Monday, October 06, 2008

Palin: Another Sociopath

This via Alternet's Peek
By Jill Hussein C., Brilliant at Breakfast

A number of people noticed how, at her debate with Joe Biden the other night, Sarah Palin didn't so much as gaze over at Biden with a look of feigned sympathy when Biden alluded to his own sons' stay in the hospital after the death of his wife and daughter soon after his election to the Senate. Hilzoy wrote about it here. Nice Greek Boy wrote about it too. Simple human decency and kindness warranted some kind of a response. You can bet that if Sarah Palin was recounting a personal tragedy, however obliquely, Biden would have found something comforting to say.

The more I watch Tina Fey play Sarah Palin, the more I begin to realize that no matter how spot-on Fey is, she never really quite captures the cold, hard core at the center of Sarah Palin. Because Fey has a warmth, a light in her eyes that Sarah Palin just doesn't have.

Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited, describes pathological narcissism as:

a pattern of thinking and behaving in adolescence and adulthood, which involves infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of others. It manifests in the chronic pursuit of personal gratification and attention (narcissistic supply), in social dominance and personal ambition, bragging, insensitivity to others, lack of empathy and/or excessive dependence on others to meet his/her responsibilities in daily living and thinking.

Palin's bizarre non-response to Biden's indirect reference to his own experience was jarring coming from someone who presents herself as a paragon of apple pie and American motherhood.

It's always treacherous, especially these days, to ascribe nefarious motives to a woman's ambition, motives that are not questioned when they are attributed to a man. Frank Rich wrote about this ambition today:

But there’s a steady unnerving undertone to Palin’s utterances, a consistent message of hubristic self-confidence and hyper-ambition. She wants to be president, she thinks she can be president, she thinks she will be president. And perhaps soon. She often sounds like someone who sees herself as half-a-heartbeat away from the presidency. Or who is seen that way by her own camp, the hard-right G.O.P. base that never liked McCain anyway and views him as, at best, a White House place holder.

This was first apparent when Palin extolled a “small town” vice president as a hero in her convention speech — and cited not one of the many Republican vice presidents who fit that bill but, bizarrely, Harry Truman, a Democrat who succeeded a president who died in office. A few weeks later came Charlie Gibson’s question about whether she thought she was “experienced enough” and “ready” when McCain invited her to join his ticket. Palin replied that she didn’t “hesitate” and didn’t “even blink” — a response that seemed jarring for its lack of any human modesty, even false modesty.

In the last of her Couric interview installments on Thursday, Palin was asked which vice president had most impressed her, and after paying tribute to Geraldine Ferraro, she chose “George Bush Sr.” Her criterion: she most admires vice presidents “who have gone on to the presidency.” Hours later, at the debate, she offered a discordant contrast to Biden when asked by Gwen Ifill how they would each govern “if the worst happened” and the president died in office. After Biden spoke of somber continuity, Palin was weirdly flip and chipper, eager to say that as a “maverick” she’d go her own way.

But the debate’s most telling passage arrived when Biden welled up in recounting his days as a single father after his first wife and one of his children were killed in a car crash. Palin’s perky response — she immediately started selling McCain as a “consummate maverick” again — was as emotionally disconnected as Michael Dukakis’s notoriously cerebral answer to the hypothetical 1988 debate question about his wife being “raped and murdered.” If, as some feel, Obama is cool, Palin is ice cold. She didn’t even acknowledge Biden’s devastating personal history.

After the debate, Republicans who had been bailing on Palin rushed back to the fold. They know her relentless ambition is the only hope for saving a ticket headed by a warrior who is out of juice and out of ideas. So what if she is preposterously unprepared to run the country in the midst of its greatest economic crisis in 70 years? She looks and sounds like a winner.

I'm quite sure that the Usual Suspects on both the right and the left will be shrieking about Rich's sexism in painting her ambition as being sexist and part of a double standard.

But there's something about Palin's speeches and interviews that I've found unnerving, and this morning I finally realized what it is.

She never, ever talks about the future.


One would think that the mother of four children, including an infant, and the soon-to-be-grandmother of another infant, would use her "hockey mom" persona to frame her ticket's agenda as creating a better world for her children. Barack Obama does it when he talks about his daughters. Joe Biden does it when he talks about his grandchildren. Even Hillary Clinton, a woman who Sarah Palin makes look like Mamie Eisenhower by comparison, did it. Sarah Palin doesn't. And I think I know why.

It's because Sarah Palin doesn't believe there is a future.

Philip Munger at Progressive Alaska recounts a conversation he had with Palin in 1977:
In June 1997, both Palin and I had responsibilities at the graduation ceremony of a small group of Wasilla area home schoolers. I directed the Mat-Su College Community Band, which played music, and she gave the commencement address. It was held at her church, the Wasilla Assembly of God.

Palin had recently become Wasilla mayor, beating her earliest mentor, John Stein, the then-incumbent mayor. A large part of her campaign had been to enlist fundamentalist Christian groups, and invoke evangelical buzzwords into her talks and literature.

As the ceremony concluded, I bumped into her in a hall away from other people. I congratulated her on her victory, and took her aside to ask about her faith. Among other things, she declared that she was a young earth creationist, accepting both that the world was about 6,000-plus years old, and that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time.

I asked how she felt about the second coming and the end times. She responded that she fully believed that the signs of Jesus returning soon "during MY lifetime," were obvious. "I can see that, maybe you can't - but it guides me every day."

Our next discussion about religion was after she had switched to the less strict Wasilla Bible Church. She was speaking at, I was performing bugle, at a Veterans ceremony between Wasilla and Palmer. At this time, people were beginning to encourage her to run for Governor.

Once again, we found ourselves being able to talk privately. I reminded her of the earlier conversation, asking her if her views had changed. She was no longer "necessarily" a young earth creationist, she told me. But she strongly reiterated her belief that "The Lord is coming soon." I was trying to get her to tell me what she felt the signs were, when she had to move on.

Think of the cold, dead look in Sarah Palin's eyes. Think of her bizarre non-response to Joe Biden's tragedy. Now watch about 4:15 into this video:

...when Palin says about Biden's current wife, "I know you're passionate about education, with your wife being a teacher for thirty years, and God bless her, her reward is in heaven, right?"

Go back and watch this video again. Then think about how a mother of four never once on the stump talks about her children's future.

Now imagine that John McCain is elected and dies of a stroke while in office. And this woman now has the nuclear codes.

Then ask yourself, and your friends, just how important a passing acquaintance with William Ayers is when the alternative is a pathological narcissist who's also a believer in the Left Behind model of the apocalypse.

Jill Hussein C. blogs at Brilliant at Breakfast.

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