Rising star, or queen of the has-beens?


Former Alaska governor and Republican vice president candidate Sarah Palin speaks at the Long Island Association's annual meeting, Feb. 17, 2011 in Woodbury, New York.


Mario Tama

Will-she-won't-she presidential hopeful Sarah Palin did her best to stir the pot without looking like a loose cannon in India, but the Alaska governor turned reality TV star's appearance at a speaker's conference for the fading and retired famous comes as her own prospects are waning at home, according to Australian TV.

That's right, folks, all the dope doesn't come from America's "mainstream media" (or the cranks, loons and conspiracy theorists that are its implied opposite).

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lisa Millar, Palin speech in New Delhi last night came as the audience for her reality TV show has shrunk by 50 percent and the latest opinion polls "point to less support not only from independents and moderates but from her own base within the Republican Party." In one poll, for instance, Palin's positive rating has fallen from 70 percent in October to 58 percent today, the report said.

That puts Palin more or less in line with most of the speakers at the India Today Conclave, which nobody will admit on record is primarily a stop on the gravy train for people on their way to the pasture. (Even India's prime minister Manmohan Singh is starting to look like more and more like a pensioner these days).

Conservatives4Palin member Nicole Coulter doesn't agree. "You don't get asked to go to some of these speaking events if you're a has-been so I'll just put it at that right now," she said in the ABC round table. So when was the last time you heard the name Germaine Greer?

According to the UK's Guardian newspaper, Palin hit the right notes, more or less. But that was to be expected. As political commentator Mahesh Rangarajan put it, she had nothing to offer India; she was here to soak up some of the shine. Here's Jason Burke:

In a speech carefully worked to appeal to a local audience as well as public opinion at home, Palin told her audience that the US and India shared many things, including religious tolerance, democratic traditions, a common struggle for freedom from the British empire, a commitment to "see terrorism defeated" and a concern over the rise of China.

There were a few policies sprinkled in there, though.

India's Outlook magazine (arch rival to conference organizer India Today) plays it straight in its analysis, summarizing Palin's folksy talk by saying, "Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee in 2008 US polls, today pitched for closer India-US ties and leveraging the bilateral relationship to bring prosperity to Pakistan." Meanwhile, the Associated Press says, "U.S. politician Sarah Palin stressed the importance of America’s ties with India, saying they were based on the shared values of freedom and free-market capitalism, while sounding a warning note on China’s rise during a speech Saturday in New Delhi."

Televised China-bashing may not be the best way to bolster a reputation for ignorance and incompetence in foreign policy, but it makes better TV than blah blah about "strategic partnerships," doesn't it? “What’s with the military buildup?” Palin said with regard to PRC defense spending. “China’s military growth can’t just be for defensive purposes.”  Full marks for plain speaking, I guess.

Here's another fun note. According to the AP, reporters (who'd been promised an invite) were barred access at the last minute, while Palin insisted on the TV and web broadcast, "I will not sit back and take media criticism...."

Apparently not.