Katha Pollitt’s new book of poems, The Mind-Body Problem, has just been published by Random House.
Going Rogue has been out only a day or two as I write, and I’ve already read so many blogs and columns and articles and reviews and participated in so many listserv discussions about it, I’m sick to death not only of Sarah Palin but of Palin-related snark, outrage, ruminations and fact checks. I don’t want to follow the timeline of Bristol’s pregnancy on Vanity Fair‘s website. I don’t want to delve into how many hockey games this self-described hockey mom actually attended or how many moose she really shot. I don’t want to find out the back story behind her digs at Levi Johnston or the McCain campaign. Fish in a barrel! You know something’s gone off the rails when the ferociously smart Linda Hirshman defends Palin’s charging her $150,000 campaign wardrobe to the McCain campaign (or possibly, depending on whom you believe, not) at the Daily Beast on the grounds that, unlike stylish Michelle Obama, she doesn’t have a rich husband to pay for her clothes–and when writers hammer away at this thesis for seventy posts on a listserv. All right, I admit I wrote several of those posts. And, yes, I am writing this column. What is it about this absurd woman that is so fascinating?
As just about every columnist in the world has noted by now, including me more than once, Palin is a bundle of contradictions: a Christian reactionary who has kind words for Title IX and thinks it’s fine to have a top government job, five kids and a lower-earning husband; a seriously underqualified politician chosen by the desperate John McCain at least partly because of her gender and looks who exploits those assets every chance she gets–but if called on it, accuses her critics of sexism. And you know what? Some of them deserve to be called out! Newsweek‘s cover, for instance, was doubly sexist. The headline How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah? (a cutesy reference to Maria, the madcap novice nun in The Sound of Music) would never have been used for a man. (How do you solve a problem like Bart Stupak? Glenn Beck? Hamid Karzai?) The accompanying photo, originally shot for Runner’s World, showed Palin in running shorts, with a come-hither smile, a beauty-queen curve-accentuating pose, leaning on the flag and holding not one but two BlackBerries: ooh, Patriot Barbie is busy! (The inside is worse: a shot-from-behind pic of her shapely calves and shiny black high-heeled shoes, a plastic Palin doll in schoolgirl pornwear. Oh, women of Newsweek, have you no influence at all with your frat-boy overlords?) But it also has to be said that Runner’s World did not tie Palin up and make her pose like that. Any more than the McCain campaign required her to go unprepared to her interview with Katie Couric, or Levi Johnston forces her to talk trash just because he does. For a person who says “common sense” is all we need to solve our most intractable problems, Palin seems to have very little.