By MAUREEN DOWD
The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.
So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch “Miss Congeniality” with Sarah Palin. Sheer heaven.
It’s easy to see where this movie is going. It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on “Meet the Press” triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on “Meet the Press” a lot.
Americans, suspicious that the Obamas have benefited from affirmative action without being properly grateful, and skeptical that Michelle really likes “The Brady Bunch” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” reject the 47-year-old black contender as too uppity and untested.
Instead, they embrace 72-year-old John McCain and 44-year-old Sarah Palin, whose average age is 58, a mere two years older than the average age of the Obama-Biden ticket. Enthusiastic Republicans don’t see the choice of Palin as affirmative action, despite her thin résumé and gaping absence of foreign policy knowledge, because they expect Republicans to put an underqualified “babe,” as Rush Limbaugh calls her, on the ticket. They have a tradition of nominating fun, bantamweight cheerleaders from the West, like the previous Miss Congeniality types Dan Quayle and W., and then letting them learn on the job. So they crash into the globe a few times while they’re learning to drive, what’s the big deal?
Obama may have been president of The Harvard Law Review, but Palin graduated from the University of Idaho with a minor in poli-sci and worked briefly as a TV sports reporter. And she was tougher on the basketball court than the ethereal Obama, earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.”
The legacy of Geraldine Ferraro was supposed to be that no one would ever go on a blind date with history again. But that crazy maverick and gambler McCain does it, and conservatives and evangelicals rally around him in admiration of his refreshingly cynical choice of Sarah, an evangelical Protestant and anti-abortion crusader who became a hero when she decided to have her baby, who has Down syndrome, and when she urged schools to debate creationism as well as that stuffy old evolution thing.
Palinistas, as they are called, love Sarah’s spunky, relentlessly quirky “Northern Exposure” story from being a Miss Alaska runner-up, and winning Miss Congeniality, to being mayor and hockey mom in Wasilla, a rural Alaskan town of 6,715, to being governor for two years to being the first woman ever to run on a national Republican ticket. (Why do men only pick women as running mates when they need a Hail Mary pass? It’s a little insulting.)
Sarah is a zealot, but she’s a fun zealot. She has a beehive and sexy shoes, and the day she’s named she goes shopping with McCain in Ohio for a cheerleader outfit for her daughter. As she once told Vogue, she’s learned the hard way to deal with press comments about her looks. “I wish they’d stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots,” she said. “A reporter once asked me about it during the campaign, and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses.”
This chick flick, naturally, features a wild stroke of fate, when the two-year governor of an oversized igloo becomes commander in chief after the president-elect chokes on a pretzel on day one.
The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it’s close to Alaska. “Back off, Commie dude,” she says. “I’m a much better shot than Cheney.”
Then she takes off in her seaplane and lands on the White House lawn, near the new ice fishing hole and hockey rink. The “First Dude,” as she calls the hunky Eskimo in the East Wing, waits on his snowmobile with the kids — Track (named after high school track meets), Bristol (after Bristol Bay where they did commercial fishing), Willow (after a community in Alaska), Piper (just a cool name) and Trig (Norse for “strength.”)
“The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.,” President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig’s diaper. “Now that Georgia’s safe, how ’bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?”