At the tail end of what will be remembered as a restful summer vacation, I picked up a Newsweek magazine. I read through the editorials from the side of my son's Aikido class, and found one, by Howard Fineman, confounding. He felt compelled to respond to the "talk around Washington that Sarah Palin is the reincarnation of Richard Nixon." Mister Fineman wanted the world to know, paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen, that she is no Richard Nixon.
Several moments later, I collected my jaw from the floor and tried to imagine why publishing such an opinion was even necessary. The list of things that Sarah Palin is not is an expansive list, and the fact that she is not comparable to our thirty-seventh president is merely one stop along a lengthy enumeration of differences. For example, Sarah Palin, despite rumors to the contrary, is not a marsupial.
Why then spend any time discussing it? Perhaps the powers that be have determined that if you say any two words in close enough conjunction, humans will start drawing comparisons. That's how advertising works. Like if I were to point out that Governor Palin is a quitter, just like Richard Nixon. And just like Tricky Dick, she harbors a paranoid streak as wide as the Alaskan Tundra. I've got to be careful here, I might just convince myself.
But this truth remains: Richard Nixon spent decades in public service, building his credentials for good and bad. He fought communism from the pumpkin fields of Maryland to the jungles of southeast Asia. He chewed up political rivals and spit them out. He was a machine. He was also the first political figure I was able to demonize. He opened China. All of NASA's moon missions took place during his administration. Defense spending decreased as a percentage of the Gross National Product, while food aid and public assistance rose. Why did I hate him so?
It turns out that, in spite of his own assertion that he was not a crook, he really was. A big mean bully who could eat punks like Karl Rove for breakfast. Sarah Palin is none of those things, good or bad. She approved a bridge to nowhere and got herself into a little "abuse of power" trouble with Troopergate, and before things ever really got ugly, she resigned. Come to think of it, she does remind me of another celebrity: Ryan Leaf.