What an embarrassment to see the news media go after Sarah Palin’s emails lie vultures. Embarrassing for them.
Toby Harnden of the U.K. Telegraph writes:
The trove of more than 13,000 emails detailing almost every aspect of Sarah Palinâ€™s governorship of Alaska, released late on Friday, paints a picture of her as an idealistic, conscientious, humorous and humane woman slightly bemused by the world of politics.
One can only assume that the Left-leaning editors who dispatched teams of reporters to remote Juneau, the Alaskan capital, to pore over the emails in the hope of digging up a scandal are now viewing the result as a rather poor return on their considerable investment.
If anything, Mrs Palin seems likely to emerge from the scrutiny of the 24,000 pages, contained in six boxes and weighing 275 pounds, with her reputation considerably enhanced. As a blogger at Powerline noted, the whole saga might come to be viewed as â€œan embarrassment for legacy mediaâ€.
Mrs Palin, who suddenly resigned as Alaska governor in July 2009, is no longer a public official. She holds no position in the Republican party. Despite the media hubbub that surrounds her every move, she is unlikely to be a candidate for the White House in 2012.
She is, however, viewed with a kind of horrified fascination by many in the media, who faithfully records everything she says and does while at the same time decrying her as ignorant and even evil.
Whether or not she runs for the White House â€“ and the solid consensus among Republican leaders is that she wonâ€™t â€“ the scramble over the Palin emails confirms her status as a pivotal figure in the race to challenge President Barack Obama next year.
It comes at a moment when the battle for the Republican nomination appears set to be transformed by the late entry of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a social conservative and Palin ally who could almost immediately leap to the front of a currently lacklustre field.
Sources close to Mr Perry have confirmed that he is â€œhighly likelyâ€ to announce a presidential run in the coming days. Intriguingly, they have also hinted at a something they believe would increase immeasurably Mr Perryâ€™s chances of winning the White House â€“ an endorsement from Mrs Palin.
On policy, Mrs Palin and Mr Perry, who succeeded George W Bush in 2000 and has since become the longest-serving governor in Texas history, are in almost perfect alignment. In addition, they are both beloved of the Tea Party, highly suspicious of Washington and physically attractive (Mr Perry is often likened to the Marlboro Man), charismatic figures.
Mrs Palin has repeatedly said that she believes Mr Obama can be defeated and that she will do everything to achieve that. With her popularity among independent voters very low, despite the intensity of her core support, throwing her weight behind a stronger candidate would be a better way of preserving her political capital and earning power than being one of the losing candidates in the Republican primaries.
The notion of Mrs Palin as White House kingmaker would have seemed wildly improbable if anyone had raised it before August 2008.
It was then that she was catapulted to international fame by Senator John McCainâ€™s surprise decision to make her his vice-presidential running mate. Her reaction? â€œCan you flippinbelieveit?!â€
This was a world, as the emails reveal, in which the then Alaska governor fretted about things like there being alcohol in her official residence, that might be a temptation to the teenage friends of her children.
In May 2007, she sought help from her staff in keeping the alcohol in the governorâ€™s mansion away from young people, stating that it should be boxed up and â€œremoved from the Peopleâ€™s Houseâ€ â€“ both for practical reasons and as a statement about her administration.
â€œHereâ€™s my thinking: with so many kids and teens coming and going in that house, esp during this season of celebrations for young people â€“ proms, graduations, etc, I want to send the msg that we can be â€“ and â€˜the Peopleâ€™s Houseâ€™ needs to be â€“ alcohol-free. Thereâ€™s a lot of booze there â€“ its too accessible and may be too tempting to any number of all those teens coming and going.â€
In a February 2007 exchange, one adviser recommended that when she was in Washington she meet Pete Rouse, a Senate official who had lived in Alaska. â€œHeâ€™s now chief-of-staff for a guy named Barack Obama,â€ the aide wrote, adding that Mr Rouse â€œwants to help Alaska however he canâ€. Far from shrinking at the idea of conferring with a Democrat, Mrs Palin replied: â€œIâ€™m game to meet him.â€
The emails will finally confirm â€“ in all but the darkest recesses of the world of Left-wing conspiracy theories â€“ that Mrs Palin is, in fact, the mother of her youngest son Trig, who has Downâ€™s Syndrome.
After relentless promotion by Andrew Sullivan, the British blogger who now works for Daily Beast/Newsweek, of the proposition that the mother was in fact Mrs Palinâ€™s daughter Bristol, a teenager at the time, the subject had become part of mainstream debate.
The emails show Mrs Palinâ€™s determination to protect Bristol but also her desire for a degree of privacy. â€œI wish I could shame people into ceasing such gossip about a teen, but I canâ€™t figure out how to do that,â€ she wrote.
Communications from her children and husband make her family appear close and loving.
An email from Bristol, referring to her younger sister, said: â€œHello Mother, Um, Iâ€™m sitting in library and I really thing you need to get Piper a cell phone!! Wouldnâ€™t that be so adorable! She could text me while she was in class!! Itâ€™s a done deal right?! Perfect! Ok, I will talk to you later and I need some cash flow! Love ya!â€
To an extent, the emails remind Americans of the person they saw take the state at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota nearly three years ago â€“ refreshing, plain-speaking, open and uncomplicated.
Since then, her image has hardened into one of a brittle, even paranoid, politician who seethes with resentment, feels aggrieved and entitled and is intent on pursuing celebrity even at the expense of her family.
Mrs Palin as a person has become so remote that it is hard for to assess how much, if any, of that widely-held caricature has a basis in truth. The email release could mark the end of a chapter of what conservatives have termed â€œPalin Derangement Syndromeâ€. Her enemies in the media appear to have overplayed their hand.
Expressing a sentiment that will resonate with many, Greta Van Susteren, a Fox News anchor who is close to Mrs Palin, argued that she had been subjected to â€œa media colonoscopyâ€ by news organisations on â€œa mission to destroyâ€.
With a film entitled The Undefeated, chronicling Mrs Palinâ€™s rise to prominence, about to air, the former Alaska governor is doubtless hoping that harsher perceptions of her can be blunted.
Probably the person who has damaged her most, apart from perhaps the CBS anchor Katie Couric who elicited blank stares when she asked what Mrs Palin read, was Tina Fey, the Saturday Night Live comedienne and impersonator.
It was Fey who seared into the popular imagination the Palin phrase: â€œI can see Russia from my house!â€ Mrs Palin had never said any such thing but it encapsulated the feeling that she was frivolous and lacked any foreign policy credentials.
Three days later, a staffer called Patrick Galvin emailed Mrs Palin saying: â€œMy suggestion is you offer to go on SNL and play Tina Fey, and you interview her as she plays you.â€
Feyâ€™s impersonation was so powerful that the two women are inseparable in some minds. Fox News, for which Mrs Palin works on a lucrative contract as a commentator, recently aired a picture of fey instead of Mrs Palin by mistake.
Perhaps now might the time for Mrs Palin to take up Mr Galvinâ€™s suggestion.