A Pitbull with Lipstick

It's hard to make a reasoned and fair judgment about the Alaska Governor because she has been the victim of one of the nastiest, most sustained and comprehensive slime-jobs ever performed by a hyper-partisan national and global media – Gerard Baker

It is certainly difficult to take her seriously when reading that she was filmed being blessed by a pastor Thomas Muthee as he asked god to protect her from ‘every form of witchcraft’, excepting of course the type of witchcraft he believes in. ‘We declare save her from Satan.’ It is the type of stuff to make you laugh until you realise the woman in question has an outside chance of at some point stepping in as President of the US if the roll of the electoral dice were to go the Republican Party’s way. Since being picked by John McCain as his vice presidential running mate her critics have sharpened their knives in anticipation of an easy kill. A woman without a passport up until a year ago could hardly claim to know much about the world. So the joke ‘I can see Russia from my house’ has come to sum up her knowledge of foreign issues. And the attitude she was said to have held about the origins of the world seem to have cast her as something from the era of Wilma Flintstone. At times I half expected her to be introduced as the front woman for the Stone Age heavy metal group Dinah and the Dinosaurs.

It is not an easy task to pin down ownership or origins of the positions Sarah Palin has had ascribed to her. When Christopher Hitchens and a myriad of writers pour scorn on her they are invariably pushed back by original sources. But rather than hunt these sources out it seems a lot less work to play on her ‘redneck’ lifestyle, hope it becomes mistaken for stupidity, reinforce it with innuendo and suddenly an effective political campaigning weapon is created. It has struck me that if limitations on knowledge were to be a hindrance in US politics much flak would be directed the way of Joe Biden, Barak Obama’s running mate. He has made more than his fair share of Dan Quayle-type gaffes but for some reason has escaped downloading the amount of ridicule hurled Palin’s way.

Not having any great passion for the US election, I only picked up Sarah by Kaylene Johnson because it was lying about the house at a time when she had just emerged at the epicentre of public interest. My wife had just finished the book and said that it would be something I could read on a bus. Which is precisely where I did go through it, on the road to Dublin one autumn afternoon. I thought it would be worth my while to find what was being written about her before she made the transition from a relatively unknown Alaskan moose hunter to a figure of global scrutiny.

Sarah is not a heavy duty book. For that reason its lack of gravitas will be prised open by opponents eager to reinforce her lightweight depiction. But the book is no different from many other local history books anywhere and there is little point in having it evaluated through any other prism.

What emerges from Kaylene Johnson’s biography is that from an early age Sarah Palin was a bookworm who devoured newspapers as voraciously as books which sits somewhat uneasily with the view that she has led only a hillbilly kind of existence. At college she studied journalism and political science, not fishing or hunting, although her main interests lay in sports. She eventually graduated in 1987 from the University of Idaho with a degree in journalism rather than moose hunting.

Although baptised a Catholic her mother soon moved her to the Wasilla Assembly of God. She displayed a strong religious bent, signing the college year book with verses from the bible. It is this biblical leaning that has allowed her critics considerable latitude in attacking her, depicting her as someone who thinks the world was created about six thousand years ago. Whatever her views on the matter two years ago she did state that ‘I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism’.

Palin first ran for public office in 1992 securing a seat on Wasilla council. Although a city of less than 10,000 residents, what made her election interesting was her claim, ‘right away I knew it was a good old boys network’ which she resolved to break. She promised ‘fresh ideas and energy’ and vowed to remove the city’s ‘stale leadership.’ In her later campaign for the governorship of Alaska she became known as the outsider ‘shunned by the Republican Party leaders’ because of her stance against the oil tycoons and city corruption.

There is nothing in the book that would recommend Sarah Palin as a serious contender for the vice presidency. She is portrayed as worthy but essentially local. But if the intellectually limited George Bush can lead the US for 8 years then Palin’s supposed lack of acumen in the cerebral world of the scientific is a manufactured concern, reflecting only the need of opponents to attack the perceived weakest link.

Ultimately, I don’t really care who wins the US election. I don’t believe it will seriously lessen the threat posed by the country to world peace. McCain/Palin value the supremacy of the free market whereas Obama/Biden would place some cosmetic curbs on it. After the result the poor will stay at the bottom and the rich at the top. The charge that Obama is a Marxist is nonsense but only in economic and philosophical terms. There is a disturbing dictatorial style to the Democrats’ campaigning so in tune with the Marxist mind. The character maligning, censorship, vote rigging, the cult of the personality are all reasons to feel alienated from Obama. And there is the hope that McCain, because he was a victim of it, if elected, will put an end to the disgraceful torture policy effected by the current US administration against many foreign nationals in its custody.

Will Sarah Palin be Vice President? I doubt it. Nevertheless, one thing seems certain. While this book offers only a limited and surface scratching of the political character of Sarah Palin there will be more written about her.

Sarah by Kaylene Johnson. Epicentre Press: Alaska. 2008


  1. I predicted ( to myself ) several months ago that Obama would not win this election. For the simple reason that I cannot see the American people electing a man of color as President, at least not yet
    I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but I have this notion that come Election Day, people will NOT have the moral courage to vote for Obama.
    The nefarious John McCain if/when elected will lead the U.S./world into another tragedy in Iran.
    And to think that Palin is just a heartbeat away from becoming the most powerful person in the world is mind-boggling.
    No this is NOT thinly disguised misogyny on my part. I love women after all my dear departed mother RIP was one.

  2. Jim, thanks for your comment. We will know next week if you are right or not. If Obama is not elected I hope it will not be as a result of racism. That would be a severe indictment of the American public.

  3. I predict Obama will win handily. For all of McCain's failings, at least he tried to campaign for electoral reform regarding funding. Obama did not abide by the voluntary limits, as was his option, but outspending as he is now McC five-to-one, buying up two out of the three (not counting Fox! NBC did not go along with CBS & ABC) networks for a half-hour infomercial before the World Series: this does speak of hubris. The odds look overwhelming for Obama, since the collapse of the economy mid-September; the race was about even then, but now there's no "hope" for the GOP.

    "Moral courage" is not the only issue facing educated voters; it's sheer lack of experience on Obama's part-- I predict another one-term Jimmy Carter nice guy in over his head-- vs. utter disgust with the usual rich white guy-- of either party.

    Any idealism in McC has long vanished as he kow-towed to the pro-Palin crowd. Yet, the majority of the U.S. media has done its damnedest to both paint any who speak out logically against placing too much confidence in the Dems as sort-of covert racists who cannot stand a (half-)black man in charge. Similarly, the massive hero-worship-- from my vantage-point-- has distorted Obama from the lesser of two evils into the next messiah, although the near-universal jubilation in his First Coming will surely lead to Calvary for millions soon enough. He's beholden to so many powerful people that he will not be able to act on his own. Same as it ever was? I'm tired already of the idolatry.

    Ralph Nader commented how both parties shrink from any connotation of socialism even as they support bailing out the rich bankers and corporate powers, not to mention the millions who signed on to loans they often lied about being able to pay back. The rest of us are left, as usual, holding the empty bag. We all will owe about $5000 for the feckless, the affluent, and the apostles of free-market economics-- that is, except when it hits their own wallet. Meanwhile, pensions vanish as we're all told to invest in 401k's for funding our receding retirement.

    I find it curious that Sarah Palin, for all her advocacy of what the Pentecostals term "spiritual warfare" in their end-times preaching, has for six years not been a member of the Wasilla Assembly of God church to which she for decades belonged. She still goes, apparently, to four or so different churches, but is not a member of any one. Did your biography delve into this at all? Sorry to blather. Again, thanks for a great post.

  4. "
    Ultimately, I don’t really care who wins the US election. I don’t believe it will seriously lessen the threat posed by the country to world peace. McCain/Palin value the supremacy of the free market whereas Obama/Biden would place some cosmetic curbs on it. After the result the poor will stay at the bottom and the rich at the top." Yep that about says it for me..I do feel that Obama being elected will give the perception to the world that America wants to change and as the father of three American children any change ...no matter how small...in the worlds view of Americans is welcome...real change ..not a hope.

  5. FionnchĂș, incisive commentary. The biography was very superficial. And there was nothing very insightful on the question of churches. I have to feel sorry for Sarah Pailn - who but some deeply unhappy sod would want to go to four churches? Even big Paisley sticks to one. But maybe it is the only one wide enough to let his big head through the doors

  6. aricaiwdjts, a case of things changing so that they remain the same

  7. Here is a link to a You Tube Video I made on Christoher Hitchens.Plus another link to the "Hitchens Watch" web page it is on also.
    Hithens Watch web page http://christopherhitchenswatch.blogspot.com/2009/01/stupid-highly-strung-but-dead-loyal.html