’m sure Andrew Sullivan will be revisiting this theme often. He already has once today.
What Andrew Sullivan is saying appears to be that unless the media actually does a lot of serious research on the "dozens of skeletons in her unvetted closets," Palin just might sneak on in there to the top of the heap.
Gabriel Sherman observes about Palin’s interactions with others and how that might be a limiter:
While careful not to say anything that might make her rear her head, some in the GOP Establishment whisper that they hope Palin stays in Wasilla. She may be useful in raising funds and drawing crowds, but Palin’s unseriousness and carnival antics damage the brand. “There’s a big piece of the Republican Party that doesn’t want her to run,” said one national Republican strategist.
Even among her base, some see her rogue operation as a form of selfishness and her cashing in as unseemly. And Palin’s close relationship with John McCain is a liability for her right-wing audience. In March, Palin made several campaign stops in Arizona with McCain and tried to convince the crowd of his tea-party bona fides. “People in the tea-party movement despise John McCain,” Judson Phillips says. “When was the last time John McCain drove his own car?”
The synergies that have driven Palin Inc. thus far may evaporate if she pursues a presidential run in earnest. There will be, eventually, interviews to do, with networks other than Fox. Why Palin would trade the presidency—and the salary—for a candidacy that faces possibly insurmountable political hurdles is a question to ponder.
Sherman’s article’s depth of detail is worth a complete read. I can understand why some, like Joshua Green will walk away from Sherman thinking that Palin will veer toward the money whenever she might have to gamble to instead seek power. And I’m totally in agreement with Sullivan that the main reasons we’re still being inflicted daily doses of Palin are that 1), the media has not fairly described the package for what it is – the most disgusting pathological political liar of the 21st century, and 2), she’s too fun to watch.
Eric Boehlert, in his 2009 book, Bloggers on the Bus, fairly described how our small band of Alaska bloggers proved to be very helpful to some in the national media when it came to getting the true story of Palin’s local rise to power out there. And an addendum might be worth adding to that story about how, as we kept after Palin when she reluctantly returned to Alaska after the presidential campaign, her governorship imploded.
Since she left the Alaska scene – by and large – in the fall of 2009, there haven’t been enough other reporters and commentators out there like Sullivan and Sherman, to take up where Alaskans like Jeanne Devon, Shannyn Moore, Jesse Griffin, Mel Green, Linda Kellen and myself, and out-of-state blogs like Palingates and God’s Own Party left off.
The skeletons to which Sullivan refers might end up being exposed. But that shouldn’t matter. As Sullivan’s own long list of Palin lies clearly shows, she gets away with a hell of a lot, even for a politician. She quite likely perjured herself in her testimony in the Knoxville hacking trial last week. And as several bloggers in Alaska and elsewhere observed over the weekend, Palin herself rose to statewide prominence by – get this – hacking into a colleague’s computer.
Palin’s mean girl side came out last Friday, in an interview with Greta van Susterin. Greta gives Palin three chances to show empathy for fellow hacker, David Kernell:
Van Susteren – In the courtroom today, you must have seen the defendant, right, looked across and saw him at some point?
Palin – Glanced over there, yup.
Van Susteren – I realize that you feel invaded by what he’s done, if in fact he did do this, if in fact he is guilty of this, but is there any sort of sense… he’s only 22 years old. Was there any sort of thought that he did wrong in your view, but did you have any sort of empathy or sympathy for him?
Palin- Well what the email hacker did, per his admittance later on was try to find things in a campaign to derail a presidential election and you know that… that’s pretty major. That’s like back in the day literally, physically breaking in to a campaign office to find something to discredit or humiliate a candidate so they could derail a candidacy. This is what the equivalent to what this case is.
Palin- As for if you’re leading into a question about the level of punishment that is appropriate, of course that’s in the judge’s hands. That’s not for me to decide but um.. you know it’s not a proper thing, it’s not a decent thing, fair or ethical or legal thing to get into a candidate or anybody else’s personal or private email or ’snell mell’ and try to find something on the person and disclose it without their permission.
I think the mean girl thing might be what finally brings Palin down. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan could use some help.