Sarah Palin and the Dysfunctional Political Class

In fact -- and of course -- negotiating with Exxon is better preparation for negotiating with Putin than is a foreign photo op. And running a town is a miles-better education than warming a Senate seat. But again, it is not in the interests of the political class to acknowledge this.

So her handlers tried to cram her into a D.C. frame of reference by stuffing her with facts on national and international issues that could withstand grilling from a gotcha! press, something that was neither possible nor the right game.

Palin should instead have conceded that of course she would not be ready to be president on day one, but that:

1. What she had turned her hand to, she had quickly learned to do successfully -- and this ability, based on her solid grounding in the realities of American life, was and is the real test.

2. If she were called upon on day one, she would be the head of a government, not a lone individual, and she had the experience in handling people that would be necessary to tap into the collective intelligence of the nation.

Those are called real qualifications!

Since the election, Palin has learned her lesson about the political handlers and she has followed Mao’s advice, as channeled through Anita Dunn -- “you fight your war and I’ll fight mine.”

Her resignation from the governorship, which was mostly condemned by the pundits, was dead-on shrewd. Why let herself be tied down defending perjured ethics charges from people with infinite money, whose only desire is to shut her up or bankrupt her? Her willingness to be herself and pursue her own ideas without regard to whether or not they could lead to future office is a source of great political strength. Her public pronouncements, such as the Hong Kong speech, are serious and adult, unlike most of the vapidity produced by politicians, especially Obama. And Palin is mastering the art of short, sharp statements.

None of this is winning over the political class. Indeed, Palin’s refusal to fulfill their desires that she be a clown or take a proper role in the kabuki theater of Washington is making them angrier than ever and more determined to marginalize her. But the disillusionment with government among the tea-partying middle class is so great that every attack on her builds her stature on Main Street.

Is Palin going to be nominated? Hard to tell, even assuming she wants it. The unrelenting hostility of the media does have an insidious effect. She also needs to achieve the discipline in speaking that she displays with her written pronouncements -- more brevity and less nattering -- but this is doable.

The cultural issues are more important. There is a middle ground of people who are against the increasing bipartisan kleptocracy but not conservative on cultural matters -- personally, I am pro-choice (but with reasonable caveats about the exercise of that choice), utterly indifferent to gay marriage, pro-gun, pro-decriminalization of marijuana, in favor of a forward strategy towards the terrorist wing of Islam and with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sympathetic to China's extraordinary effort to remake itself economically and politically.

Ultimately, this may or may not make me into a Palin supporter. But either way, our most fundamental current crisis is the inability of the political class to produce plausible leaders, and its hostility to anyone, such as Palin, who threatens the system. The election of Obama was a symptom of our current dysfunctional politics, not a cause.

We need more Palins, not fewer.