Vanity Fair diagnoses Sarah Palin

Whatever Vanity Fair pays its national editor, Todd S. Purdum, he earns every dollar with expertly crafted hit pieces. His lengthy takedown of Bill Clinton last year was satisfying for readers long troubled by Clinton’s various indiscretions, political and otherwise.

Now Purdhum has turned his withering gaze on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom Purdum depicts as coming entirely too close to the vice presidency, simply by becoming Sen. John McCain’s running mate. Her ambition and ruthlessness would give Lady Macbeth good competition, if Purdum’s account is to be believed.

Mark Hemingway, spouse of my colleague Mollie, has begun investigating who leaked so many campaign insider’s details to Purdum, and possibly why. Some of Purdum’s shots simply are cheap, regardless of their ultimate sources.

He dismisses Palin’s future publisher, Zondervan, as “the Bible-publishing house,” which apparently tells us all we need to know about the company that also publishes Philip Yancey, Rick Warren, Shane Claiborne, and dozens of academic texts.

He mentions that Palin’s hometown newspaper “recently published an article that asked, ‘Will the Antichrist be a Homosexual?‘” but doesn’t make clear that it was an opinion column by an independent Baptist pastor rather than front-page news.

He drags up the case of Wasilla’s librarian who was fired, without mentioning such trifling details as these from “She was also re-hired the next day and never claimed that Palin threatened to oust her for refusing to ban books.”

He notes that Palin confessed, at a pro-life dinner, to brief thoughts about abortion when she learned that her youngest son, Trig, had Down syndrome. Then he adds this bombast: “It is almost impossible not to be touched by the rawness of her confession, even if it is precisely this choice that Palin believes no other woman should ever have, not even in the case of rape or incest.”

Most voters recognize the difference between a politician’s pro-life ideals and what actually is possible in a culture well to the left of Western Europe on abortion laws. Ah, but Palin believes laws should forbid abortion unless a woman’s life is at stake, which makes her a bad person.

This, however, is the most grotesque paragraph:

More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy” — and thought it fit her perfectly. When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig’s condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God’s, and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”

I never knew the DSM IV was such popular reading among the pop psychologists of Alaska — especially in an Alaska that Purdum repeatedly portrays as a cultural backwater. As for that letter to friends and relatives, if Purdum cannot distinguish between sentiment and self-aggrandizement, he needs to broaden his reading habits — if only to include the occasional Christmas family letter or’s Glurge gallery.

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  • Stoo

    it was an opinion column by an independent Baptist pastor rather than front-page news.

    Oh well that makes it ok then.

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    No, that makes it the eccentric opinion of a local pastor.

  • Martha

    A politician who is ambitious, nay, even ruthless?

    Gasp! Shock! Horror!

    How very, very fortunate you, dear citizens of the United States of America, were to avoid having this woman as your Vice-President.

    Such an important and influential office is much better served by the august presence and astounding intellectual breadth of Joe Biden :-)

  • Ray Nearhood

    No, that makes it the eccentric opinion of a local pastor.

    Which is guilt by location! Why can’t anyone see this?

  • Stephen A.

    I always thought that the definition of narcissistic personality disorder fit MOST libertarians, and I suppose that worked for her, too.

    Ray is right, the deliberate mention of her pastor’s comments make it seem as if SHE held those views as well. But as the librarian firing incident proved, the media didn’t need evidence to make up a good story.

    Watching that video reminded me of what a great sport she was during that campaign. It sure didn’t help her with the press, though, who ruthlessly ripped her to shreds, going so far as to speculate – just MINUTES before her acceptance speech – on whether she would be “forced to step down” as the VP candidate.

  • FrGregACCA


    this story is an example of the media not getting, or getting, religion…


  • Mollie


    I don’t get your question. You thought, for instance, that the treatment of a local pastor’s op-ed as if it were a news story that all Wasilla inhabitants disbelieve at their own peril was a good handling of religion?

    Or you think the general treatment by the media of conservative Christians such as Palin show that they really get the nuances of American evangelicalism?

    Or what, exactly?

  • Greg

    Seems if you are going to link to Mark Hemingway’s work, you should point out that the VF piece has set off a “family feud,” as Politico describes it, between various factions of McCain insiders. Hemingway, who has contributed to the Weekly Standard, is basically taking up the pro-Kristol side of this squabble and doing a bit of Kristol’s own smear campaign against Schmidt.

    The infighting has less to do about Palin than it does about the egos inside the McCain campaign and inside the bubble of conservative journalism and political consulting.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Vanity Fair is MSM?

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    FrGreg: If you think the Vanity Fair article does justice to Sarah Palin’s faith — a matter it mentions several times — I will not try to change your mind. Otherwise, I too am confused by your question.

    Greg: I linked to Mark Hemingway’s article because I found it provided interesting background. I felt no need to review its details of political infighting.

    Chris: From my perspective as a longtime fan of magazines, Vanity Fair qualifies as MSM. I would have written the post even if Vanity Fair were not MSM. Such are the luxurious perks of writing about magazines for GetReligion.

  • narciso

    Yes stepping down from the oil commission because it’s head was profiting for the office, who defaulted to the tweed like GOP party boss, helped force out a corrupt attorney general, she spoke out against Murkowski’s corrupt bargain with Exxon, forced that company to actually fulfill it’s contracts struck a trasnparent deal with TransCanada, for the pipeline deal. Has been scrupulous with the state’s finances, was critical over the cost of the Gravina bridge, by all means let’s just burn her now. For someone from Vanity Fair whose perspective with the President is very NC-17; the DSM diagnosis is riddled with irony.

  • Perpetua

    Reminds me of the way head of the servants, Mrs. Danvers, reacted to the new wife in the film Rebecca:
    setting her up to fail,
    trying to suggest she is mentally unstable,
    trying to get her to leave through the open window,and
    willing to burn down the house rather than see her succeed.

  • Christopher Johnson

    “Several” Alaskans told Purdum on his travels through that state that they consulted DSM about Palin. Not buying it seeing as how most people don’t know what DSM is and the Alaska State Library online catalog says that there are three copies in the entire state, all of them are in and around Juneau and only one of them is at a public library.

  • Julia

    Perpetua: Boy, does that conjure up some nastiness. LMAO

    MSNBC this evening talked about this Palin business and I was amazed that there were some intelligent commments about how losing VP candidates have a long history of thinking they weren’t handled well. Also that it’s hard for a politician such as a long-time Senator or a successful sitting governor to realize they have less input into the campaign that the campaign manager and his/her flunkies.

    Todd what’s his name who was taking Chris Matthews place asked his panelists what 2012 would be like if Sarah Palin again refuses to take direction from the campaign manager. ha ha The answer is that the Presidential candidate will call the shots and take direction from the campaign manager.

    Blaming Palin for what her local newspaper prints is the pits. The article drips with condescension for what the writer considers backwater locales. My family in Kansas loves her. She reminds us of our steely prioneer grandmothers – no Manhattan social x-rays in Alaska, they would freeze to death in the winter.

  • media bias

    LOl what a joke. If only anybody read Vanity Fair or watched MSNBC…both piece of crap waste of time. Nice ratings, MSNBC, btw. Fox’s 9 am show beats out their prime time night line up.

  • Julia


    The answer is that the Presidential candidate will call the shots and not take direction from the campaign manager.

    My son tells me that the reference Palin made to some recent really bad mocking of her son Trigg was some truly awful cartoons in one of the Democratic blogs showing him as a toad, as a leprachaun, an ET, and all kinds of horrible images. If you listen closely to what she say about Trigg and her kids uninamous vote to get out – I think that’s what really did it for her. When she said the world needs more kids like Trigg and not fewer, she was responding to the criticism that she didn’t abort him.

    I doubt that a run for President is uppermost in her mind. In 2016 she will only be in her early fifties and her family may have healed by then – she has all the time in the world.

  • Will

    Then there were all the complaints about how dare those nasty underhanded Republicans criticize Obama for being friends with an unrepentant terrorist bomber, which is “guilt by association”; but it is terribly ominious to have a candidate who is associated with someone who was once a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. Last I heard the AIP has not set off any “symbolic” bombs, or “symbolically” beat up its critics.

  • Stephen A.

    These are legitimate press bias issues to be raising, despite some protests from the usual suspects here.

    Palin’s religion has been attacked from day one. The questions are: Are these ACCURATE attacks? and Is this the legitimate role of the press (and media “commentators”) to be doing so.

    To construe someone as holding the same beliefs as one’s pastor is a bit beyond acceptable, but not totally out of bounds. Remember Rev. Wright? His personality was so strong, and views so pronounced, it was hard to separate the flock from the shepherd’s beliefs. Of course, the left said “How DARE you!” Where are they now?

    Surely, if a pastor was well known for his odd beliefs, Palin could have chosen another church (although Wasilla is not NYC or LA, and I’m sure her choices were limited.)

    As for Palin’s political choice yesterday, since she apparently doesn’t have the thick skin to take nasty attacks in stride, it’s hard to see her weathering them in 2012, or even 2016. Attacks on her and on Trig, who will be a teen in 2016, will still exist.

    On the other hand, I want to know where the media OUTRAGE was over the cartoon in question.

  • Dave

    As for Palin’s political choice yesterday, since she apparently doesn’t have the thick skin to take nasty attacks in stride, it’s hard to see her weathering them in 2012, or even 2016.

    Palin’s stated reasons may not be her basic reasons. The clip I saw of her resignation announcement showed her using campaign-speak rather than governor-speak. Perhaps she’s planning to become a nationwide GOP booster in the manner of Nixon between 1960 and 1968, and that’s hard to do while governing a geographically remote state.

    Of course the MSM can’t compare Palin’s governor-speak with her campaign-speak because they only cover the latter.