Friday, December 31, 2010

Poetic Justice Dept., 2010

Funny how things work out. This year’s shown more than once how heads becomes tails in our culture, the top dog gets bitten savagely, and the mighty are hoist on their own dumbass petards.

Three cases in point:

The political personality Sarah Palin started the year bidding seriously to be the Queen of All Media. With “Going Rogue,” a hot new book all but jumping off store shelves; a new gig at Fox News; and the rapt attention of conservatives eager to discover the next big thing in Republican politics, Palin started the year as an undeniably marketable commodity.

Now? Not so much. Palin’s second book, “America by Heart,” hasn’t been moving. Shannyn Moore, an Alaska radio host, Huffington Post contributor and longtime Palin monitor, notes that Alaskans won’t even show up at her book signings now. “Sarah Palin has really fallen in Alaska,” Moore said last night on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.” “… Just recently Costco is sending back pallets of her books. They had a thousand wristbands to hand out for signing her books and I think they gave out three hundred. She's really not a big deal here. We're not that into her."

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Palin’s TLC reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” got some briefly stellar ratings before sliding into the cable maw. Daughter Bristol burnished Mama Grizzly’s reputation by proxy with her appearances on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” but Bristol got roundly dissed in the finals. It was a variation on the plummeting favorables that Sarah Palin consistently registers among presidential poll respondents.

The latest of those unfavorables are distilled in the new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, which found that only 49 percent of Republicans would back a Palin ruin for the presidency in 2012 — down a stunning 18 points since December 2008, a month after the McCain-Palin tandem lost to Obama-Biden.

Palin even brought up the rear against other likely GOP presidential hopefuls as former Arkansas governor and Krispy Kreme enthusiast Mike Huckabee; the former Massachusetts governor, robot mannequin Mitt Romney; and once and future conservative flamethrower Newt Gingrich.

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Juan Williams just went upside her head on Sunday. Williams, the newly-minted Fox News analyst, gave Palin faint hopes of competing with Obama if she enters the 2012 derby. “The only potential candidate who could match Obama in charisma is Sarah Palin and she can't stand on the intellectual stage with Obama," Williams said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Even Aaron Sorkin’s calling her out. Sorkin, the screenwriter whose latest film, “The Social Network,” is garnering Oscar buzz, went on CNN’s “Parker|Spitzer” program last night, calling her “a remarkably, stunningly, jaw-droppingly incompetent and mean woman.”

As much as anything, Palin is suffering from overexposure in the public square. To great and lucrative effect, Palin’s learned that publicity yields leverage yields money, but she hasn't embraced that equation's corollary: Too much of a good thing ceases to be a good thing. Now she ends the year skewered by the same media machine that helped create her. If that’s not poetic justice, there ain’t none.

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Henry Paulson, previously the head of Goldman Sachs and the former velociraptor Secretary of the Treasury, took almost singular responsibility for the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank (while Goldman Sachs was spared; imagine that) and by extension much of the collateralized ponzi wagering that’s led to our current woes vis-à-vis the housing market meltdown.

So it’s entirely poetic justice that, as Reuters reported Thursday, Paulson is taking a body blow on selling his own home.

Reuters reported that last week, Paulson sold his three-bedroom home in a Washington neighborhood (hard by the National Cathedral and the Naval Observatory, official home of the vice president) for $3.25 million, after cutting his asking price. Considerably. Paulson first put this megacrib (described in the listing as “reminiscent of a Provencal villa”) on the market in April for $4.6 million. Then later, when nobody bit on paying that much for his D.C. palazzo, Paulson dropped the asking to $4.15 million.

He paid $4.3 million for the place back in August 2006, according to government records.

Reuters, citing data from CoreLogic, a real-estate metrics firm, reported that the value of Paulson's house cratered by a quarter — 24.4 percent — while he was lord of the manor. Nationally, home prices dipped 29.3 percent over that period.

It’s tempting right now to invoke the phrase “shared sacrifice,” it’s so topical these days, and utterly apropos. But we won’t go there.

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And we can’t forget Christine O’Donnell. She’s you, remember? The Delaware-based Republican political fabulist, Tea Party darling and Satanic flirt, burst into public attention after winning an upset of a primary victory this year ... then going on to huge defeat in the November midterms, stomped like a vic in a Scorsese movie.

That timed-release embarrassment (compounded by video of O’Donnell from back in the day, making an ass of herself on “Politically Incorrect”) got worse earlier this week when, according to The Associated Press, the Feds launched a criminal investigation to see if she broke the law by using some of the $7.3 million in campaign donations to pay some of her personal expenses. Like the rent.

O'Donnell denied everything, of course, suggesting the charges were so much “thug politics” directed by her … her enemies. Especially that meanie Joe Biden.

The AP reported that at least two former O’Donnell campaign workers made claims that the former dabbler in the occult dipped into her campaign kitty to pay personal expenses including rent while running for the Senate three times, beginning in 2006. She admitted as much in a March newspaper interview, which begs the question of why she’d call the whole episode ”thug politics” after admitting to the bad behavior that got the Feds’ attention in the first place.

She’ll have time to explain herself on that one. To two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents. To the people of Delaware. Maybe even to a grand jury.

So be it. It’s only proper and fitting. At the end of a year, and especially a year like this, it’s natural and necessary to look for a basic rightness in things, a sense of symmetry, of karma delivered to the right address. The law of unintended consequences is sometimes in force when other laws can’t get any traction at all. Here ends the lesson.

Image credits: Palin: C-SPAN. Sarah Palin's Alaska title card: TLC. Palin's left hand: Video still, source unknown. "Blue Paulson": © 2010 Geoffrey Raymond. O'Donnell: from O'Donnell 2010 campaign ad.

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