THE SARAH DEBATE – AT 9:29 A.M. ET: What a remarkable debate is occurring on the right regarding Sarah Palin. It simply shows that she is endlessly fascinating.
In the last few days, Sarah has come under criticism from two prominent conservative writers - Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal – quoted at Urgent Agenda – and George Will.
Now, at NRO, another writer, Mike Potemra, gallantly defends Sarah. Oh, the tradition. Oh, the chivalry. Nancy Pelosi, eat your heart out:
What, specifically, does Rabinowitz object to? In part, the fact that Palin has endorsed Ron Paul’s son for the U.S. Senate; but, more significantly: “The unsavory echoes of [Palin’s] regular references to ‘the real America’ as opposed to those shadowy ‘elites,’ now charged with threats to the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of all real Americans. [Palin seems not] to have any idea of how that low soap-box oratory — embracing one kind of American as the real kind, those builders in the towns and cities across America — rings in the ear today.”
Now, I share — quite intensely, as it happens — Rabinowitz’s dislike of the sort of rhetoric for which she faults Sarah Palin. I would not welcome a continuation of it for all three years leading up to the 2012 election, much less for the four years of the next presidency. But I think Rabinowitz is wrong in saying that Palin is unaware of how that sort of speech “rings in the ear today.” Rabinowitz and I may not like it, but we are probably in the minority. Palin may have found just the right emotional buttons to be a successful politician in our time.
A good point, but Sarah must be careful that her rhetoric not attract the out-of-the-woodwork crowd, who can destroy any movement.
Which brings me to George Will, who writes: “Sarah Palin, who with 17 months remaining in her single term as Alaska’s governor quit the only serious office she has ever held, is obsessively discussed as a possible candidate in 2012. Why? She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states...
...When I read this sort of thing, I can’t help remembering that there was a point in 2007 when the Obama campaign was faltering, and I was thinking, What a dumb idea it is for a guy with no experience, no qualifications, and a record of less than half a term in the Senate to think he can be elected president. The sooner he gets out of the race, the less embarrassed he’ll end up being.
The gravamen of his substantive objection to Palin – i.e., as opposed to the highly questionable assertion that she can’t win — is that while she has “showed grit . . . she has also showed that grit is no substitute for seasoning.” The thing about seasoning, though, is that it can come with time. I have seen already that Palin is a political natural, so I have little doubt she has the raw political talents to win people’s affections: In this regard, she reminds me of no one so much as of Bill Clinton, who in the 1992 primaries managed to turn catastrophe into political gold.
Rabinowitz writes: “At a time when Republican hopes are in the ascendancy, as now (and even when they are not), it’s impossible to imagine the Sarah Palin known to the world today as their leader. It would be well for her to begin pondering the reasons.” The first sentence here is true, in a sense, but misleading; the second assumes, perhaps contrary to fact, that Palin has not yet considered the question. In my view, Palin is showing a great deal of skill in her current task: tapping today’s mood to win a lot of support among some highly politically involved and energized Americans. She can hardly be faulted for not yet having moved on to the next task: to demonstrate that she can lead a party, and a nation. The answer on that, we can leave to be determined in an actual campaign.
COMMENT: This debate will continue, and we'll be following it. Candidates rarely attract this kind of passion.
February 19, 2010