Palin champions will hold up last night's "Sarah Palin's America" episode as proof of the candidate putting her money where her moose is. That is to say, after years of talking about being a hunter, Palin actually went out and shot something.
While much of the debate around the episode is an ethical one about a millionaire shooting a defenseless animal so as not to have to pay for meat, the real conversation should be about how the episode absolutely exposes Palin as a charade.
In this most recent episode, a woman who has blindly championed the NRA and legitimized her frontier-woman status by claiming to be a "lifelong hunter" comes across as anything but.
For starters, Palin and pa head out on a long hunt without bothering to sight in Palin's rifle, a mistake no serious hunter would ever make. Why Palin's dad chose for her a "varmint rifle" for a caribou hunt and why Palin, an admitted "moose hunter," would not question such a gun's appropriateness is never answered.
From there, numerous bungles along the way to finally downing the caribou show a hunting tourist who, at worst, appears to pose a genuine danger to fellow outdoorsmen.
While Palin's hunting-for-TV jamboree certainly impressed the hockey moms, it seriously eroded her base of genuine hunters. One online commentor, on Sean Hannity's website no less, grumbled, "I turned on Sarah Palin's Alaska a minute ago and she just shot four maybe even five times at a caribou and missed. Needless to say I'm not impressed with her ability to handle a firearm let alone aim it and hit something."
On Palin's own Facebook page, a viewer wrote, "What a joke. I was a fan before the show. No one who is a true hunter lets others carry their rifle or can't load their own shells. Sarah, you are a phony in this area of your 'skills."
Several others wondered why Palin, an experienced hunter, didn't bring her own rifle, pointing out that familiarity with one's weapon is a core principle of hunting. Another pointed out, regarding Palin's veteran hunter dad, "I was surprised to see him using the gun as a walking stick."
Several hunter friends to whom I showed the video were less than impressed. All agreed that she did not look like she had handled a gun many times. One, who just posted his November kill on his Facebook profile, said "I would not hunt with her."
In the episode, Palin is handed a second gun, which, thanks to good video editing, she uses to down the animal in one shot.
But knowledgeable hunters would have all recoiled in horror watching Palin immediately place her finger on the trigger of the "hot" Savage 110 as it was handed to her. Keeping one's finger off the trigger until the very moment of the shot is the first lesson any responsible hunter ever learns.
But Palin's inexperience with guns is in no way more obvious than when she is handed the rifle and she asks, "Does it kick?" It was an exchange Brad Schlegel took note of, writing on Palin's Facebook wall, "'does the rifle kick' what kind of a question is that? Doesn't matter if it kicks or not you shoot it the same. That was a girly question momma griz."
It would behoove Palin real American opponents and supporters alike to remember that pretending to enjoy hunting is an American political tradition. Indeed, who can forget John Kerry, avid fowl hunter? Or this: "My father taught me how to shoot."
Of course, not everyone was convinced that the mystique of Palin as Alaskan hunter is a con job. In the tradition of justifying anything to preserve a dear illusion at any cost to reason, a commenter on Hannity's forum dismissed questions like so: "You'd have seen her dad take a tumble while caring the gun she used. He must have knocked the scope out of alignment." Another hunter in the 24 Hour Campfire forum reasoned, "I bet the producers of that show knocked that messed with the scope to make it more dramatic," while another theorized, "If I had to guess, it'd be someone on the set messed with her scope with promises of wealth to make her look stupid."
Update, regarding the wearing of orange. As former Governor of the state, Palin should know that Alaska's policy is that "Upland and big game hunters are strongly recommended to wear Hunter Orange."