Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sarah Palin

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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White House Hypocrisy

There’s something even more offensive than pundits and comedians using their platforms to launch nasty or sexist attacks on people they disagree with politically. And that’s the selective outrage and brazen hypocrisy of this White House, which calculatedly stirred up anger about Rush Limbaugh’s Sandra Fluke comments for political gain, but seemingly has no problem when liberal comedians and talk show hosts take sexist jabs at conservative women.

Sarah Palin’s ShePAC shines a light on the White House’s indefensible double-standard:

The real issue isn’t so much that the comments in the clip are offensive, though many of them obviously are. It’s the fact that the petty political scheming of this administration reaches the highest level in the White House. How else to explain the fact that Sandra Fluke warranted a sympathy phone call from President Obama, but Bill Maher’s nasty jokes about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy are shrugged off by White House officials? For that matter, how do you explain Fluke’s call, when Obama still hasn’t managed to ring up Sen. Mark Kirk since his stroke?

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There’s something even more offensive than pundits and comedians using their platforms to launch nasty or sexist attacks on people they disagree with politically. And that’s the selective outrage and brazen hypocrisy of this White House, which calculatedly stirred up anger about Rush Limbaugh’s Sandra Fluke comments for political gain, but seemingly has no problem when liberal comedians and talk show hosts take sexist jabs at conservative women.

Sarah Palin’s ShePAC shines a light on the White House’s indefensible double-standard:

The real issue isn’t so much that the comments in the clip are offensive, though many of them obviously are. It’s the fact that the petty political scheming of this administration reaches the highest level in the White House. How else to explain the fact that Sandra Fluke warranted a sympathy phone call from President Obama, but Bill Maher’s nasty jokes about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy are shrugged off by White House officials? For that matter, how do you explain Fluke’s call, when Obama still hasn’t managed to ring up Sen. Mark Kirk since his stroke?

The obvious conclusion is that Obama and his advisers saw a political advantage to making hay out of the Fluke controversy, and they eagerly exploited it. Only now are they starting to get burned. Obama adviser David Axelrod was pressured into canceling his appearance on Bill Maher’s show, and ShePAC is continuing to turn up the heat on Obama with its new ads.

This isn’t about taking down Maher, Ed Schultz and David Letterman, who are free to say whatever they choose to. It’s about expecting the president to spend his time leading the country rather than engaging in trivial political games and constructing phony controversies designed to help his reelection campaign.

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Team Obama’s Negative Ads Against Palin

The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Here’s Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical (via HotAir):

The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:

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The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Here’s Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical (via HotAir):

The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.

Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s. …

The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh’s name in a survey and found that many Americans just don’t like him.

“His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent,” Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.

Then came what Begala called “the tripwire.”

“I hope he fails,” Limbaugh said of Obama on his show four days before the president was sworn in. It was a time when Obama’s approval ratings were soaring, but more than that, polls showed even people who didn’t vote for him badly wanted him to succeed, coming to office at a time of economic meltdown.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the first to jump on the statement, sending the video to its membership to raise cash and stir a petition drive.

Come to think of it, this seems to bear a close resemblance to how the White House and Democrats manufactured the whole Susan Fluke/Rush Limbaugh controversy duringthe past few weeks. The strategy goes something like this:

1.)   Obama personally responds to inflammatory comments from a loose-cannon conservative figure, in an attempt to raise this person’s standing to the level of a serious Republican leader.

2.)   The media reports on the “controversy.”

3.)   Right-wing bloggers and Fox News pundits defend the loose-cannon conservative.

4.)  Democrats call on Republican candidates to repudiate the comments.

5.)   The media asks Republican candidates whether they agree with the polarizing conservative’s comments, which sets up a lose-lose scenario. If the candidate criticizes the comments too forcefully, he risks alienating the Fox News demographic. If the GOP candidate criticizes the comments too gently, Democrats slam him for pandering.

Maybe the anti-Sarah Palin campaign video really is just a sign the Obama team is in completely desperate straits and simply has nothing else to run on or against. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats start trying to emphasize Palin’s influence in the Republican Party, and call on Romney, Santorum, et al, to condemn her comments in the coming weeks.

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Sarah Palin’s Projection Problem

Last week, I wrote a post praising Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul for their willingness to put themselves through an exhausting, grinding presidential campaign rather than staying on the sidelines. I pointed out that it’s easy for politicians and political commentators to focus on the foibles, mistakes and awkward language that sometimes characterize the current crop of GOP candidates. And I added that it’s a lot easier to analyze candidates from behind a keyboard, microphone, and television studio than it is to actually run day after day, speaking at event after event, taking question after question.

And just like that, who pops up but former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who on Friday told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren,At this point we are watching Obama with his naive apologies to savages in Afghanistan who turn around and kill our soldiers. We look at things like that, the actions of our sitting president and we say, ‘anybody but Obama.’ And that is why Greta, that Alaskans whom I speak with — we’re so tired of the pettiness within that GOP process. You know, the folks are bickering back and forth about different tactics taken within their campaigns and in this nominating process. We’re trying to remind these candidates: Stay focused on the main thing and that is get a commander in chief who our troops deserve.”

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Last week, I wrote a post praising Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul for their willingness to put themselves through an exhausting, grinding presidential campaign rather than staying on the sidelines. I pointed out that it’s easy for politicians and political commentators to focus on the foibles, mistakes and awkward language that sometimes characterize the current crop of GOP candidates. And I added that it’s a lot easier to analyze candidates from behind a keyboard, microphone, and television studio than it is to actually run day after day, speaking at event after event, taking question after question.

And just like that, who pops up but former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who on Friday told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren,At this point we are watching Obama with his naive apologies to savages in Afghanistan who turn around and kill our soldiers. We look at things like that, the actions of our sitting president and we say, ‘anybody but Obama.’ And that is why Greta, that Alaskans whom I speak with — we’re so tired of the pettiness within that GOP process. You know, the folks are bickering back and forth about different tactics taken within their campaigns and in this nominating process. We’re trying to remind these candidates: Stay focused on the main thing and that is get a commander in chief who our troops deserve.”

This is rich. Palin prematurely resigned her post as governor because she couldn’t take the political heat. Since the 2008 campaign — in which, it has to be said, she was often badly mistreated — Palin has become brittle, often defensive, and consumed by resentments. She has engaged in too many petty twitter wars to count. And against the counsel of many, at the moment when President Obama was about to speak at a memorial service for those who were killed and wounded in a massacre in Tucson (including Representative Gabrielle Giffords), Palin released a video in which she responded to “journalists and pundits” for “manufacturing a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

So to have Palin complaining about weariness with the “pettiness within the GOP process” and for “bickering back and forth” is a bit much. Among other things, it shows an utter lack of self-awareness by the former Alaska governor and, I would imagine, some degree of projection.

Whatever complaints some Republicans might have about the current field, at least Sarah Palin isn’t in it. Call it a small blessing for the GOP.

 

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The Myth of Palin’s Influence

Alana’s question as to why Sarah Palin continues to toy with the public and the Republican presidential field and refuses to issue a firm endorsement of one candidate is a good one. I believe the answer, however, has more to do with her desire to try to hog the spotlight for as long as possible than it does with any inane hopes on her part of a deadlocked GOP eventually turning to her as a savior or even her obligations to Fox News. But after last night’s Florida result, there is an even better query to be posed to those who spent much of the last week touting the former Alaska governor as a difference maker in the South Carolina primary.

If Palin’s unofficial endorsement was thought by some observers, including smart people like the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, to have had some influence on the outcome in South Carolina, what conclusions should we draw from the fact that her call for Floridians to “rage against the machine” and vote for Gingrich doesn’t seem to have had the same effect?

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Alana’s question as to why Sarah Palin continues to toy with the public and the Republican presidential field and refuses to issue a firm endorsement of one candidate is a good one. I believe the answer, however, has more to do with her desire to try to hog the spotlight for as long as possible than it does with any inane hopes on her part of a deadlocked GOP eventually turning to her as a savior or even her obligations to Fox News. But after last night’s Florida result, there is an even better query to be posed to those who spent much of the last week touting the former Alaska governor as a difference maker in the South Carolina primary.

If Palin’s unofficial endorsement was thought by some observers, including smart people like the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, to have had some influence on the outcome in South Carolina, what conclusions should we draw from the fact that her call for Floridians to “rage against the machine” and vote for Gingrich doesn’t seem to have had the same effect?

The answer is obvious. While there may be a few conservatives who look to Palin for guidance, most disregarded her advice. Exit polls of those voting yesterday show Romney had a slight edge among Tea Party backers over Gingrich (winning 40-38 percent), and finished in a virtual statistical tie with him among evangelicals (losing them by a 38-37 percent margin). These are, after all, the two groups we are told are Palin’s base of support. Yet Romney–not her choice of Gingrich–held his own among them and won the overall vote by a huge margin.

We will, no doubt, continue to hear a great deal from her so long as she remains on Fox’s payroll. But as the primary season proceeds with more opportunities for her counsel to be ignored by GOP voters, her stock will continue to sink. All of which ought to remind Palin’s credulous fans as well as journalists that the idea of her influence over Republican voters is more myth than reality.

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Palin, Stalin and Alinsky

Just a week ago, some of Sarah Palin’s fans were attempting to give the former Alaska governor a little bit of the credit for Newt Gingrich’s second surge and his victory in South Carolina. Bill Kristol said as much in the Weekly Standard’s blog and wondered what would happen if she “really comes out for Newt.” While I think the evidence of a Palin connection to what happened in the Palmetto state seems to be more the product of the imagination of Palinites than anything else, there was no harm in allowing her to jump on the short-lived Gingrich bandwagon. But the quick decline of the candidate she seemed to be favoring appears to have angered the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, and the latest blast from her Wasilla Fortress of Solitude is yet another reminder why many conservatives find it difficult to take her seriously anymore.

In a posting on her Facebook page on Friday, Palin took aim at Gingrich’s critics with the sort of language that says more about her own lack of judgment than anything else. She claimed former Reagan administration officials who noted this week Gingrich was anything but a loyal soldier of the 40th president were engaged in a “Stalin-esque rewriting of history.” This is not merely nonsensical, it is illustrative of the defects in her own character and intellect that have led many of us who once cheered her rise to conclude that she has no business ever putting herself forward for high office again.

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Just a week ago, some of Sarah Palin’s fans were attempting to give the former Alaska governor a little bit of the credit for Newt Gingrich’s second surge and his victory in South Carolina. Bill Kristol said as much in the Weekly Standard’s blog and wondered what would happen if she “really comes out for Newt.” While I think the evidence of a Palin connection to what happened in the Palmetto state seems to be more the product of the imagination of Palinites than anything else, there was no harm in allowing her to jump on the short-lived Gingrich bandwagon. But the quick decline of the candidate she seemed to be favoring appears to have angered the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, and the latest blast from her Wasilla Fortress of Solitude is yet another reminder why many conservatives find it difficult to take her seriously anymore.

In a posting on her Facebook page on Friday, Palin took aim at Gingrich’s critics with the sort of language that says more about her own lack of judgment than anything else. She claimed former Reagan administration officials who noted this week Gingrich was anything but a loyal soldier of the 40th president were engaged in a “Stalin-esque rewriting of history.” This is not merely nonsensical, it is illustrative of the defects in her own character and intellect that have led many of us who once cheered her rise to conclude that she has no business ever putting herself forward for high office again.

While Gingrich supported Reagan and Mitt Romney did not, those who pointed out the former speaker’s often petulant and negative comments about the leader of his movement were merely illuminating a little-known aspect of the truth, not “re-writing” it. For Palin to use that over-the-top rhetoric — in effect comparing someone like Elliott Abrams to a communist monster — is contemptible. For her to go on in the same piece to say Gingrich’s critics were employing “Alinsky tactics at their worst” shows again she understands little about either Saul Alinsky’s writings or history.

While Palin and Gingrich have little in common, the one characteristic they do share is hypocrisy. In her posting, Palin claims Mitt Romney needs to be “vetted” more thoroughly because Democrats will attack him in the fall. Yet she considers any attempt to give the same attention to Gingrich, a man with a freight train’s worth of damaging personal and political baggage that renders him unlikely to win a general election, to be above such concerns. According to Palin, examinations of his inconsistent record and leadership failures are examples of “the politics of personal destruction” and should be abhorred.

Palin complains that Romney supporters have attacked Gingrich from the left. But that is actually the tactic Gingrich has used. Indeed, Palin herself echoed some of those ill-advised barbs at Romney’s business career as she played to the mob. That she does so shamelessly and without even a trace of understanding of what she is doing is all part of the odd political persona she has constructed for herself and which limits her influence and dim chances of personal political advancement in the future.

For Palin, this is all part of a little self-destructive drama she has been acting out for years, since she flopped in 2008 when thrust on the national stage and then abandoned her gubernatorial responsibilities in order to become a celebrity. Gingrich’s attack on the so-called Republican establishment is an obvious ploy, as he is as much if not more of a Washington insider than any of his critics. But Palin really seems to believe the alleged “establishment” not only wants to control the party but also wishes to sabotage it. Incredibly, she even claims Republicans who support Romney and who have been leading the charge in the opinion pages and in Washington against the current administration while she spent the last two years doing nothing in Alaska would never attack Obama the way they attack Gingrich. She fails to understand that those that have pointed out the manifest shortcomings of Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul (whom Palin has gone out of her way to praise), have done so because they believe they have no chance to beat Obama.

Palin, who seems far more interested in burnishing her image than actually helping her party, manages to keep her name in the news every now and then with statements such as this one. But her problem is the more she talks, the more she reminds us why she has doomed herself to the margins of political discourse.

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Palin Now Echoing Gingrich on Bain Attack?

On one hand, Sarah Palin is sticking to questions about Mitt Romney’s job creation claims at Bain Capital, about which there are legitimate issues. On the other hand, she seems to be completely mischaracterizing Rick Perry’s attack on Romney. Perry was doing more than just challenging Romney’s job creation numbers; he was flat-out using the language of the progressive left to paint Romney as a greedy, “vulture capitalist,” profiteer.

She is helping give Gingrich and Perry some cover though:

“Governor Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, and people are wanting to know: is there proof?” Palin told Sean Hannity on Fox News.

Rick Tyler, former Gingrich aide and head of Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, has already accused Romney of having created those 100,000 jobs in Asia and Mexico. Earlier this week, Big Government pointed out that Romney’s claim to have created 100,000 jobs contrasts with claims he made during his 1994 U.S. Senate campaign, when he claimed to have created 10,000 jobs at Bain. Romney retired from Bain Capital in 1999.

Palin said that Romney needed to come clean about his record, given the likelihood that Democrats would probe the tax issue and Romney’s tenure at Bain if he were to become the Republican nominee.

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On one hand, Sarah Palin is sticking to questions about Mitt Romney’s job creation claims at Bain Capital, about which there are legitimate issues. On the other hand, she seems to be completely mischaracterizing Rick Perry’s attack on Romney. Perry was doing more than just challenging Romney’s job creation numbers; he was flat-out using the language of the progressive left to paint Romney as a greedy, “vulture capitalist,” profiteer.

She is helping give Gingrich and Perry some cover though:

“Governor Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, and people are wanting to know: is there proof?” Palin told Sean Hannity on Fox News.

Rick Tyler, former Gingrich aide and head of Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, has already accused Romney of having created those 100,000 jobs in Asia and Mexico. Earlier this week, Big Government pointed out that Romney’s claim to have created 100,000 jobs contrasts with claims he made during his 1994 U.S. Senate campaign, when he claimed to have created 10,000 jobs at Bain. Romney retired from Bain Capital in 1999.

Palin said that Romney needed to come clean about his record, given the likelihood that Democrats would probe the tax issue and Romney’s tenure at Bain if he were to become the Republican nominee.

Palin almost seems to be echoing Gingrich from this morning here. Yes, Romney’s record at Bain and comments about creating 100,000 jobs should absolutely be vetted. But that’s not at all what Gingrich and Perry have been attacking Romney on. They’ve been depicting the layoffs and failures at some of Bain’s companies as the consequence of unchecked greed and capitalism. It’s this mentality conservatives have criticized, not the questions about Romney’s background. For Palin to suggest otherwise is disingenuous, and it almost sounds like a sign she’s readying for a Gingrich endorsement.

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Leftists Bring Swastikas to Koch Protest

So the left’s newfound respect for “civil discourse” lasted about as long as it took to link Sarah Palin to a completely unrelated murderous rampage, as it now looks like things are back to business as usual. At a protest against Koch Industries over the weekend, activists carried signs emblazoned with swastikas and 9/11 “truth” slogans, chanted “no justice, no peace,” and shut down a busy street in Rancho Mirage, California.

The demonstration, organized by Common Cause, was meant to protest the Citizens United ruling. Why the group’s ire was directed at Koch Industries — which had no involvement whatsoever in the Supreme Court case — is an excellent question.

According to Common Cause, Koch benefited from the ruling and supported groups that filed amicus briefs on behalf of Citizens United during the case. Fair enough. But that doesn’t explain why Common Cause invited labor unions to the rally, which have profited from the Supreme Court’s ruling as well.

Not to mention the ACLU, which also filed an amicus brief in support of Citizens United, arguing that it was a free-speech issue. Will Common Cause bus in protesters to scream eliminationist rhetoric outside the ACLU’s offices next?

Probably not — getting arrested while protesting the ACLU just doesn’t have the same charm to it as getting arrested while protesting an “evil” corporate titan. Though a bit more consistency would at least help make Common Cause look a tad less clownish.

Grasping irony, however, is clearly not the group’s strong point. This was apparent from the list of speakers at the “progressive” political conference that was held in conjunction with the anti-Koch demonstration. When protesters grew tired of yelling about the political influence of corporate fat cats, they could take a break and listen to panel discussions featuring an array of representatives from George Soros–funded organizations.

So the left’s newfound respect for “civil discourse” lasted about as long as it took to link Sarah Palin to a completely unrelated murderous rampage, as it now looks like things are back to business as usual. At a protest against Koch Industries over the weekend, activists carried signs emblazoned with swastikas and 9/11 “truth” slogans, chanted “no justice, no peace,” and shut down a busy street in Rancho Mirage, California.

The demonstration, organized by Common Cause, was meant to protest the Citizens United ruling. Why the group’s ire was directed at Koch Industries — which had no involvement whatsoever in the Supreme Court case — is an excellent question.

According to Common Cause, Koch benefited from the ruling and supported groups that filed amicus briefs on behalf of Citizens United during the case. Fair enough. But that doesn’t explain why Common Cause invited labor unions to the rally, which have profited from the Supreme Court’s ruling as well.

Not to mention the ACLU, which also filed an amicus brief in support of Citizens United, arguing that it was a free-speech issue. Will Common Cause bus in protesters to scream eliminationist rhetoric outside the ACLU’s offices next?

Probably not — getting arrested while protesting the ACLU just doesn’t have the same charm to it as getting arrested while protesting an “evil” corporate titan. Though a bit more consistency would at least help make Common Cause look a tad less clownish.

Grasping irony, however, is clearly not the group’s strong point. This was apparent from the list of speakers at the “progressive” political conference that was held in conjunction with the anti-Koch demonstration. When protesters grew tired of yelling about the political influence of corporate fat cats, they could take a break and listen to panel discussions featuring an array of representatives from George Soros–funded organizations.

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Newt Gingrich’s Advice to Palin

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich had some unsolicited words of advice for Sarah Palin, whose poll numbers have been dropping after the Tucson tragedy.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” said Gingrich, who will likely challenge Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

And while that’s a good recommendation for any politician — something Gingrich should probably work on himself — will it do any good for Palin?

Her political troubles over the past few weeks weren’t caused by a failure to slow down and think carefully. In fact, a lot of her most controversial remarks have been well thought out. Those gun references from last spring? She used them repeatedly in her statements, especially after she saw the furious reaction they elicited from the media and Democrats. Her “target” map was designed by a professional graphic artist, probably with a good deal of input from her PAC’s communications staff. And her recent comment about blood libel was part of a pre-written speech crafted with the help of PR experts.

Again, Gingrich’s words were good advice for any politician. But at this point, is there any indication that Palin has any interest in being a politician (as opposed to just running for political office)? Her increasingly eye-popping statements can only be looked at in two ways. Either she’s a “media-manipulation genius” (as that old meme goes) interested in a career as a professional conservative pundit, or she’s a serious politician who is breathtakingly clueless about media strategy.

The latter one seems unlikely. Not only is Palin incredibly savvy; so are the strategists around her. But in the past year, as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, she’s continued to make pre-planned comments that even the greenest City Hall candidate would have good sense to avoid. Promoting a map with crosshairs over Democratic districts during a debate as heated as the one last spring on health care? And writing the term “blood libel” into a speech? Yes, these controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media, but they were also completely unnecessary, avoidable scandals.

Conservatives who have seen how much potential Palin has as a candidate have advised her to get serious for almost two years. But is the problem that she hasn’t heard what they are saying? Or is it that she doesn’t want to hear it?

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich had some unsolicited words of advice for Sarah Palin, whose poll numbers have been dropping after the Tucson tragedy.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” said Gingrich, who will likely challenge Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

And while that’s a good recommendation for any politician — something Gingrich should probably work on himself — will it do any good for Palin?

Her political troubles over the past few weeks weren’t caused by a failure to slow down and think carefully. In fact, a lot of her most controversial remarks have been well thought out. Those gun references from last spring? She used them repeatedly in her statements, especially after she saw the furious reaction they elicited from the media and Democrats. Her “target” map was designed by a professional graphic artist, probably with a good deal of input from her PAC’s communications staff. And her recent comment about blood libel was part of a pre-written speech crafted with the help of PR experts.

Again, Gingrich’s words were good advice for any politician. But at this point, is there any indication that Palin has any interest in being a politician (as opposed to just running for political office)? Her increasingly eye-popping statements can only be looked at in two ways. Either she’s a “media-manipulation genius” (as that old meme goes) interested in a career as a professional conservative pundit, or she’s a serious politician who is breathtakingly clueless about media strategy.

The latter one seems unlikely. Not only is Palin incredibly savvy; so are the strategists around her. But in the past year, as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, she’s continued to make pre-planned comments that even the greenest City Hall candidate would have good sense to avoid. Promoting a map with crosshairs over Democratic districts during a debate as heated as the one last spring on health care? And writing the term “blood libel” into a speech? Yes, these controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media, but they were also completely unnecessary, avoidable scandals.

Conservatives who have seen how much potential Palin has as a candidate have advised her to get serious for almost two years. But is the problem that she hasn’t heard what they are saying? Or is it that she doesn’t want to hear it?

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Morning Commentary

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

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Why Palin Won’t Fade Away Soon

Ross Douthat’s advice to the media on Sarah Palin, which Peter Wehner wrote about on Monday, will be hard to follow. Douthat uses the metaphor of a marriage to frame his points on Palin and the media. But in this “marriage,” third parties play a decisive role — and in a telling way, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) filled a particular role this past weekend. Coburn, for whom I have great respect, has been a favorite with the Tea Party demographic because of his reputation as a fiscal hawk and constitutional-process curmudgeon. But in an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Coburn failed to deliver in exactly the kind of situation in which Palin rarely disappoints her base.

Here is a key passage from Mediaite’s summary of the Coburn interview: Gregory persisted by saying some on the right speak of President Obama as an “outsider who is trying to usher in a system … that will injure America and deny them of their liberty” and wanted to know if Coburn rejects that idea and also the use of violent metaphors in political discourse. Coburn agreed that he does reject that, and Senator Charles Schumer added “we as elected officials have an obligation to try and tone that down, and if we tone it down, then maybe the media will be less vociferous.”

Quite a few Americans would say Coburn rejected the wrong thing. What he should have rejected was the rhetorical pairing of the right’s political ideas with “violent metaphors in political discourse.” Coburn didn’t question the terms in which David Gregory presented the proposition: as if proof of civility and peaceful intent could only be established by rejecting certain of the right’s political arguments against Obama’s policies. In the video clip, the senator came across as calculating, perhaps a little impatiently, that meeting Gregory’s test of “civility” was a minor but essential concession.

I imagine Coburn would defend it as valid for the people to disagree on basic political ideas, if the question were put to him directly. But in the context of a buried premise in a Sunday talk show, it didn’t seem to occur to him to make that point. It does, manifestly, occur to Palin. I don’t disagree with pundits who would like to see her be more succinct and less reactive to the personal element in media attacks on her. But the people hear with different ears: for every auditor who cringes at her style or extraneous commentary, there is another who hears, first and foremost, that she is affirming precious ideas to which other politicians are not moved to give voice.

Palin’s persistent popularity as a public icon is a financial factor for the media — and it’s not one they control. They could decline to talk about her, decline to feature photos and video clips of her, but they understand the connection between Palin, sales, Web hits, and audience share. Palin is a figure whose market power has been established through a direct bond — of love or hate — with the people.

This doesn’t mean she is or should be a front-runner for 2012. The issues are separate. My own belief is that a successful GOP candidate will find a way to transcend the arena of slings and arrows without making political compromises to secure its quiescence. Palin may not have transcended the slings-and-arrows arena, but her potential competitors have all, to varying degrees, made the kinds of compromises that Tom Coburn modeled this past Sunday. As long as other leading Republicans let their discourse be governed by a set of buried premises that disqualifies the right’s political ideas at the starting line, Sarah Palin will have devoted supporters and a prominent voice.

Ross Douthat’s advice to the media on Sarah Palin, which Peter Wehner wrote about on Monday, will be hard to follow. Douthat uses the metaphor of a marriage to frame his points on Palin and the media. But in this “marriage,” third parties play a decisive role — and in a telling way, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) filled a particular role this past weekend. Coburn, for whom I have great respect, has been a favorite with the Tea Party demographic because of his reputation as a fiscal hawk and constitutional-process curmudgeon. But in an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Coburn failed to deliver in exactly the kind of situation in which Palin rarely disappoints her base.

Here is a key passage from Mediaite’s summary of the Coburn interview: Gregory persisted by saying some on the right speak of President Obama as an “outsider who is trying to usher in a system … that will injure America and deny them of their liberty” and wanted to know if Coburn rejects that idea and also the use of violent metaphors in political discourse. Coburn agreed that he does reject that, and Senator Charles Schumer added “we as elected officials have an obligation to try and tone that down, and if we tone it down, then maybe the media will be less vociferous.”

Quite a few Americans would say Coburn rejected the wrong thing. What he should have rejected was the rhetorical pairing of the right’s political ideas with “violent metaphors in political discourse.” Coburn didn’t question the terms in which David Gregory presented the proposition: as if proof of civility and peaceful intent could only be established by rejecting certain of the right’s political arguments against Obama’s policies. In the video clip, the senator came across as calculating, perhaps a little impatiently, that meeting Gregory’s test of “civility” was a minor but essential concession.

I imagine Coburn would defend it as valid for the people to disagree on basic political ideas, if the question were put to him directly. But in the context of a buried premise in a Sunday talk show, it didn’t seem to occur to him to make that point. It does, manifestly, occur to Palin. I don’t disagree with pundits who would like to see her be more succinct and less reactive to the personal element in media attacks on her. But the people hear with different ears: for every auditor who cringes at her style or extraneous commentary, there is another who hears, first and foremost, that she is affirming precious ideas to which other politicians are not moved to give voice.

Palin’s persistent popularity as a public icon is a financial factor for the media — and it’s not one they control. They could decline to talk about her, decline to feature photos and video clips of her, but they understand the connection between Palin, sales, Web hits, and audience share. Palin is a figure whose market power has been established through a direct bond — of love or hate — with the people.

This doesn’t mean she is or should be a front-runner for 2012. The issues are separate. My own belief is that a successful GOP candidate will find a way to transcend the arena of slings and arrows without making political compromises to secure its quiescence. Palin may not have transcended the slings-and-arrows arena, but her potential competitors have all, to varying degrees, made the kinds of compromises that Tom Coburn modeled this past Sunday. As long as other leading Republicans let their discourse be governed by a set of buried premises that disqualifies the right’s political ideas at the starting line, Sarah Palin will have devoted supporters and a prominent voice.

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On the Persistence of Palin and the Possibility of Pence

Quayle was gone after one misspelled word. Howard Dean was finished after a single yell. Gingrich was not the same after a complaint about his seat on a plane. Edmund Muskie was done after a solitary tear.

These men were either the vice president of the United States, or leading presidential candidates, or the Speaker of the House. But they were down for the count after one punch — labeled (and libeled) as ignorant, out-of-control, petulant, and unmanly. Sarah Palin has been spared only the fourth adjective, but only because she has been criticized as too manly: shooting caribou, beating fish, describing animals as meat, riding a souped-up motorcycle.

Her degree from the University of Idaho could only be worse if it were from Eureka College, and her betters are constantly schooling her (“So you see, Sarah, the words ‘death panel’ don’t appear in the bill” and “So you see, Sarah, the phrase ‘blood libel’ refers to the Jews”). But her points were valid, made in a way that focused public discussion. For someone whose career was supposedly over once she made the supposedly disastrous decision to resign as governor, she continues to dominate political discussion — from her Facebook page. She even gets thoughtful columns written about her by people who think fewer columns should be written about her.

And if truth be told, her book was substantially better than Hillary’s. She is not Ronald Reagan, nor Menachem Begin, but the continual advice to her from the right not to run may reflect a certain fear that she might get the nomination if she did; she has certainly demonstrated she can take a punch.

She may nonetheless conclude that her candidacy would be a distraction from the issues she champions, and that another candidate might be better positioned to present them. If so, she might open up the Pence Possibility — a candidacy by someone whose Hillsdale College speech last September was remarkable in my view and came considerably closer to Lincoln than another recent one.

Quayle was gone after one misspelled word. Howard Dean was finished after a single yell. Gingrich was not the same after a complaint about his seat on a plane. Edmund Muskie was done after a solitary tear.

These men were either the vice president of the United States, or leading presidential candidates, or the Speaker of the House. But they were down for the count after one punch — labeled (and libeled) as ignorant, out-of-control, petulant, and unmanly. Sarah Palin has been spared only the fourth adjective, but only because she has been criticized as too manly: shooting caribou, beating fish, describing animals as meat, riding a souped-up motorcycle.

Her degree from the University of Idaho could only be worse if it were from Eureka College, and her betters are constantly schooling her (“So you see, Sarah, the words ‘death panel’ don’t appear in the bill” and “So you see, Sarah, the phrase ‘blood libel’ refers to the Jews”). But her points were valid, made in a way that focused public discussion. For someone whose career was supposedly over once she made the supposedly disastrous decision to resign as governor, she continues to dominate political discussion — from her Facebook page. She even gets thoughtful columns written about her by people who think fewer columns should be written about her.

And if truth be told, her book was substantially better than Hillary’s. She is not Ronald Reagan, nor Menachem Begin, but the continual advice to her from the right not to run may reflect a certain fear that she might get the nomination if she did; she has certainly demonstrated she can take a punch.

She may nonetheless conclude that her candidacy would be a distraction from the issues she champions, and that another candidate might be better positioned to present them. If so, she might open up the Pence Possibility — a candidacy by someone whose Hillsdale College speech last September was remarkable in my view and came considerably closer to Lincoln than another recent one.

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Wise Words on the Palin Obsession

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has written a very intelligent column on the very odd, and in some respects co-dependent, relationship between the media and Sarah Palin.

Here is how Douthat concludes his column:

To the media: Cover Sarah Palin if you want, but stop acting as if she’s the most important conservative politician in America. Stop pretending that she has a plausible path to the presidency in 2012. (She doesn’t.) Stop suggesting that she’s the front-runner for the Republican nomination. (She isn’t.) And every time you’re tempted to parse her tweets for some secret code or crucial dog whistle, stop and think, this woman has fewer Twitter followers than Ben Stiller, and then go write about something else instead.

To Palin: You were an actual politician once (remember that?), but you’re becoming the kind of caricature that your enemies have always tried to make of you. So maybe it’s time to turn off your iPad for a while, and take a break from Facebook and Fox News. The world won’t end if you don’t respond to every criticism, and you might even win a few more admirers if you cultivated a lighter touch and a more above-the-fray persona. Oh, and when that reality-TV producer sends you a pitch for “Sarah Plus Five Plus Kate Plus Eight,” just say no.

Breaking up is hard to do, of course. But for the majority of Americans who are neither Palinoiacs nor Palinistas, here’s the good news: If the press (including this columnist!) and Sarah Palin can’t quit each other, you can still quit us.

These are wise words all the way around.

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has written a very intelligent column on the very odd, and in some respects co-dependent, relationship between the media and Sarah Palin.

Here is how Douthat concludes his column:

To the media: Cover Sarah Palin if you want, but stop acting as if she’s the most important conservative politician in America. Stop pretending that she has a plausible path to the presidency in 2012. (She doesn’t.) Stop suggesting that she’s the front-runner for the Republican nomination. (She isn’t.) And every time you’re tempted to parse her tweets for some secret code or crucial dog whistle, stop and think, this woman has fewer Twitter followers than Ben Stiller, and then go write about something else instead.

To Palin: You were an actual politician once (remember that?), but you’re becoming the kind of caricature that your enemies have always tried to make of you. So maybe it’s time to turn off your iPad for a while, and take a break from Facebook and Fox News. The world won’t end if you don’t respond to every criticism, and you might even win a few more admirers if you cultivated a lighter touch and a more above-the-fray persona. Oh, and when that reality-TV producer sends you a pitch for “Sarah Plus Five Plus Kate Plus Eight,” just say no.

Breaking up is hard to do, of course. But for the majority of Americans who are neither Palinoiacs nor Palinistas, here’s the good news: If the press (including this columnist!) and Sarah Palin can’t quit each other, you can still quit us.

These are wise words all the way around.

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The Civility Non Sequitur

A week’s worth of talk about civility is very nice. We should be more civil toward each other. There’s little more depressing in life than the incivility of much public discourse. But if you take five seconds to think about it, what happened in Tucson had nothing whatever to do with unmannerly misbehavior. Quite the opposite: the morning’s events gave ample evidence of humankind’s ability to hear the immediate call to greatness, as in Daniel Hernandez’s heroic salvation of Gabrielle Giffords’s life and how Dorwan Stoddard gave his life to shield his wife, Mavanelle, from Jared Loughner’s spray of bullet fire.

Thus, as we continue to gather more evidence of Loughner’s schizophrenia, the continuing rhetorical calls for the need for “civility” are now turning into nothing less than cover. They’re a dodge, a means by which those responsible for the slanderous accusation that somehow the Tea Party and Sarah Palin and the right were responsible for the massacre have been excused for hurling their grievously unjust charge. For, you see, they were only calling for a “new tone,” for “civility,” and who could be against those?

A week’s worth of talk about civility is very nice. We should be more civil toward each other. There’s little more depressing in life than the incivility of much public discourse. But if you take five seconds to think about it, what happened in Tucson had nothing whatever to do with unmannerly misbehavior. Quite the opposite: the morning’s events gave ample evidence of humankind’s ability to hear the immediate call to greatness, as in Daniel Hernandez’s heroic salvation of Gabrielle Giffords’s life and how Dorwan Stoddard gave his life to shield his wife, Mavanelle, from Jared Loughner’s spray of bullet fire.

Thus, as we continue to gather more evidence of Loughner’s schizophrenia, the continuing rhetorical calls for the need for “civility” are now turning into nothing less than cover. They’re a dodge, a means by which those responsible for the slanderous accusation that somehow the Tea Party and Sarah Palin and the right were responsible for the massacre have been excused for hurling their grievously unjust charge. For, you see, they were only calling for a “new tone,” for “civility,” and who could be against those?

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Of Loughner and Philip K. Dick and Me

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

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Comparing the Obama and Palin Speeches

The ridiculous media reaction to the speeches made by President Obama and Sarah Palin yesterday is just a glimpse of the type of coverage we’ll see if Palin becomes the Republican nominee for 2012. Today’s theme is obviously that Obama is a post-partisan unifier/masterful orator and Palin is a divisive megalomaniac. And so far, the message has been quite extensive in its reach.

Politico picked it up this morning in a headline story. “At sunrise in the East on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest — or capacity — in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics,” wrote Jonathan Martin. “And at sundown in the West, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.”

The New York Times and the Washington Post also piled on. “Obama has proven to be a polarizing figure in office, but on Wednesday he sought to unify,” wrote the Post’s Dan Balz. “Palin ended up dividing. On a day of scripted messages, presumably carefully considered, Obama made the most of his. Palin did not.”

And then the “tone” — which seems to be the word of the week — of the criticism disintegrated quickly from there.

“What America has witnessed in the last 24 hours is a president of the United States who acted like a president of the United States, a Speaker of the House who acted like a Speaker of the House — and Sarah Palin, a pretender to the presidency who acted like a divisive, selfish, small-minded self-promoter,” wrote Brent Budowsky at the Hill.

Radio host Bill Press, in a column that could have been excellent satire if it wasn’t written in earnest, wrote that Obama’s speech “was one of the most powerful speeches I’ve heard any president give. Like the Gettysburg Address in its lasting message.”

“What a contrast with the sickening, self-serving video released the same day by the dropout governor of Alaska,” Press continued. “In his remarks, President Obama expressed the hope that some good will come out of the tragedy in Tucson. If we’re lucky, one good thing will be the end of the already-too-long political career of Sarah Palin. She can make plenty of money at Fox News. That’s where she belongs, not with the rest of America.”

So Sarah Palin’s “divisive” speech was so sickening that she (and Fox News) shouldn’t be allowed to belong with the rest of America. Got it. Read More

The ridiculous media reaction to the speeches made by President Obama and Sarah Palin yesterday is just a glimpse of the type of coverage we’ll see if Palin becomes the Republican nominee for 2012. Today’s theme is obviously that Obama is a post-partisan unifier/masterful orator and Palin is a divisive megalomaniac. And so far, the message has been quite extensive in its reach.

Politico picked it up this morning in a headline story. “At sunrise in the East on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest — or capacity — in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics,” wrote Jonathan Martin. “And at sundown in the West, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.”

The New York Times and the Washington Post also piled on. “Obama has proven to be a polarizing figure in office, but on Wednesday he sought to unify,” wrote the Post’s Dan Balz. “Palin ended up dividing. On a day of scripted messages, presumably carefully considered, Obama made the most of his. Palin did not.”

And then the “tone” — which seems to be the word of the week — of the criticism disintegrated quickly from there.

“What America has witnessed in the last 24 hours is a president of the United States who acted like a president of the United States, a Speaker of the House who acted like a Speaker of the House — and Sarah Palin, a pretender to the presidency who acted like a divisive, selfish, small-minded self-promoter,” wrote Brent Budowsky at the Hill.

Radio host Bill Press, in a column that could have been excellent satire if it wasn’t written in earnest, wrote that Obama’s speech “was one of the most powerful speeches I’ve heard any president give. Like the Gettysburg Address in its lasting message.”

“What a contrast with the sickening, self-serving video released the same day by the dropout governor of Alaska,” Press continued. “In his remarks, President Obama expressed the hope that some good will come out of the tragedy in Tucson. If we’re lucky, one good thing will be the end of the already-too-long political career of Sarah Palin. She can make plenty of money at Fox News. That’s where she belongs, not with the rest of America.”

So Sarah Palin’s “divisive” speech was so sickening that she (and Fox News) shouldn’t be allowed to belong with the rest of America. Got it.

But back to the more substantive articles. While I wouldn’t go so far as to compare Obama’s speech with the Gettysburg Address, it deserves all the praise that it’s gotten from the media. It was emotional, inspiring, and comforting. In sum, it was everything a presidential speech should be in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

Palin’s speech, in comparison, didn’t seem as presidential. And so what? She’s not the president — and moreover, she wasn’t speaking at a memorial service — so there was no reason why she should have pretended otherwise.

Abe has already pointed to Jonah Goldberg’s post at the Corner; Goldberg also makes an apt point about Palin’s lack of a presidential demeanor:

I think the president was more presidential in no small part because he is the president. Palin’s video statement was something else because she is not the president. And the criticism that she should have turned the other cheek and not defended herself at all strikes me as beyond absurd. The woman was being accused of being a willful co-conspirator in murder. It is just unfair and flatly dishonest to expect her not to address that.

I second his other point as well. It’s particularly sleazy for the media to level false charges at Palin and then scold her for having the nerve to defend herself. Moreover, she barely even made any references to the criticisms leveled at her. The address struck me as more of a defense of free speech in general, something that is much more important to a democratic society than the protection of civil “tone.”

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RE: Palin and the Blood Libel

As Sarah Palin has just learned, keeping up with the rules about using phrases that are associated with Jewish history is not as simple as it used to be. I was under the impression that the list of phrases that were considered off limits for general consumption was confined more or less to those associated with the Holocaust. Meaning, for instance, that the use of the word “holocaust” should be confined to discussion of events surrounding the genocide of Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1945. But even that stricture has been hard to enforce. Indeed, when an episode of the TV show The X-Files once referred to the mysterious death of amphibians in a lake as a “frog holocaust,” you knew that the word had become more of a metaphor than a specific historical term.

But when it comes to some people, the rules are apparently even more stringent than any of us might have thought. Thus, today Sarah Palin is being widely condemned for using the term “blood libel” when referencing the slanderous suggestions that she is in some way connected to the tragedy in Arizona. According to those who claim that Palin has somehow caused pain to the Jewish people, it is wrong to use that phrase to describe anything other than the false accusation that Jews kidnap and murder Christian children and use their blood to help bake matzoh for Passover. This canard was popularized during the Middle Ages by European Christians and has been revived in recent decades in the Arab world as Jew-hatred has become an unfortunate staple of contemporary Islamic culture.

But the idea that this term cannot be used to describe anything else is something new. Granted, most of the uses of this phrase that come quickly to mind have had Jewish associations. For example, the accusation that right-wing Zionists were behind the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, a Labor Zionist official who was killed on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933, has always been called a “blood libel” by those who believed the failed effort to pin the killing on Labor’s Jewish opposition was a political plot to discredit them. In just the past couple of years, the term “blood libel” has been applied by writers here at COMMENTARY to describe the false charges put forward by Human Rights Watch and the UN Goldstone Commission against Israeli forces fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, as well as to the malicious falsehoods published by a Swedish newspaper that claimed Israel was murdering Palestinians and then harvesting their organs for medical use.

So the claim that Palin has crossed some bright line in the sand and “stolen” a phrase that has always and should always be used to describe only one thing is absurd. Like so much else that has been heard from the left in the wake of the shootings in Arizona, this further charge against Sarah Palin is groundless. The fact is, those who are trying to link her or other conservatives to this crime are committing a kind of blood libel. Take issue with her politics or dislike her personality if that is your inclination, but the idea that she has even the most remote connection to this event is outrageous. So, too, is the manufactured controversy over “blood libel.”

As Sarah Palin has just learned, keeping up with the rules about using phrases that are associated with Jewish history is not as simple as it used to be. I was under the impression that the list of phrases that were considered off limits for general consumption was confined more or less to those associated with the Holocaust. Meaning, for instance, that the use of the word “holocaust” should be confined to discussion of events surrounding the genocide of Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1945. But even that stricture has been hard to enforce. Indeed, when an episode of the TV show The X-Files once referred to the mysterious death of amphibians in a lake as a “frog holocaust,” you knew that the word had become more of a metaphor than a specific historical term.

But when it comes to some people, the rules are apparently even more stringent than any of us might have thought. Thus, today Sarah Palin is being widely condemned for using the term “blood libel” when referencing the slanderous suggestions that she is in some way connected to the tragedy in Arizona. According to those who claim that Palin has somehow caused pain to the Jewish people, it is wrong to use that phrase to describe anything other than the false accusation that Jews kidnap and murder Christian children and use their blood to help bake matzoh for Passover. This canard was popularized during the Middle Ages by European Christians and has been revived in recent decades in the Arab world as Jew-hatred has become an unfortunate staple of contemporary Islamic culture.

But the idea that this term cannot be used to describe anything else is something new. Granted, most of the uses of this phrase that come quickly to mind have had Jewish associations. For example, the accusation that right-wing Zionists were behind the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, a Labor Zionist official who was killed on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933, has always been called a “blood libel” by those who believed the failed effort to pin the killing on Labor’s Jewish opposition was a political plot to discredit them. In just the past couple of years, the term “blood libel” has been applied by writers here at COMMENTARY to describe the false charges put forward by Human Rights Watch and the UN Goldstone Commission against Israeli forces fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, as well as to the malicious falsehoods published by a Swedish newspaper that claimed Israel was murdering Palestinians and then harvesting their organs for medical use.

So the claim that Palin has crossed some bright line in the sand and “stolen” a phrase that has always and should always be used to describe only one thing is absurd. Like so much else that has been heard from the left in the wake of the shootings in Arizona, this further charge against Sarah Palin is groundless. The fact is, those who are trying to link her or other conservatives to this crime are committing a kind of blood libel. Take issue with her politics or dislike her personality if that is your inclination, but the idea that she has even the most remote connection to this event is outrageous. So, too, is the manufactured controversy over “blood libel.”

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One Responsible Response to the Tucson Tragedy

Since I’ve been critical of New York Times reporters and columnists for what they’ve written about the Tucson massacre, it’s only fair to praise one as well.

David Brooks appeared on PBS’s The News Hour and wrote a column on the coverage of the killings in Arizona on Saturday. He was Brooks at his best: intelligent and informed (including about mental illness and the difference between correlation and causation), measured and careful in his words, but also quite heartfelt in expressing his views.

When asked on the program whether he thought the relationship between speech and violence was a “profoundly important debate” to have, he answered, “Yeah, but not today.” When asked why, he said, “Because this is in context of this horrific crime” — a crime in which political speech had nothing to do with the killings. And speaking for many of us, Brooks wrote: “I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.”

These are wise words. I only wish his Times colleagues were a fraction as responsible as David Brooks is.

Since I’ve been critical of New York Times reporters and columnists for what they’ve written about the Tucson massacre, it’s only fair to praise one as well.

David Brooks appeared on PBS’s The News Hour and wrote a column on the coverage of the killings in Arizona on Saturday. He was Brooks at his best: intelligent and informed (including about mental illness and the difference between correlation and causation), measured and careful in his words, but also quite heartfelt in expressing his views.

When asked on the program whether he thought the relationship between speech and violence was a “profoundly important debate” to have, he answered, “Yeah, but not today.” When asked why, he said, “Because this is in context of this horrific crime” — a crime in which political speech had nothing to do with the killings. And speaking for many of us, Brooks wrote: “I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.”

These are wise words. I only wish his Times colleagues were a fraction as responsible as David Brooks is.

Read Less




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