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Posts Tagged ‘Prince William

Welcome, 2011: Sarah Palin and Julian Assange on the Radar Screen

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Ready or not, 2011 is here.

Consider some of these upcoming historic milestones as the new year arrives. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis becoming president of the Confederacy, the 70th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech (actually, his 1941 State of the Union address), the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s first presidential news conference — and the first ever to be broadcast live on television), and 25 years since the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

But 2011 will have its own special history, and here are some of the events that will help write it:

Sarah Palin’s presidential decision: Palin will have to decide this year whether to run for president. In order to compete in the 2012 primaries, she will have to soon start building a ground game in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure, she has her reality television show, two books, and husband Todd may show up on the next “Dancing With the Stars,” but Palin must do much more than be a household name to win a crowded GOP primary.

Sarah Palin, Julian AssangeThe former Alaska governor accumulated a lot of favors in the midterm election by supporting winning candidates in key presidential states — such as Nikki Haley in South Carolina — via her Sarah PAC. But she has a lot of work to do on the popularity front. A recent poll by CNN/Opinion Research shows that Palin would offer the weakest challenge to President Obama among current top-tier GOP contenders.

Time is ticking for Palin to make a decision because there are . . .

GOP primary debates: Yes, they’re already in the works. The Reagan Presidential Foundation will kick off the election season by hosting a panel of GOP presidential candidates in the spring. Then there’s June 7, 2011: That’s the date of the first presidential debate in New Hampshire for the 2012 GOP primary. The candidate forum will be sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR-TV, and CNN. Likely participants: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Wild cards: Palin, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding: The royal couple will tie the knot on Friday, April 29 at the thousand-year-old Westminster Abbey in London. The wedding may not draw as massive a crowd as gathered for Williams’ parents’ nuptials 30 years ago in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the media will certainly provide massive coverage. Prime Minister David Cameron has already designated the date as a public holiday.

The event will require major security, the cost of which could top $8 million. British special forces will go undercover with Afghan war veterans from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to watch for any potential attacks around Westminster Abbey. The wedding will also boost tourism — one company has launched a walking tour of locations that helped “define the next royal golden couple.” Also on tap: Kate is soon to be immortalized in wax by Madame Tussauds, and the royal couple will be featured on a British coin.

Julian Assange’s autobiography: No date has been set for the book’s release, which will be published sometime in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf and Britain’s Cannongate. The WikiLeaks founder is fighting extradition from England to Sweden, where he faces questioning for alleged sex crimes. Assange has said he doesn’t want to write a book but must do so in order to cover his ballooning legal costs and to continue funding his whistleblower website, which has angered and embarrassed governments worldwide by releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential cables and other documents.

To capitalize on (and extend) Assange’s 15 minutes of fame, Knopf will likely have to publish the book sooner rather than later. Assange will also likely cash in on a movie adaption of the book, especially since his story seems to have all the components — mystery, intrigue and sex — that sell tickets.

The space shuttle retirement: In 2011, America’s space shuttle will blast into orbit for the final time. The last scheduled flight is in early April. NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after 30 years of service to make way for future programs that will send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 — part of Obama’s new space exploration initiative. The president cancelled NASA’s Constellation program, which was developing new vehicles to send astronauts back to the moon. The end of the shuttle means that the United States will soon have to hitch rides with the Russians to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Last year, former astronaut (and senator) John Glenn condemned the cancellation of the shuttle program. In a statement, he lamented that “for the next five to ten years, the launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV. For the ‘world’s greatest spacefaring nation,’ this is hard to accept.”

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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.