Sarah Palin is a cool chick.
I found that out on Saturday, when she answered a question I asked her directly: Who’s your favorite band?
I spotted Palin as she was being hustled through the lobby of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, the site of the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, which took place over the weekend. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
As a journalist, I realized it was the chance of a lifetime. I had no intention of asking her about policy. I didn’t care what she thought about Romney or Newt. I wanted to know her favorite band.
It wasn’t really a facetious question. Since the rock and roll revolution in the 1960s, pop music has been a way to instantly understand a lot about a person. It began with the demarcation between the fans of the Beatles and the fans of the Rolling Stones. Beatles fans (at least in the early days) were more innocent, with a taste for sweeter pop sounds, whereas the fans of the Stones were often into drugs, blues and bizarre sexual practices. When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, rock fans became like Talmudic scholars, able to decipher not only the different genres but the sub-categories within the genres. We would argue for hours about whether the Clash, having graduated from “White Riot” to “London Calling,” was still a punk band or had become a rock band, or whether New Order’s pop sound was inferior to the sound of Joe Division, the band that spawned New Order. The only bedrock non-negotiable was that AC/DC kicked ass.
You could tell a lot about someone by who they liked. Palin and I were both born in 1964, so we have the same frame of reference. In the 1980s, when we were both in college, sensitive English or Drama majors liked bands like the Smiths and the Cure. But those people were too squishy and liberal, so that was most likely out with Palin. Everyone loved Bruce Springsteen, even though his music was mostly crap — and it has not aged well. If Palin was just a normal, bourgeois and mainstream kind of person, her answer would be something top 40 and obvious, like Whitney Houston (rest in peace) or the Bangles. I thought she might pull out something wild and unexpected, like Patty Smyth or Talking Heads. Maybe even a curveball like Bob Marley, which would hint at an inner mysticism that Palin had hidden from the media.
As word flashed through the crowd that Palin had appeared and the mob began to crowd her, I knew I had to act fast. I also realized this was an epochal moment. Conservatives are always talking about how the culture of a nation is more important than economics or health care policy or the kind of cars we drive. Rock and roll is interwoven into the history of America, and a person’s views on it, even if that person is a famous politician, can be very revealing. I mean, in the day we formed friendships and enemies over this stuff. It might make or break Palin’s future chances for higher office.
The scrum around her had already grown too massive. I was close enough to get some good video, but there were too many people talking. I was also taken aback by her looks. Sarah Palin is the kind of woman for whom the term “stunner” was invented, which is one of the many reasons liberals hate her.