Peggy Noonan’s latest critique of Sarah Palin is, well, wrong.

I didn’t mean to write about Sarah Palin again so soon.  And I guess that technically, I won’t be writing about Palin so much as about Peggy Noonan, once a dear and reliable voice of conservatism.  And perhaps, indeed, not even so much about Noonan as about some of her comments in an 11 July column about Sarah Palin. (H/T:  Doctor Zero at Hot Air)

I’m having to coin a new word – “Sarahnoia” – to describe the visceral antipathy some of our erstwhile conservative columnists seem to have for Palin.  It’s a combination of annoyance at Sarah, and paranoia about her supposed effect on the image of the right, as perceived by the left.

And, of course, by some on the right as well.

Palin does nothing if not reveal the rifts and fault lines in conservatism.  One of the ones that keeps recurring is this business with “class,” whose parsing seems to be a near-obsession with the commentators who don’t like Palin.

Noonan says:

[Palin] continues to poll high among some members of the Republican base, some of whom have taken to telling themselves Palin myths.

To wit, ‘I love her because she’s so working-class.’ This is a favorite of some party intellectuals. She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary. They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they’re working class ‘tropes.’ Because, you know, that’s what they teach in ‘Ways of the Working Class’ at Yale and Dartmouth.

Well, except that if you make a distinction, in America, between “working class” and “middle class,” you’ve already swallowed the Yale- and Dartmouth-taught tropes, hook, line, and sinker.

It’s a Marxist distinction, “middle class” – bourgeoisie – versus “working class” – proletariat.  It had to be imported into America, because the quintessential Yankee roots are in freeholding yeoman farming, self-employed craftsman occupations, and small-community commerce; not the societal arrangements of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, or those of feudal serfdom that preceded it.

In America, “working class” is “middle class.”  If you don’t get that, you really don’t get America.  You are stuck in the European weltanschauung of a century ago, believing that “the working man” is, by class, downtrodden, ignorant, and exploited, and needs political advocacy to help him put his boots on in the morning – not to mention defend him, with constant gulps of self-righteousness, against the shabby assumed superiority of the petit bourgeois, like the schoolteacher or the office worker.

This latter dynamic is far more presumed by the chattering class to be at work, than it exists in actual operation.  I don’t know a soul teaching school, or working as a secretary, who thinks he or she is of a higher class than a plumber, construction worker, independent contractor, or refuse collector.  During my years as an active duty military officer, a lot of these latter people were making a lot more money than I did.

They have skills requiring intelligence and discipline.  They have a strong work ethic (the strongest in the world), and a standard of responsibility that is awe-inspiring in comparison to much of what you encounter elsewhere – starting with, for example, the State Assembly of California, or the US Congress.  Indeed, they have a sense of responsible self-government and citizenship that, in America, is the most important delineator of the “middle class.”

The particulars of their personalities and social groups vary across regions, but the “middle class” encompasses people in what we think of as labor and craftsman occupations as well as “professionals”:  teachers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, engineers.  It also encompasses policemen, firefighters, medical technicians, and the military, just as it encompasses clerical workers, small business owners, and independent contractors.

In America, everyone but Paris Hilton is in the “working class.”  I don’t know a lot of people who have expressed satisfaction at Sarah Palin being “working class,” so much as at her being down-to-earth, non-establishment, an American with a small-town, common-sense background, one who obviously knows how to do a number of actually quite difficult things that other Americans – Americans other than Peggy Noonan and Kathleen Parker – also know how to do, and understand the rigor and difficulty of.  (I’ll never forget Rich Lowry of National Review writing, with rather breathless excitement, of going on his first guided hunting trip, and thinking, Hmm, son.  I wonder if you have any idea how many of your readers could have guided that hunting trip?  But would do it only on their off time, because when they take a firearm out, the intention is to come home with food.)

It would, for me, peg you as an elitist if I heard you call the Palins “working class.”  They belong to a class that is political in nature, not economic:  one whose characteristics are self-sufficiency, an ingrained resistance to coercion and cultivation by politicians, and a sense that improvement of their lot, or the lot of others, is in their hands, and is – being in their hands – a realistic hope; the American hope.  This class of people is the very essence of America, and you can be in it whether you work on fishing trawlers or oil rigs, teach school, run a consulting business, farm wheat, design bridges, write novels, or are a wife and mother homeschooling your children.

This is what Sarah Palin comes across as:  a quintessentially American person who doesn’t self-consciously classify herself, in socioeconomic terms, relative to others.  Noonan writes of Palin:

She was a gifted retail politician who displayed the disadvantages of being born into a point of view (in her case a form of conservatism; elsewhere and in other circumstances, it could have been a form of liberalism) and swallowing it whole: She never learned how the other sides think, or why.

But it looks to me like the self-awareness and other-awareness deficit may be more on Noonan’s side than on Palin’s.  What Noonan doesn’t seem to understand is that buying into the classification system of the “other sides,” as she herself implicitly does, is surrender.  Sarah Palin may well have been born into her point of view; but since it’s the point of view that preserves liberty, simply because it’s good and right, when all about you are surrendering to the way the “other sides” think, I’m having a hard time holding that against her.

Basically, Palin was not born into a Marxist-construct household or Marxist-construct urban economic stratum, and has never imbibed a Marxist weltanschauung through her intellectual endeavors in adult life.  She doesn’t think obsessively in terms of class, and of her place in the “economy” as outlining the sum total of what she is – unless, of course, she can overcome those systemic limitations through politics.  Why this is problematic for the Eastern conservative establishment remains a mystery to me.  Super-awareness of, and de facto purchase on, the Marxist mindset has done nothing but undermine and defeat conservatism in America for the last 80 years.

Maybe it takes a politician who is not steeped in the Marxism of the Western academy to escape its intellectual clutches.  If so, fine by me.  Conservatism loses ground relentlessly when it allows the “other sides” to define all the terms.  I’d rather have one Sarah Palin who simply transcends the argument, than a hundred Jesuits pirouetting on the head of a pin, explaining why even though it sounds more compassionate to make more laws to “help” the “working man,” trust me, it really isn’t.  Except that sometimes it is, and only our politicians can really sort it all out.  Don’t worry your little prole heads out there, voters.  Just keep sending money.

Some of Noonan’s comments are particularly hard to account for:

Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it’s arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they’re perfect in every way. It’s yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.

Good heavens.  Now, Noonan will have to get in line behind me, among many others, to criticize the fell consequences of instilling a wholly unjustified “self-esteem” in people, while making no effort to give them actual cause for self-respect.  There’s a lot of that going around, and it has, indeed, made notable inroads on the demeanor of a whole generation of Americans.

But not Sarah Palin’s generation.  Palin is 45.  Thirty years ago she was 15.  Trends that started 30 years ago started when Palin’s character was already about 90% formed – and we can be pretty sure that in remote, small-town America, high school sophomores were not being so overwhelmingly influenced by the Self-Esteem Movement in K-12 education that the personalities of today’s middle-aged can be validly attributed to it.  (Palin was also a high-school athlete, which was 30 years ago and remains today one of the best teachers there is about modesty, rigorous self-criticism, the realities of failure, of not having done well enough, and of doing better.)

Meanwhile, I am at a loss to discern in Palin what Noonan is describing here.  The only things that occur to me that would requite a demand for more diffidence from Palin are caricatures of class obeisance.  What would Noonan rather have seen from Palin?  By her lights, what would a more “modest” mien have looked like?

When Noonan has gotten herself elected to anything, and has made a single policy difference to the people and economy of a state, then, I think, it will be time to advise others on “modesty,” and “proper senses” of their “inadequacy.”  Inadequacy for what?  Palin clearly has not been inadequate to the requirements of the political offices she has held.  She has not, even more importantly, been inadequate to the roles of wife and mother.

She could not list magazines and newspapers she reads.  On the other hand, she has actually accomplished more, policy-wise, than many have who read voraciously.  The link between reading a lot of political commentary and policy advice, and being politically effective, is not very strong.

The example of Ronald Reagan is one that suggests it is important to read seminal works of economic and political theory.  But that is not the same thing as reading magazines and newspapers.  In fact – I say this with some authority, because I do both – it is quite different, in significant ways.  The occasional, particularly well-argued magazine article, one that becomes a classic and joins the ranks of the indispensable “works” of a genre, is rare.  Most of the time, with news and opinion outlets, you are grazing for information.  You fit it into a worldview you have already come to hold, through studying a comparatively few writers and thinkers, most of whom are dead or soon will be.  If Palin were going to read, I would far rather she read anything at all by Thomas Sowell or Friederich Hayek than the latest issue of The Atlantic.

Newspaper information, and the current-events opinion and analysis found in magazines, are the kind of thing executives get briefed on, by others who specialize in studying them.  The others typically are not executives themselves because they are less suited to action and decision than to basking in the processing of information.  The difference between an executive and his advisors is often that the executive knows how to use information, opinion, and principle to make decisions, and the advisor doesn’t.

People who are more decisive than we are can often look arrogant to us – as if they don’t have a proper sense of inadequacy.  Maybe that’s what’s agging Peggy Noonan, and probably some of Palin’s other detractors as well.

The wisdom to discern that decisiveness and arrogance are not the same thing has been something of a casualty of modernized urban life, I think.  There is an urban pattern of dithering around, being afraid to take action because there are so many opinions and so many people who might not like it, that is much less pervasive in rural America, where indecision can lead to bad things, up to and including the fatal.  Many, many people recognize decisiveness as a quality that creates a basis for moving forward and getting things done, rather than being a quality that ignores or fails to account for the inadequacies that plague every aspect of human life.  To make a decision is not to be unaware that there are alternatives, objections, and unilluminated corners of ignorance – it is to decide that those are not, in a given instance, the controlling factors.

I think Palin resonates with so many Americans because of our inborn sense that being steeped in current-events chatter correlates negatively with being decisive about current events.  I have read over and over the sentiment that Palin can learn what she doesn’t know, but what she does know is far more important.  I think there’s a lot to that.

I don’t believe, for example, that Palin could be duped into thinking that a nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia was a landmark event, when the underlying truth is that Russia is unlikely to honor the agreement, because Moscow continues to demand that we negotiate missile defense as part of any nuclear arms accord.  I also don’t think Palin would, if she had not been duped, and fully understood what was happening, present the agreement to the world as if it were a landmark, and as if there would be no disappointment down the road, when the agreement faded away due to non-implementation.

President Obama has done one or the other of these things, in the last week.  Either he does understand the low value of the Russians’ provisional “agreement,” and is merely using the photo op to bolster his political image, or he doesn’t understand it.  Neither one speaks well of his intellect.  It doesn’t take in-depth knowledge of warhead numbers and types, or expertise with the history of nuclear arms negotiations and deterrence theory, to understand any of this.  All it takes is the posture of a hardheaded negotiator, and moral clarity.  Sarah Palin has both of those qualities.

If I were to suspect there is one significant realm in which Palin may truly need “seasoning,” it is that of selecting and using advisors – finding people to rely on for important substantive judgments.  Anyone who thinks a leader does not, or should not, need to do that, has never been a leader.  The leader cannot know everything, or be the expert on everything.  It’s a mistake to try.  Of much greater importance is having an interest in and vision for a particular outcome for the project, and steering the ship and crew toward it, keeping to a base course set by a higher purpose.

From what I can tell of her history of governance, in Wasilla and the whole state of Alaska, Palin has been very good at identifying the higher purpose, setting the objective and course, and getting the ship there.  What I see less of is a history of incorporating the useful – often, the heroic – traits of others, to crew the ship, review the course, and even, now and then, retool the higher purpose.

To me, particular facility with this executive skill comes with age and wisdom.  One thing most of us lack when we are young is a sense that everyone has been put here for a good purpose, including those whose primary traits are very different from ours.  We are not, in fact – pace the zeitgeist of modern homogenization – all supposed to be trying to turn into the same human being.  Characteristics that irritate us in others, as Palin’s decisiveness and lack of existential self-doubt seem to irritate Peggy Noonan, are not patterns to be exterminated, but unique inputs that together make up a human whole.  On the flip side, just as Palin need not be like Noonan, Noonan does not need to be like Palin either.  Some people do prize cogitation and expression over decision, and we are blessed to live in an age of plenty in which so many of them can be gainfully employed, and enrich our lives.

I don’t see evidence that Palin has an antipathy toward people who are not “like her,” so much as an absence of evidence that she recognizes the utility that people of other personality can have for an executive leader.  My prediction is that Palin has the good heart, and aspiration to wisdom, that will lead her to this understanding.  It may well be that spending some years traveling the nation, and just getting to know a lot of politicians and thinkers personally, will be precisely the most effective method.  (It was a key passage for Reagan, in the years before he was elected governor of California.)

Learning this truth, and becoming a wise judge in regard to it, is the task I would set Palin over the coming years, if she wants to prepare for the challenges Noonan outlines:

Here are a few examples of what we may face in the next 10 years: a profound and prolonged American crash, with the admission of bankruptcy and the spread of deep social unrest; one or more American cities getting hit with weapons of mass destruction from an unknown source; faint glimmers of actual secessionist movements as Americans for various reasons and in various areas decide the burdens and assumptions of the federal government are no longer attractive or legitimate.

I suppose Noonan and I see things somewhat differently, however, as Palin already qualifies for the short list of potential national leaders I’d feel best about, dealing with such calamities.  She has, in spades, what so few others have at all:  common sense and moral clarity.  It looks to me like she is far more concerned about doing the right thing than about what the chattering class will think of her.  You can’t learn that from reading magazines and newspapers – and you absolutely can’t learn it from worrying whether other people consider you insufficiently attentive to your inadequacies.  You do hone and refine this strength of mind and character through serving, deciding, and being accountable – three things almost none of Sarah Palin’s critics have actual experience in.


43 thoughts on “Sarahnoia”

  1. Sarahnoia: a superb coinage.
    IMHO, it might be a good idea for Palin to travel to Israel & speak there to dispel any rumors about her being a Buchananite or a Paulite. She might speak on the legitimacy of the Israeli settlements (assuming that’s her opinion), the relevant international law and historical US position. If she hears any gibes about her lack of sophistication, she might mention, smilingly, our President’s difficulties with the “Austrian language”.

  2. I guess everyone who suffered through that Noonan column has his or her own favorite least favorite passages.

    I sampled the comments at the WSJ: There were nearly 500 by yesterday evening, many of them quite good, and nowhere near as many favorable to Noonan’s perspective as I would have expected. A few took the article apart piece by piece, some focusing on the nauseating condescension (“seemingly likeable middle class girl“), some on the advertisement of received opinion as novel insight.

    Some commenters, like Dr Zero and yourself, manage to draw out the ideological presumptions that Noonan may have picked up unconsciously, by osmosis, from the liberal aromas and ethers that one presumes surround her socially, or that she may (this seems less likely) have studied her way into. Whatever the explanation, they’ve turned her into something other than a political conservative. All that’s left is a culturally conservative impulse. Or maybe it’s just a melancholical echo.

    My favorite unfavorite passage, however, was the conclusion, which comes after the Prophet Peggishmael’s vision that you quoted. The last three paragraphs, from “The era we face” to “We are going to need the best” could have been a fanfare for Il Duce. They are devoid of any specific political agenda – not an “issue” to be found – but instead all about the Great Leader grappling with the New Times in which Old Assumptions no longer are adequate. They are also devoid of a single breath of American democratism.

    Apparently, criticizing the Great Leader from our lowly positions might too quickly turn into “resentment” of the sort Ms Noonan forbids us. We are left to conclude – mutely accept – that, since all of the ideas of the past are inadequate to this new era, we Betas and Gammas and Deltas will need those Alphas to do the work of higher discernment for us. Surely it takes a “better” to recognize the “best.”

    I’m so glad I’m a Beta. Gammas are so stupid, and Alphas have so much responsibility.

    That said, Sally Quinn gives Noonan heavy competition in the Ugliness Contest, and is a shoo-in for Ms. Uncongenial.

  3. It shouldn’t have been so bothersome, shouldn’t have brought forth such a reaction.
    Noonan didn’t become polluted by breathing in the liberal vapors, she was never the purest of the pure.
    Why she didn’t even join the team till term two and even then the other writers never really trusted her.

  4. sigma — a very interesting idea. Republicans do seem to have trouble appealing to Jewish voters, and the “Buchanan button” thing doesn’t help Palin. My own suspicion is that she does support “defensible borders for Israel,” the formula used in the 2004 Bush letter that recognizes the legitimacy of Israeli interests in Judea and Samaria.

    It looks to me like all she’d have to do is endorse Netanyahu’s seminal speech from last month.

    She could also make a gentle point, at the right time, of saying “Pakistan” instead of “Pah-kee-stahn.”

  5. It would be even more amusing if she gave a speech on Obama’s foreign policy in which she pronounced the names of all of the foreign leaders and capitals in exaggerated, Saturday Night Live-style versions of the way that the locals pronounce them – and did the same with the name Barach Chussein Oh-bah-ma.

  6. CKM — isn’t that an odd overtone, there at the end of Noonan’s column. I caught a whiff of that too: the sort of sweaty, only-the-hero-can-handle-this-one meme of the Fascists. It’s quite antithetical to the American idea, of the individual’s liberty as the highest good, and the quantity government is there to protect.

    I’m afraid I can see Noonan agreeing to the proposition that people have to give up some liberties if we’re all to be safe… or all have jobs… or if the country is to hang together… etc.

    Interestingly, the more Palin’s critics give off this vibe, the more many Americans are going to deduce that Palin is the anti-Noonan, the anti-Parker, the anti-Frum, the anti-Brooks, and so forth. I don’t know that Palin is necessarily so different from them, politically, or they from her — but their determination that she is NOT in their circle gives her a unique boost, one I think is at least as valuable, today, as the incontinent vitriol of the MSM left.

  7. Love it, CKM. Chhhon-DOOR-r-ras! for Honduras. Etc.

    Maybe Palin could finally achieve the breakthrough with Iran by addressing Dinner Jacket as “AACCCHHHHHH-MAH-dee-neh-ZHADDD!” Put the “MACCHHHH-mood” in front of it, and pronounce both with a big old gob of spit. She’d have the mullahs eating out of her hand inside 5 minutes.

    And she could get the “yeh” sound in the right syllable of Medvedev’s name. What is suddenly with all these Yanks saying “Medve-DYEV”? I mean, it’s “Med-VYEH-dev,” people. Didn’t you learn that in high school?

  8. “visceral antipathy some of our erstwhile conservative columnists seem to have for Palin.”

    In case of Noonan, “erstwhile” is the operative word. It is true that she wrote “read my lips” into Bush-41’s speech; she made history then. But she metamorphosed long ago – long before Palin was on the national horizon – and to simply say she is not conservative any more would not do justice to that metamorphosis. I have no adequate adjectives for it: it is better to quote her own article of May 2, 2008 (about Rev. Wright and his congregation):

    Mr. Wright seems to me to be part of the great “barbaric yawp,” as Walt Whitman called the American people fighting, discussing, making things and living. I like the barbaric yawp.

    Noonan feels that Rev. Wright is straight out of Walt Whitman, and she likes his “barbaric yawp”. Sarah Palin and her Alaskan family strike no such Whitmanesque cords in her changed heart. They are too middle-class! Walt Whitman would not agree… “The most valuable class in any community is the middle class”, he wrote.

    But I believe her class rhetoric is a pretext, and an inept one – is Rev. Wright working-class? Is Obama? Bah humbug! She has simply swapped sides – long ago – and does not have the basic honesty to admit it.

  9. Perhaps Peggy Noonan ought to go back to her old book, What I saw at the Revolution, and reread the part in which she tells us how she became a conservative in the first place, and think about how she got to where she is now.

  10. Very nice on the Whitman reference, contra. Check out “A Woman Waits for Me,” think of Palin, and then it becomes almost possible to understand why Andrew Sullivan appointed himself Sarahnoid-in-Chief (I say “almost possible” because truly comprehending Sullivan’s manias probably would call for several shelves of books, perhaps an independently endowed collection, at a major university library).

    Also, I agree with sigma that “Sarahnoia” is superb. With JED’s permission, I think we should seek to get it the widest possible circulation.

  11. Circulate away, CKM. I request only that folks acknowledge the source. 🙂

    And yes, contra’s cite on Noonan’s invocation of Whitman (in relation to the Reverend Wright, no less), is superb.

  12. A brilliant takedown of Peggy Noonan; but I’m not sure I get the focus on Sarah Palin now that she has resigned. Had she finished out her term she might have been a very long shot prospect for 2012 or a more credible prospect for 2016; but gi ven her resignation I can’t see her as a real prospect for President until she’s served a very long time in political exile.

  13. Sully, as someone without strong party affiliation and little love for the Republicans,
    I would say that Palin has an outstandingly sympathetic image, one far more compelling than any Republican since the late Saint.
    It was understandable, but unfortunate, that she was brought up to the big leagues prematurely.

  14. fuster,
    I’m as much a fan of Palin as I have been of any politician. My point went to my inability to understand why people are still focused on Palin even though her resignation has (in my opinion) ruled her out of the presidential game for at least a couple of election cycles.

  15. and my answer wasn’t clear enough in indicating that there isn’t a living Republican who interests anybody outside the party other than negatively.
    She’s about all there is for you folks to talk about unless you want to get more morose.

  16. Margaret Thatcher would have (decorously) humiliated Palin in any intellectual competition. This has nothing to do with IQ, everything to do with having been forced for the better part of a lifetime to overcome ferocious intellectual hostility. I lived in England when Thatcher was Palin’s age. Sarah had it no rougher than Maggie – the attacks on her were just more pulp-cultural than ideational. Too bad: Alaska-style pragmatism may be vastly preferable to academic leftism and even has obvious electoral advantages over root and branch low-Toryism, but suffers from a debilitating dearth of self-definition. It’s been at least a century since an American president could do without an ideological life jacket and not get swamped by stronger currents.

  17. fuster writes: “there isn’t a living Republican who interests anybody outside the party other than negatively.
    She’s about all there is /…/”

    I am a fan of Palin, but that is quite untrue. Giuliani, Romney, Schwarzenegger, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Jindal, Jeb Bush, and many more, have proved their trans-party appeal objectively: in elections.

    Palin, however, seems now the one most able to energize her own party, as well as appeal to others. She is, for the moment, the most charismatic poltician on the horizon.

    Inde irae!

    She is the most attractive of the rising stars – and by far the most reviled – and reviled with no semblance of reason. My guess is that her attraction is the reason: she is smeared because she’s feared, and she’s feared because she is attractive. Those (in either party) who want to stop her feel they need to act early. So they hurl what they can at her, without pausing for thought. Noonan’s column is a case in point.

  18. The “Sarahnoia” phenomenon brings out the regular trope that she’s “stupid”. This seems to be a complement of her attractiveness. A woman can’t be attractive and intelligent at the same time; amazingly many women seem to have this opinion. Ugly women in the public sphere are never referred to as stupid. Not to indulge in the creation of a stereotype, but women seem to be more critical of attractive women than men are. A good-looking woman seems to attract resentment and disdain from other women. A handsome man, on the other hand, is seldom criticized on that basis by women or men. In general, we don’t feel that if a man is good-looking, he must be stupid. Curious difference.

  19. (Chuck Martel) “A woman can’t be attractive and intelligent “

    That stupid stereotype is surely at work – but
    when I used the word “attractive” above, I discussed her only as an attractive candidate – and not as an attractive woman, which of course she is. The latter does not overwhelm the former – in spite of the stereotype.

    The way women look at her is influenced by the smear campaign – but the immediate result of her appearance on the scene was a great shift among women in favor of the McCain/Palin ticket.

    Here is an early September report:

    The most surprising results — and surely the most disturbing for the freshman Illinois senator’s camp — are the immense gains McCain has made among white women following the Republican National Convention and the well-received prime-time speech by Palin.

    In barely three weeks since before the Democratic convention last month, that crucial group of female voters has moved from 50-42 in Obama’s favor to 53-41 for McCain now.

    That’s a huge 20-point shift in almost as many days, no doubt attributed in large part to the addition of a woman to the Republican ticket, Alaskan Gov. Palin, for the first time in the party’s 164-year history.

  20. contra

    Being dismissive of polls, I’m simply reflecting on personal experience. You’re correct, of course, in that the immediate enthusiasm for the Palin candidacy was torpedoed by the extraordinary media assault on her and her family that continues to this day. However, my post above wasn’t in reference to your own post. I’m just pointing out that we never heard that Bela Abzug and Madeline Albright were stupid. Maybe being an attractive Conservative woman automatically makes one stupid.

  21. Gents, you’re going too deep on the stupid/attractive stuff.
    Speculation that Palin is stupid was based on what was coming out of her mouth. Several times she was nearly incoherent and/or inept in answering questions during the campaign.

  22. Plz, fuster, don’t force us to do a cross-comparison of Obama and, even better, Biden incoherencies and stupidities with Palin’s. She was thrust onto the national stage and asked to determine the fate of the world via a series of pop questions from interviewers who clearly hated her (not really too strong a word) before an audience in the zillions. You might not have looked very good in the same position either.

    I think even most of her supporters, probably even Palin herself, would agree that in a sense she wasn’t “ready” – ready to be the focus of a national election, fully “prepped.” Being ready to run and being ready to serve are two different things.

  23. Palin’s selection as VP candidate was a godsend for the press. They would never have been able to plaster McCain with the same amount of vituperation, although they tried with Cindy. McCain, with his long record of service in the military and government and grandfatherly appearance, would have been immune to the kind of press assassination that was heaped on Palin. She gave them something to scream about and still does.

    The “Wizard of Oz” came to life in the 2008 presidential campaign. Dorothy/Sarah confronted the chattering simian press in the service of the Wicked Witch/Liberal Establishment.

  24. CK, I’m not forcing anything. I’m just trying to offer a neutral perspective in this.
    You shouldn’t attempt any comparison. Even if you could make a case, it’s a misguided effort.
    Palin has to stand on her own. She gets a tremendous boost on visuals and she screwed the moose on the oral exam.
    I don’t buy into she’s an idiot. I do buy into that she was unready and also squeezed by the questions, questioners, and by trying to shape her answers to conform to the suggestions of likely more than one set of managers.

  25. Now, now fuster – no need to strike a defensive tone. I think we actually rather agree on the narrow “image” issues: I’m not one of those, for instance, who insists that she was merely a victim of hostile editing, though there was some of that. What I’ve been trying to stress going back to last September, and has opticon has argued very effectively in my view, is that focusing on her flubs and foibles is not a serious approach to serious issues in parlous times.

  26. Re the polling issue mentioned above. It’s altogether possible that Obama is president today because of whichever idiot in the McCain campaign convincing Palin to do that Couric interview without ground rules that any Republican should insist on when dealing with the hostile press.

    When Obama agreed to sit for an interview with O’Reilly he or his staff insisted on continuous single camera coverage of both him and O’Reilly during the entirety of the interview. Whoever put Palin together with Couric, a certainly hostile interviewer, without insisting on similar ground rules was guilty of almost unbelievable political malpractice.

    The great pity is that the McCain campaign could have insisted on and gotten virtually any ground rules they wanted at the time, given how slaveringly eager the hounds were to get at Palin.

  27. As an aside to the Palin “stupid, inexperienced, not ready for national politics, unread, uneducated, etc.” meme, what does it mean about the individual voter? If Palin is totally unqualified to be vice president, is she qualified to vote for a president? The standards for voter eligibility in this country require no proof of intelligence, education, experience or anything beyond citizenship and no felony convictions. Why should the moron element be the deciding factor in elections? Sure, the electoral college and our republican form of government are meant to insulate the nation from that very thing, but are those things working? At any rate, the Sarah phenomenon is in remission for the immediate future. If Peggy Noonan, Maureen Dowd and the other journalistic vultures can’t find anyone else to slander, maybe they should take a vacation.

  28. chuck, this is indeed another aside of the moron factor.
    Why indeedy should morons be deciding presidential elections?
    College professors in the social sciences and intelligence analysts should perhaps be locked in a room stocked only with sharpened #2 pencils in hope that only the truth emerges.

  29. Reading Noonan’s piece left me completely bumflommoxed. The elites *made* her? Uh, I thought she became mayor and governor on her own steam, or is that just part of the mythology I’ve been gulled into believing?

    That sentence more than any other may show the difference between the people who admire SP and the Peggy Noonans of the world. For the latter, real accomplishment is a celebrity that can only come when you are lifted from your frozen backwater to the national stage, where you get to rub elbows with the likes of Peggy, David, Kathleen, et al. To the rest of us, the making of Sarah Palin took place on the school boards, in the city hall, and the Governor’s mansion of Alaska, places she got to without the help of a political machine to smear her opponent and do her advance work.

    I am comfortable saying this even as I have my doubts about Sarah Palin’s current trajectory and her viability as a national candidate. Noonan communicates one thing very well: she only hangs out with “intellectuals” and, as a group, they are truly stupid.

    One more: “Lack of modesty.” Oh. My. G*d. I guess Sarah can’t pledge Peggy’s sorority.

  30. There doesn’t seem to be an end:

    Judgment sought against Palin in ‘Juneteenth’ suit

    Rachel D’Oro/The Associated Press

    Originally published Friday, July 17, 2009 at 12:27 p.m.
    Updated Friday, July 17, 2009 at 1:24 p.m.

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Gov. Sarah Palin asked a judge Friday to declare that she broke state law two years ago when she failed to issue a proclamation for a celebration commemorating the freeing of U.S. slaves.

    Plaintiffs also sought a retroactive proclamation for the 2007 Juneteenth celebration from Palin, or – with her July 26 resignation looming – from the governor’s office, said Gregory Charles Royal, a Washington, D.C., musician, who filed the suit in March.

    “You just can’t ignore laws,” he said.

    The Alaska Legislature had passed a measure directing the governor to issue a proclamation to commemorate Juneteenth, which marks June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and announced the end of slavery. Several other states also officially commemorate Juneteenth.

    The motion for a default judgment filed Friday claims Palin failed to answer the allegations in the lawsuit by a June 19 deadline, and still has not responded. According to the court document, the governor’s Juneau office refused to accept another copy of the complaint Tuesday.

    Process server Jack Dayton said a staffer in the governor’s office would not accept the documents from him.

    “You’re the governor, doggone it,” Dayton said. “It would be in your best interest to take it.”

    Dayton did successfully serve another set of the documents to the state attorney general’s office in Juneau.

    Margaret Paton-Walsh, an assistant attorney general, said no deadline was missed because the plaintiffs did not properly serve all the correct state entities initially.

    Paton-Walsh also said the proclamation was not issued in 2007 because of a clerical error.

    “This slipped through the cracks and it’s my understanding that the governor is going to issue the 2007 proclamation,” she said. “A very big deal is being made out of a very small clerical error.”

    Royal said the oversight had a significant impact on a Juneteenth festival in Anchorage that year because it lacked the governor’s recognition, likely discouraging community and vendor involvement.

    “As a result of the proclamation not being issued, some suffered financial loss,” he said.

    The case originally was filed in Washington in March and was later transferred to the U.S. District Court of Alaska after adding Eagle River resident Kim Chatman as a plaintiff.

    Chatman also has filed an ethics complaint against Palin. That complaint, which is among the few still active, alleges Palin is misusing the governor’s office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through a legal defense fund.

    The fund was set up by supporters to help Palin pay off debts stemming from multiple ethics complaints against the governor. Palin says she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees. Most of the complaints have been dismissed.

  31. Isn’t that ridiculous? Talk about frivolous lawsuits. Maybe some good will come out of all this, and Alaska will tighten up its tort litigation rules.

  32. This is a very insightful essay. Noonan’s view is simply the much more polite view of the Left’s detestation of Palin — “how dare she do anything!”

    Equally disturbing, however, is the accuracy of your assessment of the overwhelming shift in our culture and how we describe it. Self-esteem, victims, survivors, grief counselors: all psychobabble that now paralyzes our society.

  33. Thanks, Sleepless. Glad to welcome you to the blog. Your comment about how we describe our culture reminds me of Victor Davis Hanson’s differentiation of classical academic disciplines — science, rhetoric, math, writing, history, philosophy — from what he calls “therapeutic” curricula, or basically anything followed by the word “studies.” (Gender, gay, women’s, film, Hispanic, Personal Fictive, etc.)

    My limited experience with therapeutic “studies” courses in college was that you could get credit for sitting around, gossiping and slinging worthless personal opinions about. No rigor whatsoever, except the rigid enforcement of political correctness.

  34. My book club — overwhelmingly Seattle Left (it’s such fun to be the shatterer of the Obama Dreamland they seem to inhabit) — is reading “Deer Hunting with Jesus” for its next selection. I’ve read the book and it epitomizes the “look at those poor working class slobs” conceit that you’ve skewered in your essay. {To be fair, it has some insights and some very funny passages. But in the end, it just makes its Left readers feel so good about themselves.]

    So I’m planning on emailing a copy of your essay to my book club, as a “compare and contrast” exercise. Since it also includes the verboten topic of “that Palin woman,” it should be a memorable evening indeed!

  35. Sleepless — that is terrific. I’ll be interested to hear how that discussion goes!

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