Snark week: Alan Grayson takes on Sarah Palin

Conservative Sarah Palin and liberal Rep. Alan Grayson have become the masters of Internet-era political wit – a.k.a. snark – and this week, their targets were each other.

Joe Burbank/AP/Orlando Sentinel,
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin jokes with daughter Piper at the Orange County Republican Executive Committee Lincoln Day Dinner in Orlando, Fla., last Friday. At the event, she said she wouldn't use foul language about liberal Rep. Alan Grayson because her daughter was there.

Sarah Palin and Rep. Alan Grayson (D) of Florida are emerging as America’s two most perfect – and perfectly hilarious – political foils.

About as opposite on the political spectrum as sushi is to gefilte fish in the kitchen, Mr. Grayson and former Alaska Governor Palin showed this week that they are perhaps the masters of the Internet-era's version of political riposte: snark.

Grayson is a forerunner of a new generation of politician who can bring the brashness of the blogosphere to the campaign trail. And he is a staunch defender of major healthcare reform. He famously quipped last year: "The Republican healthcare plan is this: 'Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.' "

Meanwhile, Palin has used her Facebook and Twitter accounts to devastating effect, with perhaps her most successful foray into Internet politicking coming at the expense of healthcare reform. A strong critic of healthcare reform, she coined the term "death panels" to describe a provision in an earlier bill.

Thus a great political – and increasingly personal – rivalry was born, which only heated up this week with Grayson unceremoniously calling Palin a "wild Alaskan dingbat" after she urged Floridians to toss the firebrand freshman congressman out of office.

Certainly, the Grayson-Palin bout represents an extreme even in today's hyperpartisan politics. But it shows how the thrust and parry of political wit has evolved, from the erudite condescensions of Benjamin Disraeli to verbal smackdowns seemingly lifted from comment threads.

What America wants?

Yet such bareknuckle politics, Florida-style, play to an undercurrent in the electorate, says University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith.

"People are a tired of compromise, and you look at what Congressman Grayson did with his line about Republican healthcare being 'don't get sick or, if you do, die quickly,' he raised close to $1 million for his campaign," he says.

"It was very good political theater for his own personal politics and staving off Republican challengers in a very competitive district," Mr. Smith adds. "It doesn't necessarily translate into governing or building coalitions, but frankly I don't think Grayson cares."

But Grayson's attacks do make many Democrats nervous, adds Smith. After all, though Palin may be an easy target, she's also a public figure without a constituency (except for just under 1.5 million Facebook fans).

"That gives Sarah Palin the upper hand in this political theater, since she can sit in the audience and throw tomatoes," he says. "And whether he likes it or not Grayson is part of the political process that needs to not have as many sharpened elbows in order to get healthcare reform through."

Orlando fireworks

So how did the latest rumble go down?

In a speech in support of conservative candidates in Orlando last Friday, Palin refrained from using sobriquets to describe the liberal Grayson, explaining that her daughter, Piper, was with her, “so I won’t say anything about Alan Grayson that can’t be said around children.”

She then went on to thank Floridians for “allowing candidates in a contested primary to duke it out over ideas and principles and values, all with the same goal, and that is unseating those who have such a disconnect from the people of America.” That would be Grayson.

Never one to let a good retort go wasted, Grayson lit into Palin with a sense of glee rarely seen outside of, well, the TV show “Glee.”

“Palin, the former half-term governor, current-nothing and future-even-less, charmed the all-Republican audience with her folksy folksiness and her homespun homespunnery.… At the end of the event, she shared her recipe for mooseface pie,” a Tuesday press release from Grayson’s office said.

The chuckles of college interns in Grayson’s office could practically be heard.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.