Frantic press focus on Sarah Palin’s e-mails demonstrates the unhealthy nature of public concentration on the former governor. She doesn’t deserve ridicule from mainstream media, nor does she merit worship from her legions of fans.
Over-reaction on each side feeds super-heated responses on the other: if she weren’t mocked by elite commentators, she’d never be taken seriously as a presidential possibility by Tea Party conservatives, and if right wingers didn’t trumpet her as Reagan’s second coming, prestige pundits wouldn’t hurl as much dismissive abuse.
In reality, she draws disproportionate denunciation and inflated adoration for the same reason: she’s attractive in the deepest sense—the first beautiful, fascinating woman to emerge as a national political figure. This gut-level appeal, not unique abilities or distinctive policy positions, causes the celebrity-style Palin obsession that distorts our politics and makes no rational sense.