The Palin Pile-On

The post-election dissection of Sarah Palin

Inspirational election be damned. We’ve heard plenty of inspired rhetoric and historic wonderment. Let’s get on to the good stuff: gossip!

New reporting delivers thrilling behind-the-scenes details to reveal the real Sarah Palin, and it’s a hoot!

Palin didn’t know the countries involved in NAFTA! And that Africa was a continent! She refused coaching for the Couric interview! She opened the door in a towel! She went off the talking points when she brought up Bill Ayers! The vetting process was “truncated”!

This is a heavy dose of gossip, and watching Fox News’s Carl Cameron deliver his report on The O’Reilly Factor, you cannot help but notice his glee. His juicy tidbits were previously held in his off-the-record vault, until the election was over. Now, he’s free to spill.

During the broadcast with O’Reilly and also with Shepard Smith, Cameron reports:

We are told by folks that she didn’t know what countries were in NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, that being Canada, U.S., and Mexico. We’re told that she didn’t understand that Africa was a continent, rather than a country just in itself….

Taking those few seconds to explain what NAFTA stands for, and rattle off its member nations, Cameron illustrates a kind of “duh-everyone-knows-that” derision toward Palin, now that he’s no longer obligated to cover her as a candidate. Andrew Sullivan called Palin “the gift that keeps on giving,” and boy, are his palms itching to do the unwrapping.

The cult of personality surrounding Palin is still going strong. Yet the tone has changed: during the campaign, the press attempted to carefully navigate sensitive topics—Palin’s religion, her daughter’s pregnancy, and so on. But now that the polls are closed, it seems, no need for caution remains. Now, articles stuffed to the brim with quotes from unnamed campaign aides help to write the final chapter of McCain-Palin 2008. Both The New York Times’s expose and Newsweek’s upcoming election recap rely heavily on quotes from anonymous campaign advisors, previously silent during the run-up.

The sourcing itself has inspired its own share of speculation, specifically about Randy Scheunemann’s role in leaking inside info to the Times’s William Kristol. This minor drama is interesting enough, but doesn’t nourish the appetite for gossip as much as do Fox, Newsweek and the Times.

But the retroactive focus on Palin’s flaws serves two purposes: yes, it feeds the gossip mongers, but it also deflects attention from McCain’s failed campaign. For his staffers, blaming Palin is easy; accepting the blame themselves is harder to swallow. After weeks of sitting on these juicy gems, reporters can’t be blamed for wanting to spill. But, I, for one, am looking forward to the serious stuff once the giggles die down.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.