There is a great story about the journalist (and Communist) Claud Cockburn that while working at The Times in the 1920s, he won a competition for devising the most boring headline that actually made it into the paper. His winning entry: “Small Earthquake in Chile, Not Many Dead.” According to Wikipedia, the story is apocryphal, but I long ago placed it in the sacred category of “too good to check.” Besides, when I first heard it, Cockburn won the competition while at The Observer, even though (as far as I know) he never worked there.
Anyway, notwithstanding the veracity of the story, I find myself often reminded of it. Just today, for example, when a friend sent me a piece on Sarah Palin from the Huffing and Puffing Post, sometimes known as the Huffington Post. It’s by Stefan Sirucek, “independent journalist and foreign correspondent,” and bears the arresting title “EXCLUSIVE (Update): Palin’s Tea Party Crib Notes.”
So what startling revelation does Stefan Sirucek, International Man of Mystery, impart? Why, that Sarah Palin, when she delivered her speech to the National Tea Party Conference last night had actually scribbled a few words on her left palm.
Stop the presses! What a scandal. According to HufPo’s intrepid reporter, Palin’s notes to herself are ominous, ominous:
Closer inspection of a photo of Sarah Palin, during a speech in which she mocked President Obama for his use of a teleprompter, reveals several notes written on her left hand. The words “Energy”, “Tax” and “Lift American Spirits” are clearly visible. There’s also what appears to read as “Budget cuts” with the word Budget crossed out.
“Budget cuts”? Crossed out? Tell me it isn’t so. If HufPo’s answer to Carl Bernstein is to believed,
This would mean:
A) That she knew the questions beforehand and the whole thing was a farce. (Likely.)
B) That she still couldn’t answer the previously agreed-upon questions without a little extra help.
Where do we start? First of all, President Obama’s addiction to the teleprompter is eminently worth mocking. The teleprompter breaks down, so does the President. He apparently can’t even address sixth-grade school children without the device. (Even Jon Stewart made fun of that.) Second, pace our ace reporter, the fact that Palin jotted some notes on her hand does not mean that “she knew the questions beforehand” or that “the whole thing was a farce.” Nor, since we don’t know whether the questions were agreed upon beforehand or not (and what if they were? So what?), does it mean that she “still couldn’t answer them . . . without a little extra help.” What the notes do mean is that she prepared for the session and thought to remind herself of something. In other words, good for you, Sarah.
The hatred and contempt lavished upon Sarah Plain, from certain conservatives as well as from the Left, presents a dispiriting and, to me, hard-to-fathom spectacle. That is, I understand that the Left would regard her as a political threat and would therefore dislike her. But why the contempt? And why the contempt (and hatred) from the Right? I have several times explained why I admire Sarah Palin. Please note that I did not say I want her to run for the Presidency. But what (a locution that comes up often among her admirers) a breath of fresh air she is! Here you have a woman from a working-class background who, by dint of her own energy and ambition, becomes Governor of her state—a good Governor, too, by all account not tainted by The New York Times. She espouses good conservative principles: self-reliance, fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense. And, on top of all that, she is a courageous and loving mother to a passel of children.
What’s not to like? That she chose to keep and love a Down Syndrome child? That sets the teeth of many on edge, I know, though they are loathe to come right out and admit it. Granted: She’s not a lawyer. She’s not from the Ivy League. She’s not part of the Washington Establishment. Heavy liabilities, what? I acknowledge that her performance in front of Katie Couric and other barracuda-like interviewers was poor, embarrassing even. But put that and all the other charges in the scale on one side, then put her virtues on the other: which side wins out? Stefan Sirucek thinks he can simply indite the name “Sarah Palin” and all right-thinking (that is, left-leaning) people will scoff and hold their noses. Maybe they will. But the aroma of rancidness and decay you sense is not emanating from Sarah Palin’s side of the aisle. The question is, when will the left-wing commentariat notice that the winds of opinion, to say nothing of the winds of political energy, have changed decisively against them? Scott Brown should have told them something. But Scott Brown was an impossibility. Or so they told themselves.