In Maureen Dowd's Sunday New York Times column on the shock resignation of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin ("Now, Sarah's Folly"), the proudly shallow columnist piled on with her usual self-satisfied (and pseudo-sophisticated) mockery.
More seriously, she regurgitated an extremely dubious anecdote from the recent Vanity Fair hit piece on Sarah Palin by former Times journalist Todd Purdum. It's a good example of how liberal media elites pass along their own prejudices by their willingness to believe even the most far-out stories that reflect badly on their political enemies.
Purdum was a long-time Times reporter who covered the Clinton White House before leaving the paper in 2006 (he is married to former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers).
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol found the anecdote flatly unbelievable, and even leftwing media critic Eric Boehlert at Media Matters said that it "doesn't pass the smell test." Which didn't stop Dowd from passing it along unchallenged:
Sarah Palin showed on Friday that in one respect at least, she is qualified to be president.
Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.
Usually we don't find that exquisite battiness in our leaders until they've been battered by sordid scandals like Watergate (Nixon), gnawing problems like Vietnam (L.B.J.), or scary threats like biological terrorism (Cheney).
When Lyndon Johnson was president, some of his staff began to think of him as "a sick man," as Bill Moyers told Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Moyers and his fellow Johnson aide Dick Goodwin even began reading up on mental illness -- Bill on manic depression and Dick on paranoia.
And so it was, Todd Purdum learned, as he traveled Alaska reporting on Palin for Vanity Fair, that the governor's erratic and egoistic behavior has been a source of concern for people there.
"Several told me, independently of one another," Purdum writes, "that they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder' in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -- ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy' -- and thought it fit her perfectly."
The White House can drive its inhabitants loopy. So at least Sarah Palin is ahead of the curve on that one.
Victor David Hanson at National Review Online found Purdum's claim, and Dowd's swallowing of it, laughable:
Yes, Palin must be crazy, you see because "several" of those in Dowd's wild-fowl honking Alaska (who, of course, must remained unnamed) had taken out of their denim backpockets their good ol' Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and, lo and behold, apparently reported on tape to Todd Purdum ("and independently of one another," no less!) that they were struck that clinical "narcissistic personality disorder" "fit her perfectly."
The problem with all this nonsense is that it tells us far more about Purdum and Dowd than about Palin. And whether Palin is wise or silly, down-to-earth or naïve, an aberration or with a future career, seasoned or immature, etc. is lost because she excites a certain irrational impulse, an uncontrolled hysteria really, in the liberal and self-described sophisticated that precludes them from empirical analysis. I am sure that syndrome is in the Manual as well. Just ask those in Georgetown to whip out their handy copy