06.08.11

Palin’s Delusions of Grandeur

It is vulgar and vainglorious and therefore entirely typical of Sarah Palin's political style to try to meet with Margaret Thatcher, says Alex Massie.

Sarah Palin does not, I think, like to be thwarted. Nevertheless, there are some opponents she cannot hope to best—among them, the loyal guardians of Margaret Thatcher's dignity, reputation, and legacy.

"I am going to Sudan in July and hope to stop in England on the way," Palin said this week. "I am just hoping Mrs. Thatcher is well enough to see me as I so admire her."

She can think again. One Thatcherite ally told The Guardian: "Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts." Indeed. Or as Tim Montgomerie, editor of the influential Tory website ConservativeHome put it, "She is an embarrassment for mainstream Conservatives." Quite so.

There is something loathsome about this attempt to use a frail 86-year-old stroke victim (who has largely retired from public life) as fodder to enhance your own domestic political agenda. It is vulgar and it is vainglorious and therefore entirely typical of Palin's political style.

But Lady Thatcher is not a boardwalk attraction to be gawped at by tourists from Palookaville. It takes a special kind of self-absorption, even in the competitive political field, to suppose that ill health must be the only thing that could prevent a Thatcher-Palin photo op.

Why should Lady Thatcher have any interest in meeting Palin? Even if the Iron Lady were not in such rusty health, what would be the point or purpose of any such encounter? What possible interest could she have in meeting a two-bit, half-term governor of Alaska? To ask the question is to make the answer so clear that even Palin's most deluded admirers might be able to understand it.

What, assuming the former prime minister were in the habit of receiving guests (which she is not), could they possibly talk about? One is a giant figure; the other, politically speaking, a carnival pygmy better suited to life on a second-rate reality television show.

This is not the first time Palin has attempted to sun and preen herself in the heat of a Thatcherite sun. Two years ago, for no obvious reason beyond self-promotion, she "offered" the former prime minister her birthday congratulations. Last year, in a note posted on her Facebook page, Palin revealed she had "received an invitation for a visit to London, and part of that invitation included the offer of arranging a meeting between myself and one of my political heroines, the 'Iron Lady,' Margaret Thatcher. I would love to meet her and hope I’ll be able to arrange the trip in the future."

One is a giant figure; the other, politically speaking, a carnival pygmy better suited to life on a second-rate reality television show.

Readers will note that this invitation—of unknown provenance—did not actually include a meeting with Lady Thatcher, merely the "offer" to perhaps "arrange" such a meeting. Nevertheless, Palin was happy to foster the impression that a meeting was all but finalized. "I cherish her example and will always count her as one of my role models," she added, once again attempting to forge a spurious link between her career and Thatcher's. At this rate, and the next time she tries this trick, we may expect her more devoted supporters to start suggesting that it's Lady Thatcher who'd be flattered by meeting with Sarah Barracuda.

All in all it's a piece of megalomania not witnessed on these shores since Rudy Giuliani popped up in London to deliver, as it happens, the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Lecture, during which he boasted he was one of the "four or five" most famous Americans on the planet.

More pertinently, though Hizzoner's London trip—which included meetings with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and, for some reason, Winston Churchill's grand-daughter—was designed to burnish his foreign-policy credentials and was treated seriously by supposedly sage and serious commentators in Washington, it made no impression whatsoever on the people who actually voted in the 2008 Republican primary.

There is no reason to think that Palin's jaunt abroad will be any more successful. If some voters are tempted to endorse her putative candidacy because they have been impressed by a couple of photo ops overseas, then it's time to question the usefulness of the universal franchise.

For that matter, one lesson to be drawn from this minor episode is that Palin should be relieved that her grim and tasteless photo op will not take place. After all, putting Palin and Thatcher in the same room invites voters to make a comparison between the two ladies that cannot possibly end well for the erstwhile governor of Alaska.