the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Princess Diana and Sarah Palin: Mirror Images?

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Sarah Palin is the political Princess Diana.

That’s what one GOP source told me recently. “Let’s be honest. If she didn’t have looks, we wouldn’t be talking about her. You wouldn’t be covering her. She’s like Princess Diana.”

Shallow? Yes. But isn’t there truth there?

Princess Diana captured hearts at age 19 when Prince Charles selected her as a bride. Sarah Palin hit the scene when Sen. John McCain picked her as his running mate, although she’d already had a spread in Vogue as Alaska’s governor.

Princess Diana, for the most part, was a celebrity who used her power for good. Sure, she visited the White House and danced with John Travolta. She engaged in charity work, especially in the areas of AIDS and leprosy. She wore stunning clothes but gave very few interviews. She seemed unapproachable, like a China doll to be admired but not touched, even in the last year of her life when she lobbied in a high-profile crusade against land mines.

Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, but then gave up her governorship to spend more time in the lower 48 states. Palin’s charity work comes in the form of SarahPAC. She shows up, and candidates raise a lot of money for their campaigns. Many politicos agree that Palin hasn’t done much as far as resume building, say like Hillary Clinton, who served eight years in the Senate, for a White House run.

Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican consultant, said this week that Palin is “a media star and a great curiosity” but is lacking on political credentials. Rollins said on CNN, “You were plucked out of political obscurity because of the whim of presidential contender John McCain, who didn’t know you and made you into an overnight sensation. You performed well for three weeks in the campaign, did better than expected against Joe Biden in the debate, and then you self-destructed.”

Rollins may have gone a little far by using “self-destruct” to describe Palin. If anything, she has reinvented herself much in the vein that Diana did after her divorce from Prince Charles. Palin has carved a path in Republican politics using SarahPAC and social media. If Diana were alive in the 21st century, she might very well give Palin or Lady Gaga a run for their tweets by engaging with her fans online.

Diana made headlines just for crossing a street or wearing a designer gown — or even a pair of blue jeans — with paparazzi in tow. In this modern age of microscopic details, Palin gets attention every time she tweets, posts a Facebook note, signs a book or appears on a radio or television show. It doesn’t matter if she is commenting on WikiLeaks, North Korea, Alaska or her daughter Bristol’s recent appearance on “Dancing With the Stars.” Women want Palin’s upswept hairstyle and her glasses.

Trendsetting aside, Palin shares with Diana a must-have job skill to catapult to the celebrity stratosphere — working the media — including, these days, social media.

It may seem like Palin talks a lot, but, in fact, she doesn’t. Like Diana and the royal family, Palin tightly controls her own message with the help of Rebecca Mansour, a mystery woman who is communications director for SarahPAC. Mansour allegedly tweets and posts Facebook notes for Palin in the former vice-presidential candidate’s unyielding, and at times snarky, tone. Palin has even created her own show about Alaska to further enhance an image of a Mama Grizzly who takes no prisoners or animals. Or fish!

Palin only appears on television shows that are “Sarah friendly,” which don’t play hardball or ask her questions she doesn’t want to answer. Diana often did the same thing.

As some outlets reported at the time of her death, Diana indulged in a passive-aggressive love affair with the media. She favored reporters who helped create her image of a golden goddess in a “loveless marriage.” She, along with a press secretary (a royal version of Mansour) and later solo, used the media to sculpt her image through favored media contacts.

As PBS’ “Frontline” reported in 1997, one editor invited Diana to lunch at The Sun. Diana let him know she knew all about him. She teased him with “I hear you are a friend of Camilla’s.” As the “Frontline” story says, “The truth is that the princess had been colluding in her own coverage at least since March 1991.”

Sound familiar? Palin coined the term “lamestream media” to call out those who don’t play her game.

It only helps that, like Diana, Palin has great hair, a marathoner’s body and a telegenic face. The Learning Channel isn’t exactly rushing to sign Sharron Angle for a show about Nevada.

Even after Diana’s death, the royal spotlight shone on the royal family. Diana’s son, Prince William, and his impending wedding to Kate Middleton will keep all eyes on all things royal for months to come. Palin, in the same vein, is using her family to keep herself in the news.Through her reality television show, Palin introduces audiences on her own terms to her immediate family, as well as nieces and nephews.

It’s as if Palin is creating her own royal family since America doesn’t have one.

Diana wanted to seem more like a commoner after her failed marriage. Palin, a political commoner, wants to show the world that she isn’t a blue-blood living in a mansion — while making the money so she could. So far, she’s doing very well at the game.

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