Lessons From Sarah Palin

As Sarah Palin resumes private life, contemplations of The Year of Palin are emerging

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As Sarah Palin resumes private life, contemplations of The Year of Palin are emerging. Here are three lessons from today's best reads on her.

Great risks can beget great rewards. Or not. Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson of The Washington Post reported that John McCain knew he had to do something radical to save his campaign, and Sarah Palin was the risk he took. In an excerpt from their new book published today, they chronicle a foreboding tale of a risky political decision made, regretably, without all of the necessary information:

But if there was a breakdown, it appears not to have been in the review but rather in a decision made without a deeper understanding of whether Palin would be judged ready to sit a heartbeat away from the presidency. As one person close to the campaign put it, Palin may have received a thorough legal vetting, but what she didn't receive was a thorough political vetting."

It's time for a summit on sexism, Kirsten Powers writes in the New York Post. "I'm no fan of the former governor of Alaska, but as a life-long feminist I can't ignore the endless stream of sexism directed at her," she says. Recalling the way that Hillary Clinton was treated during her presidential run, Powers noted that "there is something profoundly juvenile about adult men in the media grouping powerful women by crude stereotypes like 'bitch' or 'hot chick.'"

"If all it took to become a rising political star were great cheekbones and nice legs," Powers says, "Victoria's Secret models would be on every presidential ticket."

America can have demagogues too. As far as we can tell, Juan Cole was the first to identify "uncanny parallels" between the biographies of Sarah Palin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The differences between them are substantial, he writes, but Palin and Ahmadinejad are both right-wing populists who "glory in being mavericks," "appeal to wounded nationalism," and portray themselves as outsiders.

According to Cole, that's not where it ends. Both Palin and Ahmadinejad claim that the media is engineering an elite conspiracy to oversee their demise. And both "so-called mavericks" have had public and tense stand-offs between they and their party leaders, "useful in emphasizing their independence from the establishment even as they remain largely within it," Cole writes. He says such "competing populists" are dangerous:

"Right-wing populism is centered on a theory of media conspiracy, a "my country right or wrong" chauvinism, a fascination with an armed citizenry, an intolerance of dissent and a willingness to declare political opponents mere terrorists. It is cavalier in its disregard of elementary facts and arrogant about the self-evident rightness of its religious and political doctrines. It therefore holds dangers both for the country in which it grows up and for the international community." 

As expected, some say that analogy is ridiculous. "Apart from the bit about Palin being a plausible future president," Joshua Livestro wrote at Conservatives4Palin, "it's all straight out of the Hans Christian Andersen handbook of political analysis." Gateway Pundit scoffed. "Last month Bush was Ahmadinejad. They really need to make up their minds."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.