OFF THE GRID

Does Silvio Berlusconi Explain Sarah Palin?

Mar 5, 10 | 8:04 AM   byMichael Wolff
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There were three Sarah Palin stories yesterday. She and her retinue hit the Oscars like “locusts,” grabbing all the freebies they could find (a natural reflex your first time in Hollywood during Oscar week). She’s deep into her next book (after the first, it must seem like printing money). And she’s shopping a reality TV show (Who isn’t? And who better than Sarah Palin to have one?).

Face it: Nobody, Democrat or Republican, with an iota of professional political sense, is able to adequately explain how this career has gotten this far and how it might plausibly unfold. She wants, without excuses, whatever she can have, whether or not she comes out looking kooky, craven, or comic.

For more than twenty years, in Italy, there has been, among most Italians, an attempt to explain that most inexplicable political creature, Silvio Berlusconi. He unapologetically violates all political sensibility, nuance, and sense of convention and propriety, and continues to succeed beyond the bounds that any reasonable person would have thought possible.

It’s pure shamelessness, a total absence of self-consciousness, combined with entrepreneurial zeal. These are extraordinary self-reliant salesmen, Berlusconi and Palin. Id people. Media creations, it goes without saying. He was a cruise-ship crooner; she a beauty contestant.

It’s about living the life. More: Their life is a fantasy of the life people would live if they were in a position to live the life. The life larger than life. In the past, show business people got to live like this, and drug dealers, and, in small towns everywhere, there’s always one outsized specimen of sui generis crassness.

But I don’t think there has ever been a politician, outside of a third world country, or particularly corrupt ward, who could be so naked and hungry and sybaritic (albeit also sentimental).

This is what confounded most Italians, and what has come to confound most of the world about Italy, that it would accept and condone and revel in such a figure. Without better explanation, we ascribe this to the Italians being Italian.

And because this is not Italy, or a baroque third world, most of us assume Sarah Palin, even for as long as she has so far gone on, growing ever more constant in our lives, is an impossibility. The larger she grows the ever-more-impossible she seems to become. (Even Jeb Bush was huffing and puffing about her implausibility the other day.)

Certainly nobody of any acumen can reasonably figure out how she gets from here to there. Nobody, as the fantasy builds, as the confection become more elaborate, day after day, story after story, can yet explain what is happening.

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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