The mainstream media is reveling in Sarah Palin’s odd exit from the national stage. Her rather discombobulated press conference confirmed most of their deepest held beliefs. She’s a flake. She’s a dilettante. She’s not up for the scrutiny which goes with a national political career. And if they are unduly harsh and have been condescending and cruel beyond anything we have seen on the national scene, they at least have confirmed a key rule in politics: don’t give your enemies ammunition to confirm their worst suspicions about you.
Still, there is a lingering sense among many conservatives that this is not really Palin’s fault.
While conceding her poor interview outings during the campaign and other “missteps,” Ross Douthat sounds a sympathetic note for Sarah Palin:
Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)
Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman. And eight months after the election, the professionals who pressed you into the service of a gimmicky, dreary, idea-free campaign will still be blaming you for their defeat.
But is that really the take-away for Palin and for non-elites who seek higher office? One can’t help but think that her supporters are missing a valid and central point made by her detractors. She never overcame the doubts about her knowledge, credibility, and seriousness about policy during a time in which conservatives and the country face monumental challenges.
I think back to the spate of post-election interviews. One after another — cooking with Greta Van Susteren and complaining to everyone who would listen — she merely re-enforced the sense that she was becoming a professional victim.
Contrast that to the quintessential anti-Palin: Mitt Romney. He has spent his post-candidacy doggedly working for other candidates, giving high-minded policy speeches, and studiously avoiding any of the tit-for-tat political recriminations which have absorbed not only Palin but another potential rival in 2012, Mike Huckabee.