OFF THE GRID

Scott Brown Is Sarah Palin—but Better

Jan 21, 10 | 7:40 AM   byMichael Wolff
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There’s the sex vibe, the exhibitionism and preening, the weird family stuff, the phony authenticity, and the euphoric sense of his own arrival.

With both Scott Brown and Sarah Palin, there’s a come-hither thing, a swagger, an invitation. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite seen this in politics before. Even the Kennedys were always more publicly reticent. But with both Brown and Palin their eyes don’t seem to stop, they’re both looking everybody up and down. They’re teasing, offering. And connecting, apparently.

For Palin there was the beauty queen turn, and for Brown the Cosmo centerfold. This little biographical quirk of his, which seems somehow to be regarded as charming or boyish, is…pretty damn unusual. But it seems so brazen and kooky and, at least at this distance, ironic, that nobody appears to know what to make of it. Indeed, it seems gay, but on the other hand, it’s in Cosmo (the Cosmo voter is probably an untapped and underserved demographic), so it’s unclear whose chain is being pulled.

And then there’s him offering his daughters, which is, I suppose, some retro father’s-burden sort of joke—but not a joke. And then American Idol. Brown’s daughter, Ayla (where do they get these names?) is in the Bristol Palin position, somehow part and parcel of a greater family media ambition. I’m groping for an explanation here of what seems like a new phenomenon, the nexus of family values and publicity skills.

And the truck—obviously pure Palin.

And the euphoria. Like Palin, it’s hard not to think that Scott Brown is exactly the wrong sort of person to have been moved so swiftly from anonymity to prominence, from the outside to the center. This is a man quite obviously encouraged by attention, in the understatement of the year. Humility has never been terrifically valued in American life; still, this seems like a whole new ballgame.

But I do not mean to be churlish, just to acknowledge a powerful new strain of politician, first personified by Palin, and the startling development that while Brown may be Palin-like he may actually be much better than Palin.

He’s established that he’s mastered the new political discipline in which your bona fides are established by your lack of bona fides, your modesty and aw-shucksness by your hunger for media attention, your moral virtue by a wink. And, in a liberal state, he’s established his appeal to independent voters, which Sarah Palin is not likely to ever do. And, his IQ is surely higher than hers.

So, finally, appallingly, the Republicans may have a credible candidate for 2012. God help us.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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