It's difficult to pinpoint a more obvious example of Sarah Palin's narcissistic political flailing than Christine O'Donnell's victory over Congressman Mike Castle in the Delaware primary yesterday. Palin's endorsement of O'Donnell was arguably one of the dumbest and most revealing stumbles of her improbable career -- not including her self-satirical word salads, of course.
Not unlike her alleged abuse-of-power as the half-term governor of Alaska, in which she apparently used her gubernatorial office to settle personal scores, the O'Donnell primary victory is, to date, the strongest indicator of how Palin might react from a position of national leadership: critical decisions would be governed by personal whimsy, vendettas, twisted ideology and entitled self-indulgence. (We've seen this before, haven't we?)
Fortunately for the, you know, whole world, it's highly doubtful that Palin will ever be elected president. But make sure to brace for impact if the stars align and she pulls it off.
Charles Pierce at Esquire spelled out the Delaware GOP nominee perfectly today: "Christine O'Donnell is a sideshow freak." She's a madcap professional candidate, running ostensibly for the attention and renown and not so much the victory -- calling into serious doubt O'Donnell's famous opposition to masturbation, by the way.
Yet Sarah Palin anointed her, practically leapfrogging the candidate over Mike Castle, and, more importantly, nullifying the near-term impact of a brutal radio talk show interview in which O'Donnell was caught red-handed in a hilarious slow-moving-train-wreck of a lie.
Christine O'Donnell has no chance of beating the Democratic candidate Chris Coons in the general election, short of some kind of earth-shattering scandal. What was going to be an easy Republican victory, with Mike Castle taking Vice President Biden's old Senate seat, is now very likely a solid Democratic win. Obviously, Sarah Palin didn't elevate O'Donnell because she's a viable candidate.
As near as I can tell, there are two specific reasons why Palin would brazenly and blindly squander one whole Republican vote in the U.S. Senate.
Before we get into it, though, it's important to note here the broiling GOP problem in Delaware: the conservative tea party gaggle hates Mike Castle because he's a moderate Republican. In fact, according to Will Bunch, it was a Mike Castle town hall meeting where we saw the first screeching, conspiratorial town hall rant by an angry tea party hoople. Also, professional troll and CNN analyst Erick Erickson once tweeted, "Sorry folks, but if we need Mike Castle for a Senate majority, we do not need a Senate majority." Fine for Erickson to toss out seats willy-nilly like that, but Sarah Palin should probably be held to a higher standard than an overindulged bomb-hurling blogger who once threatened to pull a "shotgun" on any Census workers who showed up at this front door. Palin is uniquely positioned to be able to win or lose a seat (or many seats) for the Republicans, so she probably should have thought twice before pandering to the far-right fantasy of ending Mike Castle's congressional career. She played grabass with the Erickson wing of the party instead of considering the real political consequences of her endorsement.
Back to it.
First, it was a major political gaffe. What's that Ricky Roma line from Glengarry Glenn Ross? "You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is." Palin might have risen to become the half-term governor of Alaska, but, then again, this O'Donnell thing proves that she doesn't exactly know what the hell she's doing. And sometimes outliers happen and unqualified people stumble over the finish line first. Alvin Greene, for instance. But, other than simple stupidity, what else should we call this single-handed gifting of a Senate seat to the Democrats other than, in part, a huge gaffe? I mean, she literally reduced the Republican whip count in the Senate by one whole vote simply by saying, "I endorse fruitbag Christine O'Donnell." (Palin didn't use the word "fruitbag.") One less vote. A gift to the Democrats.
Ask yourself, Republican people, what if you miss a Senate majority by just one seat? Who will you blame -- or, rather, who ought to be blamed?
What's especially remarkable here is that Sarah Palin, instead of uniting the GOP in the wake of 2008, appears to be the catalyst for a major rift developing in the party. By engaging in these impulse purchases -- going rogue, if you will -- and abusing her status, she's sabotaging the efforts of the RNC, the NRSC and the NRCC, utterly deleting winnable seats and nullifying national campaign coordination efforts. But also, by pandering to the fringe tea party, she's spurring a rightward shift that could divide the party, even to the point of another Whig-like extinction.
Secondly, it's obvious that Palin's O'Donnell gaffe is another symptom of her manic, almost hyperkinetic obsession with the sound of her own voice and the power of her tween-girlish internet gabbery. She thinks she can do anything, so, well, she does. The Republican Party would do well to gut check Palin's egomaniacal abuse of this reality-show-celebrity she's attained. When GOP analysts and operatives like Karl Rove go on television and rip O'Donnell for not possessing "truthfulness and sincerity and character," they really ought to take a good look at Patient Zero in this epidemic: Sarah Palin and her ever-expanding repertoire of serial lies and unserious meddlings. It's perhaps indicative of deeper problems infecting the party that, despite mucking up the Delaware seat, it's highly conceivable that the Republicans will nominate Palin for the presidency in 2012 anyway -- the very personality who will soon cost them a vote in Senate.
By the way, I want front row seats for that one. The Republican primaries with Sarah Palin in the mix are going to be a blast to observe, but if she gets the nomination, I can only grin from ear-to-ear imagining the daily disorganized frenetic jumble of spasmodic chaos emanating from the Palin campaign -- the unplugged-Ghostbusters-Containment-Unit bursting with indecipherable tweets and a gigantic neon green plasma beam of crazy just rocketing into the stratosphere wherever the Cackle Of Rads Express sets up shop.
For what it's worth, there's also a lesson here for the progressive movement when it comes to selecting primary challengers to replace various insufferable Democrats. More than any single position or progressive agenda item, it's definitely a good idea to see if the primary candidate of choice can actually win in the general election. While it's painful to deal with some of the usual conservadem suspects, handing the seat to a Republican would be a gigantic step in the wrong direction.
Nevertheless, thank you, Sarah Palin. Thank you for an autumn of entertainment as Christine O'Donnell implodes on the national stage. And especially thank you for the freebee Senate seat. We didn't think we'd lock that one down, but now it's definitely smooth sailing. Cheers also.