Have you heard? Everyone's favorite governor has an interview published online Tuesday for Runner's World magazine. Alongside inane questions for the former VP hopeful, there is a hilarious and ridiculous photo shoot in which Palin (maybe) disrespects the American flag.
The final photo in the 7-image slide show features Palin posing jauntily in vaguely ill-fitting shorts and a red zip-up with one elbow resting carelessly on the flag, which has been draped over the back of a chair. Palin has clearly mastered the standard celebrity red carpet pose (one leg bent slightly, body tilted, hand on the hip, face at a slight angle), but for once, people are not talking about her short shorts or slight body. All attention is now on the colorful cloth prop, with the question: Is it wrong to treat the symbol of America is such a manner?
The left-leaning website Daily Kos weighs in on the possible flag controversy:
The moment I noticed the manner in which the flag had been positioned for the shoot, I had a moment of cognitive dissonance: here was a GOP governor who goes out of her way to make her patriotism an important part of her public appeal, engaging in treatment of the flag that is blatantly a faux pas, especially (but certainly not only) in many circles within the culture of the GOP base in which Palin's politics are rooted.
In order to prove the point, the Daily Kos writer looks up the official code of conduct with regards to the American flag. They most likely found this Wikipedia page, which specifies that the flag must never be "drawn back or bunched up in any way." Also, the flag should never "be used as 'wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery', or for covering a speaker's desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins)," another rule that Palin has violated.
Andrew Sullivan from The Atlantic recently posted this picture, from the Palin Calendar for 2008, which was sent to him by a reader. The tipster writes:
In the summer of 1998, Monica Lewinsky did a photo shoot for Vanity Fair which had her pose provocatively with the American flag. Maureen Dowd was livid at the time ("There's something sickening about a young woman who vamps with the American flag, mocking her role as the silent center of a case that could bring down a president") and Walter Shapiro was still steaming about it months later ("She displayed execrable judgment in posing on a beach with an American flag for Vanity Fair. Her vanity duly engaged—as whose would not be?—Monica lacked the maturity to balk at the magazine's tasteless choice of props.")
Unsurprisingly, this is the sort of thing that is given a pass when it is done by members of the appropriate party, but treated as a capital offense when the other side tries it.
However, this sort of selective patriotism and outrage seems like it goes hand-and-hand with flag waving in general. Yesterday, Timothy Egan's New York Times blog delved into the politics of the flag, which has been recently embraced in blue states like California and New York, states that had been shying away from "overt displays of patriotism" in previous years. Now that Obama is president, Timothy Egan argues, the flag is making a comeback among the liberals, including the President himself, who has started wearing his flag pin on his lapel once more. Egan criticizes the "situational flag waving" that many seem to engage in, and mentions several instances of republican sore losers turning their backs on the red, white, and blue:
At the same time, in deep red states like Texas, where secession talk heated up in the first months of the Obama presidency, there has been a passionate public embrace of the vaunted Lone Star flag, symbol of independence dating to the days of the Republic of Texas. Incidentally, the blue in that flag stands for loyalty, as defined by state code.
In this cooling of nationalistic ardor, Texans are little different from those who felt left out during the previous eight years, including Obama. After George W. Bush won his second term, a Web retailer started selling "the official flag of the United Blue States of America," which had 20 stars – one for each of the 19 states, and the District of Columbia, that went Democratic in 2004.
According to this analysis, Palin should probably start posing with the Alaskan flag soon, else she falls behind red state trends.
Although the issue of the flag-used-as-prop has probably become the most interesting thing about Palin's Runner's World interview, there are a few other choice quotes included in the piece. Palin describes an embarrassing fall she suffered when running with the Secret Service on John McCain's ranch, shares her tips for running in the cold (layering), mentions briefly the origin of her son's name ("I named him Track for running"), and laughs at McCain's favorite form of exercise ("he said, 'I go wading,' Wading... That cracked me up"). Palin also issues a challenge to President Obama to come to Alaska and run against her. Even though she would never play him in basketball, since she doesn't want to lose to him again—"he towers over me and I wouldn't be complaining about an unfair advantage there, but..."—Palin admits she would like to run against Obama. "I betcha I'd have more endurance," she said.
I'm A Runner: Sarah Palin [Runner's World]
Palin Treats The American Flag Disrespectfully [Daily Kos]
United States Flag Code [Wikipedia]
The Flag And Palin [The Daily Dish]
The Other Palin Profile [Politico]
Palin: I'd Come Out Ahead In Run Against Obama [Brattleboro Reformer]
Capture The Flag [NYT]