Sarah Palin’s vulgar tweets: Not funny or effective

Former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota in 2008.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Sarah Palin reared her head in American airspace this weekend.

As the country’s media, entertainment and political elite gathered in Washington, D.C., for the annual roast that is the White House Correspondents Dinner, Palin could not resist lobbing darts from afar.

“Yuk it up media and pols,” she tweeted. “While America is buried in taxes and a fight for our rights, the permanent political class in DC dresses up and has a prom to make fun of themselves. No need for that, we get the real joke.”


She panned the event again in a second tweet: “That #WHCD was pathetic. The rest of America is out there working our asses off while these DC assclowns thrown themselves a #nerdprom.”

Palin can take any position she wants on the wisdom of “media and pols” yukking it up on their night off. (I thought the president was pretty funny, especially his joke about not being “the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be.” Palin, who once charmed the country with her joke about hockey moms and pitbulls, now seems oblivious to the power of the self-deprecating joke.)

Still, she is not the only critic of the annual event; plenty of people think the evening is proof that Washington’s watchdogs are too cozy with its power players. (And maybe it’s only of minor interest that her own daughter, Bristol, was a dinner guest in 2011, when the economy was in far worse shape than it is now.)

But when it comes to evaluating the work habits of others, Palin has forfeited the moral high ground.

When she stepped down from her post as Alaska’s governor barely 2/3 into her first term, she demonstrated for the country -- and the world -- that the sometimes thankless hard work of governing is simply not her cup of tea. She is more comfortable in the role of celebrity, and her daughter and husband have been able to cash in, too.

I spent most of 2011 and 2012 reporting from the Republican side of the presidential campaign trail, and covered the brief but heartfelt movement to draft Palin. I can say with certainty that many conservatives who adore Palin’s politics would never vote for her. Because she is, I heard again and again, a “quitter.” Nothing about that has changed. People making noise about a 2016 Palin run are deluded.

She’s not a politician. She’s a figurehead, an attractive face for an angry movement. And she is not without influence. Skillfully surfing the populist sentiment behind the tea party movement, her critique of “crony capitalism” was adopted by Republicans in the 2012 campaign. She’s had a decent record with endorsements.

Since her million-dollar contract with Fox News Network expired in January, she seems to be making money these days on the speaking circuit and by writing books. Her next book, she announced in March, will be about Christmas. Or more specifically, beating the dead horse that is the manufactured “war on Christmas.”

“Amidst the fragility of this politically correct era,” she told the Associated Press in a statement, “it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored.”

For a famously pious former pol, her vulgar language comes as something of a surprise.

In 2011, when the state of Alaska released a cache of Palin emails, many reporters noted the prim language she used to express hot emotions. “Flippin” was a favorite adjective.

Fast forward to 2013. In one 140-character tweet Saturday, Palin managed to slip in two vulgarities. I thought I had encountered just about every coarse noun to describe the power elite of Washington, but her compound word is a new one for me.

Was it funny? Not especially. Was it effective? Well, it got people talking about Palin on a night she’d been forgotten. When you’re a celebrity, any spotlight is a balm.


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