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Jewish World Review
Dec. 11, 2009
24 Kislev 5770
The Roguish Success of Sarah Palin
The good news for George W. Bush is that the haters have just about worn
out the object of their contempt. The Bush years have been remaindered
to the old-news bin. The good news for Sarah Palin is that she's the
Good news not only because Palin is laughing all the way to the bank, if
not necessarily all the way to Campaign '12, but her popularity with
average Americans is growing. She may be the only author in America who
can get book buyers to line up by the thousands, sometimes in a cold
rain, for a few seconds face to face while she autographs "Going Rogue."
Her book has sold 2 million copies, and even if a lot of those books are
heavily discounted from the list price of $28.99, that's still enough to
buy a lot of mooseburgers. "Going Rogue" has outsold the much-ballyhooed
biography of Teddy Kennedy (even though his death gave sales a nice kick
start) and even Mitch Albom, the storyteller who usually outsells
Her appearance on "Oprah" gave many of the diva's regular viewers,
unaccustomed to anything not resembling tapioca, a severe case of
heartburn. Not Oprah. The ratings for the show were among the highest
ever. Nobody, including the former governor, pretends "Going Rogue" is
literature for the ages, but it's no worse and a lot better than
many a politician's memoirs.
To fair-minded critics and political analysts, Sarah Palin is
remarkable. She may be a shooting star in a sky otherwise empty of
shooting stars, but my, what a bright light the lady makes.
Some of the sound accompanying the light is the noise of grinding
liberal teeth, which alone is reward enough for conservatives. And this
week, just as the polling numbers of Barack Obama continued to fall, her
approval numbers continued to climb. The president, says Gallup, has
fallen to 47 percent approval; 46 percent approve of the lady from
With considerably more than a thousand days to go before the next
presidential election, such numbers are important only as fodder for
conversation, but it's the conversation that Washington loves most. She
teased the curiosity of the capital again with the news that she's
adding public appearances in Iowa. Only to sell books, of course.
Everybody who visits Iowa in the dead of winter is not necessarily on
the way to the White House, but it is true that the road to the White
House begins in Iowa.
The stridency and intensity of the continuing attacks on Palin strike
some not necessarily Sarah Palin herself as evidence that gender
is an obstacle unique to women in politics. She shares this obstacle
with Hillary Clinton, writes Leslie Sanchez, a Republican campaign
strategist, in her new book on women in politics, "You've Come a Long
"While women have come a long way since the dawn of the modern feminist
movement, women seeking public office share a daunting task," she
writes. Well, maybe. But men share "daunting tasks," too. She cites the
usual complaint that the Palin campaign coverage started with harmless
commentary about her good looks and devolved quickly "into running
commentary on her clothing, intelligence, marital status and career
It's true that Palin endured unusual media hostility, but media
hostility is a Republican birthright for both male and female. Besides,
politics is daunting for everyone in the arena. You could ask Bill
Clinton, whose private life and public shame became the stuff of
caricature, or George W. Bush, who was mocked for nearly everything he
said and a lot he did. Soon you probably can ask Barack Obama how it was
that even a messiah couldn't get immunity from raillery and ridicule.
In the Sanchez account, both Hillary Clinton and Palin had to recast
themselves to please different constituencies. "Some women identified
with Sarah Palin because she seemed like a small-town girl, wife and
mother. Others vilified her because she is a pro-life, practicing
Christian who supports gun rights. Older women identified with Hillary
Clinton but by focusing her campaign so heavily on experience, she
failed to forge a connection with younger women."
But what makes Palin particularly attractive to many Americans, male and
female, is that she hasn't invoked the convenient feminist excuse. She
revels in the obvious good looks that attract the eye of men, and many
women who after all pay a lot of attention to looks, clothes and
"home-building acts" themselves delight in her roguish success. She
makes it all look like serious fun.
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