I know that there are billions and billions of people out there, some even readers of this blog, who have better and/or more pressing things to do than think about Sarah Palin. (Yes, jpe, I am thinking of you and I do apologize.)
Truth be told, I do, too (have better things to do). And I will be engaging with each and every one of them momentarily.
But you know what, Sarah is like a magnet for me. Or maybe more precisely, like a bad tooth that I can’t leave alone. The kind of tooth that’s a little loose, or cracked, or decayed. You know, the kind where you go to the dentist and want to say, “Drill Baby, Drill!” The kind of tooth that wants a crown. Yeah, that’s what Sarah P is like for me … a loose, cracked tooth looking for a crown.
Anyway, I was very pleased to read this morning on Huffpo that she kinda bombed in her latest speech. This was a $75 – 100,000 engagement addressing the Wine and Spirits Wholesellers Expo. In reading the description of the event, I am flabbergasted that they chose her … and flabbergasted that she would apparently be so ill-prepared and lame. With all the money she is raking in, why doesn’t she at least hire better speech-writers?
Well, that got me wondering about who writes her speeches. A google of “Sarah Palin Speech Writers” doesn’t yield a whole lot … but then again, would you want that on your resume? I did net one guy – Matthew Scully. He’s an Arizona State grad and the author of Dominion – a book about animals and animal rights that seems severely out of sync with the rest of his resume. The irony of his connection of the gun-slinging Palin is hard to wrap one’s head around … check out this passage from his Wikopedia bio:
Scully is the author of Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (2002), described by Natalie Angier in a book review published in The New York Times (October 27, 2002) as a “horrible, wonderful, important book,” in large measure “because the author, an avowed conservative Republican and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is an unexpected defender of the animals against the depredations of profit driven corporations, swaggering, gun-loving hunters, proponents of renewed ‘harvesting’ of whales and elephants and others who insist that all of nature is humanity’s romper room, to play with, rearrange, and plunder at will. Nichols Fox in a review published in the The Washington Post wrote that Dominion is “destined to become a classic defense of mercy.”
Of course there were lots of Nazis who were very sentimental about their Dobermans. Anyway, with the exception of her acceptance speech at the 2008 GOP convention, Scully seems to have had no association with Palin (at least none that he’s public about). So who’s doing the heavy lifting now? Who’s putting words into that pretty mouth?
Anyone? Or is it just Palin her ownself? Whoever is doing it, the appeal is confounding to me … and yet reflective of our culture … as John McWhorter writes, in his excellent piece in TNR:
I don’t think Palin’s phraseology is actively attractive to her fans. Rather, what is remarkable is that this way of speaking doesn’t prevent someone, today, from public influence. Candidates bite the dust for being untelegenic, dour, philanderers, strident, or looking silly posing in a tank. But having trouble rubbing a noun and a verb together is not considered a mark against one as a figure of political authority.
It used to be that a way with a word could get you past the electorate even if there was nothing behind it. Did you ever wonder why, for example, a mediocrity like Warren G. Harding became President? It was partly good looks, but partly that he had a gift for making a speech. If he had stood on daises talking like Sarah Palin day after day and there existed the communications technology and practice to bring this regularly before voters, James Cox would have become President.
The modern American typically relates warmly to the use of English to the extent that it summons the oral — “You betcha,” “Yes we can!” — while passing from indifference to discomfort to the extent that its use leans towards the stringent artifice of written language. As such, Sarah Palin can talk, basically, like a child and be lionized by a robust number of perfectly intelligent people as an avatar of American culture. And linguistically, let’s face it: she is.
But this still begs the question of who puts the words that she mangles on the piece of paper (or, I guess, writes them on her hand)? Who’s got this gem on her or his resume? That’s what I want to know.
Anyone out there?