As a long-standing Palin hysteric, I have to confess a mite less concern in 2011 than at any time since she has been farcically commanding the attention of the political class. Not much has changed essentially: Palin's favorable ratings remain roughly where they have been. Yes, the GOP elite has finally turned against her, led by Krauthammer; and the GOP's capture of the House has undermined the sense of urgent oppositionism that fueled her rise. But she remains the great unknown of the GOP primary race, still commands slightly creepy encomiums from Pawlenty, and is the de facto front-runner, with raw political talent and literally a cult following.
So why the shift? I think the reality series might have done it. It was quite an achievement, but even as executive producer, with final control of editing, Palin couldn't help but destroy her own mythology. The best piece I've yet read on this is here - tellingly in USAToday. It agrees with many red state critiques of the show: that Palin obviously is a phony in her huntin' and shootin' schtick. Money quote:
The caribou hunt episode provides a centerpiece of the series' excesses, as well as Palin's ineptitude. According to script, it's Palin's turn to replenish the family's dwindling freezer with wild meat from an Alaska point of view, all good. But the logistics of the trip defy common sense. Instead of hunting within reasonable distance of home, her party flies 600-plus miles to a remote camp in multiple chartered aircraft. This isn't subsistence but the sort of experiential safari popular among high-end, non-resident sport hunters. For all that, Palin ends up with a skinny juvenile cow caribou. Boned out, we're talking maybe 100 pounds of meat, at a staggering cost per pound.
Faced with that hapless animal, this darling of Second Amendment supporters nervously asks her dad whether the small-caliber rifle kicks. Then, even more astoundingly, her father repeatedly works the bolt and loads for her as she misses shot after shot before scoring a kill on the seventh round enough bullets for a decent hunter to take down at least five animals. (Given Palin's infamous tweet "Don't retreat, reload," we can infer she plans to keep her dad close by.) Later, Palin blames the scope, but any marksman would recognize the flinching, the unsteady aim and poor shot selection and the glaring ethical fault of both shooter and gun owner if the rifle wasn't properly sighted. Instead of some frontier passion play, we're rendered a dark comedy of errors.
The mama grizzly meme is also debunked:
From the opening credits, Palin's not actually leading, as the show's stirring theme song (Follow Me There) suggests. Instead, she's tucked far under the wings of professional guides, friends, or family members in a curious subtext, almost all males.
They instruct and coddle her along, at one point literally hauling Palin uphill on the end of a rope. Even post-production editing can't hide a glaring, city-slicker klutziness.
Notice how difficult it would be for a blue stater to take on Palin's cred. But Palin could not help herself. She is drawn to the exposure of her own lies like a salmon into her husband's net.
This is called self-destructive behavior. And it soothes the troubled soul.
(Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty.)