As I type, a boatload of bigfoot conservatives are aboard a cruise ship at an undisclosed location somewhere east of Fort Lauderdale and very west of Eden. They are sipping piña coladas and dribbling guacamole onto their chins as they chew over Topic A, namely “What the F--- Was That All About?”
Mitt Romney is aboard, presumably not sipping piña coladas. His ticket for the cruise came to about $45 million, so I hope they gave him the Admiral’s Suite on A Deck. Within his earshot, the conversations are likely to consist of politely murmured, “So, sir, what’s our strategy for you in 2012?” My guess, with all respect to Gov. Romney, a fine man of multiple accomplishments but not, as it turned out, a dynamo at the podium, is that the conversations beyond his earshot will be more focused on the fortunes of another governor, GOP pin-up girl Sarah Palin.
I’ll stipulate that that’s condescending, if my former confreres on the Right will stipulate that had Gov. Palin’s first name been “Bob” or “Chuck,” her surname would still be unrecognizable to 90 percent of the American electorate.
Nexis and Google have so far failed to unearth evidence of any previous candidate for the U.S. vice presidency being called—by their own campaign, no less—a “whack job.”
There will be 425—or possibly 426—books written about the 2008 campaign. (Newsweek has in effect already published the first, in its customary, breathtaking quadrennial display of behind-the-scenes journalism.) Many of these books will dwell in breast-heaving detail on the Palin Factor. Was she really a “ diva”? “ Whack job”? (Nexis and Google have so far failed to unearth evidence of any previous candidate for the U.S. vice presidency being called—by their own campaign, no less—a “whack job.”) Or was she in fact a maligned victim of elite snobbery (see “pin up girl,” above) by toffee-nosed, Georgetown cocktail-swillers? Reporters, meanwhile, will make the 1,000 mile trudge to Juneau and Wasilla, by snow mobile and dog-sled, to find out what, really, is on Gov. Palin’s mind, 2012-wise.
(Interior blogger’s monologue: Oy gevalt, haven’t we just been through a 22-month campaign? Why are we even talking about this? Get a life. Sigh. Okay. Back to work….)
All Gov. Palin has said so far on the matter, amidst her assertion of innocence over the 150K wardrobe and the parting blast at the “jerks” in the McCain high command and at the odd “stinkers” in the press corps was a demure, prepositionally-challenged, “I don’t have any idea of what the next chapter of life is going to open up into, and I look forward to just the surprises that life offers.” But fair enough. As the Yiddish proverb has it, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”
BTW—as we bloggers say—apropos the Neiman-Marcus wardrobe being “donated to charity” ( Newsweek): it’s deliciously reminiscent of another vice presidential occasion some years ago. Before he took up shooting lawyers, Vice President Cheney was an avid pheasant hunter. One day in Pennsylvania, he slaughtered 70 pheasant in a fine display of feathery carnage. Naturally, the mainstream media made this out to be a pheasant holocaust, whereupon his spokesman, barely maintaining a straight face, averred that the pheasant would be “donated to the poor.” I had visions of people in Pennsylvania homeless shelters losing their remaining teeth biting down on No. 7 shot pellets. This Republican chicken sure is crunchy. There are days when White House spokespeople really earn their salaries.
But with respect to Gov. Palin’s future, there are two likely narratives. One could be called “Forgetting Sarah Palin.” The second, “The Education of Sarah Palin.”
It would seem ungenerous and ungentlemanly to rehash the arguments in favor of scenario No. 1. Suffice to quote the incomparable Christopher Hitchens, who with his unequalled gift for le mot juste, reduced her to a “religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus.”
“The Education of Sarah Palin” script is—perhaps—already in development at Neo-Con Studios, helmed by the able team of William Kristol and Fred Barnes. Doubtless, they will have input from some of those standing on the starboard side of the cruise ship as she steams through the turquoise waters of what we used to call during the Reagan years the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Ou sont les sables d’antan!
It would be pointless, to say nothing of downright idiotic, to make predictions four years out. And anyway, the political fortunes of the Alaska governor are hardly Topic A at the moment. A bit more urgent is how to extricate ourselves from this stinker of a GECSTGD. (Greatest Economic Crisis Since The Great Depression.)
But politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and so we’re going to be hearing about it endlessly. If, in the months ahead, references start popping up about putative similarities between Gov. Palin and Gov. Ronald Reagan (western, charismatic, professional sportscasters in their youths, look great in a bathing suit, and—ha, ha, ho, ho—always underestimated!), then we’ll know that the second movie has been green-lighted and that principal casting has begun.
Meanwhile, the pollsters at Rasmussen Reports tell us—brace yourselves—that 91 percent of Republicans have a “favorable” view of Gov. Palin. One-third have a “very favorable” view of her. A mere 8 percent have an “unfavorable” view, and three percent have a “very unfavorable” view. I think I’ve met them. As for 2012, guess who comes in second as the most favored candidate? Mike Huckabee. I believe Hitchens dismissed him as a “clown.” Reagan, thou should be living at this hour. America hath need of thee…
This being America, there is, inevitably, a third possible narrative, and that could be called “Mrs. Palin Goes To Washington, Anyway. Deal With It.” This scenario, from an only-in-America plot, is as follows: Governor Palin’s popularity in Alaska is tanking, along with the price of oil. The excellent William Yardley of the New York Times reports that oil must remain above $74 a barrel in order for Alaska to balance its budget. It is now at about $60.
Meanwhile, Sen. Stevens, convicted on multiple felony counts, looks to win re-election. You have to hand it to Alaskans: they are loyal to their Uncle Ted; and well might they be, since he’s more to create the state than anyone apart from Seward.
Nonetheless, Stevens will in all likelihood be forced to resign. It’s hard to cast votes from prison, or while wearing an ankle-monitor. I had no great liking for the architect of the “Bridge to Nowhere,” but it’s sad that such a career should end this way.
In the special election to fill his Senate seat, Gov. Palin would be the likely winner, neatly solving the problem for Alaskans of how to dispose of her; and at the same time greatly enlivening things for those of us who make our living amidst the dark Satanic Beltway mills. Stay tuned!
Christopher Buckley’s books include Supreme Courtship, The White House Mess, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Florence of Arabia. His journalism, satire, and criticism has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Esquire. He was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Forbes FYI.