Thursday, September 02, 2010

The nut from the north

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Who's America's biggest political rock star right now?

Who's the woman good Christian people are counting on to swoop in and make America more good . . .
and Christian?

Why, it's an unhinged dingbat diva with a violent temper, a reputation for ruining people who get on her expansive bad side and a growing army of brownshirts to help her do it. It's kind of like if Richard Nixon were meaner, ignorant and people were hopelessly devoted to him.

We learn all this from a blockbuster profile by Michael Joseph Gross in the latest
Vanity Fair. Palinistas are calling it a hit piece; the author is saying it's anything but -- he actually wanted to like the woman and went into the story with some sympathy for her, but facts quickly dictated another narrative.

HERE'S an excerpt (and, according to Gross in the MSNBC interview above, the really shocking stuff got left out):
The intensity of Palin’s temper was first described to me in such extreme terms that I couldn’t help but wonder if it might be exaggerated, until I heard corroborating tales of outbursts dating back to her days as mayor of Wasilla and before. One friend of the Palins’ remembers an argument between Sarah and Todd: “They took all the canned goods out of the pantry, then proceeded to throw them at each other. By the time they got done, the stainless-steel fridge looked like it had got shot up with a shotgun. Todd said, ‘I don’t know why I even waste my time trying to get nice things for you if you’re just going to ruin them.’ ” This friend adds, “As soon as she enters her property and the door closes, even the insects in that house cringe. She has a horrible temper, but she has gotten away with it because she is a pretty woman.” (The friend elaborated on this last point: “Once, while Sarah was preparing for a city-council meeting, she said, ‘I’m gonna put on one of my push-up bras so I can get what I want tonight.’ That’s how she rolls.”) When Palin was mayor, she made life for one low-level municipal employee so miserable that the woman quit her job, sought psychiatric counseling, and then left the state altogether to escape Palin’s sphere of influence—this according to one person with firsthand knowledge of the situation. The woman did not want to be found. When I finally tracked her down, her husband, who answered the phone, at first pretended that I had dialed the wrong number and that the word “Wasilla” had no meaning to him. Palin’s former personal assistants all refused to comment on the record for this story, some citing a fear of reprisal. Others who have worked with Palin recall that, when she feels threatened, she does not hesitate to wield some version of a signature threat: “I have the power to ruin you.”

Palin’s public voice is an instrument of great versatility. In a few moments, she can turn from kind to hateful, rational to unhinged. At her best Palin can be folksy and pungent. But she needs outside help to give her voice its national range. For messaging strategy, Palin relies on William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Fred Malek, who was an aide to Presidents Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush. The lawyer Robert Barnett, the most successful literary agent in Washington—his clients range from Hillary Clinton to Dick Cheney to Tony Blair—negotiated Palin’s reported $7 million advance for Going Rogue, and he helps oversee her speaking schedule, which is arranged by the Washington Speakers Bureau. The small inner circle that shapes Palin’s voice day to day includes lobbyist Randy Scheunemann, a director of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century, who advises Palin on foreign affairs, and Kim Daniels, a lawyer with the Thomas More Law Center, which has been called “the Christian answer to the A.C.L.U.,” who advises her on domestic issues. Palin’s speechwriter is Lindsay Hayes. Doug McMarlin and Jason Recher, both of whom did advance work for George W. Bush, serve as body men and confidants. Both Hayes and Recher were on Palin’s 2008-campaign road team, and both were known for indulging her whims, according to their colleagues. (When John McCain decided to pull out of Michigan, a decision Palin disagreed with, Recher and Palin hatched a plan one day to make an early-morning drive to Michigan anyway. The Secret Service, becoming aware of the plan, asked the McCain campaign what it should do. The answer came: “Shoot out the tires.”) Campaign e-mails indicate that Recher was disrespectful of field staff and support workers. “Our volunteers don’t want to do Palin trips because of the way they are treated by Recher,” wrote one of his supervisors. Of all those who have professional relationships with Palin, only Robert Barnett is generally considered to be at the top of his game, and he is basically just cutting deals, as he would for any client.

Palin’s most unconventional hire is a novice media consultant, Rebecca Mansour, a 36-year-old Los Angeles resident who has been identified in news stories as a screenwriter. Mansour has said that she volunteered for Obama early in the 2008 campaign and then became disillusioned. Not long after the election, with Joseph Russo, a then 23-year-old college student from New Jersey, who would also go to work for Palin, she co-founded the most popular pro-Palin blog, Conservatives4Palin, known informally as C4P (and not to be confused with the “adult swingers” Web site of that name). C4P functions as a hybrid news service, discussion board, and field headquarters for a virtual army of Palin supporters, who pride themselves on brute devotion. “Who We Are and What We Stand For,” a post written by Mansour, declares, “We’re ordinary barbarians here. No one controls us. We’re a horde.” A prominent C4P contributor, Nicole Coulter, told this summer, “We would literally walk across hot broken glass for this woman… She’s our family, and you protect your family; it’s like the mafia.”

On C4P, any journalist or public figure who questions Palin in any way is flicked off as a “creep,” a “hack,” a “loser,” a “storm trooper,” a “liar,” or as just plain “slime.” “I assumed the governor was above that,” says Jay Ramras, an Alaska state legislator who has been a frequent target of the site. “Or at least that there was a Chinese wall between her and these people. But then they crossed over—she hired them.” Mansour’s words have continued to appear on the site occasionally, even after she was formally taken on board by SarahPAC. She used to police C4P message boards for dissenters from the party line and, under the name RAM (her initials, shortened from her earlier, more descriptive handle, RAM Hammer), rip them mercilessly: “Now you are banned for life, you sick son of a bitch.” In one comment string, a woman named Sandra wrote, “I wish Sarah would tell us more about what is involved with caring for Trig. I understand there are many professionals involved in his education and training. If we knew more about this there would be more support for organizations that are involved.” Mansour shot back, “Sandra, what are you implying?,” and the comment string went dead. The nastiness on C4P exists alongside an idealization of the former governor, as displayed in the closing lines of “Who is Sarah Palin?,” an 8,000-word posting by Mansour: “C4P has your back, Governor. And when you finally ride out from the north with your banner lifted high, we’ll rally.”

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