There's a much anticipated profile of Sarah Palin out this morning from Gabriel Sherman writing in New York Magazine -- if you've been following the Palin saga (and I have, to the extent that her glammed out trip to Nashville is covered in my forthcoming book) there aren't any real bombshells. On the other hard, it really nails down Palin's true calling as a hi-def huckster, and someone whose campaign for the White House in 2012 will only last as long as it's good for the bottom line.
I was especially struck by the opening lines of the article:
On the morning of July 3, 2009, a national holiday, Sarah Palin placed a call to her communications director and told her that she wanted to hold a press conference at her Wasilla, Alaska, home. She wouldn’t disclose the topic. For Palin, the months since Election Day had been a letdown even bigger than the loss to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Being governor was drudgery. “Her life was terrible,” one adviser says. “She was never home, her [Juneau] office was four hours from her house. You gotta drive an hour from Wasilla to Anchorage. And she was going broke.” Her sky-high approval ratings in Alaska—which had topped 80 percent before John McCain picked her—had withered to the low fifties. She faced a hostile legislature, a barrage of ethics complaints, and frothing local bloggers who reveled in her misfortune. All this for a salary of only $125,000? The worst was that she had racked up $500,000 in legal bills to fend off the trooper scandal and other investigations. She needed money and worried about it constantly. “You have to keep in mind,” Bill McAllister, her then–press secretary, told me, “she and Todd were middle class. They’re rich now, but not then.”
"Her life was terrible"? Really? I do think that having such high legal bills and pending investigations -- most of that, I should add, the result of her own reckless actions as governor -- would be incredibly nerve-wracking. But beyond that, how terrible was it to have a job -- and not just any job, but one where you can really try to make a difference in your community and the lives of the people around you -- at a time when unemployment was at the highest level on Palin's adult lifetime, and to have great health insurance when millions do not? And her regular commute was an hour? How many Americans travel much greater distances for the only job they can find in this economy? (And I won't even dwell on the notion that her "terrible" life also meant being surrounded by a large family when millions of Americans live alone.) According to the numbers out there, somewhere on the order of 10 percent of all Americans make as much as $125,000 a year, and defining that as "middle class" (and Todd Palin had a job, too) is an insult to the people in the actual middle class, who struggle to make ends meet and to figure out how to send their child to one college, let alone five.
Let's be clear -- Sarah Palin is getting picked on here because she's extreme example of the distance between most politicians who are both Republicans and Democrats and the everyday people they represent, and also because she's a case study in how quaint the notion of "public service" has become in this media-driven millennium. As we've seen with the bank bailouts, with the shoddy oversight of racketeering enterprises like Goldman Sachs, and as we're probably likely to see in the unfolding or unraveling of this financial regulations bill, senators and congressmen and even half-term governors look at Wall Street and they see themselves, or they see the person they want to become. The rest of us are just roadkill to be swerved around.