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Is This the End of Sarah Palin As We Know Her?

Has Palin finally tarnished her luster with her thoughtless remarks about the Giffords shooting, or will she turn this into yet another opportunity to play the victim?

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Moreover, there's something pathetic there, too. Even with mainstream media figures like Howard Kurtz defending her from blame over the shooting, she still chose to make such a tragic day and a traumatic incident about herself. Especially when contrasted with Obama’s speech, which was so magnanimous, gentle and rousing, the queen of folksiness looked remarkably out-of-touch, even narcissistic. Kurtz himself expressed dismay over her reaction just days after taking her critics to task, saying she'd "gone nuclear" with her speech.

Others were less measured in their reactions to her behavior. Representative James Clyburn dismissed her as not having the intellect to comprehend the tragedy. Mark Green in the Huffington Post declared her candidacy, and even perhaps her future as a pundit dead. He wrote:

Because she has not shown any of the experience, intellect, character or temperament to be a serious presidential contender -- and because Republican leaders are not politically stupid -- she has now officially been destroyed as a serious candidate not by the "lamestream" media but by herself. She's her own worst enemy.

Palin is backed into a corner. But it is a corner that can be effective for rallying an increasingly vocal, if marginal base. As William Rivers-Pitt wrote at TruthOut this week, “Before you start spluttering and staggering in an attempt to comprehend the sheer galactic magnitude of this new round of idiocy...stop a second and remember that this is how people like Sarah Palin operate. This is how they get others to follow them. They make themselves out to be victims, and convince their followers that they, too, are victims.”

It’s been effective thus far. Melissa Harris-Perry made a similar point in the Nation weeks ago about Palin’s ability to turn apparent political adversity into a payday. “There is something remarkable and frightening about the depth of her belief in her narrative. Every criticism, every defeat, every attack is just evidence of the virtue of her chosen path,” she wrote of Palin’s persona, so compelling even to those who disagree with her.

It’s doubtful that Sarah Palin’s loyal base will turn on her any time soon. And perhaps she’ll continue to seek office with some success, or the media will keep her around for her point of view as they have with known bigot and anti-Semite Pat Buchanan. (Buchanan has softened his tone to that of an avuncular grump, and even he thought Palin should make a statement that she would tamp down her rhetoric for the sake of her career if nothing else.)

And yet, something feels different now.

We wish tragedies like this weekend's never occurred, and no result of them can ever be seen as a positive. But it's a time-honored truth that adversity brings out a person’s true character, for better or worse. For Sarah Palin, it’s definitely been for worse. She won't disappear, but she may have lost some unearned stature that should have been sloughed off long, long ago.

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at sarahmseltzer.com.

 
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