Travels with Sarah

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  October 24, 2008

Palin, of course, was a beauty-pageant participant (while McCain has oft commented that he “never won Miss Congeniality in the Senate,” Palin won that title in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest), now plucked from obscurity to be in a position to advise the powerful should John McCain become president.

The big question, of course, is for what vital role — what “time such as this” — is Palin being groomed?

One common theory among the Christian cognoscenti is that, just as Esther stopped a threat in Persia to wipe out the Jews, Palin must stop a threat from modern-day Persia — Iran — to wipe out Israel (which would be anathema to conservative Christians, who believe Jews must control that land when Christ returns).

Jon Wiener, blogging last month on thenation.com, took note of this suggestion and pointed out that, in the Biblical account, Esther also got the king to grant the Jews the right “to destroy, to slay . . . every people and province that oppress them,” including women and small children. Wiener suggests that, to the Christian fundamentalists, the Book of Esther appears to authorize the bombing of Iran — regardless of civilian casualties.

Others in the Christian blogosphere are speculating that Palin’s Esther-like purpose will be to intercede within her own country, to protect her own people: that is, Saved Christians, who believe themselves under siege on all sides by secularists. “Our freedom to worship God, and our biblical values are under attack like never before in our country,” wrote William H. Carney, author of the small religious-press book How Would Jesus Vote?, in considering the Palin-as-Esther question. “God has positioned Sarah to serve as a standard against the enemies’ onslaught.”

Still others insist that Palin is being placed by God to stop what they see as the ongoing Holocaust of our time: abortion.

A less comfortable query regards the role of Haman in this analogy. Fortunately, nobody seems to be suggesting that Palin’s nemesis must be lynched this time around. Still, probably best to keep those signs outside the gate.

That’s where the hate is
On the campaign trail, Palin has a remarkable ability to project genuineness through the least genuine of activities. It takes a rare politician to make that common-touch connection of authenticity when reading speeches from a teleprompter. Palin has that gift.

She is immensely likable on the stump. She maintains a winning, unstrained smile through hours of repetitious nonsense, and an air of intelligence and competence in spite of her odd, Northern Plains twang and folksy mannerisms (the latter of which include cocking her head when asking a rhetorical question and spinning circles with her fingers to emphasize a point).

She can also deliver the meanest of insults with gusto. That skill, unfortunately, was deliberately hidden during her day in New Hampshire, checked at the door like the objectionable signs. Apparently, the campaign wanted to rein her in, to avoid controversy before the final presidential debate to be held that evening.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Palin did not refer to Obama “palling around with terrorists,” her rote talking point about former Weather Underground member William Ayers. She did not call Obama or his ideas “socialist,” as she has taken to doing in the week since her New Hampshire stump stops.

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