Sarah Palin, growth industryAmid the gloom of the recession, one growth industry stands out — Sarah Palin.
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
Amid the gloom of the recession, one growth industry stands out — Sarah Palin.
Normally, a losing vice-presidential candidate plucked from obscurity immediately returns to obscurity, especially one from an out-of-sight, out-of-mind place like Alaska. But the governor’s celebrity has only grown and she is on the cusp of the ultimate in celebrity — becoming a one-namer, simply “Sarah,” like Cher and Bono.
For someone who seems so congenitally cheerful, and indeed was Miss Congeniality, Palin has a gift for causing controversy and starting fights wherever she goes.
She threw a Republican congressional fundraising dinner into an uproar when she at first agreed — or maybe didn’t — to be the featured speaker, and then later maybe said — or maybe not — that she would speak after all, but it was too late because Newt Gingrich had already agreed to fill in. The night of the dinner, she eclipsed Gingrich merely by walking into the room.
Then she caused another small fracas merely by quoting Gingrich. A blog on a liberal post accused her of plagiarizing from the former House speaker. (Gingrich leaves no thought unexpressed and does so at some length, so theoretically it might be impossible to avoid inadvertently and randomly plagiarizing him.)
The ex-speaker’s associates said they were fine with Palin quoting Gingrich and suggested it might be a good thing if more Republicans quoted him. But you have to wonder if Gingrich, who is said to have eyes on 2012, might suspect that Palin, who is said to have eyes on the same prize, is stalking him.
Most notably, while she was in New York at a Yankees game, late-night TV host David Letterman made a really tasteless joke about her daughter and, worse, he got the wrong daughter — not 18-year-old Bristol, who did get pregnant out of wedlock, but 14-year-old Willow. (Get it straight, people: The Palin children, in order, are Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. Where do parents named Sarah and Todd get these names? Anyway, learn them. They’re not going away. The Palins are part of our lives.)
Anyway, Letterman apologized and apologized and Palin finally “of course” accepted the apology in a convoluted statement that ended up thanking “our U.S. military women and men (for) putting their lives on the line for us to secure America’s right to free speech ...”
(You can hear the sergeant in Iraq now telling his platoon that, yes, tonight’s mission was exceptionally dangerous, but vital to securing Americans’ right to hear bad jokes on late-night TV talk.)
The upshot was that the high-profile feud may have given the CBS star a valuable boost in the ratings, maybe even enough to surpass NBC’s “Tonight,” just as he started going head-to-head with Conan O’Brien.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Palin’s legal defense fund in Alaska, which is trying to raise $500,000, said the Letterman business had also helped with their fund-raising efforts. Palin does seem to have ongoing quarrels with a lot of people, but clearly sometimes controversy searches her out.
An investigator for the state found that Palin hadn’t violated the ethics regs when she wore a jacket coat bearing the logo of Arctic Cat snowmobiles, her husband’s sponsor in a major snowmobile race. Palin called the complaint frivolous. “Idiotic” would be more like it. But funny.
At the Republican convention last summer, when the news broke that Bristol was pregnant, purse-lipped GOP scolds admonished the press to respect the family’s privacy. Since Bristol was up on the stage waving back at us, she was a little hard to ignore and she has been much among us ever since.
She has seemingly been on tour ever since, and after the interview she gave People magazine it’s hard not to feel for her, trying to juggle a baby, a job and soon college:
“Girls need to imagine and picture their life with a screaming newborn baby and then think before they have sex. If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex. Trust me. Nobody.”
And what of baby Tripp’s father, Levi Johnston, 19, who was up on stage with the Palins that night in St. Paul, Minn.?
Tina Brown’s Web site, The Daily Beast, has a chronicler of celebrities who followed Johnston and his personal handler around Los Angeles on a shopping spree.
This is more than just a family. It’s an industry.
— McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.