The Optics of Obama and Palin

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational Christian charity with a 40-year history of bringing aid to the suffering people of the world.  It has been deeply involved in aid for Haiti, which recently imported a cholera outbreak on top of its other woes.  SP President Franklin Graham invited Sarah Palin and Fox News host Greta van Susteren to join him on a weekend visit to the island, to “see our work first-hand, and to draw attention to the plight of the Haitian people,” as stated in a report on the organization’s website.  Palin has worked with Samaritan’s Purse before, on a mission to “hand out food parcels to families in Alaskan villages facing hunger because of a harsh winter.”

The Associated Press decided to report the incident by posting a photograph of Palin getting her hair adjusted, with the following caption, as reproduced at the Conservatives4Palin website:

“Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, has her hair done during a visit to a cholera treatment center set up by the NGO Samaritan’s Purse in Cabaret, Haiti, Saturday Dec. 11, 2010.  Palin arrived Saturday in Haiti as part of a brief humanitarian mission in an impoverished nation struggling to overcome post-election violence and a cholera epidemic.  At right, Palin’s husband, Todd Palin.”

And just who stands to the left of this camera-loving dilettante, tending her hair during this “brief” and meaningless infomercial for Sarah Palin, Incorporated?  Does Palin’s entourage include a high-priced hairstylist like Kristof, the guy who used to give Bill Clinton $200 haircuts while Air Force One sat on the tarmac, causing multi-million dollar traffic snarls at major airports?  No, this mysterious figure is recognizable to a handful of trained observers… and any of the 24 million people who watched “Dancing With the Stars.” 

It’s none other than Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter. 

This photo set off a tidal wave of rabid attacks in the intellectually-challenged precincts of the liberal blogosphere.  Some of the same people who made utter fools of themselves criticizing Palin for supposedly not knowing what happened in 1773, or understanding “fair use” laws, couldn’t resist one more ride on the Wile E. Coyote rocket-propelled roller skates of vicious ignorance. 

For example, Michael Shaw of the Huffington Post called the photo evidence that Palin is “one of the shallowest and blatantly self-serving politicians, err, political celebrities I’ve ever seen,” and “it’s revolting seeing Sarah getting her hair made up like this field hospital is her movie set.”  He even criticized her for washing her hands in another photo, suggesting the staff of the Huffington Post has no idea how cholera is spread.  Eventually Shaw was forced to make an embarrassing update admitting the identity of Palin’s movie-star hairdressing entourage of one, although he still gives no evidence of knowing anything about cholera. 

Never mind the inherent absurdity of criticizing a politician for getting her hair done before a public appearance.  So what if that had been a professional stylist, instead of her daughter?  Are we supposed to believe Palin is the only media or political figure with a hairstylist?  Do you think there might have been one in that massive entourage Michelle Obama dragged around on her fabulously expensive European vacation?

Meanwhile, Barack Obama abdicated the Presidency to Bill Clinton on Friday night, the most astonishing image in the modern era of politics.

The media clearly understands the power of imagery, given their silly attempt to smear Palin and denigrate her noble service to a tireless charity.  They’re surprisingly slow to appreciate the level of damage Obama did to himself by walking off that stage.  It was a fatal error for a presidency based entirely on image and style… an atomic detonation of perception whose shockwaves will be felt for months, perhaps years.

Barack Obama is, by far, the least qualified occupant of the Oval Office in history.  All during his campaign, we were told his absurdly thin resume wasn’t important, because he had vast organization skills, a “first-class demeanor,” and the ability to remain cool under fire.  His compelling presence would allow Washington to transcend the era of partisan infighting.  His charisma would make the world love us again.

Now we’ve got that incredible video of Obama simply resigning his position under pressure, and letting Bill Clinton take over.  He can’t even sell his agenda to the Left anymore, so he thought he’d let Slick Willy handle it.  President Spock just strolled out of the pon farr ritual, leaving Captain Kirk to take care of business with his Vulcan mate.  Do you know what Obama is doing today, with a crucial Senate vote coming on the tax deal he made with Republicans?  Playing basketball.  Talk about optics. 

There’s a new McClatchy poll out that shows Obama’s job approval numbers still in free fall, hitting 42% on the way down.  The new low owes much to the anger of liberals who feel betrayed by his deal-making with the hated Republicans.  Obama’s personal approval has always been considerably higher than his job approval, even when factoring out the poll bias of people’s reluctance to criticize the character of the First Black President.  The only thing he had going for him was the echo of past celebration for his personality, and potential.  Those echoes died for good on Friday night. 

Only one image from the past weekend will have a lasting effect on the public consciousness, and it sure isn’t the one of Sarah Palin’s daughter pulling her hair back, on a humanitarian mission to raise awareness about the continuing tragedy of Haiti.