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Sarah Palin hunting: Why the world shakes when she shoots a caribou

Sarah Palin hunting: Some commentators see a political commentary in Sarah Palin hunting caribou on 'Sarah Palin's Alaska,' calling the caribou, 'Obambi.' Others see animal cruelty. To hunters, though, the furor shows that urban America doesn't understand rural life.

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“So a left-wing Hollywood producer thinks there is no ‘distinction’ between harvesting healthy, wild organic protein to feed my family and engaging in dog fighting?” Palin wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press. “I didn’t know anyone ate dogs, tanned the hides, and made boots out of them.”

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Yet even some hunting defenders say Sorkin missed the opportunity for a more substantial critique of Palin's tundra hunt.

"She repeatedly missed a standing caribou; her father had to work her gun's action; and she acted like she was along for the ride," writes the Guardian's Craig Dougherty. "She is a beginner at best, which is fine – unless you portray yourself as something else. And Palin does. Americans are suspicious of pretenders, especially when they are talking about being the leader of the free world."

But beyond being a TV show led by a potential presidential candidate, the issues raised by "Sarah Palin's Alaska" do resonate more broadly in an America teetering politically – see "tea party" – between rural and urban values. In Ms. Dowd's eyes, the gun-toting Palin's hailing of "mama grizzlies" and rural "pioneer women" poses a direct threat to political and cultural enlightenment.

"Even with a rifle aimed at him, [Obama as the caribou is] trying to be the most reasonable mammal in the scene, mammalian bipartisan, and rise above what he sees as empty distinctions between the species so that we can all unite at a higher level of being," writes Dowd. "[T]rigger-happy Sarah represents the Republicans, who have spent two years taking shots at the president, including potshots, and tormenting him in an effort to bring him down."

To be sure, the flap over Palin's caribou shot may ultimately be more about her polarizing persona and the fact that the show is aired on a network that usually doesn't feature animal bloodshed.

After all, 78 percent of Americans support hunting, according to a 2006 poll by Responsive Management, which carries out research for universities and state natural-resource agencies. But hunting groups are aware that that support is shifting as Americans leave the heartland for more urban and suburban destinations.

"There are so many dramatic changes in terms of the demography that just allowing people this window to see that this is a legitimate lifestyle is a good thing," says Mr. Lawson. "At the same time, you run the risk of shooting the messenger."


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