A Palin of Their Own

How often does Caroline Kennedy say “You know”? Cuffy Meigs of Perfunction has a video running tally of her ubiquitous verbal tic here.

Someone really needs to do a head-to-head of Caroline’s you know’s against Obama’s sans teleprompter Uh’s.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video is certainly worth more than the dozen or so silly columns in recent weeks comparing liberal darling Caroline to liberal nemesis Sarah Palin.

Pseudo-conservative pundit Kathleen Parker posed the question a few weeks ago:

It is a legitimate question: Why is the resume-thin Caroline Kennedy being treated seriously as a prospective appointee to the U.S. Senate when the comparatively more-qualified Gov. Sarah Palin received such a harsh review?

It is legitimate, at least, to those inclined to see apples and oranges as essentially the same.

Full article here

Parker concludes that the difference in treatment afforded Kennedy vis-à-vis Palin is warranted given the extreme “power differential of the respective offices being sought”.

Ironically, for someone who frames her entire argument around the apples to oranges cliché, Parker herself is hoist by her own petard (to borrow a hackneyed cliché of my own). Once you get past the umpteenth iteration of obligatory Palin slams comprising 70% of the piece, Parker’s argument essentially boils down to this:

In the meantime, a Sen. Caroline Kennedy would not be a nuclear-enabled leader of the free world, whereas a Vice President Sarah Palin might have been.

As such, they are as apples to … zebras. Their treatment has been commensurate with that difference.

Ironically, Parker views the “apples to . . . zebras” difference between a New York Senate seat and the Vice Presidency solely in terms of their respective proximity to the Presidency. One wonders what great things Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, Hillary’s predecessor in her ignominious office, might have accomplished had he and Dan Quayle switched places.

Of course, any comparison of Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Palin is patently ridiculous and grossly unfair — to Governor Palin.

If there’s any truth to the stale liberal joke that President Bush was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple, what can one say about a Presidential daughter and Onassis heiress with an estimated $400 million net worth whose professional experience consists of serving for free on various non-profit boards (such as the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation) and a $1 per year part-time fund raising job for New York City’s public schools?

Palin is the anti-Kennedy in every sense, which is why liberals and faux conservative pundits like Parker despise her. As Paul Fussell meticulously illustrates in his superb study, Class: A Guide Through the American Status System:

“You can outrage people today simply by mentioning social class, very much the way, sipping tea among the aspidistras a century ago, you could silence a party by adverting too openly to sex. . .

Actually, you reveal a great deal about your social class by the amount of annoyance or fury you feel when the subject is brought up. A tendency to get very anxious suggests that you are middle-class and nervous about slipping down a rung or two. . .

If you reveal your class by your outrage at the very topic, you reveal it also by the way you define the thing that’s outraging you. At the bottom, people tend to believe that class is defined by the amount of money you have. In the middle, people grant that money has something to do with it, but think education and the kind of work you do almost equally important. Nearer the top, people perceive that taste, values, ideas, style, and behavior are indispensible criteria of class, regardless of money or occupation or education.”

Gov. Palin’s well-publicized personal story of achievement from modest beginnings is a quintessentially American success story in the tradition of Horatio Alger tales from the 19th century. Her authenticity and charisma explain her obvious appeal — for some of us at least.

For Parker and others, some parts of Gov. Palin’s story — such as her attending numerous community colleges before completing her bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism from the University of Idaho — represent an affront to their cherished — albeit unexamined — class prejudices and sensibilities. To such people, the Girl who would be Senator’s wealth and pedigree trump any actual accomplishments from upstarts like Sarah. In their eyes, Princess Caroline’s Columbia Law degree merely gives objective confirmation to their presumption of her superior intellect, just as Sarah’s less than stellar education somehow proves her inferiority.

Never mind that Sarah was thrust into the hostile limelight and 24/7 media scrutiny and emerged with so few real scars that pseudo-scandals and gaffes had to be manufactured against her. Never mind that Caroline’s “deer in the headlights” moments happened before fawning interviews with a friendly media, rather than the withering and witless inquisitions Palin endured from Charles Gibson and Katie Couric.

There’s a singular provincial mindset that grows not in Brooklyn, but in certain affluent neighborhoods of Manhattan. It is encapsulated in a famous Hirschfeld sketch Saul Steinberg cover of The New Yorker that depicts the native New Yorker’s view of the world from 9th Avenue. At the forefront are the avenues of the Upper West Side. Above these are lesser shapes representing the Hudson River, followed by the hinterlands of New Jersey, then the rest of the U.S. (“flyover country”), with the Pacific Ocean and China, Japan and Russia included almost as an afterthought. Apropos of Tina Fey’s SNL Palin impersonation, in the Steinberg sketch, you really can see Russia from Caroline Kennedy’s house.

new yorker cover

The late Scott Peck used to say that we all have our maps of reality, which are only as good as how well they represent reality. Those who view the world through Steinberg’s prismatic map tend to get uppity and upset when the Sarahs of the world venture beyond their assigned insignificant parts of the map and try to upstage the Carolines from their rightful place at the center of Everything.


2 Responses to A Palin of Their Own

  1. Nando says:

    Methinks that it was a Saul Steinberg sketch, but don’t let facts get in the way of a good story… 🙂

  2. Ed says:

    Thanks Nando. Noted and corrected!

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