Has Sarah Palin Finally Gone Too Far?
As she loses respect by the second due to her outrageous insertion of her own agenda into the Tucson tragedy, Sarah Palin is digging herself in deeper and deeper by pushing the credibility-lacking narrative of her own victimization. It’s gotten so bad that even folks on her side of the political line are vocally calling for her to stand down and be quiet for a while. A few conservatives like Karl Rove have slammed Palin before, and now others are joining in and actively warning her to watch what she says.
“Dear everyone in the world: no one is as unfairly persecuted as me, perennial victim Sarah Palin.” At least that's what Palin, our nation’s consummate narcissist-patriot, appears to believe based on a new interview which aired Monday night. The televised chat with Sean Hannity was her first since last week’s shameful “blood libel” comments; during its course, the infamous tweeter of “Don't Retreat; RELOAD” held true to her credo.
On her Fox coworker Hannity’s show, Palin expressed some cursory condolences for the Tucson victims before launching into her defense of her PAC's notorious “crosshairs” map that targeted several congresspeople, including Gabrielle Giffords. Inexplicably, she offered this verbal gem:
“My defense wasn't self-defense. It was about defending those falsely accused. Soon the entire state of Arizona was being falsely accused of somehow being accessories to this." “
Cockles up, she accused the left of being afraid of her “message” that America is on “the wrong track.” After Hannity asked her whether the political fallout from the map affected her political future, she quoted Dr. Martin Luther King and compared his struggle to her own... on MLK Day. Then, she defended herself from accusations that she was responsible for Tucson -- thus far there is no connection between Jared Lee Loughner and Palin or the Tea Party -- but then did exactly what she lambastes the media for, and lied about his “left-wing” beliefs. So in Palinspeak, when Loughner’s possible influence by the paranoid Tea Party talk-radio culture are brought up, it’s “blood libel.” But it’s okay to bring up his “left-wing” beliefs, apparently. She’s always been a hypocrite, but here it’s more blatant than ever.
But the worst part of her interview was on the 'blood libel' scandal. Hannity asked Palin her opinion of her critics in the 'Jewish community.' Palin's response completely ignored the proven fact that “Blood Libel” is a specific term with specific origins and connotations, namely the horrible and pervasive Medieval lie about Jewish people using Christian children’s blood to make Passover Matzos. Instead of acknowledging this historical fact in any way, she said: “I think the critics, again, were using anything that they could gather out of that statement... you can spin up anything out of any statements that are released and use them against the person who is making the statement.... that term has been used for eons, Sean.”
She then promised she wouldn't “sit down” or “shut up” and alluded to her possible decision to run for president. (Watch the video at the bottom of the piece.)
This interview demonstrates that as suspected, Palin believes that refusing to give up and “reloading” will serve her well in the long-term and keep her extremely loyal and vocal band of right-wing supporters at her side. Certainly, this strategy has worked until now.
But her words this week may not have gotten her the kind of publicity she seeks. As we noted last week, Palin is an expert at turning the narrative in her favor, not just by portraying herself as a victim--but also by garnering publicity via well-timed provocative comments. This time, however, instead of inspiring outrage or fury or attacks, she’s inspiring calls for her to step away and be quiet, to think things through.
This response does not paint her as a victim standing up for herself. Rather, it paints her as an embarrassment, a narcissist who can’t stop herself.
Indeed, “she should just stop talking now,” said conservative David Frum on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show Monday. He added that “that one video released should have been the end of it,” even though said video was a “disaster.”
Even Newt Gingrich got in a word of warning before returning to calling Palin a “phenomenon.” "Well, I think that she's got to slow down and be a lot more careful, and think through what she's saying and how she's saying it," Gingrich said on a Good Morning America appearance. "There's no question that she's become more controversial.”
And her defense of her use of the term ‘Blood Libel ‘is hardly winning her friends in the Jewish community. At Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic blog, Goldberg highlighted a reader’s comment that by defining the term away from its racist origins, Palin is doing history a disservice.
Even the public winds seem to be shifting, at least slightly. According to a USA Today Poll, Palin’s stature has plummeted to a new low:
“Sarah Palin's favorable rating dropped to 38%, the lowest since just after bursting onto the national scene as John McCain's running mate in 2008. In the wake of controversy over her response to the Tucson shooting, her unfavorable rating hit a new high, 53%.”
In fact, her relentless defense may be making her look more culpable. CNN poll also showed that a significant portion of Americans--35 %--put either a “Great deal” or “moderate” amount of blame for the shooting on Palin’s “reload: map. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that Americans think this map was directly responsible for the shooting--which it most definitely is not--but it’s a bad number for Palin. It’s certainly worth pondering whether Palin’s over-defensiveness of the map may actually be contributing to a perception of blame.
What might have happened if she'd simply apologized, said the map had nothing to do with the shooting, but agreed to avoid such symbolism out of respect? The present conversation about her political and public future might not be happening.
Of course, we should never underestimate the ability of someone so unendingly determined to bounce back and not be ignored. But Sarah Palin seems to be doing the best job she can right now of ruining her own reputation, unique though that reputation may have been. Instead of patiently waiting to climb out of the hole, she’s digging herself in deeper.