Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Field Dressed

UPDATE--Nov. 7: The revelations regarding Palin not only by the McCain team, but by Newsweek in their extensive Election Project--containing detailed revelations held until after the election (the extent of her role in the shopping spree, where she actually asked low level aides to purchase clothing for her on their own personal credit cards; her not being aware that Africa was a continent)--support many of the issues of impulsivity, lack of deliberative thought, and self-directed behavior that were described, before these revelations, below, as well as here, and provide some indication of the considerable recklessness of the Palin choice--and the risk we managed to thwart.--AJL

When I heard of Sarah Palin's unprecedented clothing and makeup costs, my thoughts went to three areas.

First--the way in which her ambition overshadows all. John Bitney, an important aide to Palin, who has known her since high school, and served in a central position in her Gubernatorial campaign, has noted the persistence of that ambition throughout her career. It is unique, even among politicians I have seen, in that there seems to be absolutely no hesitation between thought and utterance--indeed, there seems to be no thought, just a fierce competitiveness and drive to win from which words emerge, ordered around a long determined and certain world view.

For Palin, there is no contradiction between saying that one is representative of average "hockey moms" and fervently going on a RNC funded shopping spree the likes of which has never been seen in Vice Presidential candidate history. Why? Because both are right. Why? Because that's what good people do--and we are good. And beneath--reflecting the absolutely stubborn and fierce determination that defines her--I'm going to have what I think is right, and do what I need to win.

Second--I thought of the hoarding mentality that can emerge when some are presented with unexpected, rare opportunity that might be snatched away--to take advantage of the moment while they can, to reap the spoils while they are before you, to use all parts of the animal. Such an impulse no doubt contributed to the splurge, and stood in such stark contradiction to the campaign's message that it was necessary to later state that the stockpile would be donated to Charity after the campaign.

Why this charitable spirit did not accompany the initial purchases went unaddressed, as did the thoughts of the Joe and Jane plumbers who had contributed to the campaign without the intention of purchasing a red leather jacket from Saks. However, they were out of sight and she was likely as determined in mind as always-- to shop with the best of them, with the enthusiasm vigor and competitiveness that is her hallmark. Have no doubt--if McCain were to win and Palin were to become President, there would be a good deal of this type of impulsive, unconsidered action--and an unprecedented amount of cleaning up of the messes left behind.

Third, I recalled a statement made last week--that Palin's handlers have to keep her from becoming depressed upon learning of negative press coverage.

I found this particularly important. When you look at Palin, you see a constant dynamic: a millisecond of anxiety--how did I get here, I don't know this, what I am supposed to do--met immediately by the instant determined response--this is what I will say, this is what I will do, and I will say it as fast as I can, even before I think about it, I already know that it is true.

Like an undersized and combative guard in basketball, the emphasis is on the quick cut, fast and direct--not whether it is right, but whether it is quick, certain, charming, and made. If she says it fast enough, she can never be caught.

This is admirable as a scrappy basketball player and no doubt contributes to affection for her--but in a job which requires thought, it is disastrous. When so much is based on the immediate, unconsidered impulse--the fusion of what is "good" and what is good for me; nothing receives deliberate, planned thought, and all too often, as in this case, we'll just have to fix it afterward.

Like McCain, she is supremely unreflective. Restive, dissatisfied with deliberation and direction, determined to do things her own way, appearing to itch to strike out immediately on her own--as she has begun to do several times in this latter part of the campaign--she will act on these impulses. If depressed, she will act on the basis of that depression, immediately reactive, without thinking of its impact and contribution to her actions.

For Palin, there is no contradiction, no incongruity, between defiantly avowing her stance as an everyday "hockey mom", fighting for the "Average Joes" against the elitists, and marching into Neiman Marcus armed for $75,000 of subsidized shopping. Both are done with the drive, immediacy and action that are permitted through the removal of consideration or thought--e.g., buy, baby, buy.

Given this, if McCain were elected and Palin to become President, a $150,000 shopping spree might be the least of our concerns.

UPDATE: As predicted, McCain adviser stated today that Palin is "going rogue", increasingly striking out on her own.