After her selection as John McCain's running mate, one of the first national reporters with whom I was able to discuss sexist treatment of Palin was Michelle Goldberg. She told me of her surprise at how well Alaskans seemed to be dealing with such an Alpha female. Since her Alaska visit in 2008, Goldberg has continued to cover this issue well. Here is a somewhat prophetic snip from Goldberg's July 2009 Daily Beast resignation coverage of Palin:
Yet some of her most ardent backers have a different explanation: She’s gearing up to run for president in 2012. As Bill Kristol, a man who’s had an enormous role in creating her national profile, wrote, “If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It's an enormous gamble—but it could be a shrewd one.” He continued, “[H]aven't conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she'll try to be that.” And there were parts of her speech suggesting she’s getting ready for a new challenge: “It would be apathetic to just kind of hunker down and go with the flow. We’re fisherman. We know only dead fish go with the flow… There is such a need to build up, and fight for our state and our country.”
On the face of it, it seems preposterous that Palin might think she could maintain any political credibility at all after walking away from her job simply because she has her eye on bigger things. But Palin has long had an almost dementedly inflated sense of her own destiny. In one of the most quoted passages of Todd Purdham’s eviscerating Vanity Fair profile of Palin, he writes that, in traveling through Alaska, several people told him that, in trying to understand their governor, “they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Said disorder, Purdum points out, is marked by “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”
As a description of Palin, that sounds about right. It also sounds about right as a description of Newt Gingrich, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, and maybe even Bill Clinton. There is nothing new about politicians who are staggeringly egotistical and heedlessly dishonest, politicians with fantastic reserves of self-righteousness and self-pity but a shriveled capacity for loyalty. But we don’t usually see this particular kind of craziness in women. Palin is the rare female politician who is as much a megalomaniac as her male peers. Maybe more.
Goldberg goes on to illustrate the way Palin seems to lie, even when a normal person would realize you're gonna get caught:
Palin’s public statements have been full of petty, easily refutable mendacity, delivered with the vehemence of a compulsive liar. Purdum’s piece reveals one tiny but telling incident, in which Palin told McCain aides that she and her husband had been without insurance of any kind in the early years of their marriage. “Checking with Todd Palin himself revealed that, no, they had had catastrophic coverage all along,” Purdum writes. “This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small.”
Those questions persist. Palin herself seems to beg them to be brought back up, every day. It is part of the celebrity cult's baggage. As many have noted, Palin has brought the marriage of celebrity culture to political culture in a unique way. We're 50-plus years beyond Ronald Reagan selling 20-Mule Team Borax soap on the Death Valley Days TV weekly.
Palin is everywhere, every day. I've long dreaded that some day more will have been written about Palin than about everything else in Alaska history. We may be arriving there soon.
Rebecca Mansour from SarahPAC, Palin's most effective verbal response organizer, must be overwhelmed by the clashing images crossing her desk and screen every minute: The kids nastily tweeting and facebooking away, the DWTS vote fiasco, doing 180s on Korea at the same Rebecca has to teach Palin how few miles Seoul is from the DMZ. Tough job.
Palin's people must be enduring fatigue, with the book tour, reality show series continuity (another 5 weeks), abstinence fairy dissonance and other stuff intruding on the product branding process and what not.
So is the rest of the country. Palin Fatigue might soon become serious. Every plank of Palin's platform now seems to be packaged in episodes designed to be rolled out a couple of days apart. Relentlessly.
All this generates internet hits on the web. It makes some people money. That crosses over into print media profits too. Like nothing else out there. If they could somehow fix Sarah's voice, the package would be an even bigger phenomena.
Living in Wasilla, I heard someone say, long, long ago, when asked about Palin's popularity, "Maybe she's too fun to watch to make up for the rest."
I didn't know what he meant. Was it physical attraction? Or was it her latent comedic value, her "farcissism."
Here's part of Friday's coverage of this new word Palin has helped launch. Adele M. Stan's article at AlternNet may have started it:
It seems, in fact, that Sarah Palin's "new feminism" is nothing more than narcissism dressed up in feminist clothing. Call it farcissism. For when it comes to matters that affect her directly, Palin is all about feminism writ large. Despite her anti-government rhetoric, Palin on the campaign trail applauded Title IX, the federal mandate that barred federal funds from educational institutions that discriminated against women, even in their sports programs. This heralded a record expansion of girls' and women's athletic programs, of which Palin, a star basketball player known statewide as Sarah Barracuda, rightly availed herself. [bold added]
Stan goes on, regarding the uniqueness of Palin's ambition:
I have seen Palin derided in sexist terms, and called on progressives to cut the crap when I see it coming from our own. But I wouldn't count on Palin to step up for a liberal feminist -- unless Palin found a way to make it about Palin herself.
"There is a narcissism in our leaders in Washington today," Palin writes inAmerica By Heart (via the Huffington Post). "There's a quasi-religious feeling to the message coming from them. They are trying to convince us that not only are they our saviors, but that we are our saviors... as candidate Obama proclaimed on Super Tuesday 2008, 'We are the ones we've been waiting for, we are the change that we seek.'"
Yet it's Palin who has a so-called reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," based around her own life in her home state. It's hard to get more narcissistic than that. And it's Palin who wants to reshape feminism in her own image -- to hell with any woman who's faced a different form of sexism than she has.
When calling narcissism or farcissism on Palin, I don't use the terms lightly. Too many women of ambition are tagged as narcissists simply for behaving as ambitious men do. But if there were ever an example of someone living in a glass house, it's one whose life is willingly scripted and served up on a flat screen, for the modest payment to Palin of $250,000 per episode.
Digby, commenting on Stan's article, wrote:
I cringe when I see some of the things people say about her too, and have also called out progressives for being jackasses. But that doesn't make her a heroine either, especially when she's so incredibly disrespectful and arrogant to her fellow females in similar situations.
Palin's walking a thin line here. In the past week, she has dissed Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush. Palin is sparring with HRC. The mama grizzly is roaring so loud and stridently, she's probably going to wonder in about two weeks at how isolated she is beginning to feel among so many, more experienced, mama bears. Just when her voice turns hoarse from all the yelling.
At the end of the weekend, Palin will be in the Dallas-Houston area, for book signing, and other events for her favorite causes there. The mama griz is descending from her new winter lair in Arizona on Babs' den.
Meanwhile, as Robert Paul Reyes unintentionally illustrates here, male writers continue to fall into the traps Michelle Goldberg and others first noted:
Barbara Bush missed her calling, she has the comedic timing and the deadpan face of a professional comic. The former First Lady expertly set up her zinger:I hope she`ll stay there. There are millions of us who agree with Barbara`s sentiments, but Hollywood has a stronger pull on Palin than Wasilla.The former First Lady didn`t say.I sat next to her once and I was impressed with her intelligence and grasp of the issues. A politician who can see Russia from her porch and is a steadfast supporter of our North Korean ally, isn`t going to dazzle anyone with her mental acumen.Mrs. Bush was struck by Palin`s beauty, it`s unfortunate that the former governor of Alaska doesn`t realize that her looks are her greatest asset.
We're probably reaching a point where the conflict between the actual worth of Palin vs. the image we're being bombarded with with reaches some sort of critical mass.
My hunch is that Palin's people know she has to announce by the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan's birth on February 6th. But they'll milk this flighty ambiguity, until celebrity-driven suspense is trumped by the yet untried post-Citizens United presidential race gravity.
Nobody knows when that might be. Meanwhile, we'll have to endure a period of "farcissism."