Becoming the caricature

Interesting take on Sarah Palin by Ross Douthat at The New York Times:

Palin was caricatured viciously, but in response she decided to essentially become the caricature, giving her enemies exactly the kind of Spiro Agnew-in-heels performance they expected, and then chasing celebrity in destructive (if lucrative) ways once the initial firestorm around her subsided. The only thing that can be said in her defense is that her choices, while misguided, have been very, very human.

Douthat was extrapolating on a piece by John Podhoretz discussing Palin’s descent from a socially conservative good-government reformer able to think outside the ideological box to a shrieking self-made martyr more interested in self-promotion than anything else.

The fault here lay not with her attackers but within her. She embarrassed herself in two interviews, and decided the blame lay not with her own ill-preparedness but with the media that had come after her. Understandably enraged by the misogynistic and practically psychotic attacks on her, she came to embrace her status as a kind of martyr for the social-conservative views that had not been the truly distinguishing features of her meteoric political career up to that moment.

I had never heard of Sarah Palin before she landed on John McCain’s short list for VP, and I’ve never seen much about her to admire, beyond her ability to read a speech someone else wrote in a folksy, determined way. You betcha. I think she has been a toxic influence on American discourse, and I hope her 15 minutes ends soon. But for those who once admired her, I think these pieces (and The Atlantic article by Joshua Green that inspired them) do a pretty good job of explaining her fall.

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