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Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca

Posted: November 18, 2009 05:58 PM

Famous for Being Famous: The Sarah Palin Show Is On the Air

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I'm not sure what I have more contempt for. Sarah Palin's pathological lying or the people who can say with a straight face that Sarah Palin is qualified for anything other than a reality show contestant or the the Edie McClurg role in a remake of Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

What's even more alarming is the constant reporting from the cable news people this week: Sarah Palin is famous! Wow! But no one is digging into exactly why she's famous.

And that's the heart of the matter here. She's nothing more than an overrated celebudoof. She's the equivalent of an ex-reality show star that's somehow tricked enough people into believing that a convention speech and a series of embarrassing winks qualifies her to be a national political leader -- even president -- when, in fact, she's only really qualified to be famous. She's famous for being famous.

I have yet to hear a pitch from her supporters that elevates her in any substantive way to a level beyond that of the other Republicans in the current field of potential candidates. She's famous. And. Hmm. She's famous. That's about it. Oh, and she can repeat hard-right ideology without swallowing her own tongue in the process.

It's very possible that Bill Kristol and whoever Palin's ghost-handlers happen to be are cynical enough to believe that Sarah Palin could ride a celebreality rocket ship into the White House.

They've taken a hard look at the present climate of celebrity gossip and reality television ratings and they've identified an opening in America's obvious infatuation with chewing-gum superficiality -- and they're ready to exploit it for political power. Where Ronald Reagan was a celebrity in the old-Hollywood framework, Palin is a celebrity in the talentless, Balloon Boy, reality show, Prejean, new-Hollywood framework.

Suffice to say, this strategy further devalues what it means to be considered "presidential." It chips away at all of the basic but necessary prerequisites for the gig, replacing them with nothing but the base notion of fame. Not even popularity as it applies to fame, but merely the quality of being known.

Consequently, this can only contribute to a future when we choose a president based solely upon his or her ability to achieve the most real life drama, irrespective of any sort of inherent talent for leadership, natural intelligence or any notable skills whatsoever.

A reality show president.

So it's not difficult to imagine a blurring of the line between the quality of being famous and the quality of being presidential -- an eventual time when these traits become totally interchangeable. It's already happened in Hollywood with the rise of unscripted reality and game show personalities slowly replacing actors and filmmakers, and the calculation coming from the Palin camp seems to be that this programming formula can be applied to presidential politics.

Here's how it works: Take a not unattractive rube with a screwy family and mix in some drama. Add cameras and POOF! We have a candidate/show.

Is there any other formula to explain the obsession with, say, Jon & Kate? Or the Balloon Boy family? The Sarah Palin Show is nothing more than a confessional interview with poorly articulated politics tossed into the mix.

Speaking of the confessional interview, she hasn't proved herself to be especially articulate, bright or well-informed. Even after a year on the air. Which is alarming because being on television is supposed to be her strong suit. See, Palin's most glaring inadequacy isn't necessarily her lack of work experience. There's just nothing else concrete enough to compensate for her weak resume. It's not like her supporters can say, "Yeah, well, she's only been a small town mayor, and she resigned before her first term as governor was over. But damn! She's crazy smart when it comes to economy and foreign relations -- you know, because of her education and travels abroad." There's not even that. She comes up empty on everything.

And what makes this utter lack of substance far worse is that she can't even articulate her very simplistic thoughts without using staccato sentence fragments strung together as if she's reciting abbreviated notes illegibly scrawled on the backs of barroom napkins, and selected on-the-fly using a dart board.

Even on the question about the role of the vice president last year, she failed to properly articulate an answer, and, instead babbled incoherently about something to do with "position flexible."

Fact: When a job applicant at any level is given repeated chances to explain the job for which he or she is applying, and, even after several tries, still can't nail the answer, that person is unqualified for that job. But her inability to explain the vice presidency (even after several tries) underscored that it's not just about her lack of experience or leadership or general knowledge, it's that she was (and remains) simply incapable of grasping the basics. In this case: grade school level civics, and a description of the job for which she was nominated.

Again, what does that leave us with? A reality show novelty. A tabloid hero. Not a world leader.

Somewhere along the line, her advisers recognized her ineptitude and twisted the "going rogue" description into a positive way to explain it all. Rewinding again to the vice presidential debate last year, she made it very clear that she didn't intend to directly answer the questions. She just plowed forward and answered the questions that she prepared for, even if they were totally unrelated to the topic. Why? She explained that she was, in essence, going rogue.

Early in the debate she said, "And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also."

But it was clearly just an excuse for the fact that she's a policy nincompoop and could only recite from the script she memorized. This rogue mantra lives on with the theme of her book, along with her ongoing refusal to confront the growing syllabus of unexplained inconsistencies on even the most basic of details -- like whether or not she held a family vote before she accepted Senator McCain's kneejerk offer. Even on this very simple question, she refuses to correct the record.

In Sarah Palin's defense, there's no doubt that she's relatable to a certain demographic of Americans who are unconcerned with advanced education and the subtleties of policy. But if you dig down into the reasons why Palin people like her, it's obvious that they're simply "fans" who can, perhaps, relate to Palin's ordinary background and easy-to-repeat ideology.

Ultimately, there's a certain element of the Republican Party that's excited to have yet another stab at the Bush 43 idea, and, to that end, they've certainly found their empty vessel. But this time, they've tapped into an American obsession that goes beyond cowboy swagger and plainspoken southern twangery. They've identified and are cultivating one of our most addictive opiates: a genuine made-for-TV spectacle. And it's dangerous for America. Idiocracy dangerous.

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PS. On the healthcare front, check out these nightmarish videos from real people who have been devoured by the status quo.