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The Perils of Palin Punditry

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.



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