While many of you may roll your eyes at the prospect of reading another article about Sarah Palin - pro or con - the issues she raises as a personality in the Republican party simply can’t be ignored, or saved for discussion when she announces her candidacy for the presidency sometime next spring.
Make no mistake. Palin is already running for the office, testing her message in front of friendly audiences, tweaking her online presence, sharpening her attacks, and demonstrating the right balance of humility and eagerness to serve when asked about her future plans. She’s been bitten by the bug, and given the dismal performance ratings of the incumbent, sees a clear opening in a race that will almost certainly be anyone’s ballgame on the Republican side.
Even more than President Obama, Palin represents herself as a new kind of politician. She combines the politics of resentment with a down home charm and an aw-shucks ordinariness that takes the lance out of many of her sneering thrusts at Democrats, while the blood she draws drives her sycophantic, puppy-like admirers into paroxysms of ecstasy. She is a combination of Reagan, Winston Churchill, and maybe George Washington if you read any of the hundreds of blogs that sing her praises. And she has tapped into the motherlode of fears, hates, and simple, decent pride of country (that some deride incorrectly as “chauvinism”) to which ordinary voters respond at gut level.
A not inconsequential skill set. She is much smarter than her potential opponents give her credit for which makes her even more formidable a candidate. Many liberals apparently can’t get out of the way of their own intellectual arrogance when it comes to sizing up the opposition, and Palin intends to take full advantage of that shortcoming.
The more the pollsters, the media, and the left ask how anyone can seriously consider Palin for the highest office in the land, the more her stock rises with ordinary voters. The more establishment Republicans tip-toe around her obvious limitations, the more she is lionized by the anti-establishment tea party types and online conservative elites who see her as something of an American savior, if not the personification of the conservative cause.
For those who say she has no chance, I have two words for you; Barack Obama. Not surprisingly, Palin has compared her own desert-like resume with Obama’s puffed up qualifications and found the president’s experience similar to her own. We’re not going to refight that battle here, but suffice it to say both lack the kind of depth of experience Americans were used to in choosing a chief executive. If anything, President Obama is proving that being book smart is not the same as being capable of heading a smart government, or developing smart policies.
It’s not that Palin is “incurious” - a word I hate because it isn’t really a word as much as a talking point. Rather, it is the depthlessness of her intellect that jumps out at you. She seems capable of absorbing information at a superficial level, but nuance and detail appears to be beyond the ken of her understanding. Perhaps she could disabuse us of this notion if she allowed herself to be interviewed by a Charlie Rose, or a Tavis Smilely, or perhaps a Brian Lamb who wouldn’t be satisfied with letting her spout rushed talking points, forcing her to delve deeper into issues than when she is interviewed by friendlies like Hannity or O”Reilly.
One gets the sense in her sit downs with conservatives that she has a list in her head of points she wants to hit on any given issue, and then rattles them off as if she has learned them by rote. It is quite disconcerting if you’re used to an interviewee actually thinking about what they should say and then saying it. She is too glib, too cocksure - and too shallow - to have seriously considered the ramifications of much of what she says. This is why she should seek to stretch herself by being interviewed by someone who not only knows what they’re doing, but is ridiculously well prepared and well-versed in the detail and nuance of the subjects up for discussion. Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, even Katy Couric don’t have the time, the talent, or the desire to challenge her depthless understanding of issues, of government, or of conservative philosophy.
Would exposing her as a one dimensional stick figure of a candidate lose her votes? Many already view her that way, perhaps even some of her supporters. More drastic action is needed, according to Joe Scarborough:
Palin is not a stupid woman. But like the current president, she still does not know what she does not know. And she does know how to make millions of dollars, even if she embarrasses herself while doing it.
That reality hardly makes Palin unique, but this is one Republican who would prefer that the former half-term governor promote her reality shows and hawk her books without demeaning the reputations of Presidents Reagan and Bush. These great men dedicated their lives to public service and are too good to be fodder for her gaudy circus sideshow.
If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.
But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.
Scarborough is referring to Palin’s recent denigration of Reagan’s experience. When questioned about her lack of a resume for the presidency, Palin took a page out of the liberal playbook and averred that “Wasn’t Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn’t he in ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor…” Peggy Noonan supplies the necessary lobotomy to Palin’s sneering ignorance:
The point is not “He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,” though that is true. The point is that Reagan’s career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him. He wasn’t in search of a life when he ran for office, and he wasn’t in search of fame; he’d already lived a life, he was already well known, he’d accomplished things in the world.
And calling George and Barbara Bush “bluebloods” because they don’t support her for the presidency demonstrated not only a thin skin, but that there is little doubt that she is, indeed, almost certainly going to run for president. Scarborough’s snarky response:
Maybe poor George Herbert Walker Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Indeed, he was so pampered growing up that on his 18th birthday, the young high school graduate enlisted in the armed forces. This spoiled teenager somehow managed to be the youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings, flying 58 combat missions over the Pacific during World War II. On Sept. 2, 1944, “Blue Blood” Bush almost lost his life after being shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.
With his engine shattered and his plane on fire, Bush still refused to turn back, completing his mission by scoring several damaging hits on enemy targets. His plane crashed in the Pacific, where he waited for four hours in enemy waters until he was finally rescued. For his bravery and service to this country, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three air medals and the Presidential Unit Citation for bravery while in combat.
George H.W. Bush accomplished more in his life before his 19th birthday than Palin has in her entire existence. And yet, the fact that he was born rich and part of the establishment is grounds for the most dismissive kind of epithet? “Establishment” is the new “black” among many Republicans and conservatives. The very mention of the word draws bric-a-bracs from the mindless partisans who are cheering her on and is an automatic disqualifier regardless of the accomplishments and loyalty to party or cause demonstrated by the offender.
And that may be Palin’s greatest drawback and the number one reason she should be called out by respected conservatives and Republicans; her hyper-partisanship. Andrew Sullivan on Palin’s Thanksgiving day Facebook post about the media frenzy over her “North Korea” gaffe:
This may be a smart-ass retort; it may be useful inoculation against a potentially damaging gaffe; it may even be a well-researched blog-post, but what it isn’t is anything approaching the kind of character we expect in a president. A simple respect for the office she seeks would not reflect itself in these increasingly callow, sarcastic, cheap jibes at a sitting president. But sadly, like so many now purporting to represent conservatism, there is, behind the faux awe before the constitution, a contempt for the restraint and dignity a polity’s institutions require from its leaders.
There is no maturity here; no self-reflection; no capacity even to think how to appeal to the half of Americans who are already so appalled by her trashy behavior and cheap publicity stunts. There is a meanness, a disrespect, a vicious partisanship that, if allowed to gain more power, would split this country more deeply and more rancorously than at any time in recent years. And that’s saying something.
Actually, how the country could be even more divided at this point is a mystery. More than looking ahead to a Palin presidency, Republicans and conservatives should look to a much more realistic scenario; crowning her candidacy with the Republican nomination for president.
The disaster that would flow from that course of action for both the right, and the GOP would make 2008 look like a picnic. It would be irresponsible to nominate Sarah Palin (and Mike Huckabee and a few others). It would prove that the GOP and conservatives are unserious about addressing the monumental problems in America by putting forward someone who everyone but Palin disciples believe is a lightweight for the highest office in the land.
The punishment meted out by the electorate would be well deserved.