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welcome to hollywoodn't
the unreal summer of sanford and sarah
by michelle von euw

For a brief moment before The Summer of Gosselin took a sharp right turn into The Summer of Dead Celebrities, we detoured into The Summer of Unstable Republican Governors. Members of the Grand Old Party have become a dying breed: not quite irrelevant on the national political scene, but certainly approaching it. Which means that in 2-4 years, the conservatives will be in a prime position to capitalize on whatever drama and despair ails our country circa 2011.

So really, all that the young, charismatic, popular rising GOP stars had to do was sit back, run their politically irrelevant states, brush up on their foreign policy knowledge, and establish their PACs. To keep the base happy, maybe throw in a few appearances at pro-life fundraisers, balancing this with a few thoughtful and hard line appearances on the Sunday morning shows to keep their names in the public eye.

It would have been so easy for Mark Sanford, and especially Sarah Palin, to follow the script for the next two years. The opportunity was there for both of them; all either of them had to do was not engage in the type of bizarrely entertaining political suicide that has unfolded from opposite ends of the country.

In the beautiful South, we have Sanford acting like the hero of one of those half-rate romantic comedies where Patrick Dempsey realizes on his wedding day that Sandra Bullock, and not the uptight bitch with the British accent waiting for him at the far end of the aisle, is his true love. The story that began with Sanford playing hooky from his job as South Carolina governor for several days just got more and more bizarre. He was hiking the Appalachian Trail! No, he was in Argentina with his mistress! Thanks to Sanford's bizarrely teenage-boy-like desire to confess everything he's ever felt and done to as many cameras and microphones that can be shoved in front of him, we now know a whole lot about his view on the horrible hokey concept of soul mates (he's got one! And it's not the wife he hopes to stay married to!) as well as way too much information about his sex life, or his almost sex life.

It may sound like the plot of a high-concept summer chick flick, but this ain't no Hollywood movie, and Mark Sanford sure as hell isn't Patrick Dempsey.

As of right now, Sanford is insisting he'll keep his job and his wife, but chances are, the other people involved in those decisions will make sure that neither of those things happens, and maybe, just maybe, Sanford will learn to shut up. I fear we won't be so lucky with the Governor of Alaska, however.

After her meteoric rise to international prominence last fall, Sarah Palin certainly may have enraged a lot of people with her lack of knowledge and experience, and her stunning ability to act out her career as if caught in the middle of a "Saturday Night Live" skit. But realistically, most of those people weren't going to vote for her anyway. And the Palin criticisms were much less severe than, for example, those that swirled around a certain Texas Governor back in the late 1990s. Since the GOP's failed bid at a third consecutive White House term (and, if rumors are to believed, even before the election), Palin had been positioning herself for national office in the near distant future.

But something bizarre happened between November and now: suddenly, it seemed like the savvy politician from Wasilla was anything but that. Instead of continuing to run Alaska -- a job so easy, she did it while campaigning for Vice President -- and hiring advisers well-schooled in international affairs, she picked a series of very public fights with everyone from the teenage father of her grandson to David Letterman.

When Palin spoke to the media, which she did, often, she came across as self-righteous, easily offended, and someone ready to make a much bigger deal about the issue at hand than it deserved, whether over a stupid joke or about the use of the word "rumor."

The Summer of our Governor's Discontent culminated in a rambling, bizarre, nonsensical resignation from her current job, during which she made two sports extended analogies and zero sense. If Sanford was the wanna-be hero of a Reese Witherspoon movie, Palin was the disgraced sports hero trying his best to explain exactly why he won't be playing anymore, which of course has nothing to do with the drug test he just failed.

On one hand, we can bid Sarah Palin and her various children and her Tina Fey glasses and her common folk/common sense talking points good bye and good riddance. On the other hand, my fear is that Palin is too politically connected, too tuned in to something some sub-section of this nation wants, or will want in three years, and that instead of getting a one-term governor making big time decisions, we'll get a woman who couldn't even manage that, one who used the eighteen months left on the job to instead build the rhetoric of offense-taking into something much more dangerous.

Apart from that, there's another issue that nags me. I am not a conservative, and I'm pretty damn far from anything the soon-to-be-former governor stands for politically, but part of me is kind of sad to all the wasted potential Sarah Palin represents. The one thing I believe more than anything else is that we need more women in politics, on all areas of the political spectrum, and it was kind of nice to think there was a woman out there who could apparently succeed both politically and still be a mother and wife, which is a very powerful ideal for someone like me. I disagree with pretty much everything Palin stands for -- from her stance on the use of Alaskan oil to her willingness to use her children as political footballs when it most suited her -- but I want there to be more leaders like her in one sense. I want to see more women succeed in power, even if I don't support their politics.

Mark Sanford can't stay committed to his wife, but Sarah Palin can't stay committed to her job.

It'll be interesting to see which is viewed ultimately as a worse crime.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

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russ carr
7.8.09 @ 3:10p

Apparently Jenny Sanford is pretty politically savvy her own self; perhaps moreso than her idiot husband. Almost certainly moreso than Sarah Palin. She's got serious chops in management, campaigning and advising.

If she (and the good people of South Carolina) would kick the Gov to the curb, I think the First Lady would be a better than average candidate to replace him at the next election. There's your strong woman, 'Chelle... even if, to your dismay, she's a Republican.

michelle von euw
7.9.09 @ 10:05a

Yeah, Jenny Sanford is an interesting one -- she seems to be refusing to play the complacent, forgiving wife role that's unfortunately become the norm in these situations. And did you skip my big long paragraph where I said I want to see more women in power regardless of party affiliation, Russ?


russ carr
7.9.09 @ 12:18p

Oh, I didn't skip it. It's like... I'd like more free beer. But as long as it's free, could it be a porter, and not a lager?


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