Mon. May 20th, 2024

Written by Bill Berkowitz

When I saw her beaming face in the audience at ‘Dancing with the Stars’ on Monday night, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘OMG, this woman is everywhere!'”

What with watching her daughter Bristol compete on television’s top-rated show, her own new television series that debuted the previous night, her Fox News Channel appearances, her well-paid speaking engagements around the country, the endorsements of candidates in the midterm, her tweets and Facebook posts, and the fact that she’s preparing to launch a book tour on behalf of her second book, Sarah Palin is a twenty-first century Zelig, only she’s real and has more negatives. Ironically, the qualities that people like about her — her certainty, feistiness, anti-intellectualism, and her cocksure attitude – are the same characteristics that so many people dislike. And, interestingly enough, Palin and company appear to care less about what the naysayers in the “lame-stream” media are saying about her.

While Sarah Palin has seen her celebrity status, and the numbers in her bank account skyrocket since Senator John McCain plucked her out of the wilds of Alaska to be his running mate in 2008, she is facing a fascinating political paradox: She’s feeling the love, and, then again, she’s not.

According to a post-election Gallup Poll, Palin’s negatives are up over 50% — the highest percentage holding a negative opinion of her since 2008 — while her positives are hovering in the low 40s. While 80% of Republicans view her favorably and thus may make it possible for her to gain the Party’s presidential nomination, these are not winning numbers, should she feel the call, in 2012: “If there’s nobody else to do it, then of course I would believe that we should do this,” Palin recently told ET.

As per usual, there’s news about her — even when it’s not completely about her, it’s still about her — all over the internet and television channels.

Wrapping up some old business, we recently learned that the young man who was convicted of hacking her Yahoo email account in 2008 was given a sentence of one year and one day. The judge also recommended that 22-year old David Kernell, the son of Mike Kernell, a Memphis Democratic state representative, does his time in a halfway house rather than an adult state prison.

Tina Fey receives the Mark Twain Prize and thanks Palin

Take Sunday night on PBS for example: During her remarks upon receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Tina Fey, the youngest person ever to receive the prestigious award, thanked her parents, Lorne Michaels of “Saturday Night Live,” Alec Baldwin, her co-star of NBC’s “30 Rock,” and of course thanked Sarah Palin. “I would be liar and an idiot if I didn’t thank Sarah Palin,” Fey said. “My partial resemblance and her crazy voice are the two luckiest things that have ever happened to me.”

(Edited out of the PBS telecast — for some as of yet unexplained reason — was Fey’s pointed criticism of Palin’s politics. She said that the rise of conservative women in politics was good for all women, “unless you don’t want to pay for your own rape kit . . . unless you’re a lesbian who wants to get married to your partner of 20 years . . . [or] unless you believe in evolution.”)

Palin’s advice to conservatives in the new Congress

Then, there’s the stuff she and her aides are generating, like the advice she offered up to the next Congressional class — many of whom owe their elections to her endorsement — in the form of “An Open Letter to Republican Freshmen Members of Congress,” that appeared on her Facebook page. When the new members get to Washington, they should “stick to the principles that propelled your campaigns”: “When you take your oath to support and defend our Constitution and to faithfully discharge the duties of your office, remember that present and future generations of ‘We the People’ are counting on you to stand by that oath. Never forget the people who sent you to Washington. Never forget the trust they placed in you to do the right thing.”

And while in Washington, be sure to “rein in out-of-control government spending and to repeal and replace the massive, burdensome, and unwanted health care law President Obama and the Democrat Congress passed earlier this year in defiance of the will of the majority of the American people.”


As long as she’s still dancing, Bristol Palin will remain in the spotlight. Bristol is definitely feeling the love as she continues to survive, despite what some have termed mediocre skills, on ABC’s top-rated television program “Dancing with the Stars,” where Palin has been in the audience cheering her on. Some see Bristol’s ascendancy into the finals (the last dance-off comes next Monday night) as the fruit of a Tea Party conspiracy.

(In a strange round about way, daughter Bristol is kind of palling around with liberals: Not only has Tom Bergeron, the host of “Dancing with the Stars,” participated in an anti-bullying video in support of gay teens, but he has regularly contributed to the Democratic Party and he gave more than $4,000 to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.)

‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’

Perhaps just as interesting as the Gallup Poll, although a bit less scientific, is a survey taken by The New York Daily News regarding the debut Sunday night of Palin’s new reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which aired on the Discovery Channel’s sister network TLC. The Daily News asked readers if they watched the premiere episode of the show. As of late Monday evening, 18% responded “You betcha I did, and it was great!”; 30% checked the “Yes, and it was terrible. Pass!” box; and, 52% checked the “Nope, I’d rather watch ‘Jersey Shore’ reruns” box.

Newspaper surveys are all well and good, but it’s the ratings that count. A headline in The Hollywood Reporter read: “‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ Breaks TLC Ratings Record,” “Palin’s documentary / travelogue/reality/biopic shattered TLC ratings records Sunday night …. deliver[ing] a whopping 5 million viewers,” making it “the most-watched program launch in TLC’s history.”

In his column, Tim Goodman, the former television critic for the San Francisco Chronicle who now works with The Hollywood Reporter, wrote that “if you loathe Palin, well, ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ will not change that. If you love Palin, there’s probably plenty here to solidify your beliefs.”

Goodman pointed out that her program “did precisely what it set out to do: to keep TLC in the headlines for an impressively long time. Say what you will about the channel but you have to give it credit for seizing the moment, riding the controversy and, probably making a lot of money.”

For those who didn’t catch the opening episode, The Daily News’ Staff Writer Soraya Roberts pointed out that while the program “offers up a healthy slice of geography porn (snowcapped mountains! crystal clear water! trees!), its first episode simultaneously reveals the chink in the armor of the Palin machine.” The chink in the armor may be summed up in the headline to Roberts’ story: “‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ premiere recap: Ex-gov tries to keep Willow Palin from being like Bristol.”

To be fair and balanced it should be noted that The Baltimore Sun’s Candus Thomson, the author of the blog “Outdoors Girl,” said that the hour was “a nice travelog with lots of pretty shots of Alaska wilderness and a glimpse of all the expensive outdoors toys at her disposal.” Thomson added: “The occasional unintended laugh aside, the show’s pretty pedestrian and makes you wonder how they’re going to fill the seven remaining weeks.”

In late October, The Daily News reported that Karl Rove apparently threw some ice-berg-sized criticism on Palin’s reality show parade: “There are high standards that the American people have for it [the presidency] and they require a certain level of gravitas,” former Bush adviser Rove told London’s Daily Telegraph. “With all due candor, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of ‘that helps me see you in the Oval Office,'” he said.

Setting aside one’s personal calculus of just how much “gravitas” Karl Rove has, Bush’s Brain did some pretty gritty work during the midterm elections. It remains to be seen whether Rove will wind up walking back his remarks about Palin, as he did his post-Delaware primary comment that the GOP’s senatorial standard bearer Christine O’Donnell was of questionable character and not ready for prime time politics.

Palin at the Midterms

Despite some Christian Reconstructionist religious leaders objecting on Biblical grounds to Palin’s involvement in politics, she maintains solid support from the Religious Right. She’s a Tea Party favorite and receives strong support from white people. She is also overwhelmingly disliked by Democrats, and Independents are not that fond of her either.

Some establishment Republicans have been claiming that her endorsements of the ill-fated candidacies of Sharron Angle (Nevada), Christine O’Donnell (Delaware), and most likely Joe Miller (Alaska), cost the Party control of the Senate. Conservative Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker recently wrote a piece headlined “Sarah Palin is an annoyance the Republicans can’t ignore.” Parker, who co-hosts CNN’s “Parker/[Elliott] Spitzer” program, concluded that “Not only would Palin the presidential candidate drive away other Republican candidates, but she would most certainly lose a national election. Thus, the GOP finds itself in a pickle: How to shed itself of this attractive nuisance?”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, currently leading Tea Party and Palin-backed Republican challenger Joe Miller in Alaska’s contentious Senate race, told CNN on Monday, November 15, that she did not “think that [Palin] has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies. You know, she was my governor for two years. And I don’t think that she enjoyed governing.”

Palin will soon be on tour promoting her new book America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag. While she’s on the road and talking about un-doing President Obama’s health care plan, privatizing/dismantling Social Security, or fiddling with Medicare, she might consider adopting a thought from George H.W. Bush’s Acceptance Address at the 1988 Republican National Convention where he stated that he wanted “a kinder, and gentler nation.”

At some point, one of Palin’s savvy advisors, or perhaps Ms. Mama Grizzly herself, will recognize that while this love/hate thing has brought lots of like-minded folks to her side, it makes it incredibly tough for her to be a successful national candidate. Could a “kinder, gentler” Sarah Palin win support from those who vehemently dislike her? Probably not. Might a “kinder, gentler” Palin sway some of those that are still undecided? Perhaps. Stay tuned.

About the author
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.


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