I have spent the last few days basking in the return of Sarah Palin to the national political stage, courtesy of her Donald Trump endorsement in Iowa on Tuesday. And so, I would wager, has she. She’s gotten everything she’s come to expect from the national media: scorn, ridicule and hostility.
I have watched Stephen Colbert mock her disjointed syntax. (Wanted to like it; didn’t think it was that funny.)
I scrolled through countless Facebook posts on Wednesday featuring images of the New York Daily News front page “I’m with Stupid.” (Puerile.)
I have read essays declaring that Palin’s speech represents the horrifying “vanguard of a new way of right-wing speechifying.” (It most certainly does not.)
Or by contrast, that it was reminiscent of the famous 2004 “Dean Scream.” (Hardly.)
I have watched and read as commentators, pundits and political reporters have scratched their heads and tried to explain exactly where Palin’s endorsement of Trump puts her on the conservative spectrum.
They wonder about whether she sincerely embraces the unnerving brand of authoritarian populism espoused by Donald Trump.
Or whether she has abandoned Tea Party principles by turning her back on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, an unyielding ideologue who has always credited her for getting him elected in the first place.
It's likely none of those things.
I think she misses the spotlight and, quite simply, identifies more with Trump than any of his rivals.
Would she have gotten this much national attention had she endorsed Ted Cruz? Of course not. And she surely knows that Cruz would never insult her for endorsing a rival.
But would Trump have held his temper had she endorsed one of his? Doubtful, as he’s tried to eviscerate anyone who gets in his way.
Craig Robinson, founder of a widely read website, The Iowa Republican, said he doesn’t think the Palin endorsement helps Trump as much as it wounds Cruz, who has been surging in Iowa polls as the first vote looms.
“Her endorsement hurts Cruz because he’s trying to push the narrative that Donald Trump is the ‘New York values’ guy, and if she is anything, it is not New York values,” said Robinson. “She changed the subject on him.”
Not much about Palin surprises me, but I confess I am puzzled that so many people seem surprised by her free-association speaking style and her tendency to mangle language and create the memorable neologism. (As in: “Right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion, and our Constitution.” Or her description of internecine Middle Eastern conflicts as “squirmishes.” This is the woman, after all, who gave us the word “refudiate.”)
As far as I know — and I have been covering her on and off since 2008, including a memorable wild goose chase up the Eastern Seaboard one far ago Memorial Day (memmm-ries!) — the only time Palin gave speeches that were traditional in any sense of the word was when she was McCain’s running mate and his advisors had her on a short, but fraying leash.
Well, there was one other time: In Iowa in September 2011, when she still appeared to be flirting with the idea of a presidential run. Buoyed by her Tea Party popularity, she offered a blistering, influential take on the “permanent political class” and its devotion to “crony capitalism.”
Since then, it’s been one goofy CPAC speech, reality show and Fox News riff after another.
And then, in what was perhaps a rhetorical nadir, even for Palin, she delivered a speech in Des Moines in January 2015 at Rep. Steve King’s Freedom Summit that was panned even by Republicans as incoherent. It was widely circulated online because people thought she sounded drunk.
“That speech offended me,” Robinson said. “She has developed a speaking style that I find very difficult to listen to, hard to comprehend, almost not even entertaining.”
Personally, I didn’t think she sounded drunk. I thought she sounded exactly like her real, true self: an appealing narcissist. And she sounded like herself, again on Tuesday, when she endorsed Donald Trump in a funny/angry/nutty speech that could give a grammarian a heart attack.
When it comes right down to it, she and Trump are a pretty good match.
He gives her national attention; she gives him a bit of credibility with Iowa evangelicals who were starting to flock to Cruz.
She is drawn to outsiders (or rogues, or mavericks — pick your noun). Trump is all that. Like Trump, she is an opportunist. She likes winners. As does Trump, who famously insulted her 2008 running mate John McCain for having been taken prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese. The fact that Palin overlooks such an egregious insult, while blaming President Obama for her own troubled son’s PTSD, says a lot about her opportunistic impulses.
I know Trump has mused about putting Palin in his Cabinet if he were ever to become president. My dream is a Trump/Palin ticket. Oh, what a squirmish that would be.
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