Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barracuda: The resentments of Sarah Palin

Here is an in-depth article in The New Republic about Palin's early political rise in Wasilla.  The more I learn about her, the more frightened I become: it's not just her ignorance -- it's her hatred of intelligence and reason, not to mention her paranoia, vendettas and resentments.  She's like a cross between Bush and Nixon!

So if it wasn't a sinister garbage conspiracy that put Carney in Palin's crosshairs, what was it? At first glance, the two would have appeared to be allies--both had spent most of their lives in Wasilla and had attended the same high school. But, beyond that, they were sociological opposites in almost every respect. Whereas Palin had bounced around several no-name colleges before graduating from the University of Idaho, Carney held a degree from Dartmouth. Palin seemed preoccupied with her family and church when she entered politics. Carney was preoccupied with histories of the Civil War and World War II (he later contributed a self-published book to the genre) and savored the New York Times crossword puzzle. By the time he joined the city council, Carney had traveled to Asia, Australia, and Central America. He'd run the Anchorage office of Alaska's economic development agency and had served as the state's agriculture director. "I'd dealt with larger budgets by far than the city of Wasilla," he recently told me.

Carney had a wry sense of humor. He was fond of joking that he'd graduated from Wasilla High School in the "top 20 percent"--by which he meant he was valedictorian of his five-person class. Sometimes Palin was the only colleague who didn't get his jokes. "I don't think he had too much patience for her lack of understanding," says John Stein, then the town's mayor. In internal discussions, Carney would be relentlessly logical while Palin was vague and intuitive. "Nick had a way of being direct and to the point, something that Sarah was uncomfortable with," recalls Chase. Which is to say, when it came to garbage removal, what Palin seemed to have chafed against was less the substance of Carney's position than what she felt was his elitist, Ivy League bearing. And, over the next few years, she found ways to get him back.

These days, Palin is engaged in this same fight against elites, though on a considerably larger stage. "I'm not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world," she recently told Katie Couric. "No, I've worked all my life." That hardly makes her the first politician to run on class resentments--nearly every conservative from George W. Bush to Mitt Romney has sought a bond with voters by attacking the over-educated and entitled. But more often than not these conservatives are elites themselves; hence the spectacle of Yale legacies and Harvard millionaires (and most of the Fox News executive suite) railing against wine-swilling sophisticates.

Palin, by contrast, may be the first conservative politician since Nixon to experience resentment so authentically. For her, it's not so much a political tool as a motivating principle. A trip through Palin's past reveals that almost every step of her career can be understood as a reaction to elitist condescension--much of it in her own mind.


The resentments of Sarah Palin.

Noam Scheiber,  The New Republic  Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's unlikely the name Sarah Palin would mean much to anyone if not for a man named Nick Carney. Long before she stood up to Republican cronies and "the good old boys" of Alaska, Palin stood up to Carney, a colleague on Wasilla's city council. As Kaylene Johnson explains in her sympathetic biography, Sarah, Carney had the gall to propose an ordinance giving his own company the city contract for garbage removal. In Johnson's telling, it was the first time Palin bravely spoke truth to power: "'I said no and I voted no,' Sarah said. 'People should have the choice about whether or not to haul their garbage to the dump.'" Johnson writes that Palin's vote made Carney into a "political enemy"--the first of many, it turns out.

The episode might serve as a compelling, if small-bore, example of Palin's reformer instincts. Except that, according to those who were present, Carney wasn't quite the crooked trash magnate Palin makes him out to be. For one thing, Carney couldn't have proposed the ordinance because he'd recused himself from the matter. The council, in fact, had asked him to appear as a kind of expert witness on the relevant rules and regulations. "I looked at it as we actually had an expert on the council sharing the information," recalls Laura Chase, a fellow councilwoman. "Not ... conspiring over a contract. There was no way that was happening."



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