Monday, March 28, 2011

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 43: The SFGate Geoffrey Dunn Interview - "Let Us Count Our Blessings"

Gloria Nieto's long interview in the San Francisco Chronicle with author and journalist Geoffrey Dunn, on the advent of the release of Dunn's book about Sarah Palin, is the richest, least sensational in-depth article about Palin's past, present and future of 2011. It is also informative in the sense that Dunn has much to say about Alaskans and our politics.

Nieto's not up enough about Alaska politics to ask about some of the nuttiness of the current legislative session, but she and Dunn were able to address the dynamics of Alaska party politics. Dunn was clear that this will be an important aspect of his look at Palin's rise:

Nieto asks Dunn:
I am curious about the people of Alaska. There is the liberal wing which seems to have become energized from her being up there and organizing more. Maybe it is because more people are paying attention, the blogs are getting more attention, the radio up there has been on fire. Even Rachel Maddow went up there. So what can you tell me about the folks up there you have known for a long time whose voices are finally being heard in the lower 48. It isn't so much a voice crying in the wilderness anymore.
Dunn's response is interesting:

Alaska's political culture is as complex as any I've ever seen in the world. People forget that it's an oil-driven economy and therefore it's an oil-driven political system. It̢۪s like Louisiana, circa 1933. In many respects, Palin was simply a symptom of Alaska's longtime political culture of corruption.

I do think the left was energized some by Palin's presence (after her nomination), but in the last election, Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate and a great guy, only received 23 percent in a three-way race with two Republicans. Joe Miller, whose politics are somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, got 35 percent. So don't let Rachel Maddow's cameo in Anchorage fool you. I would say there's been a left wing awakening in Alaska--even a coalescing--but not yet a full-scale movement.

One thing I will say: Alaskans by and large are much more practical than ideological in their politics and the parties are less influential than they are in other states. Don't forget, Palin an against the Republican establishment for governor in 2006 and was elected as a "moderate.

Dunn isn't the first person to note recently how little "party" has to do with some of the basic dynamics of Alaska politics. He is also appreciative of three law enforcement officers whose problems with Palin he seems to have woven into the fabric of the book's narrative. He has apparently dedicated his book to them - Irl Stambaugh, the Wasilla police chief Palin inherited from the previous administration (and fired); Walt Monegan, the state public safety director Palin hired and then forced out; and Alaska State Trooper officer Mike Wooten, who Palin failed to get fired.

Dunn agrees with my assessment that Palin's reaction to the January 9th Tucson shootings finished her chances of ever becoming the GOP 2012 nominee:
Well, I'm a gambling man, and a few months ago I would have bet any amount of money that Palin would wage a race for the GOP nomination in 2012. That's why she quit her governorship; she hated being governor and wanted to be president. She has clearly been positioning herself for such a run since October of 2008. But her irresponsible remarks both before and after the carnage in Tucson has severely impacted her favorability ratings. I'd say right now her chances of running are 50-50. Her chances of winning the GOP nomination are now a very long shot. The Republican establishment is absolutely united in its opposition to her. Even her former lapdog, Billy Kristol, has signaled his opposition to her candidacy. As for winning the presidency, slim to none.

Let us count our blessings.
The atmosphere of sensationalism leading to fiasco last month involving the leak of Frank Bailey's Palin book manuscript, and the way the leak involved author Joe McGinniss, whose own Palin book is coming out soon, is completely absent from Dunn's interview with Gloria Nieto. No doubt, to keep from saying the same stuff over and over, as Dunn has more pre-release interviews, more details will emerge on what is in the book. Dunn claims the book morphed from one in which Palin was an important character to one in which she is the book's subject. Like millions of Americans, Dunn's views on Palin have changed.

He really is a super nice guy. I know this from my conversations with him as his idea for a book evolved, and he kept on trying to find a plausibly positive human face with which to portray Palin. Other people who dealt with Geoffrey during the book's composition have shared their delight in dealing with his persistent questions and hilarious stories. There's a sense of empathy in Dunn's assessment of Palin's trajectory:
Let me note that Palin HAD a decent shot of winning the GOP nomination, but she blew it. She was gifted with the instant celebrity that went with her selection by McCain--and celebrity now plays a role in the election of a president--and she had a solid brand that stood squarely in opposition to Obama. She is the anti-Obama, if you will. But she has blown it both tactically and strategically over the past two years. She can't put an organization together. She is absolutely dysfunctional. And she is a pathological liar, so she can't keep her story straight. Palin had it all handed to her--and her various pathologies have brought her down. It would be a Greek tragedy if she weren't such a farce and a lightweight. Her fall is a Shakespearean comedy.

And she has fallen.
I've been asked several times to write music about Palin - an opera, a musical comedy, a song or an overture. The closest I've come to latching onto an idea has been something that would encompass what Dunn describes in his comment above - an overture mimicking some of the great Shakespearean comedy musical themes, emphasising the farcical aspects of her "lightweight" personality. Unlike my imaginary overture, though, Dunn's book promises to be unsparing, if empathic:

One of the things that really pissed me off early on in the Palin campaign was her latching on to the "special needs" issue because of her son, Trig. As you know, I have a so-called "special needs" child, and the thought of Palin serving in any way as a spokesperson for special needs kids or for families with special needs kids made my stomach turn. She has never walked the walk. Ever. In fact, I wrote a piece about it for the Chronicle and it was picked up all over the country. So I suppose that was an early impetus.

Then when she began rattling off about "death panels" in respect to Obama's health care reform I hit the roof. It was a flat-out lie. As a survivor of very advanced and very aggressive colon cancer, I've had to deal with end-of-life decisions; I've had first-hand experience. You want to know who the death panels are? They're the medical insurance companies that prevented me from getting a colonoscopy before I turned 50, even though I had moderate symptoms. So I lost several body parts to the death panels. And I had to deal with my father's death in a VA hospital because he didn't have proper end-of-life counseling. Sarah Palin has never dealt with anything like that. My father had an old Navy phrase that fits her to a "T." I will refrain from using it.

I'm looking forward to all these Palin books. I haven't read any of the ones published so far. Who knows whether Bailey will find a publisher? His looks by far the least promising. Dunn's certainly looks very interesting. McGinniss has the capability and connections to write the book that finally nails the silver stake into the heart of the nutty Sarah Palin cult. But - again - as Dunn and many of us have observed - the cult is already in its death rattles.

Let us count our blessings.


Anonymous said...

There is a nutty Palin cult, but that wasn't why she was nominated to be the Vice President. She was just the chosen figurehead. She wasn't chosen by the fools that still donate money to her. The obvious utter stupidity of this candidate is probably the only mistake that won't be repeated.

Sarah Palin is not a historical accident, she is a forewarning of what is coming unless this nation wakes up fast. The talibangelicals are ready to take control.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 8:43 - no better place to see that from here, with Wes Keller and Carl Gatto being the Reps for the local area.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin is a symptom of a cyclical movement. The conservatives believe it is their time (as if they were biding it) and have launched into a full scale effort to 'take back their country' to biblical and constitutional roots.

A handful of rookie Governors are taking on Labor in Wisconsin, Maine and Ohio, they are all testing the waters, trying to set precedent. So is the Freshmen Congress of the Tea Party experiment. They recognize that dire fiscal situations allows an atmosphere where they can push socially conservative constraints that erode legally protected rights.

Sarah was a cipher in her newbie Gubernatorial days because she didn't know her political identity other than some superficial libertarian/conservative wedge issues. She's not very smart but she was clever enough to hold her wingnut potential close to her push-up bra for more mainstream appeal.

She did not press the abortion issue as Governor but once she tested the winds as the GOP's V.P. running-mate, she went all out bezerker. Once she got a whiff of the undying support she'd receive from a wing-nut base - she rolled in it - convictions she doesn't have but can make a buck off of. It's a heady thing, to have people adore you and follow you to end times just because you say you'll save babies in wombs and keep "In God We Trust" on public buildings.

As for Trig and the Special Needs cred she puts out there without a scintilla of proof that she earns it (par for the course) - We have to believe that that kid must be enjoying the comforts of a care-giving life, mommy may be paying for it or taking advantage of loved ones or volunteers for it, but I think we all know when it comes to babies, she prefers the 'not-retarded-one.'

Anonymous said...

"and he kept on trying to find a plausibly positive human face with which to portray Palin"...

Lol. I have never read ONE word from Dunne that was sympathetic to Palin. That is a joke. He hates her, it is plain to see.