On Sarah Palin's Likability

If you work at home and are distractable like me and you tend to listen to cable news at a low volume throughout the day, pausing only occasionally to scream WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT or OH FOR GOD'S SAKE GET HEATHER WILSON OFF MY TV or YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY GOT TO BE KIDDING ME (unless it's Rachel Maddow talking, in which case there's nothing to be done except swat away the little cartoon lovebirds circling your head) -- if that's your workday, as it is mine, you tend to absorb the memes of the day without even noticing. My wife will come home and say "How was your day, honey?" and I'll answer: "Looks like the people of the Gulf Coast dodged a bullet with Gustav," or "Golly, sweetie, the optics of that DNC sure were well managed." And she'll look at me like I'm nuts, because she's spent the day in a more or less normal work environment, where there's sensory input that doesn't recycle itself every 20 minutes and bore into your brain like a ravenous tapeworm. The only difference between today and most days is that today I feel like I actually am nuts.

Today my media diet consists of a lot of sensible-seeming people chirping about how likable and appealing Sarah Palin is. This conclusion is apparently based on her RNC speech, a speech that was exactly as appealing as a blast from a howitzer and as likable as a mamba snake. Let me be less allusive: It was vicious, cynical and ugly. It reduced complicated issues to Aw shucks bromides and the lifelong resumes of actual humans, people with hopes and dreams and interior lives, to punchlines. It was about Us versus Them, about the creeping danger of The Other, about how disagreement is disloyalty in a fancy uptown suit. It was written and delivered in the voice of a pleasant-looking person who, if you met her or him at a party, would drive you across the room in seconds, shaking your head and muttering: Jesus. Why so angry? If it weren't for stray dissenters like Dahlia Lithwick and Rosa Brooks, I swear to God I would think I was still asleep and dreaming, because nobody, nobody with a single ounce of human feeling could have seen that speech and think the person who delivered it is likable.

Palin may be a lot of things (Hockey Mom! Moose hunter! Small-town mayor!), and we're going to hear about them all in lieu of a resume, because her handlers seem disinclined to let the evil media -- I'm sorry, correction: That's the "evil East Coast Liberal Establishment media" -- close enough to shout questions over the roar of the chopper blades. She may be other things besides. She may be an able partisan, and she may be more of a gutpuncher than anybody gave her initial credit for. But if Sarah Palin is likable, if Sarah Palin is appealing, then I am Marie of Romania.

Cross-posted at billbarol.tumblr.com.

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