Whenever the hopes of sentient people are raised that Sarah Palin might forever slink back into the bleak obscurity she so richly deserves, the former Republican vice presidential nominee keeps extending her fifteen minutes of ill-gotten fame a few more seconds. In spite of clear signs that Americans are bored with the failed politico widely ridiculed as “Caribou Barbie,” Palin won a major speaking spot at this week’s 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference along with major rising political stars such as far-right Texas Senator Ted Cruz (a man Palin endorsed in the 2012 Republican primaries.)
Beginning in 2008, Palin alienated most of the country with a career that featured a nasty mix of racism, flirtations with birtherism, secessionism, and other forms of extremism, generous dollops of homophobia, and a blend of anti-Semitism and creepy apocalyptic philo-Semitism. She followed up her spotty political career with several failures at TV stardom. The last two years in particular have not been politically kind to Palin. Her mini-comeback this year, therefore, ranks as a surprise. What do the people who keep shining the spotlight on Palin know that most of the American public doesn't?
As Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks noted in September 2008, from the beginning of her political career Palin and her husband Todd “actively courted the Alaska Independence Party, or AIP, an organization that supports Alaskan secession from the U.S.” Secession is a nice word for treason. The illegality of secession was firmly established by the loss of the Confederacy in the Civil War in 1865. Nevertheless, members of the AIP renounce their loyalty to the United States government and seek to establish a separate Alaskan nation. The founder of the AIP, Joe Vogler, expressed his intense disdain for the union to a reporter in a 1991 interview: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. ... And I won't be buried under their damn flag." (See http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/04/news/OE-BROOKS4).
Palin spoke to the AIP convention in 2006 when she ran for governor as a Republican. She sent a recorded message to the party after she won the election later that year. "I share your party's vision of upholding the constitution of our great state," she said in the taped talk. "My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty and opportunity can expand. I know you agree with that." She added, "Keep up the good work, and God bless you." (See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/us/politics/04party.html).
These End Times beliefs, called "dispensationalism," require the most extreme support for the state of Israel. Dispensationalists think that the Second Coming can't happen until all Jews have gathered in the land of Israel. Such Christians say that Jesus will come back specifically to save Israelis from extermination by the Anti-Christ. They, therefore, support continued mass Jewish immigration from Russia to Israel, raise money for the Israeli state, and have formed a cozy relationship with the Israeli right-wing. They contend that any attempt by Israelis and their allies to exchange land for peace with the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is part of a Satanic plot. They thus urge Israelis to reject peace with their Arab neighbors. More sinister is their certainty that most Jews in Israel will be killed by the Anti-Christ during the Tribulation. Such horrors, however, are seen by Dispensationalists as a necessary precursor to the establishment of a Godly kingdom on Earth called "The Millennium." They are willing to encourage Russian Jews to immigrate to a Middle Eastern home where they face ultimate doom as a means of achieving salvation for themselves. Jews are not so much real flesh-and-blood people as they are a means to an end: an earthly paradise for Christians.
For much of her life, Palin has belonged to churches with extremist views that border on anti-Semitism. (Photo http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1848420,00.html
In any case, Palin's new congregation, Wasilla Baptist Church, also holds some disturbing beliefs about Jews. The church in 2008 hosted the executive director of Jews for Jesus, an organization of Jews who have converted to evangelical Christianity. They believe that Jews have an incomplete religion which they must renounce to achieve salvation. They therefore seek to convert their other former co-religionists. The Jews for Jesus spokesman told the congregation, "“that violence against Israeli Jews is God's punishment for their failure to accept Jesus.” (http://www.nysun.com/editorials/palins-pastor/85166/). Anti-Israeli acts of terror, such as the murders committed by suicide bombers in the West Bank, are therefore, in a twisted way, acts of God.
"We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity,” Palin said in one line of her vice presidential acceptance speech, scripted by George W. Bush staffer Matthew Scully, at the Republican National Convention September 3, 2008. The speech attributed the line to “a writer.” Scully, and Palin, didn’t mention the line was written by Westbrook Pegler, an infamously anti-Semitic and racist Republican newspaper columnist from the 1930s to the 1960s, a man so extreme he was expelled from the far-right John Birch Society. Fiercely anti-communist, Pegler saw Jews of Eastern European descent as enemies of America and described them as "instinctively sympathetic to Communism, however outwardly respectable they appeared." Pegler liked to call Jews "geese," he said, because they supposedly “hiss when they talk, gulp down everything before them, and foul everything in their wake. (See http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Palins_source.html?showall and http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2004/03/dangerous_minds.html).
Pegler not only had positive things to say about right wing dictatorships, he openly wished for political violence against liberals. In the 1930s, Pegler said that he wished someone would assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt, who he saw as a communist sympathizer. He complained that Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted to kill the president but accidentally murdered Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak when the president-elect visited Miami, Florida on February 15, 1933, "hit the wrong man." (See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122100226859616967.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_today). He expressed similar sentiments in 1965 about liberal Sen. Robert Kennedy. Pegler wrote with eager anticipation that perhaps, "Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies." Pegler lived to see his dream come true. Robert Kennedy would die from an assassin's bullet just after winning the Democratic presidential primary in California in June 1968. (The Kennedy quote comes from Thomas Frank, ed., Boob Jubilee -- The Mad Cultural Politics of the New Economy: Salvos from The Baffler, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003, 358.)
Westbrook Pegler, the "author" Sarah Palin quoted in her acceptance speech at the 2008 National Convention, once openly fantasized about the murder of liberal New York Senator Robert Kennedy. He got his wish June 6, 1968. (Photo from http://life.time.com/history/behind-the-picture-rfks-assassination/#1).
GOP presidential nominee John McCain, his running mate Sarah Palin, and the Palin family at the 2008 Republican National Convention. (Photo from http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Bristol+Palin/Sarah+Palin/2008+Republican+National+Convention+Day+3/jZeuTts7RfI).
A national campaign premised on such a Manichean view of the Unites States (in which the holy interior wages a moral crusade against the wicked metropolitan centers) was bound to collapse. McCain picked Palin to generate excitement, making her the first woman on a major national ticket since Rep. Geraldine Ferraro served as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, but he came to regret the decision. Under the national spotlight Palin mbarrassed the ticket with her inarticulate comments and her apparent cluelessness about policy. At different points she referred to the Department of Justice as “the Department of Law.” She didn’t seem to understand what a reporter meant by the phrase “the Bush Doctrine” (the foreign policy of the Bush administration adopted based on the premise it could invade a country in order to prevent the possible spread of terrorism even when no link to terror had yet been established). In her most infamous moment, she couldn't name a single publication she relied on for news. In her vice presidential debate with her Democratic opponent Joe Biden, she winked like a school girl, completely ignored reporters' questions and couldn't outline a single coherent policy position on the economy. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/07/palin-department-of-law-p_n_226881.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/11/palins-abc-interview-stum_n_125818.html, and http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2008/09/30/30022/palins-news/).
Meghan McCain, daughter of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, said that Palin because "a sudden, freakishly huge, full-fledged phenomenon." (Photo form http://www.inquisitr.com/243740/meghan-mccain-republicans-treat-me-like-a-freak-for-having-moderate-views/).
It got worse at a Waukesha, Wisconsin rally, where one man asking questions referred to Obama and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “hooligans” and another repeated the Birther lie, suggesting that Obama had risen so fast in politics as part of a sinister conspiracy. "And we're all wondering why that Obama is where he's at, how he got here. I mean, everybody in this room is stunned that we're in this position," the man said. "I'm mad. I'm really mad. And what's going to surprise you, it's not the economy. It's the socialists taking over our country," one said. (See http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/10/mccain.crowd/)
Nevertheless, even as McCain supposedly sought to calm the waters, his campaign ran ads exploiting the extremely tenuous connection between Obama and Bill Ayers, who belonged to the 1960s anti-Vietnam War terrorist group The Weather Underground while Obama was still in elementary school. (The Underground set off a series of bombs and robbed banks in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of their would-be revolution). Ayers and Obama barely knew each other. Ayers and his wife, fellow 1960s radical Bernardine Dohrn, hosted a reception at their home when Obama ran for the Illinois State Senate and both Ayers and Obama served for three years on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago. (See http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/05/fact-check-is-obama-palling-around-with-terrorists/).
Unlike McCain, at her personal appearances Palin poured gasoline on the fire of rightwing fury. Referring to indirectly to Ayers at a rally in Colorado, Palin also sought to play to the suspicions of extremists that Obama was a Muslim “Manchurian candidate” – someone sent by either agents of radical Islam, or by communist,s to seize control of the country for evil purposes. Questioning Obama’s patriotism, Palin told an already angry crowd:
As Meghan McCain noted,"Sarah Palin. She was turning out to be somebody who leaves a wake of confusion and chaos - to the point of dizziness - wherever she went." Palin's many verbal miscues on the trail, and reports that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 on hair, clothes, and makeup for the Palin family made her seem frivolous and self-absorbed. (See http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2008/10/24/palin_blames_gender_bias_for_clothing_controversy.html). As the election approached, most Americans worried about Palin as a potential chief executive. McCain was 72 and a cancer survivor. The thought of Palin being, as the cliché went, “a heartbeat away from the presidency,” frightened many voters and made them question his judgment. Election day polls indicated that 60 percent of voters saw her a unqualified to serve as vice president and nearly a third of voters said her presence on the ticket made them less likely to vote for the Republican Party's nominees. (See http://jonathanturley.org/2008/11/05/exit-poll-palin-hurt-ticket-with-vast-majority-of-voters/ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/us/politics/31poll.html?_r=0).
Election night was not even close. Obama won by almost 10 million popular votes, becoming the first Democrat to win more than 50 percent of the vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Obama carried the Electoral College by a 365-173 margin, and even won in previous Republican strongholds like Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
More serious political troubles began when she unexpectedly resigned as Alaska governor July 3, 2009, only 18 months into her first term and amid ethics investigations. (See http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-07-04/politics/36806852_1_sarah-palin-republican-alaska-palin-spokeswoman-meg-stapleton), Her credibility took a further hit as she formed SarahPAC supposedly to raise funds for similar candidates, but which ended up being mostly a means to pay expenses as Palin and her family travelled across the country and promoted her "personal brand." (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/14/sarah-palins-strangest-ex_n_644249.html#s113407&title=Chartered_Flights).
Palin wrote a bestseller, Going Rogue: An American Life, but the book proved to be a fluffy mix of patriotic cliches, airing of personal grievances, and gossipy anecdotes complete empty of any political ideas might hope for in a potential leader of the free world. An ill-advised career in reality TV and flakey bus tours in states holding important Republican presidential contests in the upcoming 2012 presidential race convinced growing numbers of Americans, even some Republicans, that she only craved constant attention and had nothing significant to say. In several cases, her always latent racism and homophobia became more explicit.
In a typical small-minded episode, Palin ridiculed Michelle Obama's campaign against a serious and dangerous epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States by serving her family s'mores. "Where are the s'mores ingredients?” Palin said. “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert." By the way, health experts say that one in three American children are overweight or obese and that this generation of children may have a shorter lifespan that their parents. Obesity greatly increases health care costs, which also endangers efforts to balance the federal budget. With typical hyperbole, Palin's characterized the First Lady's efforts to simply encourage exercise and healthier diets as an effort by the federal government to "take over and make decisions for us." Meanwhile, conservatives like Palin had no problem when First Lady Nancy Reagan urged children to "just say no" to drugs. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/20/sarah-palin-michelle-obama_n_799031.html)
If audiences tired of the elder Palin's fingers-on--a-chalk-board voice and phony political indignation, they turned away even more quickly from her daughter's reality show, Bristol Palin's: Life's a Tripp. Bristol's little-watched show actually lasted longer than Sarah Palin's (a whopping 14 episodes vs. eight original episodes plus a clip show for mom's program) but it played to much smaller audiences. Bristol's "reality" series drew an anemic 0.2 rating for adults 18 to 49, the opening episode watched by a mere 726,000 people across the country. The TLC network quickly bumped the show from prime time and buried it in a late night slot. (See http://insidetv.ew.com/2012/06/20/bristol-palin-ratings/).
In 2010, Palin was not always a racist herself: she just rallied to the defense of racists whenever she could. One of the more brazen examples of Palin's white supremacist thinking came in August of that year when she came to the defense of right wing radio host "Dr." Laura Schlessinger.. (Schlessinger actually has a Ph.D., but it is in physiology. On her radio show, she dispensed advice on relationships, sex, addiction, etc., falsely implying with her title that she was a psychologist or psychiatrist. It was only after she began her career as a radio therapist that she was certified as a marriage and family counselor. See http://www.salon.com/1999/08/23/drlaura/. )
Schlessinger hates gays, which makes her Palin's kind of gal. Even when the radio host made clear that she felt nothing but contempt for black people, Palin stood by the broadcaster's side. In August, a black listener called Schlesinger's show to complain about her white husband's racist friends who went out their way to use the word "nigger" in her presence. Rather than showing any empathy, or awareness of the potency of the word "nigger" in American history, Schlessinger went on a Klan-style rant:
The two then started talking over each other and then Schlesinger continued.
The radio host's racism also bubbled to the surface with her absurd statement that any claims that racism still warps American culture are false because Barack Obama ir president. (To refute that, simply check any of the 70 posts on this blog or just look at the sampling of explicitly racist anti-Obama posters, t-shirts and bumperstickers sold since our current president took office at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-30-products.html). She also displays her inner-Grand Dragon viewpoint with her strange "Don't NAACP me," which suggests that a venerable, historically transformative civil rights group is only a trivia-driven vehicle for racial grievance.
These events horrified would-be world leader Sarah Palin. Not Schlessinger showering a black listener with the word "nigger." Palin was dismayed that her n-word hurling hero was gong off the air. Palin urged Dr. Laura to not quit. "Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload!” Palin tweeted in her unique American dialect. “(Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")." Palin didn’t say a word about the appropriateness of a white radio host saying “nigger” on the air 11 times. One can only assume that this represents Palin’s passive endorsement of Schlessinger’s antebellum racial freakout. (See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/sarah-palin-supports-dr-laura-schlessinger-n-word-controversy-don-retreat-reload-article-1.201853)
- Sharron Angle, a Senate candidate in Nevada, who lost to a weakened Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a heavily Republican year and who darkly said that, should the election not go the Republican’s way, that “I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Angle implied that voters might have to use guns to overturn the electoral results. At the beginning of the 2010 election year, Republicans were favored to beat the unpopular Reid, but the Palin-backed Angle handed the election to the incumbent.
- Christine O’Donnell, the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware who as a Christian conservative activist once launched a public campaign against masturbation; lied about her college education; asked in a debate, “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?"; and who, in a tape that surfaced during the campaign from a guest appearance yeas earlier on comedian Bill Maher's show Politically Incorrect, confessed to dabbling in witchcraft. In response, O'Donnell taped an ad in which she declared, I'm not a witch. I'm you!" Republicans were once considered likely to pick up the open Senate seat in Delaware, but O’Donnell got buried in November by Democratic Chris Coons.
- Joe Miller, the Republican nominee for the Senate from Palin's home state of Alaska whose staff handcuffed a reporter during campaign stop; who was accused of misusing borough equipment for a political campaign while serving as mayor of Fairbanks; and who at one time praised the defunct communist dictatorship in East Germany for its tough measures regarding immigration control. Miller lost to Palin’s political nemesis Lisa Murkowski, who ran as an independent after losing in the GOP primary to Miller.
- Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado Congressman with a long history of anti-Latino and anti-black racism and who frequently appeared at rallies with extremist anti-immigrant groups. Tancredo at one point complained that Miami was turning into a “third world country.” He accused Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor of being a member of the “Latino KKK” because she belonged to the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization. He lent his support to the baseless “Birthers" and told a Tea Party rally that Obama should sent back to Kenya. He hired an executive director for his political action committee, Marcus Epstein, who karate chopped a black woman while calling her “nigger". Tancredo also said that Obama won the presidency only because “we do not have a civics, literacy test.” None of this disqualified him for public office in Palin's eyes. Trying to prove herself “Mavericky,” Palin bucked the Republican Party establishment and backed theTancredo in his 2010 third party quest for Colorado governor. Tancredo resigned from the GOP and ran as the nominee of the Constitution Party. In November, he handily defeated the Republican nominee but lost to the Democrat, John Hickenloper, by 15 points. Palin's embrace of a clear racist with no real chance of winning in an ethnically diverse state like Colorado says as much about her soul as it does her political judggment.
Even some conservatives began to abandon Palin after a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011. Rightwingers had literally and metaphorically become gunslingers in the Obama era. The Tea Party movement, big Palin supporters, began bringing guns to political rallies in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, and darkly wanted of violence if the administration made any attempts at gun control. (See http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/chris-matthews-grills-tea-party-leader-why-would-someone-bring-a-gun-to-a-political-rally.php). As noted above, failed Senate candidate Sharron Angle suggested that conservatives might have to turn to "Second Amendment remedies" if the elections turned out in an unsatisfactory way. In 2010, Republican politicians began to use gun imagery in their rhetoric as well as their ads and web postings, even as they urged their voters to "take back" the country." As with every sinister impulse in American politics in the past five years, Palin jumped in with both pistols drawn.
All through 2010, Palin used the phrase "don't retreat, reload" gun metaphor when urging conservatives to fight on, even in the face of defeat. As already observed, she used this language in the Laura Schlessinger fandango. In the Tea Party wave election year of 2010, Palin literally targeted what she saw as vulnerable Democrats for the November elections. On her SarahPAC website she posted a map of the United States and highlighted swing districts held by Democrats with gun crosshairs. One such map posted on SarahPAC included the phrase, 'We've diagnosed the problem . . . Help us prescribe the solution."
A myth spread that such ritual murders formed a regular part of the Passover rite. This led to Jews being hounded from communities, tortured, and burned at the stake. The blood libel also provoked murderous anti-Jewish riots throughout the Middle Ages. In the 1930s, such false stories appeared regularly in the Nazi Party official newspaper Der Stuermer and depictions of Jewish sacrifice of Christian children appear at times in anti-Israeli propaganda films in countries like Egypt and in anti-Jewish television programs in countries with a history of anti-Semitism, such as Belarus, part of the old Soviet Union. (For more, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/blood-libel-sarah-palin_n_808104.html, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_03147.html and http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2004/37195.htm).
As discussed above, this indifferent attitude towards mass Jewish death is consistent with Palin's religious views, if she is really a dispensationalist (as evidence cited above suggests.) As already observed, mass Jewish death is a necessary future step, in the dispensationalist theology, if Christ is to return to Earth. Trivialization of the blood libel is nothing if you eagerly anticipate an Antichrist's genocidal End Times war against Jews. The anti-Semitic overtones of this trivialization is also not surprising for someone who quoted a famous Jew hater in the most important political speech of her political career.
Roger Ailes (left), president of Fox News, thought Palin (right) was an "idiot," but he kept her on the air as a political pundit for three years. (Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/22/roger-ailes-palin-stupid-fox-news-new-york_n_865117.html).
There was immediate confusion about the cause of the Benghazi attack, which happened even as a controversy erupted over a film produced by far right evangelical Christians in the United States that portrayed the Muslim prophet Mohammad as a homosexual and a pedophile. One evangelical who had earlier staged a deliberately provocative Koran burning, Terry Jones, posted the poorly-made film on the web. Initially, the State Department thought that the attack might have been an emotional mob response to the anti-Mohammad movie, but it emerged that the killings were more likely a planned assault by a local affiliate of the terrorist Al Queda network. Republicans quickly accused the president of being soft on Islamic extremists and insisted that he was too eager to blame conservative Christians for the tragedy. Many in the GOP hoped that they could turn the embassy attack into a scandal that might deny Obama his re-election bid against Romney .
Yet, once again Palin tried to unconvincingly explain herself. Palin insisted on Facebook, “For the record, there was nothing remotely racist in my use of the phrase ‘shuck and jive.’” She then, without context, cited several figures in the media who also used the phrase, as if that justified such a charged word in connection to a black man. “I’ve been known to use the phrase most often when chastising my daughter Piper to stop procrastinating and do her homework,” she continued. Then, referring to her husband’s partial Inuit heritage, she added. “ . . . Just to be careful, from now on I’ll avoid using it with Piper, and I would appreciate it if the media refrained from using words and phrases like igloo, Eskimo Pie, and 'when hell freezes over,' as they might be considered offensive by my extended Alaska Native family.” (See https://www.facebook.com/sarahpalin/posts/10151232848473588 and http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/palin-absurdity-nothing-remotely-racist-in-obama-comment/2012/10/25/6fa1a144-1eb6-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_blog.html).
In spite of this sorry record, Palin is like Dracula in the old horror movies. No matter how many times someone drives a stake through her heart, splashes her with holy water, or buries her at a crossroads, she keeps returning, more lethal to intelligent political discourse that ever. This is even though a dwindling number of people express any interest in what she has to say The fault, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is not in the stars. The blame lay with the really-not-so-liberal media, for whom racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia are never unforgivable sins. The media will only completely marginalize a political figure or movement, such as Ralph Nader or the Occupy! protestors, if they question the current regime of predatory capitalism. Even if they ridicule her, hating African Americans, Jews, Muslims, or gays, however, will not deny someone like Palin the "mainstream" label. She is right about something after all. We are victimized by a "lamestream" press.
The blame also lay with the Republican establishment. The GOP's worldview since 2008 has moved closer to Palin and farther away from most Americans. Palin's inarticulate sound and fury is now the authentic voice of the Republican Party. So Palin gets an audience this week at CPAC. And her book will appear in time for Christmas and serve not other purpose that to antagonize fundamentalist Christians about non-Christians. That's what the rightwing is about today. Not building a country, but identifying enemies.
Comedian Tina Fey's devastating impersonation of Palin in 2008 reduced the politician to a punchline. The rap on Palin became that she's dumb. That's true enough, but that makes her no less dangerous. She represents the grim underside of American politics: the place where lurks aggrieved white hatred of blacks, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, intellectuals, and gays. We will never overcome, as the old civil rights anthem put it, as long as Palin continues to have a just-significant-enough following and occasional access to the national spotlight. Tina Fey is hilarious, but there is nothing remotely funny about what Palin's continued presence in the public eye says about American politics.