Jonathan Chait

Palin's Self-Sustaining Paranoia

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I'm a little late to Robert Draper's profile of Sarah Palin's inner circle, but there's good stuff there that merits some attention. The bizarre character of the Palin operation has to be seen to be believed. She seems to operate like some kind of rebel leader surrounded by cult-like devotees. This description of the process of getting to meet Palin...

Davis and his colleagues recognize that the issue of trust informs Sarah Palin’s every dealing with the world beyond Wasilla since her circular-firing-squad experience at the close of the 2008 presidential campaign. Her inner circle shuns the media and would speak to me only after Palin authorized it, a process that took months. They are content to labor in a world without hierarchy or even job descriptions “None of us has titles,” Davis said and where the adhesive is a personal devotion to Palin rather than the furtherance of her political career.

...reminds me of trying to meet the elusive mutant leader Kuato in Total Recall:

And the sheer dysfunctionality of the operation boggles the mind:

I asked her political adviser whether there would be a summoning of the troops in the coming days to discuss what the next moves will be. Davis laughed and replied, “That’s not going to happen.” Each of them, he said, would simply be doing the work that was in front of them that day, the way things always operated in Palin World. I brought up an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken three weeks before, which concluded that Palin’s favorability rating among registered voters stood at 39 percent, while 54 percent viewed her unfavorably and a whopping 67 percent saw her as unqualified to be president. “On a staff level, we all think about ways we can improve her numbers,” Davis said. “It’s politics that’s our job.” But, I pressed, had he discussed the subject with her? “I’m not going to sit around and ask her, ‘What do you think of your approval rating?’ ” Davis said. “I’m just not.” ...

the inefficiency of her network has allowed numerous opportunities to slip through the cracks. Several influential Republican legislators reached out to her in late 2008 and early 2009 but never heard back. Among them, Roy Blunt and Orrin Hatch requested that she attend particular functions and were rebuffed. George W. Bush’s former media strategist, Mark McKinnon, offered to chat. The Beltway doyenne Juleanna Glover volunteered a “low-key media luncheon.” The National Review’s editorial board sent word that Palin should swing by for a get-together during one of her trips to New York. Which of these proposed encounters ever came to Palin’s attention is unclear. But for other possible 2012 Republican candidates say, Senator John Thune of South Dakota or Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota most of these opportunities would be worth planning an entire day around.

Draper describes how this crazy setup derives from Palin's paranoia of Washington in particular and the outside world in general. Of course, it's a self-sustaining dynamic. Palin distrusts the establishment and shuts it out; the establishment concludes she's a nutty amateur; Palin takes their hostility as more reason to shut them out.

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