Combat! blog occasionally experiences Quantum Leap-style transports to the recent past, in which, through the magic of the internet, our attention is whisked away to some story that happened a week ago, and we must watch helplessly as events unfold without our being able to influence them. You know, just like the show Quantum Leap. More often than not, the center of these events is Sarah Palin, probably due to our original traumatization watching Joe Biden completely fail to call her a cheap courtesan during the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate. I still don’t understand why that didn’t happen, but the point is that you might remember when Sarah Palin mis-described the legendary Midnight Ride of Paul Revere last week. Before you go jumping down her throat, remember that Palin only made that mistake because she cannot think. The important thing is not whether the self-appointed president of Real America can accurately describe well-known events from the nation’s history. The important thing is whether her supporters can alter Wikipedia to make her remarks appear accurate afterward.
It’s been a while since we’ve discussed the perambulations of Sarah Palin through the American psyche, maybe because she seems to be fading, just a little, into the background insanity of contemporary discourse. Whenever someone brings her up I’m filled with fear and resentment, sure, but lately it’s rare that I find myself thinking about her on my own. She hasn’t made up a word or a fact about pending policy decisions in like ten weeks, and I almost started to forget about her. That’s exactly the kind of thing that at least one multimillion-dollar organization is designed to prevent, and now that the midterms are over, Sarah Palin has come roaring back. The original plan was to have her say “cunt” on national television—possibly to Gwen Ifill—but instead she wrote a book. And based on the passages leaked to Gawker and The Daily Beast, it’s a goddamn masterpiece of irony.
She’s not a politician, exactly—she quit her job as governix of Alaska, and that whole second-in-line-for-the-presidency thing mercifully remained conjecture—yet all she talks about is politics. Normally that would make her a commentator, but her public statements are not really, um, up to the standards of the field. Palin’s pronouncements combine brevity and vagueness in a manner that suggests she’s not trying to convert us to her position so much as convert us to her. When she says that health care policy must strengthen American values, it’s not an argument so much as an answer. So far, Palin’s priority as a commentator seems to be to make her own position clear in relation to everybody else’s, albeit in the most infuriatingly abstract way possible. That agenda seems doubly odd, since we already know what she thinks before she says it: Sarah Palin agrees with the Republican Party. Still, she seems aligned with but not quite of the GOP, perhaps because the bulk of her rhetoric is not for anything; she’s just against President Obama. Consider her most recent piece in the National Review, in which she argues that the President’s recent support for expanded oil and gas drilling is just a trick. When one of her stated nemeses agrees with her, she refines her position in order to renew the dichotomy. In the past, we’ve criticized her for not having any ideas, but that isn’t really fair. In her present incarnation, Sarah Palin doesn’t need ideas, because the idea is herself. As David Carr suggests in today’s Times, Sarah Palin is a brand.
It’s been a bonanza week for news commentators, with earthquakes, tell-all books, people saying “negro” two years ago—everything that makes a vibrant political discourse thrive. The big news, though, was that a certain someone jumped from national electoral politics to the big show: cable news commentating. When Bill O’Reilly welcomed Sarah Palin to Fox News, he told her that she had acquired a powerful tool, a bigger megaphone that she could at last use to shout back at her critics. The implication was that being a Fox commentator was a position of greater power than being governor of Alaska. And was he wrong? Sarah Palin is more popular now than she was when she had the full might of the Republican Party behind her. Rush Limbaugh has outlasted the Contract With America, three Presidents and presumably dozens of minor coronaries. And Glenn Beck can’t think. Powerful men all, and it’s hard to argue that they wield less influence over the American people than do Pelosi, Boehner and Reid. Perhaps that is as it should be. I, for one, welcome our new and increasingly bloated masters, and urge them to form a new government of Real Americans and questionable analogies to Hitler just as soon as they can. Won’t you join me in considering the beautiful world they’re creating? No? Okay, back to cat videos, then. I’ll see the rest of you after the jump.
Now must be a hard time to be an idiot in the American press. You go to all the trouble of writing a book that says the party whose national committee you chair isn’t ready to lead, get yourself on Hannity and make a bunch of invidious comparisons, then wrap up your remarks with an old-timey ethnic slur, only to be bumped from the national snarklight by Sarah Palin. You just can’t compete with that bitch. It seems like every time a prominent political figure does something stupid, Sarah Palin jumps in and yells that FDR faked polio so he could sit down all the time or whatever. Sometimes it feels like the incompetence of major political figures exceeds demand, and guys like Michael Steele—who would be saying crazy shit at Wisconsin Right To Life rallies in any other incompetence economy—are forced to practice their art in obscurity. Poor Michael Steele. When it comes to being a complete jerkoff, he’s Salieri to Palin’s Mozart.