You probably know the tasty details by now: Joe McGinniss, author of the seminal The Selling of the President, has been lurking under the watchful gaze of Vladimir Putin in Wasilla, Alaska, engaging in what Palin calls "peeping tom" behavior by writing a book about her. Parts of the book leaked yesterday, including this revelation from her "LOTS OF DOGS" days as a sports anchor:
Sarah hooked up with [former NBA player Glen] Rice, a 6-foot-8 junior at the University of Michigan, while he was in town for the 1987 Thanksgiving weekend "Great Alaska Shootout" basketball tournament, according to the book.It's interesting. It's titillating, and I admit that I'm not immune to feeling non-angry non-grudgefuck lustful interest in Palin's whole white-trash death-librarian vibe. (If anything, she seems experienced and doesn't come off like the type who insists on using condoms.)
McGinniss quotes a friend as saying Sarah had "hauled his [Rice's] ass down." While the pal coyly states: "I can't say I know they had sex," the friend is also quoted as saying: "I remember Sarah feeling pretty good that she'd been with a black basketball star," according to the source.
Rice confirms the hookup... "but he's quoted as saying he didn't think Sarah harbored any bad feelings over being with him because he was black. And he remembers only nice things about Sarah, recalling her as 'gorgeous' and saying she was a big crush of his at the time."
According to the book, Rice and Sarah continued to chat on the phone right up until she married Todd just nine months later.
For the most part, though, it's tough to rejoice in this. I'm even sort of proud of her. Given her membership in a party committed to screwings millions of black people, it's refreshing to see a GOP figure try making love to one for a change. That is, I suppose, unless you want to count the southern antecedents of Palinite voters and ideological fellow-travelers, who not only brought the world the racial paranoia that created words like quadroon and octoroon but also created the people to whom they applied, through rigorous investment in human-capital/employment increase. In which case, Palin becomes a kind of hipster of combining political policies of racial contempt with interracial sex: she's taking something old, ugly and passé, and she's bringing it back at great expense.
More importantly, I can't feel legitimate outrage over Palin engaging in behavior I'd accept or celebrate from those who share my interests. American liberals should welcome Republicans openly having sex with black people, brown people and gays. Not only will this keep them away from underage boys or from ruining the lives of straight wives, but it might reduce racism and homophobia in this country if the last major party who relies on them as mobilizing electoral strategies abandons them for the sake of being reasonable (at best) or good times (at least).
One then has to wonder if being tolerant of Palin's family values hypocrisy in this instance represents a kind of hypocrisy about the subject of hypocrisy. If Larry Craig and Ted Haggard were such awful people for their hypocritical sexual lapses, then isn't it morally and politically consistent — and effective — to go on Twitter and Facebook and treat this like a savory delight? I'm not sure that's true.
The consistent Democratic defense since 1998 and the dark days of Clinton-Lewinsky is that an elected representative's peccadilloes should be immaterial to the concerns of good governance. But Palin and Rice's fling pre-dates Palin's political career, so it can hardly have interfered with her job. (This doesn't apply to her alleged affair with a friend of her husband's, but that case seems much thinner and more subject to payback motives than the night with Rice. Rice has really nothing to gain from lying about the affair, since he enjoyed a 14-year career with one NBA Championship, holds the Charlotte Hornets record for scoring average and earned about $66 million in salaries.)
From a political efficacy standpoint, liberals should shy away from devaluing Palin's political viability. With Michelle Bachmann's value plummeting and Rick Perry scaring old people shitless about Social Security and Medicare, that leaves boring, middle-leaning suits like Romney only looking more credible as contenders for the presidency. That should scare Democrats, since even they should have trouble distinguishing between two feckless centrist wads like Obama and Romney on any basis other than skin and political map color. Palin, meanwhile, still captures the febrile and dizzy imaginations of conservatives as a true hero and "real" Obamalternative. Obama can beat crazy that refuses to compromise, but the sucking sound that emerges from the void of Romney's chest where a human spirit should reside signifies a willingness to sell out the hard-right on any issue that will glom onto independent voters willing to entertain voting for "anybody but the guy in charge."
That leaves only the moral problems of hypocrisy, and they still feel unnecessary. The reason why mocking Larry Craig's "wide stance," Ted Haggard's doing "butt bumps" with a rentboy, George Rekers traveling with a rentboy, Bob Allen offering to perform oral sex on a "muscular" black undercover officer to stave off "robbery" and Mark Foley trying to diddle boys via AIM chat is that those facts are pretty much all any of us knows about them. None of those men entered the national consciousness on their own terms and were never voluntarily challenged on their records and character. They were never vetted, never publicly promoted to us all. We met them via their hypocritical folly, and because most of their cultural entrance was also their exit, we can exult and delight in the near totality of their lives' untruth.
Palin, on the other hand, has already been judged and found wanting. She's been picked apart thoroughly and deservingly, giving America a chokingly full plate of hypocrisy and a gross abundance of its leftovers — like a fridge filled with tupperware containers of Thanksgiving turkey. She's a red-baiting anti-socialist who kept her state fiscally solvent via its state-controlled energy resources and doled out redistributed state-controlled wealth to each citizen. She believes in a culture of life and can't stop advocating killing wolves and people. She's against press-1-for-English but can barely speak the language. She loves American history and expects people to get the most from their educations, but her familiarity with both is on par with a banana cream pie's grasp of astronomy once you set it on a laminated placemat showing a map of the solar system. She demands that Americans work harder, but she got someone to write her books for her, quit the most important job she ever had and no-shows publicity appearances. She hates the media, but she's a paid member of it and won't get off the television. She preaches self-improvement, family values and celibacy, but this book and Levi Johnston's tell-all show a woman indifferent to parenting even before her unwed high school-age daughter got knocked up by trailer trash.
All of these details illuminate her character, her record and their flaws far better than the perfectly normal desire, for someone of any sex or race, to want to have sex with black dudes. This revelation adds nothing that can't be better expressed or condemned with the existing record. All this offers is the chance to demonize her, amongst her base, by playing on the same loathsome "hulking negroes might even now be inside our beautiful white daughters!" racial paranoia that the GOP already proudly trades in. Don't give them the satisfaction of reinforcing it.
Celebrating this discovery presents the most effective and confounding response. Every support group for interracial couples or biracial children should add their names to letters of support. Hell, invite Sarah Palin to speak at Howard University. There's no shame in exploring sex with other people before marriage and certainly none in finding people of other races beautiful, desirable and worthy of friendship, long-distance calls and personal admiration. Those are all great. If you want to be really subversive, try rubbing every conservative's nose in something so estimable.