Ed Driscoll

Palinphobia And The Pernicious Projection Of The Punditry

It’s easy to understand why Sarah Palin drove the drive-by media insane–since she stood in the way of The One, and she established a successful career while concurrently being an apostate to whatever mishmash of ideas is commonly defined as liberalism these days, she simply needed to be destroyed, just as Joe the Plumber would similarly also need to be taken out.

It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business.

But Robert Stacy McCain has quite an interesting theory about why Sarah Palin had a similar effect on several prominent conservative pundits:

Somewhere between Bush’s historic triumph in November 2004 (when he became the first president since 1988 to be elected by a popular-vote majority) and November 2006, the wheels fell off the Permanent Republican Majority. Suddenly, as if awakened from fairy-tale slumbers, conservative intellectuals began to regret that George W. Bush was not one of them.

Think about it. Peggy Noonan, Christopher Buckley, David Frum — what is the thread that connects them? All worked as speechwriters: Noonan for Reagan, Buckley for Bush 41, Frum for Bush 43. While these Republican wordsmiths had all praised Dubya’s machismo magnificence when he was contrasted with such pompous rivals as Al Gore and John Kerry, the bloom fell off that rose after 2006.

That born-again, down-to-earth, drawling Texas thing — somehow, it had once made Bush seem like Gary Cooper in High Noon. But as the disasters mounted and the poll numbers headed southward, that Gary Cooper glow faded and these conservative intellectuals turned on their TVs to behold, with unspeakable horror, President Jethro Bodine.

Thus their reaction to Sarah Palin. While the Republican Party grassroots looked at Palin and saw an American Margaret Thatcher (except much sexier), the conservative intellectuals looked at her and saw . . . Vice President Ellie Mae Clampett.

Shootin’ her some vittles! Takin’ care of young ‘uns. Let’s go a-swimmin’ in the ce-ment pond!

You see? The fear and loathing of Sarah Palin among (some) conservative intellectuals is a subconscious reaction to their belated recognition of Bush’s weaknesses. The liberals who bashed Bush as being “in a bubble” and “out of touch” had a point. Since 1999, Bush really has been encased in a hermetic capsule of expert advisers. And this capsule was purposely constructed with the eager assent of the conservative intellectuals because, deep down, they never really believed he had it.

By “it,” I mean what Ronald Reagan had, that finely-honed political sense, that keen instinct for the right word, the right stance — the “vision thing,” as Bush 41 once said.

Reagan had that, had it in his very marrow, in every molecule of his being. As much as the Noonans, Frums, Buckleys and David Brookses of the GOP wanted to believe that Dubya had that Reaganesque quality, he never did. He was . . . just another Bush.

Having watched firsthand Palin absolutely knock the crowd out inside the Minneapolis convention hall in August, she’s certainly charismatic and has that magic X-factor that allows a speaker to connect simultaneously with both an arena full of thousands of people and the individual viewer watching in his den on a 32-inch TV. (And the echoes of her performance made McCain seem all the more stiff the next night.)

She certainly could have been a fine vice president if McCain hadn’t “suspended his campaign”, permanently, in retrospect, in late September. But does that make Palin the next Gipper? (Or an American Thatcher?) Unless you’ve got the legacy media firmly in your pocket–and no Republican, certainly no conservative, ever will–the final step between being one of 50 governors and being handed keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is a very, very tall one. I’d like to see something along these lines in preparation if Palin wants the job. But definitely read the rest of Robert’s post, here.