Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin Continues to Discredit Herself

Sarah Palin continues to act in ways that confirm some of the more negative things said about her.

For example, she’s taken to Facebook to attack the most recent budget plan by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. According to Ms. Palin:

The latest Ryan (R, Wisconsin) Budget is not an April Fool’s joke. But it really IS a joke because it is STILL not seeing the problem; it STILL is not proposing reining in wasteful government overspending TODAY, instead of speculating years out that some future Congress and White House may possibly, hopefully, eh-who-knows, take responsibility for today’s budgetary selfishness and shortsightedness to do so. THIS is the definition of insanity. Do we still not understand how dangerous it is to allow government to grow unchecked as we shackle ourselves with massive debt – a good portion of which is held by foreign nations who don’t necessarily like us? If we can’t balance the budget today, what on earth makes us think it will happen at some future date? The solution is staring us in the face. We need to rein in spending today, and don’t tell me there is nothing to cut when we know every omnibus bill is loaded with pork and kickbacks.

Reading the article linked below gave me the same reaction that my daughter just caused when she punked me with a very unfunny April Fool’s Day announcement. As my Dad would say after these April Fool’s announcements, “This would kill a lesser man.” This out-of-control debt is killing our economic future.

Whatever differences Ms. Palin may have with the Ryan plan–and perhaps she’ll take the time to offer an actual critique of if rather than a Facebook entry with lots of upper case words–it’s hardly a joke. But what might elicit a roll of the eyes is comparing Ms. Palin’s views now versus what they were nearly four years ago.

Read More

Sarah Palin continues to act in ways that confirm some of the more negative things said about her.

For example, she’s taken to Facebook to attack the most recent budget plan by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. According to Ms. Palin:

The latest Ryan (R, Wisconsin) Budget is not an April Fool’s joke. But it really IS a joke because it is STILL not seeing the problem; it STILL is not proposing reining in wasteful government overspending TODAY, instead of speculating years out that some future Congress and White House may possibly, hopefully, eh-who-knows, take responsibility for today’s budgetary selfishness and shortsightedness to do so. THIS is the definition of insanity. Do we still not understand how dangerous it is to allow government to grow unchecked as we shackle ourselves with massive debt – a good portion of which is held by foreign nations who don’t necessarily like us? If we can’t balance the budget today, what on earth makes us think it will happen at some future date? The solution is staring us in the face. We need to rein in spending today, and don’t tell me there is nothing to cut when we know every omnibus bill is loaded with pork and kickbacks.

Reading the article linked below gave me the same reaction that my daughter just caused when she punked me with a very unfunny April Fool’s Day announcement. As my Dad would say after these April Fool’s announcements, “This would kill a lesser man.” This out-of-control debt is killing our economic future.

Whatever differences Ms. Palin may have with the Ryan plan–and perhaps she’ll take the time to offer an actual critique of if rather than a Facebook entry with lots of upper case words–it’s hardly a joke. But what might elicit a roll of the eyes is comparing Ms. Palin’s views now versus what they were nearly four years ago.

Consider this: On December 10, 2010, Ms. Palin published in her name an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why I Support the Ryan Roadmap.” Back then “the Roadmap for America’s Future produced by Rep. Paul Ryan… offers a reliable path to long-term solvency for our entitlement programs, and it does so by encouraging personal responsibility and independence.” And this: “Put simply: Our country is on the path toward bankruptcy. We must turn around before it’s too late, and the [Ryan] Roadmap offers a clear plan for doing so.”

And now consider this: The plan Palin supported in 2010 would have taken over 30 years to balance the budget. The plan she now opposes for not being sufficiently austere would balance the budget in ten years. Mr. Ryan himself has said that this plan cuts more spending than any budget he’s ever written, to the tune of $5.1 trillion over the next decade. In addition, Ryan’s plan calls for overhauling the tax code, repealing the Affordable Care Act, reforming entitlement programs, and promoting energy security.

Now you may believe, as I do, that Ms. Palin long ago ceased being a serious national voice. But she is representative of something real. She personifies a mindset within conservatism that is almost proudly anti-intellectual, one characterized by resentments, that relies on banalities, and is disconnected from reality. It views politics as a pose and seems to take special delight in targeting perceived heretics within the movement. It’s all rather silly.

At the same time, there is something problematic when people on the right, including the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008, attack those who are actually doing the hard, necessary work of providing a conservative governing alternative to the Obama years. I recognize that posting shallow reactions on Facebook is easier than offering serious analysis or putting together an actual budget. 

Easier, perhaps, but ultimately discrediting.

Read Less

Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, and Hypocrisy

I don’t write this every day but sometimes it needs to be said. Liberals have a point. Not about ObamaCare or their plans to increase spending and taxes. But about Phil Robertson and the hypocrisy of some of his conservative supporters who are outraged about the fact that the Duck Dynasty star was suspended for uttering critical remarks about homosexuality as well as some bizarre comments about the Jim Crow era that for some reason got less attention than his conservative Christian take on gays and sex.

Robertson was suspended yesterday by the A&E network that runs the hit reality show about a family business that makes duck calls after an outcry over things the hunting patriarch said in a GQ interview. In response, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said Robertson (who is a resident of his state) was a victim of the “politically correct crowd.” Sarah Palin weighed in with her trademark lowbrow pandering style on her Facebook page:

Free speech is an endangered species. Those “intolerants” hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.

Are they right? Not really.

Read More

I don’t write this every day but sometimes it needs to be said. Liberals have a point. Not about ObamaCare or their plans to increase spending and taxes. But about Phil Robertson and the hypocrisy of some of his conservative supporters who are outraged about the fact that the Duck Dynasty star was suspended for uttering critical remarks about homosexuality as well as some bizarre comments about the Jim Crow era that for some reason got less attention than his conservative Christian take on gays and sex.

Robertson was suspended yesterday by the A&E network that runs the hit reality show about a family business that makes duck calls after an outcry over things the hunting patriarch said in a GQ interview. In response, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said Robertson (who is a resident of his state) was a victim of the “politically correct crowd.” Sarah Palin weighed in with her trademark lowbrow pandering style on her Facebook page:

Free speech is an endangered species. Those “intolerants” hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.

Are they right? Not really.

Robertson is entitled to his opinion about faith, sex, race, or anything else on his mind. But his right to free speech doesn’t entitle him to a job on an A&E show. If the network doesn’t wish to be associated with such views, they are free to tell him to take a hike. For the same reason MSNBC was within its rights to can actor Alec Baldwin when he used a homophobic slur and then lied about it. The same network was also right when it eased Martin Bashir, one of the network’s left-wing opinion slingers, out after he used despicable language about the same Sarah Palin. At that time conservatives (including me) wondered what was going on when for weeks Bashir went unpunished for behaving in such an atrocious manner. Nobody on the right thought Bashir’s right of free speech was at stake. Instead, they correctly identified the issue as the hypocrisy of liberals who are quick to brand conservatives who speak out of turn as extremists and radicals who are primarily responsible for the lack of civility in politics today.

The right to free speech has nothing to do with having a gig on television. No one has a right to such a job and nothing prevents those who run these outfits from choosing who works for them. That applies to Bashir as well as to Robertson.

Those defending Robertson are making a broader point. They fear that anyone who is critical of gays and states it from a conservative theological frame of reference is particularly vulnerable to being singled out for being politically incorrect. There’s something to that, as popular culture has rendered those with negative views about homosexuality, whether rooted in faith or not, as anathema. Gays shouldn’t be subjected to abuse or insults, but the fact that Robertson’s comments about them sparked more outrage than his Christian chauvinism or his idiotic assertion that blacks were happy under Jim Crow tells us a lot about our culture these days.

It should also be pointed out that there’s something odd about A&E punishing a member of the cast of Duck Dynasty for uttering comments that seem in character for a program whose conceit is an opportunity to see backwoods hunters at home, work, and play. But if they think the bearded stars of the hit show shouldn’t offend people in this manner, then they can discharge him–although the suspension for future work would make more sense if they took the reruns that continue to appear on their channel off the air too. Reality shows are peopled largely by outrageous figures that specialize in foolish or vulgar behavior. Jindal wasn’t entirely wrong when he said on Twitter that there was something faintly ridiculous that there was plenty of room in the entertainment business for a trashy vulgarian like Miley Cyrus but none for the likes of Robertson.

But hypocrisy works both ways. Those who are chortling about Jindal and Palin’s support for Robertson were silent when Bashir was trashing the former Alaska governor. Liberals are quick to seize on any outrageous thing said by a figure on the right and shrug their shoulders or ignore it when left-wing politicians, pundits, or TV talkers make hateful or prejudicial remarks.

What we need here is not so much more civility—though that would be nice—but some consistency when it comes to outrage. If you think gays shouldn’t be subjected to negative or prejudicial remarks on TV, then try to be just as interested when people of faith or conservatives are given the same treatment. The same advice applies to conservatives. Selective outrage that is only generated when someone whose political opinions you disagree with crosses the line is what is really turning our public square into a verbal junkyard.

Read Less

Can MSNBC Clean Up Its Act?

The low level of political discourse is a favorite topic for pundits who want to trash our political class. That is especially true on the left, which has often taken the position that conservatives and Tea Partiers are most to blame for coarsening political discussions and demonizing President Obama and liberals. But as anyone who regularly monitors the cable news channels knows, it’s easy to see that this assumption is largely a fiction. MSNBC, which has become the avowed home of leftism on television, has become notorious for having hosts like Chris Matthews and Al Sharpton who regularly plumb the depths with the sort of invective that would embarrass even most gutter politicians. But last Friday, Martin Bashir topped them with a scripted rant that was extreme even for him.

Reacting to a comment by Sarah Palin about the mounting national debt sentencing future American generations to the moral equivalent of “slavery,” Bashir went off the deep end. An argument can be made that slavery is, like the Holocaust, something that should not be treated as a political metaphor but rather a unique crime to which nothing—other than actual enslavement—should be compared. But Bashir wasn’t satisfied with merely reproving Palin or calling her a “dunce,” which he has done before. Instead, he dug up a historical text about the way slaves were treated in the 18th century and said Palin should be subjected to the same atrocity: to be defecated upon and to have someone urinate into her mouth.

Not surprisingly, Bashir’s crude threat did not set off much of a media firestorm. That is due, at least in part, to the low ratings of his show, but also to the notion that Palin is the sort of person about whom one can say virtually anything with impunity. But the protests that did come in forced Bashir to apologize yesterday on his program. As apologies go, it was quite satisfactory. Rather than the usual weasel words about being sorry that someone was offended, Bashir acknowledged not only that he was wrong but also that he was guilty of contributing to all that was wrong about our political system. Fair enough, but what we’re still waiting for is an apology from his network.

Read More

The low level of political discourse is a favorite topic for pundits who want to trash our political class. That is especially true on the left, which has often taken the position that conservatives and Tea Partiers are most to blame for coarsening political discussions and demonizing President Obama and liberals. But as anyone who regularly monitors the cable news channels knows, it’s easy to see that this assumption is largely a fiction. MSNBC, which has become the avowed home of leftism on television, has become notorious for having hosts like Chris Matthews and Al Sharpton who regularly plumb the depths with the sort of invective that would embarrass even most gutter politicians. But last Friday, Martin Bashir topped them with a scripted rant that was extreme even for him.

Reacting to a comment by Sarah Palin about the mounting national debt sentencing future American generations to the moral equivalent of “slavery,” Bashir went off the deep end. An argument can be made that slavery is, like the Holocaust, something that should not be treated as a political metaphor but rather a unique crime to which nothing—other than actual enslavement—should be compared. But Bashir wasn’t satisfied with merely reproving Palin or calling her a “dunce,” which he has done before. Instead, he dug up a historical text about the way slaves were treated in the 18th century and said Palin should be subjected to the same atrocity: to be defecated upon and to have someone urinate into her mouth.

Not surprisingly, Bashir’s crude threat did not set off much of a media firestorm. That is due, at least in part, to the low ratings of his show, but also to the notion that Palin is the sort of person about whom one can say virtually anything with impunity. But the protests that did come in forced Bashir to apologize yesterday on his program. As apologies go, it was quite satisfactory. Rather than the usual weasel words about being sorry that someone was offended, Bashir acknowledged not only that he was wrong but also that he was guilty of contributing to all that was wrong about our political system. Fair enough, but what we’re still waiting for is an apology from his network.

As both Mediate’s Joe Concha and Fox News’ Howard Kurtz have written, imagine what would ensue if either Neil Cavuto or Jake Tapper—Bashir’s time slot competition on Fox and CNN—had suggested that Hillary Clinton should be treated in this matter. It’s also hard to believe either would have kept their job or avoided a long suspension. Moreover, any other network would have thought they had no choice but to apologize abjectly regardless of the mea culpa offered by the person who said the words. This is not a minor point because Bashir’s attack on Palin was not an offhand remark but a prepared monologue read off a teleprompter that had to have been viewed by a producer.

So rather than merely a minor kerfuffle, Bashir’s offensive behavior illustrates that there is a double standard by which liberal pundits and networks believe they can be judged.

Oddly enough, as Kurtz pointed out, actor Alec Baldwin has been suspended by MSNBC for his latest public antics in which he uttered a gay slur at a reporter. But if you slime a conservative like Sarah Palin you don’t lose a day of work even if you use language that marks a historic low for political attacks. It should be remembered that not everyone who works at MSNBC is a guttersnipe like Sharpton, Matthews, or Bashir. No matter what their politics might be, those who still hold to some standard of integrity there must be wondering exactly what has happened to their profession? Although we would hope to never hear another MSNBC rant about conservatives’ lack of civility. But even after Bashir’s apology, you know we will.

Read Less

Run, Sarah, Run and Keep Running

Was Sarah Palin just teasing us last night when she let drop on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that she was considering running for the U.S. Senate next year? Maybe. Palin, as Politico notes today, will generally do or say anything in order to create some buzz in the media. It’s hard to find too many serious political observers who think that four years after she abruptly resigned her post as governor of Alaska, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate is willing to do the hard work of running for office rather than just running her mouth on television. Nor would it seem likely that she would put her celebrity status in jeopardy by running the risk of being defeated, either in a primary or in a general election.

But, at least for the sake of argument, let’s take her at her word and say that she really is considering challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in 2014. If so, my advice to her is that she should do it.

Doing so might not be the safest play for preserving her “brand” as a pundit at least in the short term since it would take her off of television and the lecture circuit and possibly bring her career as a bankable personality to a premature end. Nor would it necessarily be what Senate Republicans want to happen since they would probably prefer a less controversial mainstream conservative to be the GOP nominee in a race for what ought to be a winnable seat for the party. But if Palin really wants to have an impact on the future of her party and her country and to revive her flagging popularity and chances for a future presidential run, trying for the Senate in 2014 is the only choice.

Read More

Was Sarah Palin just teasing us last night when she let drop on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that she was considering running for the U.S. Senate next year? Maybe. Palin, as Politico notes today, will generally do or say anything in order to create some buzz in the media. It’s hard to find too many serious political observers who think that four years after she abruptly resigned her post as governor of Alaska, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate is willing to do the hard work of running for office rather than just running her mouth on television. Nor would it seem likely that she would put her celebrity status in jeopardy by running the risk of being defeated, either in a primary or in a general election.

But, at least for the sake of argument, let’s take her at her word and say that she really is considering challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in 2014. If so, my advice to her is that she should do it.

Doing so might not be the safest play for preserving her “brand” as a pundit at least in the short term since it would take her off of television and the lecture circuit and possibly bring her career as a bankable personality to a premature end. Nor would it necessarily be what Senate Republicans want to happen since they would probably prefer a less controversial mainstream conservative to be the GOP nominee in a race for what ought to be a winnable seat for the party. But if Palin really wants to have an impact on the future of her party and her country and to revive her flagging popularity and chances for a future presidential run, trying for the Senate in 2014 is the only choice.

After four years as the queen of conservative snark, it’s hard to remember that once upon a time, Palin was one of the bright, young stars of the Republican Party with a hard-won reputation as a fresh, independent voice that was willing to challenge a corrupt state party establishment. That Sarah Palin was not so much an ideologue as she was a doer. Perhaps if John McCain had not listened to those conservative pundits who swooned over Palin’s obvious political talent and good looks and made her his personal Hail Mary play to transform a 2008 presidential election that he was bound to lose anyway, she might now be in the middle of a second successful term as Alaska governor and be one of the GOP’s favorites for 2016. A few more years in Juneau being a good governor and a careful rollout of her national profile in which she could portray herself as conversant on national issues would probably have been the best thing for her career, as well as for her family.

But that was not to be. Palin made a powerful first impression on the country with as brilliant a convention speech as could have been imagined, but soon crashed and burned in national interviews and, unfortunately, became the scapegoat for a poorly run McCain campaign as well as the primary focus for left-wing hate and liberal media bias. In the next year, she ditched her governorship and then proceeded to make a spectacle of herself on reality TV. The worst of it wasn’t so much her poor career choices and the way her family became a tabloid staple. The most dispiriting thing about Palin’s career arc is the way her bitterness at the media and other Republicans became the primary focus of her rhetoric. Rather than going to school on the issues and making herself ready for the next political challenge, she seemed content to become a sideshow for the grass roots, pandering to the worst instincts of her party and often appeared foolish rather than being a thoughtful contributor.

To note this unfortunate descent is not to ignore her still potent ability to generate publicity and draw crowds. Her interventions in some Republican primaries helped conservatives like Ted Cruz and Kelly Ayotte win Senate seats. Her raw political talent and speaking ability is still there even if it is most often used to rail at her enemies rather than to demonstrate thoughtful stands on the issues.

Doing so has kept her admirers happy and preserved her niche as a flame-throwing snark machine of the right. But she has to know that this routine has a limited shelf life. With the GOP now possessed of a deep bench of stars who are potential 2016 candidates, Palin is very much yesterday’s news and has already been eclipsed by people like Cruz and Rand Paul even among her own fan base. As the years go by, her appeal and her celebrity are bound to wane. Sooner or later, if she is to go on being treated–at least by people like Hannity, if few others even in the conservative media–as a big deal, she’s going to have to do something more than talk shows. The 2014 Alaska Senate race may be the best opportunity to do so that she will ever get.

That said, Palin would have to do more than merely throw her hat in the ring to beat Begich. As one poll taken earlier this year made clear, even in Alaska her negative poll ratings are through the roof as much as they are nationally. The fact that a staggering 59 percent of Alaskans view her negatively with only 35 percent seeing her in a positive light might be enough to deter her—or any rational politician—from running. But it’s not as if any of the other likely Republican senatorial candidates look to be doing much better. In particular, the prospect of Tea Party favorite Joe Miller taking another try at the Senate isn’t scaring Begich. Miller beat Lisa Murkowski in a 2010 GOP primary but then lost the general election to her when she ran as an independent, and he isn’t likely to do much better this year. And while Begich has decent poll numbers, he is still a Democrat running in an overwhelmingly Republican state. Moreover, everyone knows that prosecutorial misconduct that helped convict the late Ted Stevens on corruption charges is the only reason Begich is currently sitting in the Senate.

A Senate campaign would put her to the test and even her sternest critics should not assume she would fail this time. It may be that Palin has become too polarizing a political personality to win any election, even in deep red Alaska. But she owes to herself and to her supporters to try. She almost certainly will never be president, but a Senate seat is not beyond her grasp. While I’m far from sure that her contribution to the national debate would be enlightening, it would be entertaining. 

Read Less

The GOP Is More Serious Than Sarah Palin

In a recent interview, former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin indicated she was open to leaving the GOP and starting a third party. After expressing her enthusiasm for the name “The Freedom Party,” Palin went on to say this: 

If the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and of Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are gonna start saying, “You know, what’s wrong with being an independent?” Kind of, with that libertarian streak that much of us have. In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying, “GOP, if you abandon us, what–we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a, one or the other of the private majority parties that rule in our nation — either a Democrat or a Republican.” Remember these are private parties. And no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.

Let’s begin with this observation: Ms. Palin is a fierce opponent of immigration reform, and any openness by the Republican leadership in the House would move her a good deal closer to abandoning the GOP. Which of course makes her reference to both Lincoln and Reagan odd, since Reagan was an advocate of amnesty and as president granted it to millions of illegal immigrants (“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and have lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Reagan said in his 1984 debate with Walter Mondale). 

Read More

In a recent interview, former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin indicated she was open to leaving the GOP and starting a third party. After expressing her enthusiasm for the name “The Freedom Party,” Palin went on to say this: 

If the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and of Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are gonna start saying, “You know, what’s wrong with being an independent?” Kind of, with that libertarian streak that much of us have. In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying, “GOP, if you abandon us, what–we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a, one or the other of the private majority parties that rule in our nation — either a Democrat or a Republican.” Remember these are private parties. And no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.

Let’s begin with this observation: Ms. Palin is a fierce opponent of immigration reform, and any openness by the Republican leadership in the House would move her a good deal closer to abandoning the GOP. Which of course makes her reference to both Lincoln and Reagan odd, since Reagan was an advocate of amnesty and as president granted it to millions of illegal immigrants (“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and have lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Reagan said in his 1984 debate with Walter Mondale). 

As for Lincoln, in a new biography on him, Rich Lowry points out that “Lincoln was broadly pro-immigration… Clearly, Lincoln’s default position today would be generosity toward immigrants. The effectively permanent status as second-class citizens of millions of illegal immigrants would be anathema to him.” In their tone and substantive approach to legal and illegal immigration, then, people like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are far closer to Reagan and Lincoln than Ms. Palin is.

And what about the broader indictment by Palin, which is that the GOP is moving away from its principles and becoming a less conservative party? That charge–shared by some others on the right–strikes me as rather wide of the mark. After all, in many respects the GOP is becoming more amenable to her brand of Tea Party conservatism than it was in and prior to 2008–when Palin was a proud Republican and the party’s vice presidential pick.

For example, a smaller percentage of GOP senators voted for immigration reform last month than was the case in 2006. Representative Paul Ryan has on several occasions now presented a very serious plan to re-limit government and reform entitlements, especially Medicare–and in doing so he has gone far beyond anything that Ronald Reagan ever proposed. And to the astonishment of many, Ryan secured the support of virtually the entire Republican House. In addition, the GOP has uniformly opposed higher taxes. (Compare this once again to Reagan, who in 1982 signed what at the time was the largest tax increase in American history.) In fact, congressional Republicans have consistently been pushing for tax cuts. They accepted sequester cuts earlier this year, when many on the right predicted they would buckle. House and Senate Republicans have also opposed, almost to a person, the Affordable Care Act, and pushed for its repeal. Republicans voted en masse against the 2009 stimulus package. The GOP remains staunchly pro-life. It has opposed the president’s gun control and climate change agenda. And many Republicans have backed away from a larger federal role in education. Then there are Republican governors, current and recent, many of whom are conservative, successful and reform-oriented. 

Let’s stipulate that no party is perfect, that different currents exist within political parties, and that key figures within them will act in ways with which we disagree. The GOP certainly isn’t fully abiding by my recommendations. That said, where precisely is this great abandonment of principle we’re supposedly seeing? The GOP is in many ways a more conservative party today than it was during the Reagan years.

Several things are happening, I think. One is that some elements within the GOP base are in an agitated mood, spoiling for a fight, eager to make themselves look principled by constantly asserting the GOP is unprincipled. It’s similar to a quarrelsome marriage; every word one spouse says is interpreted in the worst possible light by the other. Sarah Palin and those like her are now disposed to attack the GOP, and perhaps even looking for reasons to break from it. But let’s be clear: It’s being driven by her/their frame of mind, not the heresies of the Republican Party. 

The other thing that is occurring is that Palin and those like her have undergone a fairly dramatic shift in the last few years. One telling example is her reaction to Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency leaks. Palin has gone out of her way to defend Snowden  and asserted that America is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” This is a silly charge–and evidence that Palin has lurched in a much more libertarian direction since she enthusiastically agreed to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008.

It may also be that Palin, having quit after serving less than one term as governor, is simply not very serious about, or even all that interested in, governing. She does seem better suited to compose tweets and star in reality shows than to carry out the duties of governing.

But Ms. Palin is right about this: No one forces us to be enlisted in either party. She is free to leave the GOP at any time, for any reason. And there may be more than a few Republicans who hope she will, if only so that they do not have to spend any more time explaining to the rest of the world why the GOP, for all its shortcomings, is far more serious than Sarah Palin.

Read Less

The Shallow Musings of Jeffrey Lord

Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of debates and the subject of a fair amount of attacks. But rarely have the attacks been quite as shallow as the one leveled at me by Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator.

Let’s start with Lord’s suggestion that he should have titled his reply to my post criticizing Herman Cain and Sarah Palin as the “Wimpy Wussings of Wehner.” Perhaps that’s what qualifies for wit these days at the American Spectator. Mr. Lord’s comment qualifies him as the Oscar Wilde of the second grade.

Then there’s Lord’s claim, laughable to anyone who is familiar with my views, that I am a “collectivist conservative.” I guess I qualify as one of those one-in-a-million “collectivist conservatives” who was critical of Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann for her lukewarm support of free-market reforms for Medicare. As I wrote with Yuval Levin in 2011:

Read More

Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of debates and the subject of a fair amount of attacks. But rarely have the attacks been quite as shallow as the one leveled at me by Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator.

Let’s start with Lord’s suggestion that he should have titled his reply to my post criticizing Herman Cain and Sarah Palin as the “Wimpy Wussings of Wehner.” Perhaps that’s what qualifies for wit these days at the American Spectator. Mr. Lord’s comment qualifies him as the Oscar Wilde of the second grade.

Then there’s Lord’s claim, laughable to anyone who is familiar with my views, that I am a “collectivist conservative.” I guess I qualify as one of those one-in-a-million “collectivist conservatives” who was critical of Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann for her lukewarm support of free-market reforms for Medicare. As I wrote with Yuval Levin in 2011:


A posture of bold fiscal conservatism is simply not compatible with timid evasions on Medicare reform. The combination may be politically convenient, but it is substantively incoherent. And it’s not just Mrs. Bachmann who has done this—most of the GOP presidential candidates have as well. Virtually every speech they give is laced with promises to tame our deficit and debt, to scale back the size, scope, reach and cost of government. Yet they have little to say when it comes to fixing the fundamental structure of our health entitlements. They want to will the ends but not the means to those ends. And that just won’t do.

I was also a fairly active presence both privately and publicly when it came to urging the GOP House leadership to embrace Representative Paul Ryan’s budget, including his advocacy for premium supports in Medicare. All of which leads me to wonder if Mr. Lord even understands what collectivism actually is.

And then there’s Lord’s anger at my comments about Mr. Cain and Ms. Palin, which he considers to be unfair. But Lord never actually refers to the comments made by Cain and Palin that triggered my criticisms. Perhaps that’s understandable, since Cain declared America is “running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism” and Palin insisted that the United States is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” 

The comments by Cain and Palin were silly and hyperbolic, for the reasons I laid out in my post; but if Lord wants to defend them, and if he thinks this kind of rhetoric is the way to the political promised land, he should make that case.

Finally there’s Mr. Lord’s logical fallacy, which is (a) Ronald Reagan was routinely criticized by liberals for being an extremist; (b) I criticized Cain and Palin for irresponsible and careless language; so (c) Cain and Palin are Reaganesque figures. The fact that a person is criticized for being an extremist does not automatically make that person Reagan-like, as both Cain and Palin demonstrate on a fairly routine basis.

Read Less

Re: The Reckless Rhetoric of Palin and Cain

Pete Wehner has rightly called out Sarah Palin for claiming that the US is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” That is not her only mindless and stupid comment of late. She also had this to say Saturday about the terrible conflict in Syria:

I say until we know what we’re doing, until we have a commander in chief who knows what he’s doing, well, let these radical Islamic countries who aren’t even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, ‘Allah Akbar,’ I say until we have someone who knows what they’re doing, I say let Allah sort it out.”

This is both offensive and puzzling. Start with puzzling: She claims that Syrians are fighting over a “red line.” Perhaps she’s confusing it with the Green Line that once divided Christian Beirut from Muslim Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War? In Syria the only “red line” is the imaginary one that Obama drew to discourage Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons.

Read More

Pete Wehner has rightly called out Sarah Palin for claiming that the US is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” That is not her only mindless and stupid comment of late. She also had this to say Saturday about the terrible conflict in Syria:

I say until we know what we’re doing, until we have a commander in chief who knows what he’s doing, well, let these radical Islamic countries who aren’t even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, ‘Allah Akbar,’ I say until we have someone who knows what they’re doing, I say let Allah sort it out.”

This is both offensive and puzzling. Start with puzzling: She claims that Syrians are fighting over a “red line.” Perhaps she’s confusing it with the Green Line that once divided Christian Beirut from Muslim Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War? In Syria the only “red line” is the imaginary one that Obama drew to discourage Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons.

Now to the offensive: Palin is expressing indifference to the slaughter of more than 90,000 people in Syria because most of them happen to be Muslims. This is merely confirming the worst stereotypes in the Muslim world about the West.

What makes her comment even more appalling is that Palin is echoing, consciously or not, a statement of great inhumanity uttered in the course of Christianity’s internecine wars. The phrase she is alluding to is “Kill them all. God will recognize his own”–supposedly uttered in the 13th century by a French monk accompanying an army of Crusaders who were attacking a town in southern France where a heretical Christian sect known as the Cathars was based. One of the Crusader soldiers asked the monk, Arnaud Amalric, how to sort out Cathars from Catholics. This was the chilling reply he got, at least according to legend. The result was a massacre in which the pope’s army killed at least 20,000 people, including women and children.

Is this a precedent Palin endorses–or thinks is applicable in modern-day Syria? Or–the charitable explanation–is she simply mindlessly nattering on without knowing what she is talking about?

Read Less

The Reckless Rhetoric of Palin and Cain

According to Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2008, the United States is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” And Herman Cain, who ran as a GOP presidential candidate in 2012, said, “This train is running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism. Yes, I said it. Before we stop it and reverse it, we got to slow it down. That’s what we do in 2014.”

Now, we actually know what genuine totalitarian surveillance states and communist nations look like, and America is nothing close to becoming anything like them. Whatever one thinks of the NSA’s data mining and surveillance techniques, they are legal, overseen by a FISA court and Congress, and they are not anything like the Soviet Union under Stalin or North Korea under Kim Jong-un. Nor is America speeding down the tracks toward becoming Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge or Cuba under Castro.

So why use such reckless rhetoric? It’s hard to know the precise reasons. They could range from Obama Derangement Syndrome to efforts to gain attention. Whatever the case, by now I’m familiar with the pushback. Why pay any attention to what Mr. Cain and Ms. Palin say? Isn’t criticizing them merely evidence of wanting to be embraced by the liberal “establishment”–a sign of being unprincipled, ideologically soft and a RINO (Republican In Name Only)? Why not ignore their words in order to focus on the venom of the left and the genuine threat posed to America by the Obama presidency?

Read More

According to Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2008, the United States is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” And Herman Cain, who ran as a GOP presidential candidate in 2012, said, “This train is running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism. Yes, I said it. Before we stop it and reverse it, we got to slow it down. That’s what we do in 2014.”

Now, we actually know what genuine totalitarian surveillance states and communist nations look like, and America is nothing close to becoming anything like them. Whatever one thinks of the NSA’s data mining and surveillance techniques, they are legal, overseen by a FISA court and Congress, and they are not anything like the Soviet Union under Stalin or North Korea under Kim Jong-un. Nor is America speeding down the tracks toward becoming Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge or Cuba under Castro.

So why use such reckless rhetoric? It’s hard to know the precise reasons. They could range from Obama Derangement Syndrome to efforts to gain attention. Whatever the case, by now I’m familiar with the pushback. Why pay any attention to what Mr. Cain and Ms. Palin say? Isn’t criticizing them merely evidence of wanting to be embraced by the liberal “establishment”–a sign of being unprincipled, ideologically soft and a RINO (Republican In Name Only)? Why not ignore their words in order to focus on the venom of the left and the genuine threat posed to America by the Obama presidency?

To which I would respond in several ways. The first is that some of us do call out the left on their slanders. And not only don’t I have a problem with those offering sharp, pointed critiques of Barack Obama; I do it myself on a fairly regular occasion (most recently on Friday).

But some of us also believe that those who claim to be conservative need to be held to certain standards as well; that to berate only the left for rhetorical overkill is to employ a double standard; and that irresponsible and careless language used by former governors and vice presidential candidates like Sarah Palin and former presidential candidates like Herman Cain helps discredit conservatism and the GOP. It is prima facie evidence of intemperate minds. And it actually helps Mr. Obama when his critics sound apocalyptically detached from reality. The real world case against the president is sufficient.

I’d add one other point: What Cain and Palin are doing damages public debate because it corrupts language and thought. Thinking clearly, George Orwell wrote in his classic essay on the debasement of our language, “is a necessary step toward political regeneration.”

The Republican Party is in need of political regeneration, which will be achieved by offering principled alternatives to Mr. Obama and a fundamentally different governing agenda to Obamaism. Most conservatives get that. But a few on the right can’t resist the temptation to portray the president as the architect of a coming American gulag. They should–for their sake and for the sake of the cause they claim to care about. 

Read Less

The Embittered Sarah Palin

For the most part I stay away from commenting on Sarah Palin, in part because she has very nearly become a non-factor in American politics. But once in a while she’ll do something that is worth commenting on, if only because it provides a cautionary tale.

Take her comments on this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in which she tweeted: “That #WHCD was pathetic. The rest of America is out there working our asses off while these DC assclowns throw themselves a #nerdprom.”

palinscreenshot

 On her Facebook page Palin added this:

Yuk it up media and pols. While America is buried in taxes and a fight for our rights, the permanent political class in DC dresses up and has a prom to make fun of themselves. No need for that, we get the real joke.

Read More

For the most part I stay away from commenting on Sarah Palin, in part because she has very nearly become a non-factor in American politics. But once in a while she’ll do something that is worth commenting on, if only because it provides a cautionary tale.

Take her comments on this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in which she tweeted: “That #WHCD was pathetic. The rest of America is out there working our asses off while these DC assclowns throw themselves a #nerdprom.”

palinscreenshot

 On her Facebook page Palin added this:

Yuk it up media and pols. While America is buried in taxes and a fight for our rights, the permanent political class in DC dresses up and has a prom to make fun of themselves. No need for that, we get the real joke.

Now I’m not a particular fan or particular critic of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It is something of a Washington ritual, a night in which comedians and presidents deliver comments that are often funny and sometimes clever. The evening is harmless and quickly forgotten. It’s hard to get worked up about it either way. Unless you’re Sarah Palin.

Set aside the fact that in 2008 Ms. Palin tried very hard to become part of the political class in D.C. she now despises. And forget about the fact that as this report shows, in 2011 Palin appeared at both the Vanity Fair and MSNBC after-WHCD parties. (Her daughter, Bristol, went to the dinner.) From the pictures, she appeared to be yucking it right up with the elite media and politicians. Or that in 2009 then-governor Palin was scheduled to attend the dinner but canceled her plans due to emergency flooding back in Alaska. (Her husband Todd attended the D.C. ass-clown event in her place.) 

The point I want to make is that Palin’s faux populist appeal is merely a convenient cover for what appears to be a consuming bitterness–rooted, I suppose, in her bad experiences and bad memories from the 2008 campaign.

To be fair, Ms. Palin was treated unfairly by many members of the press corps, though it also needs to be said many of her problems were caused by being ill-prepared and out of her depth on the national stage. (The Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson interviews were devastating not because they were “gotcha” interviews, but because she foundered even when asked basic questions, like which newspapers and periodicals she read.) It should be said, too, that many politicians have been savaged by the press, including George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, yet they never lost their grace or dignity.

Sarah Palin is an example of what can happen when a person is consumed by bitterness and grievances. It has a corrosive effect, and over the last several years she has, if anything, become even more brittle and embittered. From a human standpoint it’s a shame. And from a political standpoint it’s precisely the countenance and bearing conservatism and the GOP need to avoid. 

The American people aren’t usually won over by angry politicians, and Sarah Palin is one angry individual. Fortunately, she’s also a marginal one.

Read Less

Note to Palin: GOP Needs More than a Mouth

As expected, Fox News cut its ties with Sarah Palin on Friday. The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate had worn out her welcome at the network over the last year and her brand had lost a lot of its pizzazz after sitting out the 2012 presidential contest and new conservative voices had come to the fore. Though she remains a cult favorite among some on the right and a convenient punching bag for the left, in a party with a large cast of rising stars like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and with Rand Paul looking to expand his appeal beyond his father’s libertarian base, her hold on the affections of the Tea Party and/or the GOP base looks tenuous at best. It’s likely that Fox decided she was yesterday’s news.

Palin is taking the blow with her customary defiance. In her first interview since the announcement, she channeled John Paul Jones as she told Breitbart News that she “hadn’t yet begun to fight.”  She spoke about the need for conservatives to go outside their comfort zone and to stop “preaching to the choir.” That’s good advice, though it’s hard to see how anyone as polarizing as Palin is going to get moderates to listen to anything she has to say.

While it’s not clear what her next step is, anyone who writes her off completely is bound to wind up looking silly. She lost a lot of her credibility when she resigned her governorship and then made a number of puzzling career choices, which did nothing but further marginalize her as a serious political figure. But the raw political talent that dazzled so many conservatives in 2008 is still there, even if she spent the last four years acting like a reality TV show star and alienating many people who once wished her well. The problem for Palin is not in finding another platform for her views (something that is all but a given in this era of social media and proliferating political websites) but that if she still harbors an ambition to be more than just another talking head, she’s going to have to something more than talk.

Read More

As expected, Fox News cut its ties with Sarah Palin on Friday. The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate had worn out her welcome at the network over the last year and her brand had lost a lot of its pizzazz after sitting out the 2012 presidential contest and new conservative voices had come to the fore. Though she remains a cult favorite among some on the right and a convenient punching bag for the left, in a party with a large cast of rising stars like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and with Rand Paul looking to expand his appeal beyond his father’s libertarian base, her hold on the affections of the Tea Party and/or the GOP base looks tenuous at best. It’s likely that Fox decided she was yesterday’s news.

Palin is taking the blow with her customary defiance. In her first interview since the announcement, she channeled John Paul Jones as she told Breitbart News that she “hadn’t yet begun to fight.”  She spoke about the need for conservatives to go outside their comfort zone and to stop “preaching to the choir.” That’s good advice, though it’s hard to see how anyone as polarizing as Palin is going to get moderates to listen to anything she has to say.

While it’s not clear what her next step is, anyone who writes her off completely is bound to wind up looking silly. She lost a lot of her credibility when she resigned her governorship and then made a number of puzzling career choices, which did nothing but further marginalize her as a serious political figure. But the raw political talent that dazzled so many conservatives in 2008 is still there, even if she spent the last four years acting like a reality TV show star and alienating many people who once wished her well. The problem for Palin is not in finding another platform for her views (something that is all but a given in this era of social media and proliferating political websites) but that if she still harbors an ambition to be more than just another talking head, she’s going to have to something more than talk.

Palin’s shrinking fan base still hopes she will return to the fray in 2016. Her spring tour of the East Coast in 2011 just as the presidential race was starting demonstrated that she hadn’t lost her star power even if she seemed as unprepared as ever to face the scrutiny of a hostile press. But as the Republican Party licks its wounds from its second defeat at the hands of Barack Obama, most of those who will be considered for the job of leading it back to the White House have one thing in common that Palin lacks: job resumes that show that they either have the guts to fight the Democrats in Washington as Rubio, Ryan and Paul are doing or a record of showing how Republicans can run a state on conservative principles, as Jindal and Christie are proving.

Each of them has different virtues as well as different faults, but all have spent the time since Obama was first elected on the frontlines of the battle against liberalism. It may be that not having a job is something of an advantage in a presidential campaign, but as the years go by the more Palin has taken on the aspect of a celebrity rather than a politician, let alone a political thinker. Celebrity counts a lot in our day and age, but it cannot transform a person who has done everything in her power not to be taken seriously into the sort of person whom Republicans, let alone the general electorate, will trust with the fate of the nation.

Sarah Palin is still a relatively young woman and has a long career of advocacy in front of her. But if she really wants to get back in the political arena, at some point she’s going to have to demonstrate that she’s capable of doing something more than run her mouth. Facebook postings and Internet videos don’t compare well to running a state or standing up to the Democrats in Congress. Unless she decides to get back in the fight somewhere other than on the radio or TV, the odds are she’s going to spend 2016 and every other subsequent presidential year the same place she spent 2012: on the sidelines with fewer and fewer people paying attention to what she says or does.

Read Less

Republican Convention Winners and Losers

After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.

We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.

Read More

After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.

We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.

Winners

Mitt Romney: The candidate did everything he needed to do in his acceptance speech. The address managed to overcome the handicap of his low-key personality and reluctance to talk about himself, while revealing his intense patriotism as well as his love of family and the importance of his faith. But the speeches by his wife and those families that he helped while serving as a Mormon lay leader did even more to humanize a man the Democrats have gone all out to demonize. After hearing the Oparowskis talk about his loving friendship for a dying boy, it’s going to be tough for liberals to keep yapping about him killing people at Bain or the dog on the roof. Romney emerges from the convention with a strong running mate, a party united in its dislike of his opponent and some wind in his sails. We’ll find out in November if that is enough but right now, he’s looking stronger than he has all year.

Paul Ryan: The intense effort by the liberal media to try and debunk his smashing acceptance speech is testimony to how scared they are of him. The left has to falsely brand him a liar because now that America has gotten a good look at him, it’s not going to be possible to depict him as throwing granny off the cliff anymore. Ryan doesn’t just leave the convention with his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party intact. Republicans clearly love him more than the top of the ticket but their affection seems matched by Romney’s for his choice. And if you’re thinking about 2016 if Romney loses, Ryan is now automatically at the top of the list.

Marco Rubio: Rubio had the disconcerting task of following Clint Eastwood’s bizarre act. But he gave a speech that was second only to that of Condoleezza Rice’s address in terms of eloquence. Like Chris Christie, he talked a lot about himself rather than Romney but he still tied his story to that of Romney in a credible manner. He showed us that he is the most natural speaker of the GOP’s young guns. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t be on the ticket the next time the nomination is open.

Susana Martinez: Martinez was just a name and a statistic — the first female Hispanic governor — to most Republicans before she spoke on Wednesday. But even though she had the misfortune of following Condi Rice on the platform, she still earned the love of the delegates and, no doubt, much of the television audience, with her plucky style. Her comments about packing a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum delighted them and her, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans,” may have been the best line of the convention. She’s someone with a big future in national politics. Honorable mentions should also go to Mia B. Love and Sher Valenzuela. Both also will be heard from again.

Jeb Bush: Given the talented GOP bench that was on display this week, it looks as though Jeb Bush is going to have a steep hill to climb if he ever decides to try and follow his father and brother into the White House. But he scored in his speech both by defending his brother against President Obama’s attempt to blame him for everything and by making the case for school choice. Bush may never be president but he’s still a party favorite and Romney should definitely be thinking of him as a possible Secretary of Education.

Losers

Rick Santorum: Given that a year ago neither most pundits nor I though he had a chance in hell to even make it through the primaries, let alone be Romney’s toughest foe, it’s probably unfair to cast him as a loser. Nor did I think his convention speech was as bad as a lot of people labeled it. For me, it was Santorum at his best, as he talked about his values without lapsing into the angry guy persona that is his greatest weakness. But this week showed that any hopes Santorum might have of winning the nomination in 2016 are quixotic. For all of the grit he showed last winter and spring when he won more than a dozen primaries and caucuses, it’s impossible to imagine him besting stars like Ryan, Rubio or Christie. Santorum’s moment has passed.

Chris Christie: I disagree with those who termed his keynote address a failure since it was all about himself rather than extolling Romney. But sometimes a consensus of pundits can help shape public perceptions and I fear that a year from now it will have become conventional wisdom that he really did flop in the spotlight even though the speech was actually quite good and set the right tone for the party’s future which is the traditional purpose of a keynote. But even if posterity agrees with me rather than the most of the rest of the chattering classes, I still have to concede that the New Jersey governor doesn’t stack up that well when compared to the men who may be his primary competition in 2016 should Romney lose. Christie has a lot of moxie but he’s not as likeable or as much of a star as Ryan and Rubio. But perhaps a convention that is viewed as a slight setback will do him good, as it will focus the governor and his supporters on the formidable task of securing his re-election rather than pipe dreams about 2016 or 2020.

Sarah Palin: The comparison between Palin’s standing in the GOP isn’t so much between the present and her dazzling debut at the 2008 convention but between now and the early summer of 2011, when her mere appearance in the lower 48 seemed to briefly suck all the oxygen out of the GOP race. Over the course of the last 15 months she went from being a superstar to an afterthought and may even be in danger of losing her gig at Fox News, which is her last claim to prominence. Palin still has a cadre of faithful followers who can be relied upon to angrily and sometimes profanely protest whenever she is referred to in less than laudatory terms. But Tampa proved what we already knew about her. She’s yesterday’s news.

Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman and John Thune: Listening to any member of this trio, it was hard to figure out why anyone ever thought they were presidential material. Thune was simply a dud. One wag replied to my criticism of his talk on Twitter by pointing out, “you can hire a speech coach but you can’t fix ugly.” That’s true but Thune is proof that you need more than good looks to be taken seriously. As for Pawlenty and Portman’s speeches, the less we speak of them, the better. Suffice it to say that Romney made himself look like a genius by having them come on prior to Paul Ryan’s star turn.

Lastly, I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later whoever it was inside Romney’s camp that had the bright idea of inviting Clint Eastwood to be the mystery speaker at the convention. But for his or her sake, we should hope they remain forever anonymous. That person probably shouldn’t be completely blamed for Eastwood discarding his planned remarks and providing what was one of the most embarrassing moments in modern political convention history. But I doubt either party will ever take that kind of a chance again.

Read Less

GOP Convention Looks to the Future

The final slate of speakers at the Republican National Convention is shaping up, and it’s no surprise that Chris Christie and Marco Rubio both scored high-profile slots:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention later this month, USA Today reported. Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Christie confirmed earlier reports that he would give the 20-minute address, saying he will make an “empathetic” argument for the GOP and voting for Mitt Romney. The Republican governor is on his fourth draft of the speech and “grinding away on it,” he told USA Today.

The choices of Christie and Rubio for prominent roles indicate that the RNC’s convention theme is forward-looking, and reformist rather than rejectionist (a distinction that Michael Gerson articulated in the Washington Post a few months ago).

Read More

The final slate of speakers at the Republican National Convention is shaping up, and it’s no surprise that Chris Christie and Marco Rubio both scored high-profile slots:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention later this month, USA Today reported. Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Christie confirmed earlier reports that he would give the 20-minute address, saying he will make an “empathetic” argument for the GOP and voting for Mitt Romney. The Republican governor is on his fourth draft of the speech and “grinding away on it,” he told USA Today.

The choices of Christie and Rubio for prominent roles indicate that the RNC’s convention theme is forward-looking, and reformist rather than rejectionist (a distinction that Michael Gerson articulated in the Washington Post a few months ago).

But the list of speakers is also interesting because of who has been excluded. There are libertarian-leaning conservatives, but Ron Paul has been skipped over in favor of his less doctrinal son, Rand. Sarah Palin wasn’t offered a slot, a result of her waning influence in the party and the rise of other conservative favorites who can satisfy the Tea Party base without alienating the center. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn’t make the cut either.

Also note that out of the top GOP primary contenders, only Rick Santorum has a speaking role:

Of Romney’s onetime rivals for the Republican nomination — a colorful cast that includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former pizza executive Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) — only former Senator Rick Santorum has been asked to speak.

“The agenda of speakers reflect the priorities the campaign has going into the fall,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. “If they were to put someone out there who was not helpful, who was off message or a loud mouth, it would do nothing but hurt their efforts.”

While all of these candidates were at the top of the primary polls at one point or another, the RNC apparently doesn’t see them as the future of the party. The convention will elevate Christie and Rubio, and if Romney loses, they’re likely to be the top contenders — along with Ryan — in 2016.

Read Less

Liberal Surprise: Ryan Can’t Be Palin-ized

The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.

But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.

Read More

The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.

But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.

One piece of evidence is the full length front-page profile of Ryan published in today’s Times. The story it tells of a small town boy whose intellectual prowess is matched only by his work ethic is not one that easily lends itself to the “extremist” narrative that the paper’s editorial page has been screaming about since Saturday. But the authors do their best to skew the portrait with language that doesn’t belong on the news pages of a reputable newspaper.

Part of the problem is that the Times can’t seem to find anyone who knows the likable congressman to dish any non-existent dirt on him. For example, in describing Ryan as an ambitious and accomplished teenager with numerous activities to his credit, the Times stoops to describe him as a “politically astute suck up.” No, that’s not a quote from some teenage rival but an editorial comment inserted into the article by the authors without quotes or even an attempt to attribute this opinion to anyone who knew him.

The article describes Ryan’s college career by again using a pejorative without quotes in which it characterizes his economic philosophy as “trickle down economics.” One can disagree with Ryan’s belief in the importance of economic freedom and the importance of encouraging the creation of wealth rather than expecting it to emerge as a result of some miraculous government intervention, but to use that kind of language again shows liberal reporters are trying a little too hard to follow their paper’s editorial party line in descriptions of the candidate.

Reality again collided with ideology last night on “60 Minutes.” The CBS program got the first post-announcement interview with Romney and Ryan last night, and there’s little doubt that liberals tuning into the program were hoping the Ryan roll-out would conjure up memories of how Sarah Palin was felled in her first network interviews after John McCain tapped her to be his vice presidential nominee. But Bob Schieffer never laid a glove on either Romney or Ryan. Much of the interview was softball material, but even when Schieffer attempted to attack the duo on the Ryan budget plan or entitlement reform, they easily turned away the assault and honed in on the president’s failings and the need to have the country face up to the tough issue of entitlement reform. Just as important, unlike Katie Couric’s confidence that she could embarrass Palin in 2008, Schieffer knew better than to try to tangle with the formidable Ryan.

While we can expect the assault on Ryan to only intensify in the coming days, liberals are already starting to show some frustration as they come up against the fact that whatever you may think of his ideas, he is both likable and admirable, something even President Obama was willing to admit earlier in his administration when he hoped to co-opt the intellectual leader of House Republicans.

Moreover, unlike Palin, Ryan is clearly ready to not merely hold his own on the enemy turf of the mainstream media but, as President Obama learned to his sorrow, is able to go on the offensive and challenge liberal orthodoxies without appearing like the snarling cartoon character that Democrats hope to paint to the public.

As I wrote earlier, it is an open question as to whether the American public will be willing to choose Ryan’s ideas about reforming our out-of-control tax and spend cycle over Democrat demagoguery intended to defend the status quo. But whatever the outcome of the election, the liberal boasts about turning Ryan into another Palin will fail miserably.

Read Less

Ted Cruz and Tea Party Victories

Ted Cruz’s win in the Texas Republican senate primary over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last night is being hailed as the latest Tea Party coup, a sign the movement is still powerful and influential enough to move elections. Cruz has a lot going for him: he’s young, charismatic, energetic, and a conservative favorite; he’s even been compared to Marco Rubio.

But as Rubio’s own victory showed, just because the Tea Party helps get a candidate elected doesn’t mean it will have an automatic line to Washington. Rubio has stuck to his conservative principles in the Senate, but for the most part he’s played ball with the Republican leadership. He’s not a Michele Bachmann or a Jim DeMint. Ideologically, he’s on par with the average Senate Republican. The same may go for Cruz.

Read More

Ted Cruz’s win in the Texas Republican senate primary over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last night is being hailed as the latest Tea Party coup, a sign the movement is still powerful and influential enough to move elections. Cruz has a lot going for him: he’s young, charismatic, energetic, and a conservative favorite; he’s even been compared to Marco Rubio.

But as Rubio’s own victory showed, just because the Tea Party helps get a candidate elected doesn’t mean it will have an automatic line to Washington. Rubio has stuck to his conservative principles in the Senate, but for the most part he’s played ball with the Republican leadership. He’s not a Michele Bachmann or a Jim DeMint. Ideologically, he’s on par with the average Senate Republican. The same may go for Cruz.

After Cruz’s victory, Sarah Palin (who endorsed him) wrote on Facebook: “Our goal is not just about changing the majority in the Senate. It is about the kind of leadership we want. Ted Cruz represents the kind of strong conservative leadership we want in D.C. Go-along to get-along career politicians who hew the path of least resistance are no longer acceptable at a time when our country is drowning in debt and our children’s futures are at stake.”

If electing a strong conservative candidate was the goal, then the Tea Party had a successful night. But if the goal was as Sarah Palin described it — to elect someone who will clash with the GOP establishment and pick uphill ideological battles — then the jury is still out. After all, Cruz is no stranger to Washington and understands how politics works — he served in the Bush administration, at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. The Tea Party has proven beyond any doubt that it has the strength and influence to help catapult good candidates into office — but how does it define success after Election Day?

Read Less

Double Standards on Politicians in Pulpits

The fallout from the controversy about whether a Florida synagogue should have invited Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to give a speech at a Sabbath service continues to simmer. But while partisans are taking predictable stands on the issue, it’s distressing to see the way some officials at supposedly non-partisan Jewish organizations are advocating letting politicians use the sanctuary to promote political positions and are seemingly supporting the Democratic talking point that those who protested Wasserman Schultz’s appearance are “bullies.” As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, Mark Pelavin of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Marc Stern of the American Jewish Committee both take the position that there is nothing wrong with a synagogue letting a politician take over the bima during a service.

They have a point when they argue that the question of a religious institution’s tax-exempt status isn’t the issue. But while any organization with a 501©(3) status needs to be careful about partisanship, the issue here isn’t just taxes, it is fairness. Any synagogue, church, mosque or temple of any sort that gives a politician the moral authority that a speech from the pulpit during a worship service affords is taking sides in the election unless there is equal time provided to the other side. Just as troubling is the hypocrisy of Jewish groups seeking to support the effort by the Democrats to portray their critics as suppressing speech when they may have failed to speak up in the past to defend Republicans who played the same game as Wasserman Schultz.

Read More

The fallout from the controversy about whether a Florida synagogue should have invited Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to give a speech at a Sabbath service continues to simmer. But while partisans are taking predictable stands on the issue, it’s distressing to see the way some officials at supposedly non-partisan Jewish organizations are advocating letting politicians use the sanctuary to promote political positions and are seemingly supporting the Democratic talking point that those who protested Wasserman Schultz’s appearance are “bullies.” As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, Mark Pelavin of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Marc Stern of the American Jewish Committee both take the position that there is nothing wrong with a synagogue letting a politician take over the bima during a service.

They have a point when they argue that the question of a religious institution’s tax-exempt status isn’t the issue. But while any organization with a 501©(3) status needs to be careful about partisanship, the issue here isn’t just taxes, it is fairness. Any synagogue, church, mosque or temple of any sort that gives a politician the moral authority that a speech from the pulpit during a worship service affords is taking sides in the election unless there is equal time provided to the other side. Just as troubling is the hypocrisy of Jewish groups seeking to support the effort by the Democrats to portray their critics as suppressing speech when they may have failed to speak up in the past to defend Republicans who played the same game as Wasserman Schultz.

As JTA rightly recalls, four years ago, Democrats pitched a fit when Sarah Palin, then the Republican candidate for vice president, was invited to address a rally outside the United Nations protesting Iran’s nuclear program. Four years earlier the Jewish Policy Center, a think tank associated with the Republican Jewish Coalition, was lambasted for hosting a program at a synagogue that was seen as hostile to then Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Yet even there the analogy breaks down, as in neither of those cases was a candidate or even partisans allowed to take over a worship service as Wasserman Schultz sought to do.

Both Stern and Pelavin not unreasonably suggest that the way to handle the situation is to insist on equal time–meaning it would have been okay for Wasserman Schultz to appear at a Friday night service so long as a Republican was invited at the same time on another occasion. Perhaps had Miami’s Temple Israel scheduled a GOP speaker to come a week or two later, they might have avoided all the negative publicity they wound up getting. Yet the problem with opening the door to allowing services to become political rallies is that balance is rarely the result once synagogues start being manipulated by their most partisan members and their parties.

Even more to the point, allowing a religious event to become the venue for partisan politics is always asking for trouble. No one is saying, or ought to say, that synagogue buildings can’t be used for debates or forums in which politics is discussed. But there is a big difference between a Sunday morning bagel breakfast to which politicians are invited and what ought to be a purely religious event.

Far too often in this country we have seen inner city churches used as launching points for Democratic campaigns or evangelical churches employed for the same purpose by conservatives and Republicans. The willingness of some liberal Jews to use Reform institutions such as Miami’s Temple Israel in the same way is regrettable. Rather than being the rallying cry for those who wish to impose more partisan politics on helpless congregants, it should serve as a warning to all religious institutions to stay away from politicians while they are running for office and seeking to exploit them.

In the case of the Wasserman Schultz controversy it also ought to be remembered that those who protested her appearance were not the bullies. It was those congregants who attempted to turn a Friday night service into a Democratic rally who were the ones bullying the Republican members of the synagogue into a cowed silence. Their willingness to speak up and demand equal time for their side of the question was in the best traditions of American democracy. That Democrats who once moved heaven and earth to keep Palin from appearing at a secular rally against Iran now claim Wasserman Schultz should have the right to parachute into Torah services speaks volumes about the way partisanship can turn people into shameless hypocrites.

Read Less

Liberals Comparing Conservatives to the Muslim Brotherhood?

What does Sarah Palin have in common with the Muslim Brotherhood? The answer to that question is, of course, absolutely nothing. But don’t tell myriad pundits and academics that. Cheap analogies between the Tea Party and al-Qaeda, Sarah Palin and the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Taliban and the Christian Right have become a bit too commonplace for comfort among those who are supposed to inform public debate or provide expertise. Politicization, intolerance for opposing views, and false moral equivalence each suggest a profound ignorance of what groups like the Taliban and Muslim Brotherhood stand for.

Here are just a few examples:

  •  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: “So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the Tea Party?”
  • John Esposito, Georgetown University:  “The political Salafis believe that they have a true vision of Islam and that their version of religion is the one that they practice and the one that other people should practice too in their personal lives. Moreover, they are working to implement this vision in society as a whole… What you see in Christianity is that you have some very conservative Christians, you see them in the U.S. for example, many of them very conservative in their personal lives, and then there is the Christian Right in the U.S. that is involved in politics, another kind of Christianity that tries to impose its own will on other people.”
  • Princeton University’s Gregory D. Johnsen: “comparing [Tawakkol] Karman to [hardline Islamist Abdul Majid al-] Zindani is something akin to making Colin Powell responsible for what Sarah Palin says.”
  • Oxford University’s Richard Dawkins: “The fundamentalist Christian Right is America’s Taliban.”
  • University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole: “The mainstream Republican Party’s view on many social issues thus resembles that of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the Muslim Brotherhood and related parties in the Muslim world far more than it does the ‘conservative’ parties of Scandinavia and continental Europe.”
  • And, Juan Cole, again: “Is Sarah Palin America’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The two differ in many key respects, of course, but it is remarkable how similar they are. There are uncanny parallels in their biographies, their domestic politics and the way they present themselves — even in their rocky relationships with party elders.”
  • Cher: “We talk about how radical Muslims take away the Rights of their woman, but HOW CAN WE LET These RW [right wing American] Misogynistic Cretins take away.”
  • Occasional  Nation contributor David Lindorff: “But John Walker Lindh… is not the real American Taliban. That title surely belongs to our new Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.”
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore:  Appearing on “Real Time” with Bill Maher on Friday, film producer Michael Moore said that we should consider people such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin “our Taliban” because “their level of bigotry is so un-American.”
  • Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos founder: “In their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban.”
  • New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof: “We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security … comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.”

Read More

What does Sarah Palin have in common with the Muslim Brotherhood? The answer to that question is, of course, absolutely nothing. But don’t tell myriad pundits and academics that. Cheap analogies between the Tea Party and al-Qaeda, Sarah Palin and the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Taliban and the Christian Right have become a bit too commonplace for comfort among those who are supposed to inform public debate or provide expertise. Politicization, intolerance for opposing views, and false moral equivalence each suggest a profound ignorance of what groups like the Taliban and Muslim Brotherhood stand for.

Here are just a few examples:

    •  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: “So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the Tea Party?”
    • John Esposito, Georgetown University:  “The political Salafis believe that they have a true vision of Islam and that their version of religion is the one that they practice and the one that other people should practice too in their personal lives. Moreover, they are working to implement this vision in society as a whole… What you see in Christianity is that you have some very conservative Christians, you see them in the U.S. for example, many of them very conservative in their personal lives, and then there is the Christian Right in the U.S. that is involved in politics, another kind of Christianity that tries to impose its own will on other people.”
    • Princeton University’s Gregory D. Johnsen: “comparing [Tawakkol] Karman to [hardline Islamist Abdul Majid al-] Zindani is something akin to making Colin Powell responsible for what Sarah Palin says.”
    • Oxford University’s Richard Dawkins: “The fundamentalist Christian Right is America’s Taliban.”
    • University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole: “The mainstream Republican Party’s view on many social issues thus resembles that of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the Muslim Brotherhood and related parties in the Muslim world far more than it does the ‘conservative’ parties of Scandinavia and continental Europe.”
    • And, Juan Cole, again: “Is Sarah Palin America’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The two differ in many key respects, of course, but it is remarkable how similar they are. There are uncanny parallels in their biographies, their domestic politics and the way they present themselves — even in their rocky relationships with party elders.”
    • Cher: “We talk about how radical Muslims take away the Rights of their woman, but HOW CAN WE LET These RW [right wing American] Misogynistic Cretins take away.”
    • Occasional  Nation contributor David Lindorff: “But John Walker Lindh… is not the real American Taliban. That title surely belongs to our new Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.”
    • Filmmaker Michael Moore:  Appearing on “Real Time” with Bill Maher on Friday, film producer Michael Moore said that we should consider people such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin “our Taliban” because “their level of bigotry is so un-American.”
    • Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos founder: “In their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban.”
    • New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof: “We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security … comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.”

Since the Arab Spring, Muslim Brotherhood activists have called for the eradication of national borders to form a global Islamic state and in recent weeks, a Muslim Brotherhood rally in Egypt called for armed insurrection should the election not go their way. The Brotherhood’s website is rife with anti-Semitism. Other examples are here. The United States and, more broadly, the West, will be paying the price for the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt, and we have already paid the price for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Arguing, in effect, that such groups have parallels on the American political spectrum is both dishonest, destructive, and bolsters an illusion that such groups hold pragmatic politics above intolerant ideology.

Read Less

The Nikki Haley Pinata Spectacle

Remember the time that some random liberal hanged Sarah Palin in effigy for Halloween? This is like that, except instead of “some random liberal” it’s long-time South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna DeWitt; instead of Sarah Palin it’s South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley; and instead of hanging it’s beating with a baseball bat.

The spectacle is kind of pathetic – impotent revenge fantasies, even and especially ostensibly ironic ones – always are. And the crowd, especially the grating woman in the background who’s doing most of the cheering, seems far more into the imagined beating than is DeWitt. And, at the risk of deflating what’s bound to be a couple newscycles of outrageously outraged conservative commentary, this happened at a picnic, and we used to be a culture that met these things with eye-rolls rather than calls for professional accountability.

Read More

Remember the time that some random liberal hanged Sarah Palin in effigy for Halloween? This is like that, except instead of “some random liberal” it’s long-time South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna DeWitt; instead of Sarah Palin it’s South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley; and instead of hanging it’s beating with a baseball bat.

The spectacle is kind of pathetic – impotent revenge fantasies, even and especially ostensibly ironic ones – always are. And the crowd, especially the grating woman in the background who’s doing most of the cheering, seems far more into the imagined beating than is DeWitt. And, at the risk of deflating what’s bound to be a couple newscycles of outrageously outraged conservative commentary, this happened at a picnic, and we used to be a culture that met these things with eye-rolls rather than calls for professional accountability.

But there’s no denying the stunt is an explicit fantasized assault: “Wait till her face comes around, whack her.” “Give her another whack.” “Hit her again.” “This one’s for me.” This is all via your moral betters, who explained – interminably – how Sarah Palin’s “bullseye” map was an unacceptable incitement to violence.

Read Less

How Boring Must the GOP Veep Be?

It is a given that the Romney campaign knows it must not repeat the mistakes made by John McCain’s staff during his failed effort to head off a Barack Obama presidency. Of course, at the top of the list of McCain’s blunders was his choice of a largely unvetted vice presidential candidate who proved to be unready for the scrutiny of the liberal mainstream press. Thus, according to Politico, Romney advisers are determined that their man will choose someone who will be the polar opposite of Sarah Palin. But if, as Politico claims, they are really convinced the ideal Romney running mate will be “an incredibly boring white guy,” they will be doing him a disservice. Like generals obsessed with winning the last war rather than the one they are currently fighting, the GOP standard bearer’s staff may be learning the wrong lessons from 2008.

For those picking a vice president, a desire to “do no harm” is probably as apt a guiding principle for politics as it is for medicine. But the idea that the Republicans are best served by a vice presidential candidate who will neither provoke controversy nor give the Democrats anything to criticize is equally as wrongheaded as McCain’s desperate attempt to catch lightening in a bottle with Palin. It’s one thing to try and avoid a flashy clunker. To deliberately seek a dud who provides no excitement or buzz is to ask for a completely different kind of trouble. Even more to the point, the Politico story makes it appear as if some people in the Romney campaign are leaking this information in an attempt to head off the possibility that one of a few brilliant but possibly controversial veep candidates is squelched before the vetting process is even completed.

Read More

It is a given that the Romney campaign knows it must not repeat the mistakes made by John McCain’s staff during his failed effort to head off a Barack Obama presidency. Of course, at the top of the list of McCain’s blunders was his choice of a largely unvetted vice presidential candidate who proved to be unready for the scrutiny of the liberal mainstream press. Thus, according to Politico, Romney advisers are determined that their man will choose someone who will be the polar opposite of Sarah Palin. But if, as Politico claims, they are really convinced the ideal Romney running mate will be “an incredibly boring white guy,” they will be doing him a disservice. Like generals obsessed with winning the last war rather than the one they are currently fighting, the GOP standard bearer’s staff may be learning the wrong lessons from 2008.

For those picking a vice president, a desire to “do no harm” is probably as apt a guiding principle for politics as it is for medicine. But the idea that the Republicans are best served by a vice presidential candidate who will neither provoke controversy nor give the Democrats anything to criticize is equally as wrongheaded as McCain’s desperate attempt to catch lightening in a bottle with Palin. It’s one thing to try and avoid a flashy clunker. To deliberately seek a dud who provides no excitement or buzz is to ask for a completely different kind of trouble. Even more to the point, the Politico story makes it appear as if some people in the Romney campaign are leaking this information in an attempt to head off the possibility that one of a few brilliant but possibly controversial veep candidates is squelched before the vetting process is even completed.

If Romney wants boring, then some on his putative short list are definitely out. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a lot of things but boring isn’t one of them. He would attract a lot of attention and the press would dote on his every word during the campaign. Marco Rubio is also not boring. Having him on the ticket would also be interpreted as an appeal to the Hispanic vote much in the way Palin was seen as a token woman. Also not boring is Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s ideas maven on entitlement reform. According to the logic of the Politico piece, he’s out because he would be a lightening rod for Democratic attacks.

That leaves Romney to choose between the likes of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, former Minnesota governor and erstwhile Romney rival turned campaign surrogate Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Ohio Senator Rob Portman. All are sound individuals and none could be accused of generating much excitement. Indeed, Pawlenty, who flopped on the presidential campaign trail, and Daniels, who stayed out of the presidential race in order to avoid media attacks on his family, pretty much define the word boring.

But none, not even these men, are without drawbacks. In particular, Portman’s presence on the ticket will allow President Obama to continue running against George W. Bush because he worked in his administration. But if this story was leaked in order to boost his chances or that of any other boring contender, I doubt it will work.

Instead of worrying about avoiding another Palin, what Romney needs to do is to find someone whom he finds compatible and thinks is a plausible president who would help him govern. And if that person has some political or personal appeal that might excite the voters, that should not be considered a drawback.

The circumstances of 2008 are radically different from those of 2012. Romney is not running against a historic challenger who seeks to succeed a two-term Republican incumbent. In Palin’s defense, it should be noted that it isn’t likely any other running mate would have made any difference to McCain’s chances. Nor should her presence be considered purely negative. She did excite the GOP base, though the former Alaska governor probably chased as many independents away from the Republicans as the number of conservatives she attracted.

Romney is running even with Obama, not way behind and looking for a Hail Mary pass to even the score. That should inspire some caution on Romney’s part, but it shouldn’t mean he ought not to consider men like Christie and especially Ryan, with whom he is said to have some affinity. The plan ought to be to avoid a mistake-prone person who doesn’t have the background to be a potential president, not an exciting personality who might help Romney get elected.

Read Less

Rubio’s No Cheney, But He’s Also Not Palin

Mitt Romney’s unopposed sweep of the five primaries yesterday brought him that much closer to the Republican presidential nomination that is already his in all but name. But it also will turn up the heat on the search for his running mate. With nothing else to discuss — other than the issues, that is — anyone whose name is under consideration can expect the sort of examination that has, up until now, been restricted to presidential contenders.

The chief recipient of this intense scrutiny will undoubtedly be the man many believe is the frontrunner for the number two spot on the GOP ticket: Marco Rubio. Along with the other main contenders, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman and Chris Christie, his career and life is going to get a going over with a fine tooth comb not just from Romney’s vetting team but from a press corps that no longer has a nomination battle to cover. One of the first shots at Rubio’s credentials came yesterday from John Dickerson at Slate, who attempted to tag the Florida senator as being another version of 2008 GOP veep pick Sarah Palin, which is about the most unflattering comparison possible.

Read More

Mitt Romney’s unopposed sweep of the five primaries yesterday brought him that much closer to the Republican presidential nomination that is already his in all but name. But it also will turn up the heat on the search for his running mate. With nothing else to discuss — other than the issues, that is — anyone whose name is under consideration can expect the sort of examination that has, up until now, been restricted to presidential contenders.

The chief recipient of this intense scrutiny will undoubtedly be the man many believe is the frontrunner for the number two spot on the GOP ticket: Marco Rubio. Along with the other main contenders, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman and Chris Christie, his career and life is going to get a going over with a fine tooth comb not just from Romney’s vetting team but from a press corps that no longer has a nomination battle to cover. One of the first shots at Rubio’s credentials came yesterday from John Dickerson at Slate, who attempted to tag the Florida senator as being another version of 2008 GOP veep pick Sarah Palin, which is about the most unflattering comparison possible.

According to Dickerson, Rubio is similar to Palin in that he hasn’t any executive experience. Therefore, because Romney is running on the issue of competence, Rubio’s presence on the ticket will undermine the Republican campaign. Of course, it should be pointed out that Palin actually had a lot more executive experience (both as mayor of Wasilla and her 19 months on the job as governor of Alaska when John McCain tapped her for the nomination) than Rubio. But the problem with this argument is the issue with Palin was not so much her relatively thin resume (though not when compared to Barack Obama) but her lack of comfort discussing the major issues of the day in depth and at length. Rubio is a relative newcomer, but he is not someone who will flame out and play the fool in a one-on-one interview with Katie Couric.

Rubio may not be the second coming of Dick Cheney — a man who was picked to run with George W. Bush because of his extensive Washington resume and ability to govern — but he is ready to debate on the national stage, something that, for all of her considerable political gifts, Sarah Palin was not prepared to do in 2008.

But Dickerson is on to something when he hones in on Romney’s obvious desire to have someone run with him who has executive experience or at least possesses the ability to approach the issues with the same systematic method Romney prized during his business career. If that is what Romney is looking for — and Cheney is right when he says the priority should not be on superficial political advantages that might attach to possible running mates — then the edge will go to the only sitting governor on the presumed short list: Chris Christie.

However, the other two main contenders also bring something to the table in this regard that should not be discounted. As the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the architect of the Republican proposals for entitlement reform, Ryan clearly has the vision and the understanding of how the federal government works to help Romney govern. And Portman, who currently sits in the Senate but was George W. Bush’s budget director, has the same sort of credential. But both also have negatives attached to their resumes. Ryan is considered radioactive to some because of the way Democrats have demonized his proposals, and Portman’s service in the last administration will link Romney to Bush.

Dickerson is also right to discount the edge that Rubio would bring with Hispanic voters. As I wrote yesterday, most of what is assumed by pundits about that is probably untrue.

As for Rubio, the jury is still out on whether his efforts to tamp down speculation about his candidacy were genuine. He had me convinced when he repeatedly said that “it wasn’t going to happen,” which sounded like he had a reason why he didn’t want to run (or why Romney shouldn’t pick him) rather than the usual coyness that we expect from vice presidential contenders. But his recent efforts aimed at self-promotion as well as a memorable Freudian slip about the subject have left me thinking maybe he wants it after all.

In the first century of the history of this republic, it was customary for presidential contenders to pretend they weren’t candidates and bad form to do anything that could be construed as campaigning for the job. But though that silly masquerade is no longer part of the presidential election process, it is retained for would-be vice presidents. But we’d all be better off if there was more candor about the veep search.

Read Less

Brit Hume v. Sarah Palin

Rick Santorum’s profanity-laced outburst at Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times has elicited a fair amount of comment in the political world, as one might imagine – including among Fox News analysts. If you’d like to hear two very different interpretations of Senator Santorum’s reaction, you can watch Brit Hume here and Sarah Palin here.

Hume wasn’t harsh in his critique of Santorum, saying he was probably “fatigued” and showed “some exasperation,” but added that Zeleny is a “reasonable guy” who asked a legitimate question and would have taken Santorum at his word when it came to a clarification. Palin, on the other hand, said this:

Santorum’s response to that liberal-leftist, in-the-tank for Obama press character really revealed some of Rick Santorum’s character. And it was good and it was strong and it was about time because he’s saying enough is enough of the liberal media twisting a conservative’s words, putting words in his mouth, taking things out of context and even just making things up. So when I heard Rick Santorum’s response, I was like ‘Well, welcome to my world Rick’ and ‘Good on ya.’ Don’t retreat. You are saying “enough is enough. I was that glad he called out this reporter. He and the other candidates all of them need to do more of this. Because believe me the American people are tired of what that leftist media continue to do to conservatives.

So there you have it – Jeff Zeleny is, according to Hume, a “reasonable guy” while to Palin he is a “liberal-leftist, in-the-tank-for-Obama press character.” Hume says Santorum was fatigued and exasperated; Palin thinks Santorum and the other GOP candidates should do more of this kind of media push back (presumably including the profanity). One of the commentators is detached; the other is embittered.

Between Hume and Palin, who do you think is the more sober, mature, thoughtful and reasonable?

I’ll report, you decide.

 

Rick Santorum’s profanity-laced outburst at Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times has elicited a fair amount of comment in the political world, as one might imagine – including among Fox News analysts. If you’d like to hear two very different interpretations of Senator Santorum’s reaction, you can watch Brit Hume here and Sarah Palin here.

Hume wasn’t harsh in his critique of Santorum, saying he was probably “fatigued” and showed “some exasperation,” but added that Zeleny is a “reasonable guy” who asked a legitimate question and would have taken Santorum at his word when it came to a clarification. Palin, on the other hand, said this:

Santorum’s response to that liberal-leftist, in-the-tank for Obama press character really revealed some of Rick Santorum’s character. And it was good and it was strong and it was about time because he’s saying enough is enough of the liberal media twisting a conservative’s words, putting words in his mouth, taking things out of context and even just making things up. So when I heard Rick Santorum’s response, I was like ‘Well, welcome to my world Rick’ and ‘Good on ya.’ Don’t retreat. You are saying “enough is enough. I was that glad he called out this reporter. He and the other candidates all of them need to do more of this. Because believe me the American people are tired of what that leftist media continue to do to conservatives.

So there you have it – Jeff Zeleny is, according to Hume, a “reasonable guy” while to Palin he is a “liberal-leftist, in-the-tank-for-Obama press character.” Hume says Santorum was fatigued and exasperated; Palin thinks Santorum and the other GOP candidates should do more of this kind of media push back (presumably including the profanity). One of the commentators is detached; the other is embittered.

Between Hume and Palin, who do you think is the more sober, mature, thoughtful and reasonable?

I’ll report, you decide.

 

Read Less