After going briefly underground, Palin is back, lapping up the attention from the mainstream media, mall crowds and Glenn and Rush. On television to promote the memoir she wrote to settle scores, Palin is beautiful and charming and even, at times, humble. But it is clear the concept of a fresh start, the need for a second act or the political benefits of a clean slate just haven’t occurred to her. Free from the constraints of a presidential campaign to, as she says, “speak my heart and my values,” Palin has decided that now is no time for magnanimity, let alone substantive policy solutions. Now is the time for me-ism and ugly public fights.
Her almost-son-in-law remains another issue to tackle, posing nude and providing the media with a steady stream of trash talk about Palin. In her interview on “Oprah,” Palin said that Levi Johnston’s claim he lived with his girlfriend was a “foundational untruth.” Many of the claims in her book have been denounced as fiction by McCain staffers, and despite his attempt to stay far from the Palin publicity cyclone, McCain himself felt the need to deny his campaign ever billed Palin $50,000 in legal fees for vetting her.
Other untruths, whether “foundational” or not, are calling Palin’s credibility into question as she dashes from interview to interview. She told Sean Hannity last year that she polled her daughters before running for vice president but then told Oprah that she didn’t get a chance to poll them. McCain staffers have told reporters Palin asked Schmidt himself to break the news to her children. There have been inconsistent statements about when and how she learned the McCain campaign was pulling out of Michigan, the very episode that birthed the statement about Palin “going rogue,” when she insisted on going to Michigan herself and paying for the gas. Nicole Wallace told MSNBC this week that Palin’s tale in her book of being coaxed into taking the historic Katie Couric interview in order to help Couric with her “self-esteem” is a fabrication. “I am not someone who throws around the word ‘self-esteem.’ It is a fictional description,” Wallace said.
When asked about plans to run for president in 2012, Palin often responds that it isn’t on her “radar screen,” but she isn’t very subtle. She told Barbara Walters that “if people will have me, I will.” And then she told Newsmax on Tuesday that she would even consider running with Glenn Beck.
Though writing tell-all books and picking public fights isn’t presidential, that fact just isn’t on Palin’s radar screen. She makes sure that her celebrity and her enemies drive her narrative. Palin is upset this week that Newsweek used the Runner’s World photograph of her in shorts, calling it “unfortunate,” “sexist” and “cheesy.” No matter that she posed for it. In an angry country, Palin remains Sarah the Barracuda, embracing payback, victimization and the politics of grievance. And don’t forget God and Todd. Sounds like a platform for 2012.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.