Ed Driscoll

Flashback: Sarah Palin After Obama Accepts Nomination: What Exactly Is His Plan?

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With Obama publicly declaring that his administration has yet to formulate a plan to combat ISIS — hey those golf courses don’t play themselves when you’re on summer vacation, you know — Tony Lee of Big Government offers up a pair of nice callbacks:

After Obama accepted the nomination in front of Greek columns on August 28, 2008, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin asked, “But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot, when that happens, what exactly is our opponent’s plan?”

Palin also predicted in 2008 that Russia could invade Ukraine if Obama became president. She was mocked for these prophetic remarks:

After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.

When Mitt Romney recently declared that Obama was even worse then he expected, Glenn Reynolds quipped, “Really? Because he’s pretty much exactly like Sarah Palin predicted.” Which makes the unexpected shot at Palin in an otherwise solid piece in the new issue of Commentary by the Wall Street Journal’s Brett Stephens on “The Meltdown” of the Obama administration rankle so much:

Should any of this have come as a surprise? Probably not: With Obama, there was always more than a whiff of the overconfident dilettante, so sure of his powers that he could remain supremely comfortable with his own ignorance. His express-elevator ascent from Illinois state senator to U.S. president in the space of just four years didn’t allow much time for maturation or reflection, either. Obama really is, as Bill Clinton is supposed to have said of him, “an amateur.” When it comes to the execution of policy, it shows.

And yet this view also sells Obama short. It should be obvious, but bears repeating, that it is no mean feat to be elected, and reelected, president, whatever other advantages Obama might have enjoyed in his races. In interviews and press conferences, Obama is often verbose and generally self-serving, but he’s also, for the most part, conversant with the issues. He may not be the second coming of Lincoln that groupies like historians Michael Beschloss (who called Obama “probably the smartest guy ever to become president”) or Robert Dallek (who said Obama’s “political mastery is on par with FDR and LBJ”) made him out to be. But neither is he a Sarah Palin, mouthing artless banalities about this great nation of ours, or a Rick Perry, trying, like Otto from A Fish Called Wanda, to remember the middle part. The myth of Obama’s brilliance paradoxically obscures the fact that he’s no fool. The point is especially important to note because the failure of Obama’s foreign policy is not, ultimately, a reflection of his character or IQ. It is the consequence of an ideology.

“Artless banalities.” Shades of how JFK’s elitist liberal inner circle turned on his successor, despite Lyndon Johnson taking all of JFK’s policies and with the Great Society, super-sizing them, Texas-style. Which was the problem: Johnson’s Texas mannerisms, southern drawl, and lack of Ivy League hauteur trumped his actual politics — which the Beltway crowd adored, but couldn’t reconcile with the artless banalities of the person advancing them, as Jeffery Lord noted a couple of years ago at the American Spectator in a piece titled, “JFK and the Death of Liberalism:”

The attitude toward Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that was evidenced by Kennedy’s liberal leaning staff, by the Washington Georgetown set, by Washington journalists — slowly seeped into the sinews of liberalism itself.

Recall Caro’s descriptions of people who were “in love with their own sophistication,” who were “such an in-group, and they let you know they were in, and you were not.” Think of the snotty arrogance displayed as these people laughed at LBJ’s accent, his mispronunciations, his clothes, his wife (“Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop“).

Slowly, and then not so slowly, these elitist, arrogant and if not outright snotty attitudes sought out a new target during the years when LBJ was sitting in the White House — when, in the view of these people, “Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop” had replaced the King and Queen of Camelot.

That new target?

The American people themselves. They had, after all, elected LBJ in a landslide in 1964. Now Uncle Cornpone was the elected President of the United States. To make matters more unbearable, LBJ was using his newfound power and popularity to actually pass the liberal agenda of the day, which Johnson labeled “The Great Society.” Uncle Cornpone, it seemed, wasn’t such a ridiculous figure after all when it came to getting the liberal wish list through the Congress.

No one better than JFK would have known instantly what a huge mistake this elitist attitude would be. Discussing the relationship of a presidential candidate with the American people, JFK had told historian and friend Theodore H. White, author of The Making of the President series, that, in White’s re-telling, “a man running for the Presidency must talk up, way up there.” It was a principle Kennedy surely would have applied to his own party — and did so while he was president. Not from JFK was there a drop of elitist contempt — from a man who unarguably could claim the title in a blink — for his fellow countrymen.

But in a horrifying flash, JFK was gone. And the elitist tide spread.

To both sides of the aisle in the Beltway media, it seems.

Update: Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell in 2008: “Palin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine ‘extremely far-fetched scenario.’” He had plenty of company to share that bit of conventional wisdom with, including Time, Foreign Affairs, and other establishment leftist publications, as recently as earlier this year.