Is Sarah Palin for Sale?

The former Alaska governor chose the least objectionable way to get rich from politics, and her critique of corporate cronyism is praiseworthy

sarah palin iowa fair full.jpg

In The Baltimore Sun, columnist David Zurawik expresses amazement that Sarah Palin claims she is "not for sale," unlike other politicians (Barack Obama, Rick Perry, etc.) who engage in corporate cronyism.

He writes:

OK, I guess she's not for sale if you ignore the $1 million she gets from Fox News to play political analyst on a race for president of the United States that she might or might not enter. Oh yeah, and then there's the $1 million from TLC, the sleazeball reality channel that so owned Palin it forced her to have a cooked-up episode on her Alaska series in which she "camped out" with Kate Gosselin and her eight kids.
And to get those paydays Palin ditched her commitment to serve the citizens of Alaska as their governor for four years. No money in that, though, so who can blame her, hey? This is someone who wants to be taken seriously as a voice of reform, and she's selling herself to any cable channel that write a check for seven figures -- and playing host to Kate Gosselin when she isn't toeing the line for Murdoch and Ailes and their dirty attempts to buy political influence in the United States the way Murdoch did in Britain. Right, Sarah, you're not for sale.

This isn't entirely unfair. Palin made a calculated decision to step down from the Alaska statehouse and cash in on her celebrity. But it isn't entirely fair either. Some politicians sell out by putting the interests of their campaign donors ahead of the general interest. Others leave government for corporate jobs where they're valued because they can help their new bosses to exploit inside information and personal relationships accumulated while they were on the public payroll.

Corporate cronyism and "the revolving door" between government and big business are problematic features of our political system. But folks who gain celebrity in politics and then make money on reality television, book contracts, and cable news channels? That worries me less. 

Sure, it would be great if every politician spoke the truth rather than pandering to their core supporters, if cable news wasn't an absurd parade of disingenuous talking points, and if political celebrity was awarded based on wisdom and insight rather than whatever it is that Palin has. I concur with her critics that she has been a negative force in American political life, and when she fades from the scene, I won't miss her. But better that a politician gets rich from submitting to an occasionally degrading reality TV show than that he or she become a millionaire the Dick Cheney way, selling his knowledge of the military industrial complex to Halliburton; or getting rich the Rick Perry way, making sketchy land deals with political connections.

Unless I've missed something, Palin hasn't ever sold out in those ways. And if she's going to criticize that aspect of Republican and Democratic politics -- something she did with good results in Alaska -- she ought to be encouraged in spreading a message that is accurate and vital.

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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