Correction appended: A previous version of this article misidentified Barack Obama.
Typically, February is known for an array of historically significant days. It’s comprised of Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, President George Washington’s Birthday and President’s Day. But according to his column, (I’m declaring February a Palin-free month. Join me, 01/21/2011), Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank is trying to declare a new “holiday” in February: Sarah Palin-free month.
Milbank — who confessed that he has written about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in 42 columns since she was picked to be Arizona Senator John McCain’s running mate in August 2008 — urged Americans to refrain from speaking about her for an entire month in an attempt to finally give her a much deserved push off the media bandwagon. His column even has a link for readers who are willing to pledge to not write or read coverage about Palin for the month.
I’ve got to admit, I completely agree with Milbank’s plea. But I also think it’s harrowing that we have come to this point. Palin hasn’t held a position in any public office for 547 days. How is it that someone so politically insignificant has continued to captivate the media and our society for this long?
In the 2008 presidential election, Palin couldn’t state one newspaper she liked to read on a daily basis. She also explained that being from Alaska gave her an extensive insight into Russian politics because “(Russia is) our next door neighbor” — failing to remember that tiny body of water separating her and Asia. But the public seemed to forget these factual errors when her autobiography, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” was released in November 2009. It sold more than 1 million copies within two weeks and was placed on many bestseller lists next to autobiographies by President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.
While I no doubt believe in the impact of political rhetoric, I find it frightening that Sarah Palin has been given the assumed authority of being able to influence a 22-year old in Tucson, Ariz. Within hours after the news of the fatal shooting broke, media outlets across the country were discussing Palin’s “crosshairs map” and how she impacted this tragedy. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote in his column, (Scenes from a marriage, 01/16/2011), “Forget a nation’s grief and Giffords’s struggle to survive: What America really needed, the nation’s pundits and TV producers decided, was a noisy debate about the possible link between Jared Lee Loughner’s crime and Palin’s martial campaign rhetoric.” And in true form, Palin responded at an inappropriate time with a speech filled with improperly used phrases. But the media still continued its coverage of her. As Douthat perfectly put it, the relationship between Palin and the media is “looking increasingly like co-dependency.”
In some twisted way, the relationship makes sense. Palin is the epitome of what the media craves. She is definitely unconventional, very outspoken and prone to being caught looking like an idiot. But Palin needs the media just as much as their ratings need her. She has claimed that she wants the media to respect her right to privacy, but stating that the paparazzi are being too intrusive on your realty TV show is a situation few will be sympathetic about.
Perhaps Palin thinks that if she continues to remain in the spot light she will actually have a chance in the 2012 election. But the more we see of Palin, the more alarming she appears. Even the Republican Party is showing little support for her. In a New Hampshire 2012 presidential poll held over the weekend, Palin came in fourth place — securing only 7 percent. And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said last week that he is more likely to run in 2012 if Palin announces her candidacy in order to show “a contrast” to her overly conservative ideologies.
We all know, regrettably, that there’s no way Palin will voluntarily remove herself from the public eye. She will probably even attempt to run in 2012. But here’s hoping that in the next year she can create enough negative press to diminish her chance of success. I’d say it’s a fairly easy task for her. It has already been announced that her reality show wasn’t renewed for another season. Hopefully Palin will take this friendly hint from TLC that her 15 minutes of fame are running out.
Emily Orley is the co-editorial page editor. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.