08 September 2008

Maggie Gallagher of the Week

I'm not sure if Maggie Gallagher's column for today really earns her another Idiot title, but by now I'm convinced that she's really in her own category. This week she's full of fawning praise, not only for Governor Palin, but for Bristol, the governor's famously pregnant daughter.

"Seventeen-year-old Bristol Palin is better qualified than Barack Obama to be president of the United States in at least one respect," Gallagher writes, "Figuring out when a baby gets human rights is apparently not above her pay grade."

We'll put aside the question of whether Bristol had any say in her keeping the baby, because Gallagher's concern is the phenomenon that is Sarah Palin herself. The Alaskan is nothing less than "a new sexual archetype for female achievement," which Gallagher labels as "pioneer woman." Pioneer woman is to be distinguished by dynastic females like Indira Gandhi of India or "tough old biddies" like Margaret Thatcher of Britain "who can be trusted to exercise power 'like men' because their disturbing and complicating female sexual persona has largely dissipated."

As exemplified by Palin, "A pioneer woman is a traditional figure [so much for anything new about the archetype]. She stands by her man -- not at war with him. She takes care of her home and her community. If her man is around, maybe she lets him kill the bear. But if he falls, or fails, she picks up the rifle and gets the job done, whatever the job is that needs to be done."

Since the "man" Palin stands by in the public mind is Senator McCain rather than her husband, I wondered for a moment whether all this talk about killing bears was an implicit or archetypical threat against Russia, but I decided that Gallagher couldn't be that imaginative. Even she thinks that her discovery of a "new sexual archetype" takes second place to "the larger message of the Sarah Palin story."

Life is messy. First things first: Take care of your babies. You do what you have to do, and deep down you never give up on life. You refuse to choose [But Maggie, hasn't Palin told us that the difference between an executive and a community organizer is that the former has to choose?]. The unexpected will happen, but that's OK -- you can deal with it. You are resilient, optimistic, competent and caring.

And that earns you the vice-president endorsement of Maggie Gallagher. As she sums it up: "A moose-hunting pioneer woman is the perfect choice to be America's first female vice president." Never mind that Gallagher has discussed none of Palin's policy positions; "anyone who can raise five children while governing Alaska successfully enough to earn more than an 80 percent approval rating -- I'm just not worried about." This is either all too specific a set of qualifications (75 percent wouldn't cut it?) or no qualification at all. This is no reflection on Palin's actual qualifications or lack of them; as usual, I'm only holding up a mirror to Maggie Gallagher's silliness. She practically guarantees that I'll have something to write about on Mondays, but, strangely, I don't feel as grateful toward her as perhaps I should.

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