The cover of next week’s Newsweek features a picture of Sarah Palin, along with the headline “How do you solve a problem like Sarah?” The cover is one more example of the periodical’s positioning itself as the ideas journal for people who think that the New York Times’ in-house editorials are middle-of-road, but have too many big words. And of the magazine’s cultural disconnect from much of the United States.
To wit: “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” is an early song in The Sound of Music, which won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Picture. In the song, several nuns at an abbey in the Austrian mountains summarize the problems with the novice Maria (Julie Andrews): Maria is too physically active, athletic and outdoorsy. She is too expressive emotionally, particularly about her happiness. She is flighty, and late for everything except meals. She has a good heart, but does not listen well to advice from her elders, and she is highly self-directed: “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” The harsh nun, Berthe, calls Maria “a headache” and “a demon.” Newsweek‘s subhead take’s Berthe’s role, calling Palin “bad news for the GOP–and everyone else too.”
The Mother Superior knows better: Maria is no bad-news demon. Rather, Maria is someone who lives the Good News, and whose talents, energy, and will-power are going to waste in the abbey. So she ships Maria off to a job outside the abbey–a job for which Maria is totally unprepared, and a job at which Maria’s predecessors have failed. After a rough start, Maria becomes a great success, due to her common sense, kind heart, wisdom, and readiness to defy convention. In the process, Maria also stands up to foreign totalitarian aggressors (winning the support of even her staunch critic Berthe), fortifies the nationalist sentiments of her country against those aggressors, and leads the people in her care to safety and freedom.
Ergo, the question “How do you solve a problem like Sarah?’ provides its own answer, at least to people who know the film from which the song comes: Make her the President of the United States.
I’m not arguing for or against Palin for President–just observing that, as is so often the case, the Palin-hating media are less clever than they think, and end up inadvertently making her stronger.