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The Palin Punchline-From November 29th, 2010

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I wrote this before Palin’s spectacular 2011-2012 non-campaign campaign during the Republican primaries. While the world seems to have finally gotten the joke, the fact that Palin was taken so seriously for so long remains absurd beyond any fiction I could hope to write.

Do you ever get the feeling that a joke has gone too far? Maybe when you’re still telling the joke but everyone has stopped laughing? Maybe when you and your friends are trying to hide the body? (Not in the trunk, its the first place they look.) Every joke, even a good one, reaches a point where it stops being funny.

Then there are the jokes that were never funny to begin with.

When I first heard that Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol was going to be on Dancing With The Stars I thought it was a bad joke. I don’t watch the show (and before you think that’s a pretension to manliness, I love Glee), but it seemed like a cheap stunt, even for reality TV. Ever since, when I skim the headlines, the entertainment section mentions Palin’s continued “success” on the show. As bad a joke as it is (she is not a celebrity or a dancer), by all accounts I’ve read, Bristol actually learned and improved as the show progressed.

I wish the same could be said of her mother.

When John McCain’s campaign managers conjured Sarah Palin out of the ether in 2008, it seemed like we’d finally reached the punchline. The more we learned about the woman, the more obvious it became that McCain’s campaign had made a major tactical error. After that, we knew the script. Palin would be the butt of many jokes for a few weeks, and then fade gradually into obscurity.

Except she didn’t.

She has persisted and gone from being a joke to what some people believe is a legitimate political force. I cannot express how incredibly galling it is to even type that. Slate magazine’s Jacob Weisberg has a regular feature where he compiles statements made by Sarah Palin that are…less than comprehensible, like these gems:

“Here’s an example of how it wastes some time. To be judged on or to be talked about on appearance, say chest size, it makes me wear layers, it makes me have to waste time figuring out what am I going to wear so that nobody will look in an area that I don’t need them to look at.”

[Fox interview with Greta Van Susteren, June 12, 2010]

“What I think she could add to that even is to explain what the real witchcraft and voodoo politics and economics is, and that’s what’s going on in D.C. And that’s why she’s determined to get to D.C., to write some laws and get some truth in Washington D.C. so that our economy can get roaring back to life.”

[On what was missing from Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m You” campaign ad, to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Sept. 6, 2010.]

Quotes like these are the reason Sarah Palin’s success mystifies and frightens me. It is not so much that I disagree with what she says (although I do most of the time), but that I cannot find coherent thoughts in her statements.

The things she says should be funny. Her gaffes, her missteps (anyone see the video where she’s doing an interview for the annual governor’s turkey pardon while a turkey is being killed behind her?) should be something to laugh at. But then I remember this woman could easily have become the vice president of the most powerful country on earth. I remember that she is now seen as a potential candidate for the presidency of that same country. And the joke has gone too far. I want Reality to come out from behind a curtain somewhere and say “just kidding”, but it will not. Instead Reality came out and said “Sarah Palin is a political force”, and you know what? Not nearly enough people laughed.


Written by Colin Hodd

March 28, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Posted in The Titular Column

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