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Getting Bitter All the Time

The New Republic on Sarah Palin’s class resentment.

New Republic, Oct. 22 The cover story profiles Sarah Palin, arguing that “a trip through [her] past reveals that almost every step of her career can be understood as a reaction to elitist condescension—much of it in her own mind.” One Wasilla city attorney says, “Sarah was not an in-depth person. Never has, never will be.” The McCain camp hopes that if they surround her with “the right advisers and submerge her in the proper environment, she’ll eventually assimilate.” But “as Nixon demonstrated, the forces of class resentment can be all-consuming and elemental.” An article explores why Americans factor hero worship into their presidential choices, and the writer attributes Obama’s inability to “put McCain away” to the former POW’s Campbellian myth. He is not the first candidate who has attempted to translate military valor into votes, but McCain’s cult of heroism is specially compelling because he “has successfully portrayed his brush with death as the foundation of his selflessness.”

The New Yorker, Oct. 13 In the “Politics” issue, an editorial endorses Barack Obama. His election “could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks.” A piece examines Republicans’ “deep suspicion of language. … [T]he campaign that claims to loathe ‘just words’ has proved expert at their manipulation. … Karl Rove—along with predecessors like Lee Atwater and protégés like Steve Schmidt—long ago showed the Republicans that language is slippery, fluid, a river into which you can dump anything at all as long as your opponent is the one downstream.” A profile of Arianna Huffington suggests that “the pursuit of influence—the ability to command attention and to change minds—not money” motivates the commentator. Her specialty: “harmless but shrewd small talk.”

New York, Oct. 10 A feature notes the rise of “branded entertainment,” which “involves not merely sponsored props but elaborate interweavings of brands into scripts, ads indistinguishable from the show itself.” It started when reality shows made it “harder to justify a series with a pricey cast and a team of actual writers.” Now more sophisticated forms of product integration purposely leave the viewer unable “to discern what’s a prop, what’s a paid integration, and what’s just a writer freely referencing a brand.” … The cover story warns that to cope with New York’s “teetering” economy, the “charming, messy, disarming, and adaptive” Gov. David Paterson “needs to become something he’s never been: ruthless and directed.” A piece surveys the sprawling Ochs-Sulzberger family tree in search of a suitable heir to helm the New York Times. “[T]he Times’ royal family presides over an embattled kingdom—its coffers dwindling, but its titles still a source of pride.”

Vanity Fair, November 2008 An article investigates the underworld of Silicon Valley billionaire Henry Nicholas, now charged with securities fraud and drug trafficking. His indictment “paints a picture of a drug fiend who hired prostitutes for himself and his customers … and spiked the drinks of other technology executives without their knowledge.” But Nicholas isn’t without friends: “In some quarters … there is the attitude that the government is trying to criminalize accounting sloppiness, and that, anyway, entrepreneurs like Nicholas create such value that they should be given a pass.” A piece exposes the “awkward pas de deux” between celebrated caricaturist David Levine and the New York Review of Books, where his drawings have appeared for 44 years. The Review has recently rejected Levine’s work, since his deteriorating eyesight has affected the quality of his sketches. Some friends say the editors took advantage of the artist, who “never realized how indispensable he was” because they never offered him benefits.

Newsweek, Oct. 13 The cover story asks a key question about John McCain’s vice-presidential choice: “Do we want leaders who are everyday folks, or do we want leaders who understand everyday folks?” Sarah Palin isn’t the first leader to come from a humble background, but she may lack the drive for excellence some of them possessed. Presidents such as Lincoln, Carter, and Clinton “were born to ordinary families, but they spent their lives doing extraordinary things, demonstrating an interest in, and a curiosity about, the world around them. This is much less evident in Palin’s case.” An essay on the Wall Street meltdown observes that two “signature features of the American brand”—capitalism and liberal democracy—have taken a hit along with the stock market. In responding to the collapse of its financial institutions and declining image worldwide, “the ultimate test for the American model will be its capacity to reinvent itself once again.”

Weekly Standard, Oct. 13
A piece blames Sarah Palin’s lackluster television interviews on her “handlers” who “prepped [her] to be someone she isn’t, a political robot without a mind of her own.” In last week’s debate, though, a candidate emerged who’s “smart and quick (smarter and quicker than Biden, for sure)” and one who has “learned the politician’s trick of ignoring questions and making whatever points she wishes.” An article reveals why “most Israelis, who live daily with the threat of terrorism, simply don’t trust Obama.” A political consultant claims that “the leaders of all three of Israel’s major political parties … prefer McCain but they don’t dare say so publicly” because “they know they might have to deal with Obama for the next four years.” Another Israeli claims that “Obama is closer emotionally to the Third World—also the Arab world.” Therefore, he says, a vote for McCain “would be a vote for a secure Israel.”