They keep pourin' hot water over that same tired old tea bag, and we keep drinkin' it up.
When Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced his vice presidential running mate on August 29, 2008, like many Americans I was perched on the edge of my seat with anticipation. My first reaction at the announcement of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, was, "WHAT?!" -- a combination of "Who?" and "As a woman, I am absolutely outraged." I got it exactly for what it was: a cynical stunt aimed mainly at women voters, with the same finesse as Dick Cheney's quail-hunting buckshot.
When pallid, peachfuzzed Edward Snowden suddenly appeared on the world stage the week of May 20 to calmly advise us of his last-honest-man breach of American national security, my first reaction was: "Okay. Book and HBO movie to follow."
Thanks to a shell-shocked Republican Party in denial Palin cashed in starting, unofficially, Election Night 2008 -- according to CBS News, "conservatively" earning over $12 million within the first nine months after stepping down as governor of Alaska the following July. Unfazed by cringe-inducing indictments such as Game Change, she somehow remains the Tea Fringe's beauty queen in perpetuity, crowned for life.
Snowden, however, finds himself the darling not of paunchy bikers and T-shirted grandmas in goofy foam Uncle Sam hats, but of Fourth Amendment gadflies leaping at the chance for another go-around, such as Daniel Ellsberg and Michael Moore, and of Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba, or is it now Nicaragua -- each with a régime-serving need for an anti-American American. In the case of Bolivia, a kind of "Oh, yeah?" to the U.S. for the degradation of searching the Bolivian president's plane on the ground in Vienna, en route home from Moscow, to ensure our Bandido Yanqui wasn't hiding in the hold.
He seems to have fashioned himself as Sympathetic Outlaw but, Edward Snowden, you're no Butch Cassidy.
Less sympathetic are Snowden's insinuations of sedition and interagency conspiracy. The irony there is that an open conspiracy isn't a conspiracy -- it's a collaboration. Snowden continues to collaborate with the U.K. newspaper, the Guardian, in releasing the Episode Two of his coming-out miniseries today -- the latest installment in his apparent play for Pentagon Papers-style immortality.
As John Cassidy in the New Yorker wrote on July 5:
Yet with no country anxious to harbor Snowden, the situation is becoming a diplomatic impasse. In the meantime, the man himself, who has remained out of sight--reportedly still in Sheremetyevo airport -- is increasingly looking like a comic figure. The latest twist: Snowden's possible marriage to Anna Chapman as a way to resolve the diplomatic and personal stalemate. Yesterday, on Twitter, Chapman apparently proposed that Snowden marry her. Chapman was repatriated to Russia in 2010 in a "swap": a team of about a dozen dormant Russian agents in the United States was exchanged for a Russian scientist who had been serving his term in a prison camp, convicted (unlawfully, many think) of espionage against his motherland. This experience makes Chapman a natural sympathizer with Snowden, as it were. And, as a mate, she's anything but stale: at the time of the swap, Chapman's photographs -- some of them showing the shapely redhead in a tight, bright-red dress, appeared in the media all over the world.
Those tight, bright-red dresses again.
There's always a moment where too much isolation -- whether in Wasilla, Alaska or the spooky warrens of intelligence agencies -- turns out to be not the neonatal ward for some kind of pristine realism but of whack hallucination. We're reminded that it's a very short leap from buying into one's own p.r. that you just may be the female Ronald Reagan or the next Bob Woodward Whisperer to, in Snowden's case, discovering on landing in Moscow that you're just some cheap counterfeit artist whose currency is universally worthless.
Edward Snowden, you're no Daniel Ellsberg.
What neither Snowden nor Palin get is that the key to being taken seriously is that it cannot so shamelessly be all about you -- however interesting you seem at first to the intellectual Unabombers or malcontents. To think credibility, or even respect, is as cheap and easy as Twitter is cracked.
Cracked is one thing but, contrary to my first impressions, Snowden and Palin are smart, even cunning.
Like a Fox. Who cares if you're cracked? There's a fortune to be made in fanatics.
Illustration ©2013 Marie Woolf.