When Sarah Palin was spotted near the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, supporters, journalists, and photographers ran to her side. When it was discovered that the woman was really Patti Lyons, a Palin impostor, the crowd stayed.
Journalists interviewed her and photographers photographed her. Supporters of the real Palin asked the impostor for her autograph and told her how much they adored her. It didn't matter that Lyons was not really Palin.
Even by the standards of this year's presidential campaign, this was a bit odd.
But actually, it revealed a lot about Palin, her supporters, and the state of the far right. A lot of Palin's supporters don't know the difference between what is real and what is false -- and they don't appear to care that they don't.
Palin was back in all her vainglory Saturday night in her speech at the CPAC. The adoring crowd cheered as Palin delivered a speech that was full of sound and fury. It was just like old times.
Palin, as we remember, ran for the vice presidency without knowing the duties of the vice president. She questioned the patriotism of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama but openly supported an organization, the Alaska Independence Party, which wanted to secede from the United States because it had "no use for America or her damned institutions."
Palin, who was then governor of Alaska, called her opponents socialists while running the U.S.'s most socialistic state. She campaigned to end earmarks, but as mayor and governor enthusiastically sought and secured million of dollars in earmarks. She called herself a hockey mom of and for the people while spending more than $150,000 on the clothes she wore while campaigning.
Palin regularly compared herself with conservative icon Ronald Reagan but appeared to know little about his life and career. After hearing Palin compare herself to Reagan, Peggy Noonan, Reagan's speechwriter and confidant responded, "Excuse me, but this was even ignorant for Ms. Palin The point is not, 'He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,' though this is true."
Palin talked frequently often about her Christianity but appeared to know little about The Bible nor seemed to care that she didn't, according to Frank Bailey, who served as a close aide to Palin. Bailey said he lost faith in Palin when he realized that what she said was God's word was really her own. "I was convinced that her priorities and personality are not only ill suited to head a political party or occupy national office," Bailey said, "but would lead to a disaster of, well, biblical proportions."
After nearly four years of Palin, much of the country, including a lot of Republicans, believes that Palin is herself an impostor. "If B.S. were currency," Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist Kathleen Parker once said, "Palin could bail out Wall Street herself."
Other conservatives are more critical. Columnist David Brooks said that Palin "represents a fatal cancer to the Republican Party." Commentator David Frum agreed. Palin's "divisiveness is not just within the country, it's divisive within the party, and many fear, as I do, that while she's very popular with some Republicans," Frum said, "she represents a future that leads the party both to political defeat and then to ineffectiveness in government."
Palin's popularity left columnist Steve Chapman deflated. "I silently weep that the right has been reduced to this absurd fantasist know-it-all who believes her ignorance is her selling point." And former First Lady Barbara Bush expressed her desire that Palin disappear from politics. "I think she's very happy in Alaska," Bush said, "and I hope she stays there."
Finally, something that Democrats and a lot of Republicans can agree on.
Chris Lamb is a professor of communication at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.., and author of the newly published, "The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin" from FrontLine Press.