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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump Won't Peter Out, He'll Palin Out

Looking at Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, we would not say that they were separated at birth. They share no physical resemblance, but under the surface, they may very well be clones. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are so much alike in personality, someone should hire Maury Povich to find the matching DNA sequence on their political gene.

During the cringeworthy rollout of Sarah Palin as a vice presidential  candidate during the 2008 election, she was interviewed by Katie Couric. Palin served up an incomprehensible word salad in response to questions ranging from government regulation to Russia. Then Couric asked the Alaska governor where she got her news. Out of context, it would have been a condescending question, but after listening to Palin repeatedly mask her ignorance with gibberish, Couric was obliged to find a nice way to ask “What the fuck do you read?” The best answer Palin could come up with for such an easy question was “um, all of ‘em, any of ‘em that um, have, have been in front of me over all these years.”

Some twins are known to develop their own special language. Comparing statements from Palin and Trump makes a strong case that these two taught each other how to speak. While making comments about Black History Month during a February photo op, Trump said “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

It is as easy to imagine Trump giving the answer to Couric’s newspaper question as it is to hear Palin make that confoundingly vague remark on Frederick Douglass. Palin and Trump are walking blooper reels. Just run a camera in front of either one of them and blooper magic will happen, but there are no outtakes in politics. When you go on a riff about Paul Revere “ringing those bells and making sure he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that were going to be secure and we were going to be free,” it goes directly from your mouth to the Internet. Palin and Trump blame the press for as little as just being present when the fault is their’s for being willfully amateur. Palin regularly lashed out at the “lamestream media” while Trump barks at the “dishonest press” and “fake media.”

Late night TV writers have harvested the bountiful incompetence of the “Tralin” Twins to ratings success, helping to cement the notion that these two were and are out of their league in upper levels government work. The Tralin response to the lampooning is to become bitter, not smarter. Palin harangued anyone who was critical of her shallow grasp of the issues as an elite, not the best word choice considering what the real definition of “elite” is. Her intention was to call liberals snobs, but what she ended up doing was likening them to the Green Berets and the Navy SEALS. Trump as a candidate railed against the Establishment while proclaiming his love for the “poorly educated,” and not in a Jesus-Love sort of way. Trump was just showing his appreciation for people he suspected he could easily con.

While Palin’s ticket went on to lose the 2008 election, she cashed in on her demographic appeal. Following the lead of her long lost political twin, she parlayed her political fame into a showbiz gig, getting her own reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” She also became a Fox News personality. Trump followed the lead of his long lost political twin sister parlaying his reality TV fame into a political jaunt by taking an existing right-wing conspiracy theory and anointing himself as its media conductor. Trump insisted he had people in Hawaii looking for Barack Obama’s birth certificate who supposedly couldn’t believe what they were finding. Spoiler Alert: there was never any follow up on that claim.

In 2012, there was anticipation for a Republican primary race for the ages. Speculation swirled around the Tralin Twins making separate presidential runs. It would be a showdown over who would win the hearts and minds of the non-elite, poorly educated. Would America get its first female president or its second Warren G. Harding? We never got our answer as neither decided to run that year.

In the meantime, the Twins embarked down divergent paths. Even identical twins have subtle features that distinguish one from the other like a crooked tooth or a third underdeveloped nipple. The trait that distinguished one Tralin from the other was ambition. Sarah assumed her relevance was now a given, seeing as how there was nowhere in Tea Party circles where she was not wanted. But not being unwanted and being sought after were two different things. She was still the folksy crowd pleaser, reading rage points from the notes written on her hand, but she was no longer seen as any sort of agent for victory because she really hadn’t really done anything. Now she was less of a contender and more of a mascot. In 2015, she was dropped from Fox News.

As an astute capitalist, Trump realized his political options were to either compete with Twin Sarah for Most Favoritist Tea Party Mascot, or to step it up. He would either have to go big or go back to one of his totally tacky homes.

Trump’s election win was a legitimate upset because the majority of voters were upset with the results, having cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.  It was upsetting that someone whose entire campaign was spent in constant turmoil^, could eke out a win in the electoral college. Because of his unpopularity, Donald Trump took office with the lowest approval rating of any president in the era of polling. He began his first hundred days with prebattered prestige. Due to a combination of his lack of respect for procedure and his injured, items on his agenda quickly bottlenecked which further eroded his effectiveness. Trump is in the danger zone on a scale we will call DRP or Dornell’s Redemption Potential.

DRP (pronounced “derp”) measures the likelihood that a public figure can regain the confidence of the People after suffering a setback or setbacks. It is based on several factors including:
-Past and current controversies
-Ability to grow from mistakes
-Portrayal in pop culture (negative value for negative portrayal)
-Current rank, status, or title as a public official
-Engagement on issues

Among the DRP factors, Trump has one thing going for him. As the current sitting president, he has the highest possible title for a public official. This prevents him from the risk of sinking into obscurity as he scrambles to reverse the death spiral of his presidency, if he so chooses. The other edge of the sword is that Trump stays in full view if he continues to fail. Given his prolific authorship of his own scandals, his inability to grow, the relentless hammering of Trump in pop culture, his known lack of engagement on issues, and now being the subject of an FBI investigation, Trump is as close to irredeemable as any president has ever been. And in under 100 days.

By comparison, his political twin actually holds a higher DRP value. Most of her high-profile failures occurred while she was a private citizen or a candidate. She has not really failed in office. The status of former governor carries some heft, even if she quit in the middle of her term. Otherwise, she has never demonstrated a potential for growth. She has yet to show depth of knowledge on any particular issue besides wanting to protect liberty and freedom. Palin is in the zone of perhaps being appointed to a specially created symbolic post like Special Envoy to U.S. Armed Forces Overseas or Ambassador for Republican Unity. She may even be able to pull off running for a congressional seat in a super conservative rural district… hypothetically.

Although Twin Trump calls the press all kinds of names, media personalities across the spectrum have shown a peculiar faith in his ability to turn his presidency around. They have opined that IF he can execute any of his most important election promises within his first 100 days, it would change the trajectory of his troubled tenure. They do not take into account the volume of issues still weighing on his Administration including his prolific lying and the extended problems caused by that habit alone.

In a his first annual address to a joint session of Congress, Trump pulled off a perfunctory performance in a ceremonial speech that never has any lasting impact on the person giving it. Rarely does anyone refer back to a president’s address to Congress (unless an attending bigot screams out “you lie” in the middle of it). Yet commentators glowed after Trump stood and read from a teleprompter for an hour. The praise was not for any extraordinary use of rhetoric  of which there was none, nor was it for any groundbreaking insights of which there were none. The only marked characteristic to this speech was that it was not a mess, considering the orator. For the longest period since January 19, the news out of the White House was not about ethics violations, incompetence, Yemen, suspected Russian ties, or lies. Twenty–four hours later, news broke that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have lied to Congress about having met Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. Since then, no one but Trump has mentioned that speech to Congress.

The longer it takes Trump to move his DRP rating in a positive direction, the bigger his accomplishments will have to be in order to achieve anything close to full redemption. His performance as a businessman and a politician have been marked by callous recklessness followed up by attempts by his staff to put out perpetual fires. This won’t change. his temperament won’t improve. He will never be presidential. He won’t stop lying. Ever. As his approval ratings continue to drop, he is not on any path to winning over any converts.

Everyone knows the fortune cookie game where you add the words “in bed” to the end of each fortune. Most people play a similar game, subconsciously or not, when we see a headline heralding an event featuring Sarah Palin. Somewhere in our brain we add the words “with embarrassing results” e.g. “Sarah Palin to Endorse Iowa Congressional Candidate… with embarrassing results.” Donald Trump is very close to that same point. He can always find acceptance by appealing solely to his base, but even among that eternally supportive piece of pie they will eventually stop having any expectations of him as president. At that point he will be their mascot, a lame duck mascot.

Thanks to Peggy Levenstein

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