Familiarity with Palin Breeds Contempt, Fear and Alarm
Sarah Palin’s much-anticipated debut on Fox News this week has not gone well. From O’Reilly’s condescension to Beck’s mocking of her paranoia, this has been a rough roll out for the ambitious, yet ignorant, and paranoid Palin.
While Palin is a savvy person who can be quick and clever, her worldview is the size of a postage stamp and her mind has long since shuttered out any reality other than the small town she grew up in.
She’s willfully ignorant, yes. But not dumb. Plenty of ignorant people skate by on TV. Heavens, she can wear an ear prompter, get scripts in advance. Masking ignorance is the great charade of TV and has given us many failed leaders; Bush’s notorious ear prompters for “spontaneous answers” come to mind.
So, what’s wrong with Sarah? She held plenty of decent (not great) interviews in Wasilla and Alaska. She attacked the words on the teleprompter at the RNC with the fervor of a rabid dog, not to mention her experience filling in for her sports anchor colleague on the local Wasilla TV station. But this Sarah has lost her moxie.
Is this ‘The Other Sarah” the McCain campaign references the “Frightening, Dangerous, Mentally Limited” side of Palin? We got our first glimpse of the Other Sarah during the Couric interview, when Palin froze and sneered at the same time. Panic in the snow or something.
Last July, as we sat stunned watching Palin’s breathy, near hysterical quitting speech in July of 2009, it was easy to wonder if a threatening phone call from party leaders hadn’t preceded Palin’s still unexplained mid-term resignation, as it was accompanied by behavior suggesting a nervous breakdown was imminent.
You have to admit, that speech made you nervous. You looked back on Nov 4, 2008 with a flutter in your stomach for just a brief moment. You had that tinge of outrage that they ran this person, but then you dismissed it. It had nothing to do with you anymore. You’re safe. She’s in Alaska. Or so you thought then.
Then came the summer of lies from Facebook and the constant discussion of her running in 2012 and suddenly you weren’t feeling so comfy. Suddenly you started paying attention to her and she seemed a little off. So, when Schmidt broke campaign omerta to reveal a chilling American Political Horror Story on 60 minutes this week, you were riveted. He rolled out the perfect storm of a desperate party, an unplanned VP pick, and no time to vet.
And so it came to be that by the time the McCain camp slowly realized the adorable pitbull, the hockey mom with spunk, was not the only Sarah, it was too late.
And “The Other Sarah” terrified them.
With a chilling detachment, Schmidt tells Anderson Cooper that he received a call from Palin’s debate prep team, saying the “Debate will be debacle of historic and epic proportions…she was not focused, not engaged, not participating in prep. She sat in a catatonic stupor, head down.”
“It was the Other Sarah who concerned them. Eyes glazed, not responding to questions, head down…” Staffers from all levels describe Palin as “mentally unstable…Unwilling to work… Mentally limited… Ultimately, unfit for office.”
Is this the Sarah we’re seeing on Fox News? The Other Sarah who can’t even answer a question about who her favorite founding father is? The Sarah who sat googling frantically in Glenn Beck’s greenroom after she saw his set?
What’s wrong with Sarah?
The book, “Game Change”, written by John Heilemann of New York magazine and Mark Halperin of Time magazine, backs up the notion of “The Other Sarah”:
“The morning of her ill-fated CBS interview with Katie Couric, Palin – “her eyes glassy and dead” – was unresponsive to attempts to prep her as she was being made up. As they were about to set off to meet Couric, Palin announced ‘I hate this makeup’ – smearing it off her face, messing up her hair, complaining she looked fat.”
They further report that Palin went into a tailspin. She stopped eating or sleeping, and drank only a half a can of diet soda a day.
It was so bad, that “terrified staffers” contemplated asking McCain to have Palin step down. Most certainly, they determined that if McCain won, they would urge the senator to drop Palin, as it was “unfathomable” and “frightening” to them that Palin would be VP.
Were it not for the familiarity of Schmidt’s accusations, so eerily echoing those of Palin’s past allies in Alaska, one could easily dismiss this as hard ball politics by a party well versed in selling its soul. And were these accusations only brought up in the gossipy “Game Change”, we would be duty bound to ignore them when attempting to figure out just how unfit for office Sarah Palin really is.
But back in Alaska, cries from multiple Republicans calling Palin a “sociopathic narcissist” with unmanageable ethics problems double down on the description of Palin by Schmidt and the authors of “Game Change”.
It seems that once people meet The Other Sarah, they’re immediately disenchanted, disturbed, horrified even. This story took on a palpably sharper edge when we realize that Schmidt is warning us, at a probable cost to his own career.
When it comes to Palin, familiarity breeds contempt, fear and alarm. This may be one reason why responsible, patriotic campaigns that sincerely love their country vet their selections before giving them the nod.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.