Roger’s Rules

Sarah Palin and Howdy Doody, Or, why Joe Biden is losing sleep.

Don’t be fooled: the left is terrified of Sarah Palin. Just savor, if your stomach is strong enough, Gail Collins’s sophomoric effort yesterday in The New York Times, “McCain’s Baked Alaska” (Get it?). “The idea,” sniffs Collins, “that women are going to race off to vote for any candidate with the same internal plumbing is both offensive and historically wrong.” I wish it were so, Gail. But the distaff side was queuing up in droves to vote for HRC and not, as you said, “as the best-prepared candidate in the Democratic pack,” but precisely because of the plumbing.

And folks are electrified by Sarah Palin not because she’s female, but because she’s a breath of fresh air: a tough, attractive, conservative, pro-family, patriotic candidate who is as articulate as she is unbeholden to the beltway, business-as-usual pork-barrel machinery. She represents exactly the sort of change that Obama invoked but never managed to articulate.

William Kristol, in a splendid piece in The Weekly Standard, gets it just right. Palin is a frightening “spectre” to the Left precisely because she is everything they despise: “a working woman who’s a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who’s broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who’s a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who’s a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who’s a leader.”

And Kristol is right, too, in what we can expect in the coming weeks:

So what we will see in the next days and weeks–what we have already seen in the hours after her nomination–is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise this spectre. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

I spoke to a savvy, politically connected friend yesterday who told me that MSM journalists were already packing into planes, trains, and automobiles to hie themselves thither to Alaska in order to prospect for the gold of D.O.P.–dirt on Palin. Well, good luck to ’em. What the Clintons called (and, even more, what they practiced) “the politics of personal destruction” is never pretty. But I suspect that, like most gold prospectors of yore, they will come up empty handed in this case. The only thing I’ve heard is the story about her getting her unstable brother-in-law fired: not much there for the fourth estate, especially since Palin has been so cooperative with the inquiry that they haven’t even had to issue a subpoena.

In the larger sense, of course, it is a good thing for the public to learn more about Sarah Palin, her origins, her passions, her associates, her behavior as a young politician. The same scrutiny should be directed towards Obama, McCain, and Biden. I suspect most people will like what they discover about Sarah Palin. Will they like what they discover about Obama? How do you spell “Tony Rezko”? What do you know about Jeremiah Wright? Would you want your daughter–or your President–consorting with Bill “the bomber” Ayers?

Noting that for the next weeks Palin will “be swimming in political waters infested with sharks,” Kristol cautions the McCain team to react swiftly but proportionately to the inevitable attacks that will launched against Palin in an effort to preempt the public’s image of her. That’s good advice, but I suspect that Palin will be an even more formidable candidate than the Democrats fear. Kristol quotes a liberal commentator who gleefully adapted a mot from Secretary of State Jim Baker: “putting Sarah Palin into a debate with Joe Biden,” he said “is going to be like throwing Howdy Doody into a knife fight!” Maybe so. But it’s not at all clear who will be Mr. Doody, and who will be wielding the knife. In earlier days, when he was a young, arrogant politician, Joe Biden famously bragged to some questioners about his high IQ (probably higher than yours, he told them). I confess that I rather admired his brass in that exchange. And, probably, the young, arrogant Biden was correct in his assessment. But what of the old, arrogant Biden? What will he be like pitted against a smart, articulate debater who is, at least, his intellectual equal? Anyone care to make a bet?