In an odd piece reviewing Sarah Palin's book, veteran Republican strategist Mary Matalin can be seen struggling to all at once endorse and rebuke the plucky, baby-waving ex-public servant from Alaska.
From her perch as editor-in-chief at a Simon and Schuster imprint, Matalin opens by pegging the future of big-advance books on the success of Palin's offering, a dubious equation given the publishing industry's position following the music and movie industries' whitewater ride over the Internet falls.
But it was in addressing Palin's eternal complaints about her supposedly unfair treatment on the McCain campaign trail that Matalin, a consummate GOP insider, let slip the ugly truth about the role of brutality behind the curtain at Republican campaigns. Matalin tut-tuts:
[B]itching is background noise. [...] There is no such thing as Emily Post for political campaigns. [...] Time is the most valuable commodity on a campaign and you just can't waste it thinking about how to choose your words carefully or get your job done more diplomatically. If someone isn't in tears every day, that day wasn't all it could be advancing the campaign. I once witnessed an experienced (big) man slap a professional female colleague across the face over an ad buy... and no one thought anything of it, starting with the woman. In fact, she would have been insulted if anyone told her she should have been insulted.
While it may not be news that the party of "family values" has had its struggles with the notion of women in the workplace, I have to report some amazement at the revelation that on the GOP campaign trail, a belt in the mouth is just a function of a busy gal's packed schedule. A quick check of Emily Post confirms it has little to say about physical assault, but one wonders if a call to a cop and pressing of charges isn't more appropriate. If the battery victim was my sister, wife, or mother, it would be.
I have very few people in my family like Matalin who would look the other way when a woman was hit. In short, we weren't raised that way. We're not sadists, nor are we masochists.
Astoundingly, those are political terms these days. As Max Blumenthal writes in his excellent book "Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party", the reason the modern GOP mindset is broadly accepting of the physical brutality Matalin shrugs off so easily is the work of child psychologist / reactionary Christian leader James Dobson. Nearly forty years of Dobson's abusive child-rearing strategies have produced a modern far right wing filled with smacking, punching authoritarians who learned from childhood that might alone makes right.
Legitimizing this mindset depends on enablers like Matalin, who extend the aura of civil acceptability toward violence against women and co-workers. When this violence persists, we should remember who "thinks anything about it" and who does not.
Which brings to mind future confrontations. At 400-plus ghostwritten pages, one wonders what kind of projectile Ms. Palin's book might make the next time a GOP campaign meeting gets heated. It's sure to be handy.