Michael J. Gross of Vanity Fair had the unenviable task of writing a long article about the delusional gadfly Sarah Palin. Worth a read, despite that nearly all1 the sources are off the record. And they aren’t kind: Palin is apparently quite the cold and angry diva when she isn’t on camera or on stage.
[Sarah Palin] manages to be at once a closed book and a constant noisemaker. Her press spokesperson, Pam Pryor, barely speaks to the press, and Palin shrewdly cultivates a real and rhetorical antagonism toward what she calls “the lamestream media.” The Palin machine is supported by organizations that do much of their business under the cover of pseudonyms and shell companies. In accordance with the terms of a reported $1 million annual contract with Fox News, Palin regularly delivers canned commentary on that network. But in the year since she abruptly resigned the governorship of Alaska, in order to market herself full-time—earning an estimated $13 million in the process—she has submitted to authentic, unpaid interviews with only a handful of journalists, none of whom have posed notably challenging questions. She keeps tight control of her pronouncements, speaking only in settings of her own choosing, with audiences of her own selection, and with reporters kept at bay. (Despite many requests, neither Palin nor her current staff would comment for this article.) She injects herself into the news almost every day, but on a strictly one-way basis, through a steady stream of messages on Twitter and Facebook. The press plays along. Palin is the only politician whose tweets are regularly reported as news by TV networks. She is the only one who has been able to significantly change the course of debate on a major national issue (health-care reform) with a single Facebook posting (in which she accused the Obama administration, falsely, of wanting to set up a “death panel”).
Palin makes speeches before large audiences at least a few times a week, on a grueling schedule that has taken her to as many as four locations in three states in one day. She’s choosy, restricting herself to Tea Party gatherings; fund-raisers for charities and Republican organizations and candidates; and moneymakers for herself, mainly business conventions and “Get Motivated!” seminars. Judging from the bootleg videos that sometimes turn up, her basic speech varies little from venue to venue. She presents herself as the straight-shooting, plainspoken, salt-of-the-earth advocate for “hardworking, patriotic, liberty-loving Americans” and as the anti-Obama, the lone Republican standing up to a federal government gone “out of control.” Last July, the quarterly filing by Palin’s political-action committee, SarahPAC, revealed a formidable war chest and hefty investments in fund-raising and direct mail, the clearest signs yet that she may indeed run for president. Republican leaders privately dismiss her as too unpredictable and too undisciplined to run a serious campaign. But on she flies, carpet-bombing the 24-hour news cycle: now announcing her desire to meet with her “political heroine” Margaret Thatcher (the better to look like Ronald Reagan, presumably, though Palin seemed unaware that Thatcher is suffering from dementia); now yelping in theatrical complaint (“I want my straws! I want ’em bent!”), to shrug off revelations that her speaking contract demands deluxe hotel rooms, first-class air travel, and bottles of water with bendable straws; now responding (in a statement read on the Today show) to reports of her daughter Bristol’s re-engagement to Levi Johnston; and all the while issuing scores of political endorsements and preparing a fall media blitz. A TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, for which Palin is being paid $2 million, will have its premiere on the TLC network in November. A new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, will be published the following week.
This spring and summer I traveled to Alaska and followed Palin’s road show through four midwestern states, speaking with whomever I could induce to talk under whatever conditions of anonymity they imposed—political strategists, longtime Palin friends and political associates, hotel staff, shopkeepers and hairstylists, and high-school friends of the Palin children. There’s a long and detailed version of what they had to say, but there’s also a short and simple one: anywhere you peel back the skin of Sarah Palin’s life, a sad and moldering strangeness lies beneath.
(click to continue reading Sarah Palin the Sound and the Fury | Politics | Vanity Fair.)
- or all, haven’t finished reading yet [↩]