Slate magazine is just one of the countless media outlets convulsing with St. Vitus’ Dance over that demonic succubus Sarah Palin. In its reader forum, The Fray, one supposed Palinophobe took dead aim at the former Alaska governor’s writing chops, excerpting the following sentence from her book:
“The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a pay phone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.”
Other readers pounced like wolf-sized Dobermans on an intruder. One guffawed, “That sentence by Sarah Palin could be entered into the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest. It could have a chance at winning a (sic) honorable mention, at any rate.”
But soon, the original contributor confessed: “I probably should have mentioned that the sentence quoted above was not written by Sarah Palin. It’s taken from the first paragraph of ‘Dreams From My Father,’ written by Barack Obama.”
The ruse should have been allowed to fester longer, but the point was made nonetheless: Some people hate Palin first and ask questions later.
My all-time favorite response to John McCain’s selection of Palin as his running mate was from Wendy Doniger, a feminist professor of religion at the University of Chicago. Professor Doniger wrote of the exceedingly feminine “hockey mom” with five children: “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.”
The best part about that sentence: Doniger uses the pronoun “her” — twice.
Just this week, a liberal blogger at The Atlantic who has dedicated an unhealthy amount of his life to proving a one-man birther conspiracy theory about Palin’s youngest child (it’s both too slanderous and too deranged to detail here) shut down his blog to cope with the epochal, existential crisis that Palin’s book presents to all humankind. The un-self-consciously parodic announcement seemed more appropriate for a BBC warning that the German blitz was about to begin, God Help Us All.
Indeed, some of us will always be sympathetic to Mrs. Palin if for nothing else than her enemies. The bile she extracts from her critics is almost like a dye marker, illuminating deep pockets of asininity that heretofore were either unnoticed or underappreciated.
In fairness, just as there are people who hate Palin for the effrontery she shows in daring to draw breath at all, there are those who love her with a devotion better suited for a religious icon.
I hear from both camps, often. And while I don’t think both sides are equally wrong (after all, the acolytes of the Doniger school openly reject reality more than any so-called creationist), I don’t think either position is laudable or sufficient.
Sarah Palin is neither savior (that job has been taken by the current president, or didn’t you know?) nor is she satanic. She is a politician, a species of human like the rest of us.
I’m fairly certain that if you read many of her public-policy positions but concealed her byline, many of her worst enemies would say “that sounds about right,” and some of her biggest fans would say “that sounds crazy.” But most people would say that her views are perfectly within the mainstream of American politics. She may be more religious than coastal elites in the lower 48, but that is something some bigots need to get over, anyway.
I’m happy about the books she’s selling thanks to the controversy over her, but that doesn’t mean I think these controversies are justified. Palin holds no public office and, as of yet, is not running for one. But the Associated Press assigned eleven reporters to “fact-check” her book, while doing nothing like that to fact-check then-candidate Obama’s or current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s no doubt riveting book.
As it stands, my sense is that Palin is good for the Republican party but not necessarily great. She generates enthusiasm among, and donations from, the base. But she also turns off many of the people the GOP needs to persuade and attract. That could change with this book tour, and I hope it does. Whether she’s ready or qualified for the presidency is another matter. But the presidency is a long way off, and besides, that’s what primaries are for.
– Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. © 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.