Chickens Come Home to Roost, Palin-Style

Sarah Palin’s son Track, who’s a veteran, has been arrested for allegedly punching his girlfriend. The former vice presidential candidate had this to say:

“My son, like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened,” she said. “They come back wondering if there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers and airman and every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to this country,” she added. “And that starts from the top.”

“That comes from our own president,” she elaborated, “where they have to look at him and wonder, ‘Do you know what we go through? Do you know what we’re trying to do to secure America?'”

“So when my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of some PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with,” she continued before pivoting back to her Trump endorsement. “And it makes me realize, more than ever, it is now or never, for the sake of America’s finest, that we have that commander-in-chief who will respect them and honor them.”

The interwebs are having a field day. I think that’s a mistake.

I’ve held for a long time that one of the keys to understanding the right is that it borrows from the left. Sometimes strategically, sometimes unknowingly.

More recently, in my work on Clarence Thomas, I’ve noticed how skilfully he navigates the traditional waters of the left, churning up the chum leftists used to wade in, but without proposing anything that would clean up the water.

Here we see the same thing with Palin. The left used to argue that military violence abroad would find its way home: in racist vigilantism, heavy policing, and domestic and substance abuse. Since the 1980s, though, the left has grown nervous about making those connections. Enter the right. Rather than focusing on the violence, however, conservatives focus on whether Obama respects the uniform.

It’s Chickens Come Home to Roost, Palin-style.


  1. Sandwichman January 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm | #

    This is second hand. I’m not an authority on discharge papers. But did Track Palin see combat in Iraq — is he a “combat veteran” as claimed by his mother?

    “No CIB is shown in his awards. That’s a Combat Infantry Badge, given to ALL infantrymen and special forces who ACTIVELY participate in combat. Just being in Iraq does not make him a combat veteran.”

    “Track Palin is MOS 11B infantryman. Lack of a CIB absolutely means he is not a combat veteran..”

    Or did Track Palin have PTSD BEFORE he deployed to Iraq?

  2. jonnybutter January 20, 2016 at 8:28 pm | #

    The Right picks up what the Left has dropped, and often redefines it. Very clear with race (speaking of Thomas): there is a vast difference between saying that race is a construct, that it doesn’t really exist – but racism does – and, on the other hand, touting ‘color-blindness’. It’s a very lawyerly rhetorical trick that works well if you don’t think about it for very long: how can racism exist if race doesn’t?

    I know, it’s stupid, but the Right gets a LOT of mileage out of this sort of stuff. And timorous liberals enable it from start to finish (I hereby claim ‘Timorous Liberals’ as a band name).

  3. Ozma January 21, 2016 at 4:33 am | #

    One conclusion we might draw is that we should look at the structure of this type of rhetoric and stop using it when it is bullshit–which it sometimes.

  4. wetcasements January 21, 2016 at 5:01 am | #

    FWIW, apparently Track Palin was basically a VIP chauffeur.

    Now, most servicemen and women probably never see combat so I’m not saying he’s not a “real” solider.

    But from what I’ve read he was never in combat, and I do think it’s relevant if only because his creepy fame-whore mother has now turned his personal problems into campaign fodder.

    But Obama’s the mean one here. Right.

  5. Deborah Mary Newell January 21, 2016 at 10:23 am | #

    I’ve followed the Palin stories since 2008; I also have a couple of friends who live in Alaska, one in the Mat-Su valley. Track Palin was a troubled and violent, lawbreaking teen (to put it mildly) long before he enlisted in the army. It was widely reported in the Alaska blogs that he was part of a group of high-school boys who vandalized several school buses (contrary to a few rumors, though, what the boys did was spray-paint the buses and cut off their electric heaters–they did not cut the brake lines–and this led to many of the buses freezing and being non-operational, and local schools having to close for a day).

    Because Track was still a juvenile when he committed the vandalism, his name was kept out of the press. Some of the boys were offered the opportunity to avoid fines/imprisonment by cleaning up their act and getting jobs or going to college. As his grades were extremely poor, there weren’t too many career or school options open for Track, so he enlisted and served as an escort, then driver, for the Stryker force in Iraq. Neither he nor his group, while he was serving, encountered enemy fire or combat. A link to Palin’s discharge papers is attached; note that he does *not* have the automatically-awarded Combat Infantry Badge that indicates a soldier came under enemy gunfire.

  6. Glenn January 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm | #

    The word “sacrifice” is used indiscriminately without recognizing the distinction between one who “sacrifices” as a willing volunteer of a service, and one who is deceitfully “sacrificed” into a providing a service where it is not worthy of sacrifice, such as merely to support a war that is necessary to gain political advantage in an election.

    One who is thanked for his “sacrifice” may recognize the distinction of being “sacrificed” into service of a fool’s errand merely in support of a war that is only necessary for political advantage in an election, and return extremely angry, making reintegration very difficult.

    • Glenn January 21, 2016 at 2:39 pm | #

      One need not be in combat to become psychologically damaged by the act of killing.

      Drone warriors, having become aware that their murders were without meaning will suffer.

      Those who doubt this suffering may imagine firing a gun into a crowd of strangers, say at a wedding, and then imagine the feeling of performing a meaningless kill.

      You may need to be damaged goods to perform that act, but if you weren’t damaged before, you will be after.

      Sacrificed veterans have a high suicide rate.

  7. Roquentin January 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm | #

    I just can’ with this….. After Trump talked all that trash about McCain’s military service very publicly and very recently, she honestly puts forward the case that Trump “respects and honors the troops.” I know people have short memories, but really? What this is really about is continuing to live a lie, to prop up the facade that the US is never wrong, that the Iraq War wasn’t a fantastic waste of men, material, and effort, and probably the worst foreign policy blunder in the lifetime of anyone born after ‘Nam. I haven’t taken the time to look, but I’d bet money she hasn’t so much as spoken the letters “PTSD” a single time before it looked like her kid was going to jammed up on a domestic violence charge. The only time you will ever, under any circumstances here a conservative talk about mental illness is when they’re so desperate for it *not* to be something else any kind of explanation will do. It’s exactly the same mechanic as when they talk about mass shootings, because it absolutely can’t be about guns. Suddenly, every last one of them is an armchair psychologist.

    On a side note, I think since I was raised in close proximity to these sorts of people in some ways I have far less sympathy for them than you do. Actually, simultaneously more and less. Palin’s whole persona is patently offensive to me. Way to make us all look like a bunch of brain-dead hicks. I still can’t wrap my head around how more people living in the Midwest didn’t have the same reaction to that cornpone bullshit, coming from her or anyone else.

  8. jonnybutter January 21, 2016 at 1:55 pm | #

    Palin is a lying (for one thing, about her son), grifting, ignorant, phoney. But she very clearly knows how to do politics, as does Trump. Of course she is pimping, rather than honoring, ‘The Troops’, but the meat of what she says probably resonates with a lot of people, because it *should* resonate. As Corey says, when people on the not-right are so pathetic (my word, not his) that they cede their issues and deny their own convictions, the Right gladly picks them up, mixes big lies with big truths, and – voila. Here we are.

  9. LFC January 21, 2016 at 6:45 pm | #

    No one in this thread has yet made, except indirectly, some obvious pts that are nonetheless perhaps worth stating.

    1) Palin’s implication that Obama does not ‘respect the troops’ is preposterous precisely because respect or even reverence for those who serve in the military has become an absolute precondition of participation in U.S. politics as a national (or regional) elected official. Obama repeatedly — repeatedly — in speech after speech after speech talks about his respect for those who serve. There may be a lingering sense in the military, perhaps esp certain parts of the officer corps, that he’s not ‘one of us’ but that derives more from a mixture of perceptions and prejudices (one heard more about this in his first term, actually) and is not based on his public statements.

    2) Given its preposterousness, Palin’s implication that Obama doesn’t respect the troops just comes across as silly. The theme of violence abroad resulting in violence at home may be ‘borrowed’ from the left, but when it issues in a patently ludicrous implication (i.e. the President doesn’t respect the military), it’s hard to see it as an esp. clever rhetorical move. It will appeal to those who already like Palin, and that’s about it. Note she doesn’t make specific charges about, say, inadequate funding for PTSD etc. or poor performance by the VA, just makes vague innuendos about Obama.

    3) The notion that Trump is somehow more in tune w the military and its ‘culture’ or its ‘values’ or whatever than Obama really strains credulity. Both are pretty much entirely products of civilian life, albeit w/ v. different biographies. If Trump has any military experience, he certainly never talks about it afaik.

  10. jonnybutter January 21, 2016 at 10:26 pm | #

    If Trump has any military experience, he certainly never talks about it afaik.

    He was sent to military school for being a fuckup. Does that count?

    • LFC January 22, 2016 at 11:26 am | #

      I’d forgotten about that.

  11. jonnybutter January 21, 2016 at 10:51 pm | #

    Palin’s implication that Obama does not ‘respect the troops’ is preposterous precisely because respect or even reverence for those who serve in the military has become an absolute precondition of participation in U.S. politics as a national (or regional) elected official.

    It would be tedious to enumerate all the ways Palin is preposterous, but one particularly stupid thing in the quote cited in the OP, is the idea that Obama – the commander of the armed forces – might not know what people in the military go through. I’m pretty sure he does.

  12. Ron January 22, 2016 at 3:58 am | #

    The abandonment of the discourse of the violence of the returning veteran by the left is actually a much more recent phenomenon, and a result of the collapse of the anti-war movement under Obama. One of the central pillars of the anti-war movement of the 2000s was the (very real) image of the vet as psychically damaged, then forced to rejoin society with no guidance on how to recover from the killer’s mindset. The real tragedy here is that with multiple fronts on the never-ending war on terror, civil resistance is almost entirely absent. I think Palin is drawing either subconsciously or otherwise from the rhetoric of the opponents to the Iraq war in particular.

  13. Roquentin January 22, 2016 at 3:37 pm | #

    I cooled off and thought about this some more. I have such a visceral negative reaction to Sarah Palin, which is really just residue from Dubya’s phony country persona. I’ll probably spend a lifetime getting over that one, spending college in Iowa during those years.

    Anyhow, I started thinking about Walter Benjamin and how he referred to fascism as the “aestheticization of politics” or something similar. Then I started thinking about National Socialism and how it borrowed the imagery and style of the workers/communist movement without much in the way of the actual ideology itself. It’s come up on this blog before, as to whether or not Trump and the current GOP represent a fascist movement in the US. I realized the biggest thing separating them is who they are borrowing their imagery and posturing from. While fascism was a crude imitation of communism (particularly in the case of Mussolini, who had been one early on in his political career), the current GOP is a crude imitation of liberal capitalism.

    This alters the ideology in many concrete ways. But that’s the common thread. Walter Benjamin nailed it, like he did with so many other things. We should pay more attention to the Frankfurt school. I still think if any intellectual really got the 20th Century right, more than any other, it was Adorno. He saw it like it was, no matter how awful.

    • michaelwelsh January 22, 2016 at 5:47 pm | #

      Adorno’s well-known antipathy towards black people and jazz would seem to counter the notion that he “got the 20th Century right.” This doesn’t invalidate much of his analysis but we should keep in mind his racism.

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