Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential… (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images )
Sarah Palin is a public figure caught between two worlds.
In some circles, she is still a political powerhouse, acting as the spiritual leader of the tea party right; speaking at events sponsored by the Koch brothers' anti-tax group, Americans for Prosperity; using her money and clout on favored candidate; and appearing as a commentator on Fox News.
In other circles, she is the matriarch of an expanding reality television dynasty that includes her husband, her daughters and a grandson.
Even as she dabbles in different spheres, at least one of her singular gifts remains constant: She can still generate controversy with the push of a “send” button.
Recently, she told Newsweek that despite having been John McCain’s running mate in 2008, she had not been invited to address the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August. (On the other hand, she hasn’t really endorsed the GOP’s unofficial presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, either, which he probably has a right to expect in exchange for a convention speaking slot.)
“What can I say?” she told Newsweek. “I’m sure I’m not the only one accepting consequences for calling out both sides of the aisle for spending too much money, putting us on the road to bankruptcy and engaging in crony capitalism.”
The Romney campaign has not commented on whether Palin will be invited to address the convention, though Palin has apparently put down a deposit for space in Tampa. According to her most recent federal financial filing, Palin’s political arm, SarahPac, has plunked down $4,500 for space at Channelside Bay Mall, a short walk from the convention venue.
Even a lack of invitation might not be the end of things, for Palin has been known to show up uninvited before.
Over the Memorial Day weekend last year, she arrived in New Hampshire for a clambake on the same day that Romney officially announced he would seek the Republican presidential nomination. He too was in New Hampshire, a few miles away. Palin, who was on a bus tour that was part publicity stunt and part family vacation, said it was a coincidence.
Two and a half months later, on the weekend of the Ames straw poll, the unofficial start to the Republican race for the nomination in Iowa, Palin dropped into Des Moines to check out the Iowa State Fair.
The recent Newsweek story set off the kind of back-and-forth that has become par for the course in discussions about Palin. Tea party supporters, already lukewarm about Romney, say she would energize the base the way she did in ’08. Other Republicans think a high-profile convention slot could resurrect unpleasant memories.
(President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been politically scarred by the mishandling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, stayed away from the Republican convention last time, ostensibly to deal with Hurricane Gustav. Bush addressed the convention by satellite; Cheney did not appear at all.)
Meanwhile, there is the entertainment front. Palin has starred in her own reality show, Discovery Communications' “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which struck many observers as an extended campaign commercial, as it featured eight episodes of the former Alaska governor in summer 2010, at a moment when speculation about a potential presidential run was starting to build. She kept up the suspense for months, finally announcing in October that she would not run.
Palin’s oldest daughter, Bristol, at only 21, has already appeared on three television shows. She had a memorable (though losing) turn on “Dancing With the Stars” and is starring in Lifetime’s “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” a reality show about life as a single mother to her 3-year-old son, Tripp. The low-rated series is most notable for the West Hollywood bar confrontation she had with a patron who called her mother a nasty name, and what some are claiming is her toddler’s use of a gay slur during a minor tantrum with Bristol’s younger sister Willow, a reluctant sidekick on the show. (Bristol has denied that her son used the slur.)
Now Palin’s husband, Todd, is set to star in yet another reality show, “Stars Earn Stripes.” In this NBC show, which debuts Aug. 13, celebrities undergo boot-camp-like drills with active military members to win money for charities.
On Tuesday, Sarah Palin accompanied her husband to a poolside party for the show at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills. She avoided politics, the New York Times reported, preferring to talk about her husband’s and daughter’s shows.
“Todd’s hard-core,” Palin told the New York Times. “He’s a commercial fisherman. He’s a world champion snow-machine racer. He’s got all this physicality.”
As for Bristol’s show, which is full of contrived situations and stilted conversation, Palin was in upbeat Mama Grizzly mode: “It’s clever and absolutely real.”
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