"Who's Sarah Palin?"
Following the potential presidential candidate to the only spot in America where people don't recognize her.
In general, whenever Sarah Palin arrives anywhere, people know her. That hair, that voice, those glasses. She is instantly recognizable and instantly polarizing. People say that she is their hero or that they detest her.
Except this morning, at the Statue of Liberty.
"There was a bit of a controversy around her, I think," says Gill Badger, visiting with her husband and son from Stratford-on-Avon in England. "Can't remember what it was."
"Who's Sarah Palin?" asks her son, Tom, 23.
"We'll tell you later," says Gill's husband, Terry.
"I've heard of Michael Palin," Tom says.
Of all the places where Sarah Palin—former governor of Alaska, former Republican vice-presidential nominee, possible presidential hopeful—might find a natural constituency, New York City's Liberty Island is not one. It is filled with tourists from other countries—Italians who don't speak English, people in weird clothes who must surely be German—many of whom bought their ferry tickets long before Palin's current bus tour got under way.
That tour, which Palin is calling a family vacation (although it looks unmistakably like a campaign swing), has thus far taken her to historical sites along the East Coast where actual voters might be. But this stop, perhaps more than any of the other sites the Palins have hit so far, calls into particularly sharp relief the weirdness of this whole exercise. Unlike, say, the nation's capital, which Palin visited over the weekend, or New Hampshire, where she may head later, not even the Americans at Liberty Island were necessarily interested in politics, let alone in Sarah Palin.
You know, Sarah Palin. She ran with John McCain, on the presidential ticket? "Oh, that's who that is," says a fellow who does maintenance for the National Park Service who was sitting around holding a broom in the wake of Palin's entourage.
Libby Copeland is a writer in New York and a regular Slate contributor. She was previously a Washington Post reporter and editor for 11 years. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photograph of Sarah Palin by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.