Since the wattage of Palin-mania is currently at full blast, causing rolling blog brown outs, I think it’s worth stepping back for a second and discussing what is and isn’t valuable information when studying a politician’s personal life/biography.
So here’s my running theory on politicians. And here I’m thinking high-level ones. e.g. Someone willing to run for president of the United States in the media age.
In order for someone to be willing to go through the insanity that such a process is, they have to be, well, insane. My baseline assumption is that all such politicians (of whatever political persuasion) have some deep-seated “off” tendencies. I assume they are some pretty emotionally messed up human beings in some pretty key existential areas. [That’s my basic running theory on all human beings btw, it’s just with politicians of that level, they end up with way more power than the normal person.]
Think of these names: Tony Blair, The Clintons, George W. Bush, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and yes the current President. Not lacking in egos those folks, to put it oh so mildly.
But they are still human beings and should be afforded the basic decency, particularly in relation to their families, that such humanity brings.
On the other hand, personal biography matters. This is my second basic principle of politics: people don’t really change, politicians even less so. Call it the political law of karma if you like: the conditions will play out.
As a wise friend of mine once told me, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
With politicians this is oh so true.
As an example, by studying Hillary Clinton’s biography (see Carl Bernstein’s) we learn that she has a pattern of surrounding herself with lackeys, not all of whom do her good. Think Mark “Microtrends” Penn.
That’s a relevant fact when thinking of electing a person. It’s not the only one (and it’s not even the only negative relevant fact in Clinton’s case) but it certainly showed up in the Democratic Primary. Imagine that to the millionth degree if she had become President.
With McCain we know (from his own books) that he likes to grandstand rather than rationally think things through. We also know that he needs some external “juice” to get him motivated–e.g. in his flyboy days that consisted of booze and women, now it’s wars. Those tendencies played themselves out in his crazed reaction to the Russian-Georgia war and the late campaign financial sector blowup. We can only imagine where he would have gone during the Green Revolution uprising (and thank the heavens).
With Obama–the best book on the subject is David Mendell’s From Promise to Power–we would have learned his negative personal tendencies relative to his politics. e.g. His love (fetish?) for bipartisan cover when passing any legislation, his neoliberalism, and his penchant for excessively turning events into “teaching moments” and becoming the know-it-all professor type.
Those are relevant personal facts with regards to how those individuals would actually govern, i.e. their actual political practice.
What are not relevant personal facts–from a political perspective–are the sensational elements that so often become the media focus. With Obama obviously it was the over-hyped Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright connections, unfair attacks on his wife (plus the even more fringe birther nonsense). With Hillary it went from how she read books at Arkansas football games, to questioning of how she handled the fact of her husband’s affair (totally out of bounds), to to the insane conspiracy theories that was complicit in murder.
Similar trajectories could be brought up for George W. Bush and John McCain. Or perhaps at this more pertinent, say a Mike Huckabee (total narcissist and thin-skinned egomaniac), Mitt Romney (flakey, robotic, slime-oozing dude who will say anything and believe anything and stands for nothing except kleptocratic power).
And that brings us back to Sarah Palin.
I think a political-biographical study of Palin (focused on her flaws) reveals that she tolerates no dissent or questioning of her authority from within her inner circle. She always wants to do whatever she wants to do–and any attempts to get her to play ball (see the McCain campaign) don’t work. She, like Hillary, has trouble with “truth”…or if you prefer, she seems to see truth as what she think it is (or knows it to be) and those who point out alternative takes are simply “haters.”
Also I think it fair to say she’s not much interested in studying events outside the US, or even things within the US that don’t accord to her “real America” version of things–other than for criticizing purposes I suppose. She possesses that George W. Bush lack of curiosity or self-reflective openness. To be fair, in Bush’s case, in private he actually sort of does possess that but for political reasons (i.e. for his base) played his cowboy tough-guy act. With Palin I’m afraid, it’s no act.
All of those are relevant facts to be assessed along with positive personal characteristics, one’s political party affiliation and point of view, and so on when voting.
What are not relevant facts–i.e. the over-hyped ultimately useless tabloid sensationalist drama–in the case of Palin are things like:
–Her feud with Levi
–The (Trig) pregnancy stuff
–What clothes she wears or how her hair looks
–Basically anything to do with her family and/or marriage and/or child-rearing.
Now it could be said that she has drug her children into this media circus and put her family in the spotlight, so they are fair game. Even if that is correct factually, and I’m not totally convinced it is, to me it doesn’t matter. The family should always be left alone because they have no impact on how the person will govern or not govern. That is what we elect them for, not so they became social scapegoats upon whom we can cast our projections of both fulfillment and demonization.
I’ve never understood emotionally the visceral hatred of a Palin or Bush or Obama by people. I can conceptually grasp that such reactions are simply the playing out of people’s own bullshit patterning which is usually being excited by various media hype-mongers, that somehow what matters in politics is identity, “our team” versus “your team”, good and bad guys (or gals). But still…..man I don’t get it. And what I really don’t get is how to get people out of those reactive emotional political patterns. Probably can’t be done on a large scale, which is why we are where we are.
* I should also mention, when voting for a President, I only ever vote on the foreign policy of the candidate. For one, I don’t live in the US, so I’m not sure it’s right for me to vote on decisions that will affect domestic policy which I’m not there for. Second, I don’t think Presidents should have any real impact on domestic policy other than signing into law and/or vetoing legislation that the Congress passes. I think President’s should only have real impact on foreign policy. Since my own personal foreign policy views have no chance of ever getting anywhere near the presidency of the US, I simply end up voting the less bad choice (as I see it) relative to foreign policy.