Ron Radosh

Second Thoughts on Palin

Since the 2008 campaign, I have been among those wary of Sarah Palin and what she portends for national leadership. I have agreed with the critique offered by David Frum and others. Palin’s appeal, although overwhelmingly positive to the Republican base, begins to diminish when one looks at the response of the political center. Since fewer Americans than ever now declare themselves Republican,  that means for a Republican to ever win the Presidency, he or she must have the support of a good percentage of that shifting center. Our country may still be a center-right nation, but it is definitely not a center that will be defined by a narrowly based Southern Republican Party, that is socially conservative and whose appeal to the middle class remains minimal.

With that in mind, I turn now to Peggy Noonan’s recent biting and vitriolic editorial attack on Palin, written after Palin’s announcement that she is leaving her post as Alaska’s Governor. According to Noonan, Palin has never learned how other people see things; she was out of her depth in a shallow pool,” she “didn’t read anything,” she could see no truth in anything others had to say. Moreover, she pretended to be working-class when in fact she earned a salary on the high end of American wage-earners; she was clearly middle-class in upbringing; she graduated from a good college, etc. Clearly, Noonan does not like much about Sarah Palin.

Moreover, rather than being anti-elite, Noonan sees Palin as a creature of the Republican elite, from party operatives to journalists like Bill Kristol who championed her. Noonan sees Palin as one who can and will never learn anything, who will be able to name the president of Pakistan but who will never “know how to think about Pakistan.” She is a gift to both the mainstream media and the Democrats, who will keep her popular in order to knock her down and assure a left-liberal future.  So Noonan says we as a nation need a serious and responsible Republican party, not a frivolous one whose appeal is based on the kind of resentment Palin followers respond to.

We need, in other words, someone with gravitas and knowledge—-like—-our current Vice-President, Joe Biden. Remember the media during the debates: Palin was an unprepared know-nothing; what if she actually ascended to the Presidency? In contrast, Joe Biden was depicted as a wise, experienced and proven leader, a man ready to step in and take over our nation’s leadership, leaving us in safe hands.

A leading Washington journalist and author, Carl M. Cannon, provides the devastating facts about Biden on the website of AOL’s “Politics Daily.” He states the truth most journalists want to avoid admitting: the mainstream media treated Palin inexcusably during the campaign and is still doing it in the present, and boldly took sides “straight and simple” against Palin- no holds barred. And they failed to hold Biden to the same standard by which they judged Palin.

Cannon goes on to provide chapter and verse about everything Biden got wrong, and quotes statements of his which if George W. Bush had made when he was President or which Palin made now, the media would be all over them. Cannon’s critique of the media and how it evolved  the partisan stance it now has in news reports- as distinct from editorial comments-approaches in its sharpness the kind of critique offered up till now only by Bernard Goldberg. It’s good to have another former mainstream Washington reporter deciding to tell the truth.

Cannon, for examples, quotes an article by Newsweek editorialist Jonathan Alter, who wrote: “She is a far-right conservative who supported Pat Buchanan over Bush in 2000. She thinks global warming is a hoax and backs the teaching of creationism in public schools.”  Cannon retorts: “Actually, she did not support Buchanan, she questioned whether climate change is man-made (not whether it’s occurring) and gave creationists the most minor of rhetorical nods – and never questioned the teaching of evolution in schools.”  And Alter is hardly, as Cannon shows, the most egregious of the journalists.

Cannon acknowledges that in the first debate, Palin made many sketchy comments and came out poorly. But he adds: “Sen. Biden, however, was in a place by himself when it came to bogus claims, absurd contentions, and flights of rhetorical fancy. He threw out several assertions that were so preposterous that – had Palin made them – they would have prompted immediate calls for McCain to dump her from the ticket.” And, as you know, no such calls about Biden’s inaccuracies and howlers ever took place. And you can read for yourself the many “alarming mistakes” Biden actually made , for which he suffered no negative consequences.

Here’s one big Biden lie.  Cannon quotes Biden: ” ‘The president…insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, ‘Big mistake. Hamas will win. You’ll legitimize them.’ What happened? Hamas won’ Biden said. (Only the last two words of Biden’s strange soliloquy are true. The rest are false. For one thing, Fatah controls the West Bank. Biden was thinking of Gaza. Secondly, neither Biden nor Obama predicted the 2006 victory for Hamas in Gaza’s legislative elections. Third, McCain and Obama – but not Biden — signed a letter urging the president to pressure Palestinians to require that candidates adhere to democratic principles before being allowed to run for office. Fourth, Biden served as an election observer and later wrote an article expressing high praise for Bush’s actions. To sum up: One factual error and three fibs in only 31 words. Pretty impressive, in its way.”

Despite all this, today’s Los Angeles Times reveals that Republican operatives and pundits, following Peggy Noonan’s lead, are declaring open season on Sarah Palin. She’s been called every name in the book, from train-wreck to quitter and much worse. Writer Mark Barabek calls this new anti-Palin campaign a “cruel sport.” Given Palin’s continuing popularity and a broad section of the public’s enthusiasm for her, it is more than that.  He suggests that the paradigm I mentioned at the start,  that Palin can’t win because swing voters and independents would always vote against her, is not necessarily the case. “No one knows where the future will take Palin,” Barabek writes, “not even the governor herself.”

With the barrage of attacks on her from Republican leaders and strategists, however, one thing looks pretty certain. Despite falling polls in states like Virginia and Ohio for Obama’s performance, the chances of Republicans coming up with a winning strategy and candidate for national leadership in the future looks pretty slim.  And Palin bashing is not going to help them turn things around.