Great stories always have an inherent symmetry. This is
particularly true of those stories written by history.
At the beginning of the Bush Administration in 2002 John
DiIulio, who had run President Bush’s Office of Faith Based
Initiatives resigned and called Karl Rove’s minions “Mayberry Machiavellis.” For many the name stuck.
But among Mr. Rove’s most useful political skills is his
ability to see the branding gems hidden inside many insults. Attack George W’s
grammar and miraculously his syntax will become even more tortured. Then Neocon
commentators will stress how “down home” and “mainstream” W’s wisdom really is,
as if most folks didn’t actually pass the seventh grade and most “ranches”
aren’t devoted to growing cattle but to producing an endless supply of scrub
brush that needs to be telegenically cut.
So it is to be expected that the Mayberry theme of this
White House might lead the Rovian Repubs to choose a down home Mayor from a
backwoods little town even smaller than the mythical Mayberry for the role of
And Sarah Palin, who got here training in front of the
camera as a local sportscaster for KTUU-TV in Anchorage, is playing it for all
it is worth. And more power to her. Her unique speaking style, so easy to
imitate and so brilliantly parodied by Tina Fey, is a form of verbal branding that will make sure her 15 minutes of fame won’t
run out who ever wins this election.
That her verbal style is a conscious decision – and so
worthy of praise – can be seen if you listen to how she responded in debates
when she ran for Governor of Alaska. The winks, nods, “aw shucks” and “I’ll get
back to yas” just aren’t there.
To see how effective this type of verbal branding can be in
building a heroic persona, listen to the Master, Andy Griffith in his classic storytelling routine “What It Was, Was Football.” One problem for McCain: If Palin is playing wise and steady Sherrif Andy,
who is playing the socially awkward, nervously erratic and occasionally irrationally
angry role of Barney Fife?