A while ago I promised myself I was not going to blog about Sarah Palin. Why feed her bottomless ego? I thought. Why give more ink to an airhead? Even when she invaded my turf in LA before the Academy Awards I didn't blink. Even when she and her entourage brazenly crashed a celebrity event and then filched some expensive swag, I shrugged. So, what else is new? It just seemed like more of the same from the opportunistic Wasilla mom who's been cashing in on her fame since she first discovered designer clothes and became an accidental darling of the right.
But now Palin's done something so patently outrageous I can't be silent, much as I'd like. And I don't mean the mind-boggling deal she struck with Discovery Channel for a "documentary" series about Alaska on TLC. Though having spent time there in my youth, I do find the idea strangely intriguing.
First off, this is the same cable channel that gave us those paragons of good parenting, Jon and Kate Gosselin. So can we be clear about Palin's new gig? We're talking reality TV here, people. We have many fine programs that can accurately be called documentary series. Frontline is one. The acclaimed, meticulously produced Life is another. But Palin's Alaska will doubtless not be winning any Emmys in the documentary category.
Beyond semantics, what were the folks at Discovery Channel thinking? Did anyone there consider the irony of hiring a woman to host a "nature" show who disdains nature? I mean, before she fleeced you for more than $1 million an episode, (for that matter, John McPhee would have been excellent, and I'm sure he'd have done it for much less), that maybe it wasn't the smartest choice given her strange relationship to the truth and her polarizing politics? Did you forget that in her brief and erratic tenure as governor, Palin had a dreadful environmental record, championing such animal-friendly policies as the aerial shooting of wolves? Or refusing to give protected status to such endangered species as the beluga whale? Even now, Palin proudly and avidly flaunts her ignorance about climate change.
So good luck with that nature show, Discovery Channel! I'm sure it will be a hit with the NRA and the Al Gore-hating crowd.
But my real problem with Palin this week is not her reality show, absurd as it is. But her refusal to take responsibility for stirring up violence on the right with her incendiary rhetoric.
Palin has done this before, of course. Most notably when she accused Obama of "paling around with terrorists" when she was running for vice president. Or claimed that the president had inserted "death panels" in the health care bill, precisely so they could kill her Down syndrome infant and her aging parents. Palin was lying, of course, but being the devout Christian that she is, she didn't let that interfere with her quest for prosperity and fame. Or the anger and ignorance she was encouraging with her repeated attacks on our first African-American president.
After the landmark health care vote on Sunday, Palin promptly posted a map of the U.S. targeting vulnerable Democratic members of Congress. To highlight their districts, she didn't use something all Alaska and folksy like a smiley face or a grizzly bear. No, she marked them with rifle cross-hairs. But I guess she didn't think the message was explicit enough. So she exhorted her gun-loving followers with this: "Don't Retreat--Reload." Cute.
This week we've seen that words like these have terrifying consequences. In an interview with The National Review John Boehner suggested that Steve Driehaus, a freshman Democrat from Cincinnati, would be a "dead man" if he voted for health care. Driehaus did, and now his family has received death threats. New York Democrat Louise Slaughter received a message saying snipers were going to kill the children of all those who'd voted for health care. Imagine walking outside your house one morning to find a coffin there. That happened to Missouri Democrat Ross Carnahan.
Republican leaders have yet to firmly denounce these threats. I guess they're afraid of looking wimpy or weak and want to keep their jobs. It's no wonder Palin feels emboldened to demean Obama and attack Democrats with no regard for the consequences. It's clear she doesn't care, that she's willing to say anything. Let's not forget: this is the college dropout who couldn't even tell Kate Couric what newspapers she reads. So it's not like she has a regard for language or facts.
With thousands of angry followers on Facebook and Twitter, Palin might no longer hold office, but she's still holding court. And that combined with her almost gleeful ignorance makes her dangerous. It's time to call Palin out and hold her accountable.
It's an icky job, but somebody's got to do it.