Sarah Palin has no chance at winning the presidency. And that's what makes Palin's incessant presidential scam intriguing and amusing. It's intriguing because she gets away with, and amusing because most in the media and the GOP know it's a scam but go along with it for sheer thrill, titillation and even chuckles. The latest to feed the Palin presidential scam is the man who foisted Palin on the nation, John McCain. He told an interviewer with tongue probably wrapped way back in his cheek that Palin could beat President Obama. McCain didn't really mean that. But as with much of the Palin presidential scam, he knew that uttering such nonsense was sure to snatch a headline. It was no accident that he uttered the inanity during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a notoriously slow news time that further insured that this inanity would be hungrily snapped up by the press.
Palin dutifully did her part to feed the scam by tossing out an equally trite cliché that she had the fire in the belly for the presidential run. This stirred a few pundits to trot out the tired reasons why Palin could get the GOP nomination. She's got hordes of screaming, panting aroused Tea Party activists behind her who'll do anything to stop Mitt Romney from getting the nomination. She's got instant name identification. The GOP field apart from Romney is a weak, motley crew of retreads and hacks, with lousy or no name, no money, no traction, and that stirs no enthusiasm from GOP voters. The conventional wisdom is that Palin could get the nod by default.
It doesn't work that way. It takes a sound, well-oiled, professional organization, painstaking delegate and caucus courting and support building, the ability to tap the corporate money spigot, and get the imprimatur of the party regulars to have any shot at the presidential nomination. Palin has none of that and has absolutely no intention of doing the work it takes to transform herself from a TV grasping mouthpiece into a serious GOP presidential candidate.
The man, outside of McCain, who did more than anyone else to create the Palin as presidential timber hype and hustle, Fox Network news boss Roger Ailes, is reported to believe as much: according to New York magazine a Republican source close to him claims that he thinks Palin is "stupid" and hasn't done anything to elevate the conservative movement. But Ailes is in the business of news hucksterism, and he knows that Palin was never and could never string together a credible and coherent set of ideas, let alone a program that could boost legitimate conservatism. But Ailes got one thing wrong about her. Palin's aim is and always has been to boost conservatism, as long as that conservatism is spelled PALIN.
Palin, though, continues to have shelf life, despite her plummet from popularity, for the same reason that she was foisted on the public in the first place: She is a virtual Hollywood casting-call prop for a media that routinely pawns off fluff for substance, and a public that grabs at it. Palin had plenty of the required fluff and that makes her even more of a serviceable attraction. She is Hollywood Stars, Jeopardy, American Idol and the Big Spin all rolled into one. She is crass entertainment and provides prurient relief from the traditional, staid, scripted way politicians say and do things. Her inanities have the faint ring of truth and light to them, and for many, represent a frontal challenge to the established order. Being a "she" with a pretty face, to some, and a folksy, home-schooling mom demeanor, made her a sure thing for a media starved for ratings, viewership and ad dollars. When she spoke, it was lights, camera and action. Palin, in short, was a media cash cow.
For a time, she even had some value for the GOP. She could say what GOP mainstream political leaders couldn't, and say it in a way that would get the hoots and whistles from the millions that wanted the GOP to get down-and-dirty and call Obama out. A too loose cannon running around whipping up the mob frenzy against Obama, though, posed the danger that some of that frenzy might turn against GOP politicians for not being tough enough in standing up to Obama. The GOP walked a fine line with Palin.
In the wake of Obama's take down of bin Laden, his triumphant, statesmanlike series of speeches and meetings with European heads of state and with G-8 leaders, his land on the right side of the Arab Spring, and daring for trying to break the logjam on the Middle-East conflict, and touting immigration reform, and his dash to disaster scenes, his stock has climbed higher. Meanwhile, with the GOP shooting itself in the foot with threats to hack up Medicare and Social Security, the party is in an even crazier search for someone to at least look like, if not be competitive with, Obama.
Palin isn't that one, But as long as she can keep her scam going that she just might be the one, the Palin presidential scam will stay in high gear.
Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously stated that Roger Ailes told New York Magazine that he thought Sarah Palin was "stupid." The New York Magazine story actually stated that an unnamed Republican close to Ailes said that Ailes thought Palin was stupid. This has been corrected in the post.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com