Like many others, I've enjoyed Jon Stewart's skewering of Sarah Palin on The Daily Show. However, there's a long history of satire obscuring the true nature of its supposed target. It happened in the 80s on both sides of the Atlantic. Reagan was mercilessly mocked in sections of the US media for his simplistic, folksy schtick when it was clear that his style won him votes. In the UK Spitting Image & Steve Bell's "If" cartoon strip perversely accentuated those aspects of Thatcher's personality which added to her "Iron Lady" appeal.
It's against that historical backdrop that Stewart's barbs leave me suspecting that, scabrously funny though his routines are, they won't dent Palin's image. What might is more prosaic: reality.
Two stories about the Republican Vice Presidential candidate have recently surfaced, one worthy of ridicule & humour, the other most certainly not.
First, the "light" story. Palin appears to believe that humans & dinosaurs lived at the same time...less than 6,000 years ago (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/28/palin-claimed-dinosaurs-a_n_130012.html ).
Philip Munger, a local music teacher in Wasilla, the Alaskan town where Palin was mayor, relates a bizarre incident. Munger was talking to Palin shortly after she became mayor. Munger asked what her religious views were:
"Palin told him that 'dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time,' Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said 'she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks,' recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska."
[Munger's blog, http://progressivealaska.blogspot.com/ , has given the rest of the US Liberal blogosphere some pretty juicy anti-Palin stories.]
So that's the comedic aspect of Palin's worldview. The second item renders satire redundant, as the full extent of Palin's right-wing bigotry & myopia is laid bare. In Governor Palin's Alaska, women who have been raped have to pay for the rape kits issued to them by hospital staff, a story which the New York Times holds up as the ultimate proof of Palin's unsuitability to hold any sort of public office, let alone Vice President of what is still the most powerful nation on the planet (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/26/opinion/26fri4.html?_r=1&em&oref=slogin ).
The opinion piece in the NYT by Dorothy Samuels pulls no punches from the very first sentence: "Even in tough budget times, there are lines that cannot be crossed."
The vice presidential debate between Palin & Joe Biden takes place at 2.00am BST on Friday. I might just stay up (coffee required!) for it.