Newsweek used this photograph of Sarah Palin as this week's cover shot.
The headline reads, "How do you solve a problem like Sarah? She's bad news for the GOP--and for everybody else, too."
It's a damned good question, and I couldn't think of a better image to make the point.
Palin posed for this picture as part of a photo essay captioned Governor Palin, The Runner, which ran in the August issue of Runner's World. When I saw this image in its original context, I was appalled that a sitting governor would pose for a shot like this; or this stretching shot that puts the visual center of gravity squarely on her crotch.
Maybe Palin didn't realize that the photographer, Brian Adams, was depicting her this way. If so, he totally fucked her over. But I think she was on board with the concept. If Palin had assailed Runner's World for making fun of her, I might now take her complaint about Newsweek seriously. She liked the Runner's World spread, though. She thought it was appropriate. [NB: In an earlier version of this post, I misspelled Brian Adams' name "Bryan Adams." Today, I got an email from a firm called Web Sheriff telling me that they'd take legal action if I didn't apologize to the rock star Bryan Adams and ACI for any injury I might have caused to his reputation. So, I sincerely apologize to Bryan Adams. I wouldn't want my name associated with these ridiculous pictures either.]
There's nothing scandalous about Palin showing some skin, or wearing Spandex. But this cover image is deliberately styled to make the then-governor of Alaska look like a Vargas pinup girl. Unlike the other images in the series, this one references her status as a governor. As she poses like a swimsuit model, she's clutching one icon of political power--the Blackberry--and leaning on another. The theme isn't Sarah Palin, athlete. The theme is Sarah Palin, Sexy Governor. (As in: one of those dime store Halloween costumes: sexy cop, sexy lady bug, sexy sanitation worker...)
Predictably, Palin complained that Newsweek's use of the image was sexist. Yes, the image was plucked from its original context. The whole point was that the picture was appalling it its original context. Newsweek is holding this picture up to the world and asking: Who does this?
The bottom line is that Palin's a clown. She doesn't get a pass because her chosen clown persona is stereotypically feminine.
She caricatures herself. Day in and day out. Good for Newsweek for pointing and laughing.
The story is about why Sarah Palin is a problem for the GOP. The picture answers the question. She's a problem because she's a freak with no judgment who regularly makes a spectacle of herself. Obviously, she's a potential problem for America because she's an incompetent leader who supports terrible policies. But that's not Newsweek's question.
Newsweek's question is why she's bad for the GOP. The answer is that she's dragging down her party because it's impossible for adults to take her seriously. Not because she's beautiful or maternal or fit, but rather because she has no decorum, no dignity, and no common sense. I mean look at her, she's working the goofy MILF persona like that's a perfectly normal thing for a governor with presidential aspirations to be doing.
Palin's not even bad news for her party because she's ignorant or radically reactionary. Lots of American politicians are both and they do just fine. Palin has the double whammy of being ignorant and absurd. She's absolutely not ready for prime time. John McCain plucked her from obscurity as a publicity stunt and he lived to rue the day.
The tighter the wingnut base embraces her, the more clownish they reveal themselves to be.