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The First Palinologist?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

By Amanda Silverman
The New Republic

Sarah Palin isn’t the only person cashing in on her ill-fated bid for the vice-presidency. A whole slew of authors, fashion designers, movie producers, pornographers, cartoonists, and opticians are riding the Palin gravy train. So I was not surprised when I received an email in my inbox a press release plugging what seemed to be the latest category of Palin profiteer: Academics.

The University of Alaska Southeast is now touting one of their political science professors, Clive Thomas, as a one-stop Sarah Palin expert. He has been hitting the speaking circuit, with recent stops ranging from Utah to Brazil, and upcoming gigs in San Francisco and Chicago. His talks, according to the university, touch on numerous aspects of the "Palin Phenomenon," including "the enigmatic fascination with Palin, the contrast between those who like her and those who do not, and what she tells us about American politics." He also "introduces audiences to 'Alaska in myth and reality' including some Alaska political traits-populism, anti-tax and anti-government, especially anti-federal government and how Palin fits in Alaska." At least happy customer, Oregon State Political Science Chair Bill Lunch, reports: "I will now watch her future career moves with an insight I didn't have before this lecture." Is Thomas the world's first professional Palinologist?

Not if he has anything to do with it. “I study Sarah Palin by default,” says the affable, British-accented professor who has been teaching for nearly three decades. Despite the apparent publicity-mongering of his university, Thomas, who has a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics and has been awarded four Fulbright fellowships, seems to be standing in the limelight very reluctantly. He explains to me, with a sigh, that while he has written several books on Alaska politics and has taught the subject for decades, he actually specializes in Latin America. (His recent trip to Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile was for research, not just lecturing.) And--surprise, surprise--he seems to be just as sick of Palin as we are....(Remainder)

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