16 September 2008


News the past few days has been falling faster than the Milwaukee Brewers' playoff hopes. Not exactly Ratheresque, but when you're too busy keeping up its hard to think up avuncular zingers.


The Times and Post both had extensive articles Sunday documenting Sarah Palin's political career in Alaska, and neither is very flattering. Palin comes off with an almost Nixonian dedication to a personalized political agenda, firing or intimidating anyone who crosses her and hiring under-qualified friends to top government positions.

Ms. Palin chose Talis Colberg, a borough assemblyman from the Matanuska valley, as her attorney general, provoking a bewildered question from the legal community: “Who?” Mr. Colberg, who did not return calls, moved from a one-room building in the valley to one of the most powerful offices in the state, supervising some 500 people.

“I called him and asked, ‘Do you know how to supervise people?’ ” said a family friend, Kathy Wells. “He said, ‘No, but I think I’ll get some help.’ ”

The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government. Ms. Palin appointed Mr. Bitney, her former junior high school band-mate, as her legislative director and chose another classmate, Joe Austerman, to manage the economic development office for $82,908 a year. Mr. Austerman had established an Alaska franchise for Mailboxes Etc.

Using your high school yearbook as an application folder? Man, I gotta get the Donkeyman elected to public office.

The Times article also covers Palin's alleged inquiry into banning books at the Wasilla public library shortly after her election as mayor, an incident that preceded the mysterious sacking of the librarian (that seems to be a recurring theme with Palin; future employees of the Vice-President are encouraged to keep their resumes updated--or their high school yearbook nearby). The top target of Palin's book-banning effort was "Pastor, I Am Gay," by the Rev. Howard Bess, a feisty, independent Baptist minister who has been a frequent agitator in the ultra-conservative Wasilla region.

Palin has attended several churches over the years, but all of them have been affiliated with the pentecostal Assemblies of God, the same denomination portrayed in the film "Jesus Camp" which many evangelicals dismissed as non-representative fringe movement. She certainly has the vocabulary of a fundamentalist, twice telling an Alaska blogger she believes the Rapture will occur in her lifetime. And, despite the sudden discovery of identity politics by Republicans, Palin is far from a friend of women's rights. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin backed a law forcing rape victims to pay for their own rape kits.

Sarah Palin may well represent the final melding of reality television with national elections, as the American public is poised to put a small-town petty hack in the White House on the illusion that she's a real-life Disney character, and that'll make for great TV. Many observers have correctly warned that Barack Obama is a substance-free celebrity candidate, but the Repubilcans have again played a trump card, taking lowerst-common-denominator, pop-culture politics to its logical conclusion. However, the fleeting nature of American celebrity may come back to haunt the McCain campaign; the torrent of negative revelations is taking its toll on the popular perception of Palin, and her "aw shucks I'm jes' folks" act may not survive until Election Day.