Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Palin Post

Okay, Okay. So, I really dislike Sarah Palin. There has never really been a time when I was like "oh, she must be alright"...because I've always really disliked her: her politics, her attitude, etc. So...when my persuasive writing professor was like "come up with a topic to write about" I thought of her, and her constant complaining that "the liberal media" or the "lamestream" media was out to get her. I read three books about her. Including:

1. Going Rogue By Sarah Palin

2. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

3. Notes from the Cracked Ceiling by Anne E. Kornblut

after reading these three books, my feelings on Palin haven't really changed at all. Moreso, I feel more justified in my understanding of her political views, her background, and in her lifestyle choices, to somewhat dislike her even more. Below is the essay I wrote for class, I hope you all enjoy it. 

The Demystification of Sarah Palin

The 2008 Presidential Campaign was a historic one for the United States. We had our first African-American presidential candidate, the oldest presidential candidate on record, the first serious female candidate, and a variety of other candidates that caused quite a ruckus. However, it was the GOP Vice-Presidential nominee who made headlines with her “Hockey-Mom” “Joe Six Pack” rhetoric and endless social and political gaffes. Since the end of the campaign, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has claimed that the liberal media put her at an unfair disadvantage to her competition because she was a woman and mother. However, with some simple analysis of well-covered campaign events, it’s fairly easy to see that Mrs. Palin dug her own grave.

Both during and after the campaign, Mrs. Palin and the McCain camp stated that Palin was treated by the news media during the 2008 campaign. That is to say, she felt as though her actions were unduly prosecuted in a manner that was not in a realistic proportion to her opponents. Mrs. Palin claimed that this treatment occurred because she was a woman, and also because the liberal media was out to get her. In fact, Mrs. Palin was given by the media what she asked for, by making quite a spectacle of herself.

It is true that at the beginning of the Palin candidacy, some sexist comments were made by members of congress and other prominent government figures. That was not acceptable, and cannot be denied. People magazine, CNN, and the Washington Post all made some shockingly unabashed sexist comments. CNN anchor John Roberts posed the question “The role of vice president, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?” (Kornblut, 101). This period of time was featured in a New York Times article entitled “Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition”, wherein the issue was really nipped at the bud by Representative Kay Granger of Texas who stated “They were questioning whether a mother can be vice president, president….during this time they were just questioning ‘well, shouldn’t she be at home?’ and that was astonishing” (Kornblut 100-101). As a woman, and a woman frequently taking leadership roles in my community, I state firmly that there is no excuse for sexism; however, these comments were made about her before anyone knew who she was, and it was after she was “vetted” by the public that we find real mettle to sink our teeth into. While we cannot deny that this sexism was unfair to her as a candidate, the issue at hand is the “unfair” persecution she faced for the rest of her campaign, which was not focused around her gender, but around her unpreparedness, her lack of qualification, and her lack of intellectual soundness….and therefore was quite “fair” indeed.

Several of the issues that Palin and others have said were “sexist” were concepts initiated by Palin herself. For example, in her book Notes from the Cracked Ceiling author Anne Kornblut refers to the 2008 campaign as “a battlefield littered with gender-related detritus” (Kornblut, 10), then goes on to explain how referring to Palin as a “pit bull with lipstick” is sexist (Kornblut, 10). All of this is completely ignoring where that phrase came from: Sarah Palin’s first speech as the Vice Presidential nominee, where she made the joke “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?...Lipstick!” (Heilemann and Halperin, 372). First of all, the term in and of itself isn’t sexist…but also, if that’s the joke Mrs. Palin introduces herself to the public with, isn’t it therefore appropriate for the media to play off it in their reports on her?

Another prevalent issue to discuss is the idea that the media focused too much on Palin’s family in the campaign coverage. To put it bluntly-in our society today, if you decide to be a politician, your entire life will be put under scrutiny. Mrs. Palin said that her family was put under undue scrutiny, but I disagree. To begin with, when Sarah Palin entered the national stage in 2008, no one had any clue who she was. We knew that she was the governor of Alaska, that she was married with 5 children, one of whom was headed to war, one of whom was 5 months pregnant, and one of whom was a newborn boy with down syndrome. In an April 23rd, 2010 interview Matthew Continetti, author of The Persecution of Sarah Palin talked on this issue to a great extent with host of HBO’s “Real Time”, Bill Maher . He stated that Palin’s family was treated differently than Obama’s because “Barack Obama says in the campaign ‘my family is off limits’, and they were off limits,” whereas Palin’s family was not. Another guest on the show, author and consultant Susan Eisenhower responded with “She put those very family members right in the front row at the RNC, she didn’t even get a baby sitter” (“Real Time with Bill Maher”). This to me is the primary issue with Palin’s claims that her family was off limits. Firstly, because Palin made her family and her “Hockey Mom” anecdotes a prime source of her campaign speeches. Secondly, because when you are preaching in favor of abstinence-only education, and against abortion, and you have a pregnant seventeen year old daughter…that is going to be a source of conversation. You cannot say “my family is off limits”, and then use your family as a means to get elected. All of this is completely ignoring the fact that when Barack Obama said “family is off limits” it was after he was asked by a reporter how he felt about Palin’s pregnant 17 year old daughter. It was on September 2, 2008, when Obama said

“Let me be as clear as possible. I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president" (Marquart).

The President also went on to illustrate how his own mother had him when she was eighteen, and that each family must deal with the issue of teen pregnancy on their own terms (Marquart). It has hence become clear that the idea that Mrs. Palin’s family was given unjust media attention is debunked. If you are going to make your family a part of your campaign…then they are going to be in the eyes of the media, plain and simple.

The most prominent evidence in favor of the idea that Palin ruined her own campaign is the series of interviews she gave over the course of those eight weeks. Her first real interview was with Charlie Gibson of ABC news. While she escaped from the interview fairly unscathed, she did state on Russia that “They’re our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska,” Which Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey would parody with catch phrase “I can see Russia from my house!” on September 13th, 2008 (Heilemann and Halperin, 397). The fact was, Palin’s concept of facts, world events, and foreign policy was minimal. As Heilemann and Halperin explain in their book, Game Change, Palin required extensive training before she was able to be publically “released”. They detail her lessons on WWI, WWII, and the war on terror, as well as teaching her how to properly pronounce the word “nuclear”, so she wouldn’t make a G.W.-esque faux pas (371). All of this leads us into the infamous Katie Couric Interviews.

The Katie Couric interviews are one of the biggest debacles of the Palin campaign. Palin presented herself as what most of America thought she was: a country bumpkin from the middle of nowhere in Alaska, who was not ready to take political office. “When Couric asked her to name some examples of McCain’s efforts to regulate the economy, Palin said ‘I’ll try to find some and bring them to you’” (Heilemann and Halperin, 399). The most prominent statement made during these interviews was Palin’s LACK of statement. She consistently could not answer questions, even simple ones. She could not name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade, or what newspapers she read to keep herself updated on current events (Heilemann and Halperin, 399-400). In her own book, Going Rogue Palin explained that “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to-or as some have ludicrously suggested, couldn’t-answer her question; it was that her condescension irritated me…The badgering had begun. This is really annoying me” (Palin, 276-277). I’m not suggesting that Sarah Palin can’t or doesn’t read, but it was apparent to those of us that viewed the interview that Palin wasn’t prepared for a real interview, the cross-examination that we had all been asking for. Especially considering the fact that she was a journalism major in college, her distaste for…journalists is surprising. Her lack of answer wasn’t due to irritation, it was due to a lack of preparedness.

Her interview was so poorly conducted that when Tina Fey parodied the interview on Saturday Night Live, she merely quoted Palin word for word. In the midst of all this, it was revealed that Mrs. Palin accidentally called Obama’s running mate, Senator Joe Biden…O’Biden, and that despite corrections from her team she was continuing to make that error (Heilemann and Halperin, 405). In the case of these interviews it is fairly obvious that Palin’s own mistakes and lack of preparation for the Couric interviews gave her a bad public image. Maybe it was the issue of Palin’s discomfort with Couric, or that her campaign team had not provided her with the information, but it is clear that in the case of the Couric interviews….Palin’s apparent ignorance of government and foreign policy provided the American public with a very unfavorable view of her.

What all of this boils down to is merely this: Sarah Palin created her own public image, an image that was unfavorable to the majority of the American public. The media, as they do, fed into it….but they didn’t create it. Without dwelling on her other major gaffes: accusing Obama of “palling around with terrorists” (Heilemann and Halperin, 408), her 150,000 shopping spree (Heilemann and Halperin, 414), and her consistent and public conflicts with her entire campaign team (specifically veteran GOP campaigner, Nicolle Wallace) (Kornblut, 131), we must acknowledge that there were a laundry list of events that led to the Palinmania that was the media during the eight weeks she was campaigning. While it is true that other candidates did not have as much coverage as her…it was not because the liberal media was out to get her, or because sexism was rampant…it was because she made a spectacle of herself.

In the words of Susan Eisenhower, Sarah Palin was persecuted “right to the bank” (“Real Time with Bill Maher”) by the liberal media. The author of one bestseller, and a very well paid public speaker (charging up to 100,000 dollars to speak at events (Martin)), she seems to have done quite well for herself.

Overall it has become ubundantly apparent that Palin’s pleas of persecution and sexism are merely a ploy to convince people to overlook what was either a poorly run campaign, or a poorly qualified candidate. I hope sincerely that in the future candidates with this lack of qualification or proper preparation are instead kept out of the limelight, so that we can instead fill our time educating ourselves on those who are actually prepared to lead us in a reasonable manner.

Works Cited:

Heilemann, John, and Halperin Mark. Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Kornblut, Anne E.. Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Plain, and What it Will Take for a Woman to Win. New York: Crown Publishing, 2009.

Marquart, Alexander. "Obama says Palin's family off limits". 5/29/10 .

Martin, Jonathan. "Iowa Republicans wince at Sarah Palin's $100K speaking fee". Politico. 5/29/10 .

Palin, Sarah. Going Rogue: An American Life. New York: Harper Collins, 2009.

"Real Time With Bill Maher" by Bill Maher. HBO. Las Angeles.April 23rd, 2010.