It’s been a solid year since Sarah Palin was unleashed upon the Lower 48 as Senator John McCain’s running mate. It had a big impact on the race. For example: The following day she raised $10 million for the Obama/Biden ticket.
She’s really been a gift.
I often think about the moment McCain realized Sarah Palin isn’t that bright. I imagine a staffer sitting him down and trying to explain why she couldn’t do any (more) interviews or stump by herself. That she was going to appear more like his wife than his veep candidate on the campaign. And that his “hail Mary pass” just fumbled. In my mind it’s similar to the moment where Palin invited a crowd to play what she called “Stump the Candidate,” where McCain panicked, grabbed her mike and changed the subject. The moment in my mind is like that, only longer and with more forehead slapping.
But before the Katie Couric interviews – before the world came to the conclusion she was not prepared to be the leader of the free world. Before Putin was going to rear his head, before she admitted to reading all newspapers and magazines with a great appreciation, before going rogue – there was the Sarah Palin mythology film Protocol.
No, as far as fantasy films about the former governor of Alaska – it’s not Larry Flynt’s Nailin’ Palin. It’s an obscure Goldie Hawn film released in 1984. Hawn plays Sunny Davis, a ditzy yet adorable down-on-her-luck cocktail waitress in Washington DC. One fateful night she takes a bullet for a visiting luminary (an Emir). She quickly becomes a national sensation. She’s folksy, hailing from rural Oregon. Like real people. And she has a rabid adoring following. So of course she’s given a top job at the State Department working in the Office of Protocol.
Sunny is comically unsophisticated. She doesn’t have the right clothes or know how to act all the time. She’s a Washington outsider. The big government meanies, wanting to make good with the Emir in a plot to build a military base in the Middle East send an unaware Sunny to be his wife. After a coup, Sunny discovers the deceit. The ensuing scandal when she returns home is called “Sunnygate.”
Towards the end of the film, in a Congressional hearing, Sunny is asked to name names. Who did this to her? Who’s responsible? Instead gives a rousing speech:
“You want to know something? Before I worked for the government, I’d never read the Constitution. I didn’t even begin to know how things worked. I didn’t read the newspaper, except to look up my horoscope. And I never read the Declaration of Independence. But I knew they had, the ones were talking about, the experts, they read it. They just forgot what it was about. That its about We, the People. And that’s ME. I’m We, the People. And you’re We, the People. And we’re all We, the People, all of us.
“So when they sell me that ten cent diamond ring or down the river or to some guy who wears a lot of medals, then that means they’re selling ALL of us, all of we the people. And when YOU guys spend another pile of money and when you give away or sell all those guns and tanks, and every time you invite another foreign big shot to the White House and hug and kiss him and give him presents, it has a direct effect on We the People’s lives.
“So if we don’t, I mean if I don’t know what you’re up to, and if I don’t holler and scream when I think you’re doing it wrong, and if I just mind my own business and don’t vote or care, then I just get what I deserve. So now that I’m a private citizen again, you’re going to have to watch out for me. ‘Cause I’m going to be watching all of you. Like a hawk.”
The final scene is Sunny at her campaign headquarters getting a phone call informing her she’s won a seat in Congress.
So an obscure – outside the beltway – rural – unrefined attractive woman ends up “shaking things up in Washington” being more ethical and honest and smarter than The Establishment?
In the 1990’s women were denounced for having what was called “a Cinderella complex.” The GOP ticket last year had a Protocol Plot on the brain.
Sarah Palin’s narrative on paper was brilliant: Hunter, pro-choice, mother of many, popular governor – good looking. But then the curtain was lifted to reveal an ethically challenged, willfully ignorant, diva with no follow through.
But strangely enough, to her apologists, to her fanatical base Sarah Palin will always be Sunny Davis to them. Sometimes I wonder if they actually watched her resignation speech or just a re-run of Private Benjamin with the sound off.
I think I know the answer to that.