Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reposted Robert Becker Column: "Rogue" Palin Goes P.T. Barnum

A pretty, almost tropical-looking early evening sky over Washington, D.C., as a mild southwesterly flow picked up ahead of a frontal passage and after the rains earlier this week. This is the old Sun Trust building at the corner of 15th Street and New York Avenue (right where the latter begins), caddy-corner to the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW -- yes, that same 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- Washington, D.C., 4:32PM, Nov. 25, 2009.

I need to start using the digital camera I was given as a present rather than just my cellphone.


I had to post this piece by Robert Becker that I read (via Bartcop) that I on the Bush-era liberal political blog The Smirking Chimp. It's a very good piece (in my view), although I think he should have also talked a bit about how "Sister Sarah" also a bit of an updated, rightwing, early 21st Century, female version of William Jennings Bryan.

On a separate note, I have to say I'm so chagrined and disappointed with Obama and everything he is doing.

I am thinking there will be big GOP gains in 2010 precisely because -- as Michael Lind pointed out that column to which I linked in my previous entry and which I am linking to again here -- once again the Republican party will successfully employ an American religio-populist strategy while its ruthless corporate oligarchical heart remains, of course, unchanged.

The Democratic Party is so compromised by its own corporate / Wall Street money dependency, ideological confusion, dysfunctionality, and inability to connect to so many segments of the electorate that it may be heading for a not-wholly-undeserved drubbing next year, but what comes out of that will be even worse for the country's prospects.


I plan to have an entry posted tomorrow (my 40th birthday ...)



The Palin Paradox: Rehabilitating A Vengeful, Anti-McCain Rogue Going P.T. Barnum

by Robert Becker | November 24, 2009 - 11:35am

As seen here on The Smirking Chimp

Any would-be rogue politician, hawking vengeance towards her own campaign and grievance against the mass media, all peppered with absurd tall tales, invites parallels to like-minded rogues. Sarah Palin follows the legacy of Richard Nixon (for ruthless ambition, dishonesty), Joe McCarthy (moral crusades, dishonesty), W. (cheerleading, unfitness, dishonesty), and Dick Cheney (demagoguery, dishonesty). On the positive side, Palin parallels Oprah (celebrity, showmanship), Evita (melodrama, populism), Carrie Prejean (sexy rule breaking), and Annie Oakley (folksy spunkiness, defying critics).

Today, beyond winning elections, Sarah Palin wants stardom; her book embraces show personalities; and instinctively, she goes for glitz and duplicity (even lying, to believe McCain and staff). But when did truth (or reality) impede show business, establishing Palin's tour mentor as P.T. Barnum, the 19th C. circus barker and con man, whose outlandish publicity triumphs became the "Greatest Show on Earth," aptly Barnum and Bailey Circus. Palin's circus, with 31 safe stopovers, obeys Barnum's model, "There's a sucker born every minute." Plus adages, "If you hesitate, some bolder hand will stretch out before you and get the prize" and "Without promotion something terrible happens . . . Nothing!"

Now crusading after fame for fame's sake, Palin orchestrates her redemption from humiliated candidate and bizarre Alaska quitter to, well, famous personality. It's a job, though more about shedding than adding milestones. Reinvention, especially made-up, demands producing your own pageant and storyline, again like Barnum, full of hick stunts, hoaxes, and blarney. But note this huge difference: P.T.'s promotional genius had a real, sustainable payoff - immensely entertaining variety shows packed with unpredictable acts, animals, and marvels. With Palin, her splashy, if highly predictable sales come-on is the whole show, with fans hitting the cash register after the spiel.

Ruthless Ambition Isn't Pretty

Barnum got rich and famous promoting others. What is Palin about except Palin? The ultimate cheerleader for self, Norman Mailer's title, Advertisements for Myself, fits alongside Going Rogue. Oddly, in her world, she's anything but ideological rogue, mouthing every Bush-Cheney-Limbaugh cliche like a parrot. Where is the there there, one viable solution, one hobbyhorse, one anything beyond hawking a vindictive book she didn't even write. Jon Stewart's ridicule nails her, "When you peel back the pretty, shooty Palin onion, there's no onion. It's just a conservative boiler plate mad lib . . . And the worst part, it's a mad lib delivered as though it were the hard-earned wisdom of a life well lived . . . [she's] not a straight-shoot, just a talking points machine."

In a year, she gets an F for truancy, per Bob Sesca: "Where Ronald Reagan was a celebrity in the old-Hollywood framework, Palin is a celebrity in the talentless, Balloon Boy, reality show, Prejean, new-Hollywood framework." Palin's rote, mind-numbing mantras (kill taxes, government, health care, and terrorists) only reinforce H.L. Mencken's wisdom, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Various versions of this map have shown up over the years. This one is kind of funny. Click on it for larger version.

Even surpassing her "death panels" scare tactics, she thunders (on Limbaugh) about "jail time as punishment" for any refusing health reform. Or fabricates nonsense about God and coinage. Though miraculously freed from McCain bullies and Alaska litigation, Palin's persona is unchanged, with a little less "word salad," yet still the whining victim of scurrilous complaints, persecuted by the mass media, elite intelligentsia, nasty critics, and nameless Obama operatives.

A Star is Re-born, uh, Self-Promoted

Okay, let's concede chutzpah: Palin's book tour buys her stardom in her own Reality Show. Never for fans mere "cynical politician," as Max Blumenthal writes, "but [a] magical helper, the God-fearing glamor girl who parachuted into their backwater towns to lift them from the drudgery of everyday life." In fact, she parachutes into the ultimate fantasy for every narcissistic ex-sports broadcaster or beauty contestant: a fabulous, multi-city, one-woman pageant about the star.

With authorized script, she's not just the star, but producer, director, cashier, and promoter railing against the "lame-stream press." Beside scrappiness and sex appeal, fans also get her marvelous way with words, like repeating "back-assward" for everything liberal. Trumping bad notices, she locks out critics, then dismisses these faithless as "shallow" and "lonely," in need of Sister Sarah's prayers.

Rogue Crusade: "Vengeance is Mine"

And then there's the book, full of sensationalized sneering and disloyal abuse heaped on the very hard-pressed campaigners who made her a star - and she claims McCain's staff sabotaged HER. Not only does Palin's stark betrayal invite party payback, what better born-again Christian lesson - no good deed goes unpunished. Even worse, think circular irony: Palin's depiction of these (alleged) mean-spirited, dimwitted McCain Keystone Cops confirms we all surely lucked out by rejecting her team, in effect endorsing the socialist Obama's election. If McCain pros couldn't reign in one willful pit bull, would they do any better than Bush-Cheney's White House?

Ha ha

This is epic, vindictive infighting: no losing V.P. pick ever so viciously bit the hand that fed her. Did Palin forget her name, for all of history, is half of the dishonored ticket? This hissing Cinderella will offend, not win party kudos. Thus, thus top Republican Gov. Haley Barbour four times refused to answer Chris Matthews' direct interrogation, "Is Palin qualified to be president"? Born-again as disruptive rogue means Palin gets the '12 GOP nomination over fat cat dead bodies: this loose cannon is no plaint W.

Fame, finally, as rogue politician

With fitting logic, Palin's self-serving, roughshod demolition of fellow Republicans exemplify every negative dictionary meaning implied by Going Rogue: 1. Vicious and solitary (animal, rogue elephant). 2. Large, destructive, or unpredictable (a rogue wave; a rogue tornado). 3. Outside normal, desirable controls (rogue trader). In this sense, Palin contradicts Barnum's brilliance at organization and complex joint ventures feeding his vast, varied productions. Does a prospective president shoot her ex-running mate and campaign team in the foot without injuring herself?

Unlike Palin, P.T. Barnum was never an aggrieved victim, indeed he forever proclaimed himself master of his fate. Yet even he would not have survived 23% favorability ratings, 52% refusing "to vote for him," or 60% judging him unfit to lead (actual Palin poll numbers). So, while no ideological rogue in the good mavericky sense, Palin the touring mercenary qualifies as monumental, disruptive political rogue, going out of her way to burn party bridges.

You tell me how "going rogue" vindictively, with only 23% national support and zero solutions, advances anyone's political rehabilitation. This tour could well be her public pinnacle. Instead, Palin should return to safer, evangelical roots, hustling for heaven and pandering to the converted. This weekend alone earned this blessing from Billy Graham's son, Franklin, "Daddy feels God was using her to wake America up." Yes, just ask the battered, awakened McCain and staff how God works in mysterious ways.
Robert Becker


rita said...


Regulus said...

Thanks, Rita. And thank you for the phone call message.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind remarks. Love the pictures.

Regarding W. J. Bryan, I was already well over my self-imposed 1000 word limit so there was no way to do Barnum, much better known and more drama, and Bryan. Also, half of Bryan was progressive -- the Monkey Trial blind faith silliness came later in his career.


Robert Becker

krzysztof said...

Again, Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Palin has the thieves of both parties tripping.