The Sarah Palin "I'm Elusive!" tour rolled into New York this week to meet with Donald Trump, who recently ended his own stunt run for U.S. president. They met for dinner at a Times Square pizza restaurant, surrounded by photographers.
It had the feel of one of those heavily documented affairs between Hollywood actors in the 1940s - pairings arranged by studios when a celebrity had something to promote, or a gay lover to hide. Ms. Palin and Mr. Trump are a bit like Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, in an age when we are at least circling the idea that the only disgrace, or failure, lies in not maintaining one of those rare, eerily consistent, arc-less lines of fame.
Sarah Palin has, of course, not committed to running for president. She's not campaigning, she maintains, merely driving across America in a bus so luridly painted it would make a figure skater blush. She's visiting various historical sites, meeting her fans and warning her followers, during an interview with fellow Fox News employee Greta Van Susteren, that she may need to cut the whole thing short because, like so many Americans, she's worried about the price of gas. Although her political-action committee (Sarahpac) is taking donations.
"This isn't a campaign bus," Ms. Palin explained. "This is a bus to be able to express to America how much we appreciate our foundation …"
Well, I suppose if one were absolutely incapable of expressing that appreciation in sentences, some sort of automotive means might do. I have a lightweight truck with which I'm hoping to express my ambivalence toward Clamato juice.
I imagine that Sarah Palin knows she'll never be president and has known this a while. If the GOP were grooming her, it would have convinced her stay on as governor of Alaska.
She polls poorly. A recent Gallup survey puts her approval rating at just 48 per cent among Republican voters, who overall still prefer "none of the above" to any of the candidates.
And she presents worse, a fact she continues to blame on the "lamestream media" she compulsively courts. This tour is partly intended to reprimand them.
"I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this, and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop is going to be," she said. "I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media."
And so she and her husband, Todd, are making like John and Yoko - rushing about, ducking and weaving, with media in tow.
It's difficult to see how anyone involved in her tour sincerely thinks that this will win her any new supporters. I can't imagine capriciousness is a quality very many Americans are looking for in a president. No one wants that stock movie character now known as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to have the nuclear codes.
Of course, the media play along, to the dismay of many, who maintain that if the press ignored her, she'd go away. I don't think this is the case. I think she'd just try harder. She might wrestle an alligator or something. Fame is hard to kick.
One can see the strain on the faces of serious political journalists when they're asked to discuss her. She has articulated so few actual policies that these conversations always come around to discussions of the source of her appeal. At that point the political pundits begin to dance around the issue like music journalists called upon to review bubble-gum pop at a Grade 7 girls' sleepover party: They are mostly just anxious not to offend.
I'm not sure that discussions of her possible candidacy are drawing much attention away from serious contenders. For a long time now, Ms. Palin has been covered in the same spirit, although with somewhat fewer resources, than Britney Spears is covered. (The emergence of political-celebrity journalism was inevitable.) People are merely, perhaps unkindly, hoping for an accident.
It would have been great to be a fly banging its head against the wall in that New York pizza restaurant, though.
What did Sarah Palin, who has played the victimized everywoman role to the hilt, have to discuss with Donald Trump, a proud bully and king of ostentatious consumption?
I've seen these odd meetings. Sometimes the disparities hit the participants pretty hard. Addiction makes for the strangest bedfellows.