Back in March of 2001, speaking at the Gridiron Club dinner, George W. Bush made this remark, presumably in an attempt at humor. “You can fool some of the people all the time… and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”
Perhaps nobody, since that time, has put those remarkably un-funnny sentiments into practice better than Sarah Palin.
Palin is an instructive example of how a demagogue can collect enough of a following to become something of a phenomena in American politics. The techniques she has used have been effective for a small percentage of the population but seem now to have reached a kind of limit of diminishing returns. The Palin package, which has been sculpted and revised since the moment she was chosen as McCain’s running mate, is a triumph of modern-day political marketing. Sadly, outside of the bloggers and their followers, practically the only challenge or threat the marketers, press agents and handlers ever faced was Sarah Palin herself. This is a person who obviously has a lot of skeletons scratching at her closet doors. Like a majority of politicians perhaps. More importantly, Sarah Palin’s larger problem is her own behavior when challenged. The techniques she has developed to deflect criticism- or even sensible questions- reveals so much about her character and the kind of people she has collected together under her circus tent.
Like most egomaniacs, Sarah obviously believes that one effective means of silencing critics is to lash out hard and in the most hyberbolic way she can muster. It’s a type of shock and awe defense. And when all else fails she then threatens to deprive the world of Sarah Palin’s grace and glory by withdrawing from her one-person crusade. Of course, this kind of irrational diversion, essentially bullying, isn’t what we expect from mature people and certainly not from those running for any high office.
The book, “In Sheep’s Clothing- Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People,““ by George Simon, Ph.D, gives a list of defense mechanisms used by aggressive personality types. Remarkably enough, her “Blood Libel” speech debacle- really, the turning point in Palin’s rise and fall- applied nearly every item on the list, from denial to projecting the blame to shaming (this time her old whipping boy, the main stream media) to playing the victim to to playing the noble role. Only guess what, this time it backfired because people instinctively knew that it was inappropriate timing and the message was merely a denial of any possible responsibility. The speech had very little to do with the tragic events and everything to do with Sarah Palin.
However, in 2006, it was another story. When a local conservative radio host, Scott Heyworth, began to discuss rumors that Todd Palin was not the father of her first born, Track, Sarah took the unusual step of confronting Heyworth directly in this email.
To: Scott Heyworth Cc:Todd Palin
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 10:19 AM
Subject: Todd’s son
Todd just told me you had spoken with him awhile back and reported that some law enforcement friends of yours claimed some dumbass lie about Track not being Todd’s son? This really, really disgusts me and ticks me off.
I want to know right now who said it, who would ever lie about such a thing this is the type of bullshit lie about family that WILL keep me from running for Governor. I hate this kind of crap. I thought it was bad enough that my kids have been lied about recently regarding illegal activities that they had NO part in whatsoever. But a stupid claim like one of our kids isn’t fathered by Todd?
I want to know NOW what this latest b.s. is all about because I want to get to the bottom of this garbage rumor mill. People who lie like this may know me well enough to KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS PUT FAMILY FIRST, AND IF UGLY LIES LIKE THIS ARE BELIEVED BY ANYONE AND ADVERSELY AFFECT MY HUSBAND AND KIDS I WILL PULL OUT OF THE RACE BECAUSE IT’S NOT WORTH IT—AT ALL—TO LET MY FAMILY BE VICTIMS OF DARK, UGLY POLITICS LIKE THIS.
The message for the radio show host was, basically, “stop asking questions I refuse to answer or I will quit the race and THEN you’ll be sorry.” Surprising how effective that elementary school gambit actually was.
In that one email, it’s all there. The hysteria and the over-reaction, the incendiary language, (dumbass, crap, garbage, bullshit, lies, stupid) the wild capital letters, capped off with the final possibility of withdrawal.
And was this threat to quit an idle one? Quite possibly, because in her heart, she was convinced that, if she followed through on the threat, the world would take up arms, there would be rioting in the streets and the children would weep. In any case, she, at least, left herself that option. (As we all know, she has quit before.)
Once again, she made good use of her family to provide cover. Still, It all rings hollow when Sarah was quite happy to expose her family to the public in whatever crazy publicity stunt she was offered. From reality TV shows to a nationally televised dance contest.
Besides, whoever Track’s father is/was and whoever Trig’s parents really are, why should that reflect negatively on anybody but Sarah Palin? Track seems to have been just another good-looking wild kid that has managed to get his life straightened out with next to no help whatsoever from his parents. And Trig, a baby that has been used as a prop more than a rubber chicken on a vaudeville stage, is a child who is utterly blameless. The pity for Trig comes not from his affliction, but from how he has been used.
Aggressive personality types use manipulative strategies because these techniques have worked for them in the past. That’s the bottom line. Wasilla and Anchorage were her testing grounds. You can, if you desire, go back to early childhood, looking for a bullying father and submissive mother, or you can dive into deep psychology and Freud, what-have-you, but in the end, the fact remains that manipulative people would not apply these methods if they didn’t achieve their goals by using them.
Instead of the rational approach, instead of laying out her case in an mature manner, or citing opposing evidence, instead of simply ignoring the challenge as an adult would do, Palin would always resort to arm-flailing and grandstanding. It was, after all, as in the example above, simply a matter of answering the questions and providing evidence.
However, instead of obtaining and issuing independent conclusive DNA evidence, she resorted to her usual methods of deflection. In the case of Track’s paternity, the matter could have been resolved in a week and would be a dead subject forever. The matter of Trig’s parentage is the same. A birth certificate and a DNA test and that’s the end of that rumor. After providing the appropriate verifiable evidence to the public, if anybody refuses to accept it, then let them fall into the so-called “tin-foil hat brigade” like the Obama birth certificate faux-controversy.
It is simply not enough to bluster with vindictive outrageous accusations against your challengers, and say, “How dare you! How absurb!” Regardless how many friends you may have a Fox News to shield you , there comes a time when issues must be faced directly. (Unless you cannot.)
Time and time again, Sarah would give the clarion call and her supporters rush in to defend their heroine and the doubters would scatter in all directions. The doubts, however, remained and would continually re-surface. As time has passed, the number of people willing to rush to defend Palin seems to have dwindled to a precious few.
By applying the Palin method, the rumors linger – despite the so-called Lamestream media’s attempt to paint it as just another “conspiracy theory” – as if conspiracies are all figments of our collective imagination and never happen in the real world. In fact, as Professor Scharlott has recently pointed out, it has become verboten even to ask questions and doubt the official story. There are some things, according to that reasoning, that are simply too personal, or too unbelievable or too distasteful to even question. “Let’s not go there” was the mantra.
The question remains, of course, that if the matter is important enough to react with such hostility and bombast, if the rumor is so disgusting to cause Palin to threaten to remove herself from the public eye, then surely it is also important enough for her to do all she could to put it rest forever. That is the critical flaw in the Palin method and it is one she can never overcome. She is quite capable of fooling some of the people some of the time and that’s about it.
Sarah Palin’s refusal to answer honestly the nagging questions about her past- as well as, her use of some fairly sophomoric diversions and manipulations- have really become her undoing. It shows everybody the true nature of her character. And that’s not the caliber of character most voters would like to see in their leaders. Or even in their next door neighbor.
When excerpts of Joe McGinnis’ book, The Rogue, began leaking out, the reaction from the Palin camp was similar to the email. Todd Palin issued an inflammatory press statement calling the books lies and personally attacking the writer, implying sexual deviancy of one kind or another. This, despite the fact that the Todd had most likely not even read the book, at that point.
“This is a man who has been relentlessly stalking my family to the point of moving in right next door to us to harass us and spy on us to satisfy his creepy obsession with my wife. His book is full of disgusting lies, innuendo, and smears. Even The New York Times called this book ‘dated, petty,’ and that it ‘chases caustic, unsubstantiated gossip.”
Reading the book, as far as Todd was concerned wasn’t necessary. Anything contrary to the well-crafted image of Sarah HAD to be lies. Evidence need not be provided to refute the claims made in the book. So, once again, the unquestioning faith of her core supporters was tested. Once again, they were being asked to rely on their own blind obedience to scatter her “attackers.”
While McGinniss was her neighbor, writing his book about her, her true nature was once again revealed. Not the hockey mom, or the astute political reformer, not the loving wife and especially not the devout Christian. What was revealed was a kind of bullying manipulative personality. Throughout the book, Palin’s reaction to McGinniss’ presence as her neighbor, in page after page, demonstrates how easily she can swing from playing the role of a victim, to bully, to absolute menace. Even if one ignored the other content- the tales from Palin’s past or the juicy stories from those that know her best-, Palin’s behavior when faced with the perceived threat McGinniss represents in her mind is, in itself, a proper indictment of the woman.
Here’s an example.
With guest call-ins on Glenn Beck’s radio talk show and increasingly manic Facebook entries, she attempted to use every weapon in her arsenal. She was quite willing to lie and smear the author at every opportunity.
At one point, after making a series of wild and imaginary allegations against McGinnis on a live radio broadcast, Beck asks her, “Do you feel, as a woman, feel violated?”
“I feel more protective than ever in terms of my kids. Any mom would. Just wantin’ to bring your family even closer and wrap your arms around ’em and not let the infringement on their rights and privacy be so overwhelming as to make us not enoy our life up here.”
The threat wasn’t to her family. Clearly, the threat was to Palin herself. And the name of that threat was exposure. As long as she could control the message, Sarah Palin was content with the publicity. Otherwise, it was something akin to an attack.
Later in the interview, Beck becomes more provocative. “I don’t wish anybody harm, but I think Todd deserves a medal for why he doesn’t go over there and punch that guy in the face. I mean, that is not the way to handle things but as a man, and you are screwing with my wife and children.. it would take everything in me not to do that.”
Palin’s reaction? Does she understand that the interview is drawing very close to inciting violence by actively urging a physical attack against a particular individual. Does she disregard Beck’s comments as unethical or immoral? No.
“Well, amen, yeah, but that’s what he wants. He so wants a reaction like that from Todd so he can jot it down or he can call the cops and jot that down as a chapter in his book.”
Had the concept of right and wrong tempered her response? No. Not at all. It was merely the risk of being caught in the act and being further exposed.
Still later, Fox News has a discussion about whether McGinniss can be prosecuted for stalking and harassment. The debate centers around a blurry photo taken by Todd or Sarah of the writer holding a pair of “binoculars.” (In fact, the photo shows him speaking on the phone to his wife.) Other Right-Wing online sites pick up the Fox cue and continue to stir the cauldron until the comments seem hardly any better than shouts from a lynching party.
“Any bets McGinniss disappears in the Alaskan wilderness” One commenter remarks. A few others are a bit more detailed but silly, such as a “fool-proof method” to provoke a grizzly bear attack on the writer. Others however are more credible and frightening involving midnight raids, beatings by masked men. These are the kind of people that are apparently attracted to the Palin cult.
And exactly what dastardly crime had McGinnis done to Palin? He had moved in next door. He had sat on his own balcony- even looking the opposite direction. That’s it. For that, Palin’s solution was to label him a pervert, a creep and a pedophile. This is the Palin style. Pretended panic, wild accusations, imagined threats, emotive rhetoric, irresponsible attempts to stir up a reaction in her fans, even to the point of violence.
Sarah Palin is, what some people call, a serial bully. One online resource from the UK, bullyonline.org gave a list of the traits of a serial bully and it was uncanny how accurately it described Sarah Palin’s persona. (It’s worth a look.) One quote stands out:
It is a key identifying feature of a person with a personality disorder or psychopathic personality that, when called to account, they will accuse the person who is unmasking them of being the one with the personality disorder or psychopathic personality from which they (the bully) suffer.
It has been becoming more and more obvious that, even among her flock, the Sarah Palin cult is waining, the doubts are beginning to creep in and the patience was reaching its breaking point. Meanwhile she continued to play the role of the candidate, taking donations as though she were actually running for high office without explicitly stating it. She would turn up, quite accidentally, to share the limelight in Iowa, without actually moving any further in her political career. Even now, she continues, as long as there are credulous supporters ready to fork over some cash to her pretend crusade.
As far as the claims in books written by Dunn and McGinniss and others: if the information was inaccurate or libelous, then why not settle the matter as adults do? Our legal system has suitable means to seek redress for defamation by lies. The two main prerequisites are, quite naturally, that proof is shown- and confirmed- that the statements in question are untrue AND that writer was acting maliciously. Unlike many countries, the defamation laws in the United States lean more in favor of the defendant – that is, the writer. Public figures are expected to be a bit less thin-skinned when entering into the political arena. With all the perks of fame, this is considered a serious drawback. You cannot control what people say about you. You can, however, go to court and prove that the allegations are false.
And that was the problem for Palin. It could not be done. When given the chance to defend her honor against the so-called lies, Palin refused. She would have liked to have portrayed this strategy as not “dignifying the claim” or as “taking the high road,” but given her character, she just couldn’t quite pull that act off.
Taking the low-road came much more naturally to the Palins. It was so much easier to accuse McGinniss of being a pedophile or a peeping tom. It was so much more dramatic to use wild rhetoric to stir up her fans into a frenzy. (In fact, in light of Todd’s statement to the press, McGinniss probably has a better case for slander and libel against Todd than Sarah Palin has against the writer).
Palin had always relied on the outrage and bluster, the swell of support from her fans, (even when that support was supplemented with hired staff masking as fans). There was also Greta and Sean at Fox (and so many other reputable news broadcasters) to allow her a one way conversation to the public, dodging any serious questions. She could also always shame the mainstream media whenever she felt it necessary by claiming a liberal bias. She could claim an imaginary bias against her as a woman. She could use her family as a shield or as a prop. Finally, when all else failed, she could flirt.
It had always worked and, she told herself, it would always work. For Sarah, there are three areas of focus in her life: self-interest, self-aggrandizement and self-preservation. Nothing else really matters.
It doesn’t seem to be working now. The charade appears to be coming to its inevitable conclusion. The profit-motivated farce is nearly over. With her very dodgy history which she refuses to address and disprove, Palin cannot survive the intense scutiny of a presidential campaign. Sooner or later, she will have to confront those issues and she is presently unable to move forward until she takes that dangerous step into darkness..
In the end, after amassing a size-able fortune on the personality cult that surrounded her, she will use McGinniss’ expose to announce that for the good of her family she will not enter the campaign for 2012. It will be a humiliation for her, no doubt, but she may have the temporary comfort of her sycophants and paid staff to massage her ego with vague dreams of a “Draft Sarah” movement at the Republican Convention.
Because history, along with journalism, appears to be another one of those subjects, Sarah Palin managed to avoid in the various colleges she attended, I will close with the Lincoln original statement, so badly maligned by George W. Bush, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you CANNOT fool ALL of the people ALL of the time”
This is the lesson that Sarah Palin had to learn by experience.