Always on the hunt, Palin shown what to do

December 11, 2010 

Please, Lord, if somebody ever decides to shoot at me, let it be Sarah Palin. Amen.

That short prayer came to me as I watched the fourth episode of her faux-reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," which had our half-term governor and former vice presidential candidate blasting away at a hapless and seemingly not very bright cow caribou somewhere in the Frozen North.

Palin, a likely presidential contender in 2012, was joined in the hunt by her 72-year-old father and a family friend. She had all the looks of somebody who has not spent much time in the woods or put in time behind guns, especially those she was using in the hunt.

Instead of coming off as a mama grizzly, she appeared tentative, uncomfortable, unprepared. She looked like what she was -- TV talent. It made me remember a song that author and journalist Harry Hurt III penned at the Pipeline Club in Valdez as we unwound every day while covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Most of the doggerel -- I cannot recall the tune -- is a blur of Jack Daniel's and fatigue, but its title has stuck with me, "She's an indoor girl in an outdoor world."

Do not get me wrong. I like hunting. I like guns. I like shooting, but it is painful to watch the Palin video, hard not to feel a tinge for the hoodooed caribou, which died only after being subjected to hearing more bullets whizz by than an L.A. gang-banger hears in a short lifetime.

When Palin's party stumbles upon the doomed animal, her dad hands her a rifle. "Does it kick?" she wonders aloud. Wouldn't she know that if she had shot it before? She asks him when to shoot. Bang! The confused caribou trots this way and that, looking for all the world as if it is in a big carnival shooting gallery. Bang! Palin's dad working the rifle's bolt for her. Bang! "Something's not right here," he says. Really? Excited whispers. Confusion. Directions. You can almost hear the caribou, "What the ...?" Bang! The shots are high. Bang! Five misses. Five. She finally swaps rifles with the family friend. Stands up to shoot; kneels down on packs. The caribou apparently is suicidal or feeling very lucky and does not run away. Bang! Finally, thankfully, the animal goes down as if hit by a sledgehammer and becomes winter protein. There's not much help from Sniper Sarah in the quartering process, some note.

In the end, of course, the rifle is blamed. There's a surprise. Sights are off. But the questions about why an unprepared hunter is on the tundra shooting a rifle that was not zeroed or checked before the hunt were never asked or answered.

None of it has done hunting, shooting or Alaska any good. Nobody likes a sloppy killing. In the aftermath, there have been the expected headlines: The Washington Post's "The hunting and the snark," or Ted Nugent's "Sarah Palin is my hero," or the Atlantic's "Doubts live on after the hunt," or my favorite, by Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, "Pass the caribou stew," on a column likening the caribou to Obama. The video also triggered outrage among the usual effete suspects, including the crazies at PETA.

But the story is in the story. All but Dowd seemed to miss the boatload of delicious allegory about Palin's life and politics wrapped up in the episode. It was Palin on the hunt; on the hunt always. First, it was small-town politicos in Wasilla who befriended her, then GOP Chief Randy Ruedrich, then Frank Murkowski, who appointed her to a cushy job, and finally, a shot at Barack Obama. Older white men carrying her guns, loading them and handing them to her, advising her, telling her when to shoot, showing her how to do the job. Letting them do the work. Out of her element. Indoor girl in an outdoor world. Missed shot after missed shot after missed shot. Blaming someone or something else when it all goes south. Killing a scrawny little caribou to sell the image. Jumping the ship of state after only two disinterested, unengaged years, going for something bigger. Out of her element. Peddling the lie. The mama grizzly. Sarah the Sniper.

In the end, with Palin, the story is always in the story.

Too bad a caribou had to get in the way.

Bang!


Paul Jenkins is editor of the Anchorage Daily Planet.

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