Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | November 21, 2009

Going Rogue: The Review

I just finished Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue.  I’m particularly busy right now, so the fact that I postponed other things that really need doing in order to read through it quickly is testament to the interest Palin’s account sustains.  Interestingly, I had read Peter Wehner’s blog post on Palin, at Commentary’s “contentions,” only a couple of days before I started on Going Rogue.  This has been “Palin Week,” of course, with her book tour starting and interviews by everyone:  Oprah, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh.  My blogging colleague C.K. MacLeod posted a brief, pungent response to Peter Wehner, and Victor Davis Hanson had thoughtful, compelling words, at his Pajamas Media blog, on her star power with middle America.  Questions, theories, analyses, conclusions everywhere you looked this week:  What’s the deal with this Sarah Palin gal?

Peter, for one, by his own report, doesn’t get the furor over Palin.  I can sympathize, in a way.  I have always found him to be a careful and balanced commentator, and it encourages me that there are people – like him – who can comment critically without betraying repulsion or descending to snark.  He rightly quotes Yuval Levin on the power of Palin’s persona to reveal the hostile elitism lurking in too many of her critics, and by implication distances himself from that dynamic; credibly, in my view.

But I start here with the reference to his piece on her from Wednesday because it seems representative to me, of the sentiment from many in the senior ranks of both conservatism and the GOP.  Peter’s conclusion is, of course, the title proposition:

The intensity of feelings Sarah Palin evokes from almost all sides is remarkable — and for me, a bit puzzling. I don’t think she has earned either adoration or contempt. But as we’re seeing, she elicits plenty of both.

But it’s an earlier passage that has been working on me:

If you believe, as I do, that the GOP once again needs to become the “party of ideas” — as it did under Ronald Reagan — then Palin is not the solution to what ails it. At this stage, based on the interviews I have seen with her, she doesn’t seem able to articulate the case for conservatism in a manner that is compelling or even particularly persuasive. She is nothing like, to take three individuals I would hold up as public models, Margaret Thatcher, William Bennett, and Antonin Scalia — people brimming with ideas, knowledgeable and formidable, intellectually well-grounded, and impossible to dismiss.

I too admire all three of these individuals, and I believe each one has made a difference.  But I wonder how applicable their strengths are to the present political problem for America.  I would note that none of them has run for vice president of the United States, a political proposition that is, in fact, different even from campaigning for a party majority in a parliamentary system.  None of them was ever a governor of a US state, or indeed mayor of a small US town.

It’s quite possible that Margaret Thatcher could have been elected to any of these offices if she had been born in the USA, although I think her debating skills and style of leadership are particularly suited to parliamentary government on the English model:  voters electing a ministerial package from no more than two major parties with real influence; and policy hammered out through a mechanism that, however confrontational it may be in tone and interparty (even intraparty) jockeying, is still top-down-unified in a way our Constitution is specifically designed to preclude.  England benefited greatly from Thatcher, but Thatcher was made possible by England too.  I’m not sure how she would have fared in one of the Continental parliaments, or Israel’s Knesset, in which multiple fractious parties make governing coalitions fragile and timid.

In the US, of course, we elect our president, the head of government, separately (along with our vice president), and expect him to function as one of the checks on Congress, and Congress as a check on him.  Not everyone is cut out for every style of government.  Again, I’d back Maggie against most anything; had she been born here, she might well have been our first female president.  Bill Bennett and Antonin Scalia, on the other hand, would not have been president or vice president.  They have done excellent things for America from the positions they have served in, but whether they are impossible to dismiss or not, they are impossible to elect.

This matters.  I don’t think anyone thinks of Palin as an emerging heir to William F. Buckley, Jr, carrying on a tradition of intellectual definition, but as a leader who could be put in office by the people.  C.K. MacLeod gets at this in one way when he makes this observation:

It’s because people – the people who makes Palin a “populist” – sense enduring and worsening problems and great dangers (and opportunities) that our political and intellectual betters don’t seem to grasp and, sitting on their very comfortable bottoms, may not even see a need to face squarely; and that even individuals like those Wehner mentions approvingly – “Margaret Thatcher, William Bennett, and Antonin Scalia” – haven’t been able to lead us out of.

Bennett and Scalia, of course, haven’t been in positions from which they could lead us in the way C.K. refers to here, although people like them have.  Thatcher held such a position in Britain in the last decade of the Cold War, and while she made significant changes, Britain is today a nation all but overwhelmed by welfarism.

In retrospect, Thatcher rolled back more socialization of industry than any popularly-elected leader I can think of in history – but the main thing the resulting prosperity has gone to is postponing a financial reckoning for the country’s pervasive welfarism.  That dynamic has been common throughout the democratic industrial nations, in fact:  everywhere, including the US, where economic liberalization in the 1980s and ‘90s allowed strong growth, governments have ridden the prosperity to an unsustainable explosion of regulation, constituency-tending subsidies, and general-population entitlement obligations.

But the financial reckoning is here.  It’s one of the things C.K. refers to that people are alarmed about:  its potential is catastrophic.  And the thing about Bennett and Scalia, at least, is that they, and people like them, have not prevented it.  A long list of eminent conservative figures must join their liberal-progressive colleagues in that category.

Ronald Reagan – like Thatcher – did something much harder than be a conservative thinker.  He significantly lowered federal taxes, after a period of more than 40 years in which the American left had become accustomed to holding the political high ground on that issue, and had entrenched a taxation index much more steeply progressive than what we have today.  He allowed the Fed to curb inflation even though he understood that that would have a short-term effect on jobs and small business.  (The result was the recession of 1982-83.)

He took on the air traffic controllers’ union and prevailed – something conservatives have never, on the whole, thought of viscerally as a triumph, because who hates air traffic controllers, or thinks of them as putting up union thugs to intimidate the public?  They had nothing like the current political profile of the UAW or SEIU, back in 1981.  People didn’t think of air traffic controllers as surly employees in purple T-shirts, snarling at the public from behind desks at the DMV or the county permit office.  They certainly didn’t think of air traffic controllers as union-shop workers who retired with better pensions than half the population, and were determined to tax and bully the whole population – including millions of people with nothing like their benefits – to make sure their benefits kept coming.

It wasn’t popular to fire the air traffic controllers, but Reagan acted on principle:  “There is no right to strike against the public interest.”  He acted on principle in (famously) cutting the growth of federal funding for school lunch programs.  Think a minute about how much more it’s going to cost to fund a school lunch program if the feds are involved; and about the fact that, although food is indeed set in front of children, where the money goes is to the food industry – which of course lobbies as all industries do to persuade us that millions will be starving in the street if money does not keep going to it.

It is a serious and powerful point of principle, that the government does not need to step in and demand food on behalf of schoolchildren on the scale implied by federal intervention.  Programs of this kind are better executed at the local level; even doing it at the state level adds layers of unnecessary cost and politicization.  The difference between Reagan and virtually every other conservative Republican politician was that he could do more than enunciate principle.  He could act on it.  All his actions on principle took courage – every single one.  He was defamed, pilloried, and made fun of for the vast majority of them.  He persuaded plenty of Americans to vote for him, but he got the usual ration of trouble from Congress, even while he had a GOP majority in the Senate; and the media take on his policies was routinely negative.  He had to act over and over again – outside the norm of the generally center-left consensus of the media and the intellectual elite – without any comradely, endorsing amity from those or most other quarters.

What he had going for him was more than an articulate appreciation of principle:  he had moral courage.  And that brings us back to Sarah Palin, and Going Rogue.  My opinion on the Palin phenomenon is that what so many people see in her is an electable politician with moral courage.  She is electable not merely because she is attractive and energetic, but because her conservatism – what she calls “Commonsense Conservatism” – is principled without shorting pragmatism.  She recognizes a proper role for government, but not the idea of government as eschatological agent that even many conservatives have.  What Going Rogue does is spell out Palin’s concept of governance; and it is sure to requite the anticipation of her many supporters.

Rush Limbaugh has already made the point that Palin’s is a policy book.  He’s right:  it’s mostly about the proper role of government in the life of the people, and effective ways to wield the tools of government on the people’s behalf.  It makes Palin’s points through anecdote, and a series of reflections on what principles she chose to operate on, and why she made the decisions she did.  I imagine she consciously chose to subtitle her book An American Life, which of course was the title of Reagan’s post-Oval Office autobiography; and the parallels in terms of how the two politicians lay out their political stories are strong.  Reagan too wrote primarily about how principles – typically pretty basic ones – drove his own decisions.

I remember that when his memoir came out, a number of conservative writers applauded the simplicity and directness of the writing as reflecting Reagan the man, but obviously (and often overtly) wished for lengthier passages on policy dissection.  At the time, when I was much younger, I thought they had a point.  But the older I get, the more I realize that the greater talent is to distill principle simply, convey it without fatal temporizing, and have a record of acting on it to write about.  Exhaustive writers on policy, and on the abstract challenges to principle, are, if not a dime a dozen, at least no more than $100K a dozen.  But money can’t buy a political leader with the moral courage to take principle at face value and act on it.

Over and over again, it’s that quality that we see in Sarah Palin.  She writes of the differences between herself and the long-serving mayor whom she defeated in Wasilla:

It was evident during my years on the council that the mayor and I had sharply differing ideas about the future of Wasilla and how to make that future happen.  He was for more government control; I was for smaller government and more individual freedom.  I wanted government to appropriately provide the private sector with infrastructure tools to increase opportunities.  Stein supported expanding land-use restrictions and building codes.  I wanted to eliminate property taxes (since we now had the sales tax), slow down the rate of government growth, and build roads and water and sewer systems.  And I would support capital projects if the people voted for them and acknowledged that they’d be expected to fund them.

As Palin points out, in local government, there’s no distance between you, your fellows on the governing council, and your constituents.  Everyone knows how you voted and what decisions you made.  You have to look people in the eye when you’re opposing them – something almost all lifetime politicians who reach safe seats in Congress, or who go in and out a revolving executive-departments door, have not had to face up to in decades.

In that environment, Palin, during her membership on the city council, voted among other things against raising the mayor’s salary, and against a development plan that would have required Wasillans to shift from taking their own trash to the dump to paying for a weekly service.  In both cases, as in others, she knew the personal significance of these votes to fellow members of the town government:  the mayor wanted his salary raised, and one of the council members owned the local garbage truck company.  But, as she put it:  “I had to live with my own conscience, so I voted according to my principles and let the chips fall where they may.”

What Palin was for was getting roads paved, getting water and sewer lines laid, and cutting property taxes for Wasillans – which she actually managed to do, along with eliminating a number of local taxes and fees on business.  By her own account, she resisted the encroachment of “planned community” ideas that would make it more expensive – even prohibitively so – for local Alaskans to own homes, while simultaneously placing new limits on their opportunities for earning a living.  Government was not there to tell the people how to live, but to provide infrastructure that would attract business and ensure the people had opportunity.  Roads and water lines accomplished that; garbage service mandates did not.

One thing a lifetime city-dweller from the Lower 48 recognizes immediately is that there are a lot more people down here who think of Palin’s approach – which resonated perfectly with the majority of her fellow Wasillans – as outdated, and even wrong.  I think there are plenty of conservatives who would see it as over the top to resist mandated city garbage collection on principle.  But there are also plenty of people of all stripes who love Palin precisely because of her rural, small-town background, and the ruggedly individualistic self-sufficiency of her breed.

Victor Davis Hanson makes the case beautifully that practitioners of the self-sufficient arts are often sources of wisdom and principled leadership that are every bit as good as – and sometimes better than – those in other walks of life who don’t get their hands as dirty.  Here he summarizes his experience with a background in many ways similar to Palin’s:

I am prejudiced because what I learned over years of farming—dealing with California labor, environmental, legal, and tax regulations, pruning, tractor driving, listening to my grandfather, and handling unsavory characters, understanding plant physiology and fruit-production, etc.—I think gave me a different, but in the long run as good an education as a BA/PhD in Classical languages.

I found the former harder to do than the latter, the world of the one rather brutal and existential, of the other sheltered and protected. In other words, I would trust the judgment of someone with Palin’s background on matters of Iran or Honduras or Putin far more than I would someone of Obama’s resume. I would trust my neighbor who farms 180 acres more than I would a chairman of an academic department. I know, I know, there are extreme binaries, but they are reflective of the lack of autonomy and physicality today and the undue emphasis on elite schooling as prerequisites for success. We know now that you can do nothing and still finish as the head of Harvard Law Review, or win a Nobel Prize, but if you miss an antlered moose, or run out of gas in the tundra, or fall overboard on a salmon boat, there is no Norwegian committee or Harvard Law Dean to bail you out.

The iterations of life-vocational factors and issues for VDH and Palin are quite similar.  She has a knowledge, as intimate as VDH’s of grape farming, of hands-on fishing in Alaska – fishing and processing fish to earn a living – and of dealing with buyers and state regulators, of maintaining equipment, of enduring weather, of slogging through long days of sweat, chill, aching limbs, silent endeavor, and “slime.”  She knows the Alaska oil and gas industry not just from regulating it but from her husband’s long years of seasonal employment on the North Slope:  from being an “oil widow” and seeing the inner workings of the industry, its problems – and its value – through a knowledgeable, skilled employee’s eyes.  Her book is incandescent with the natural, unforced appreciation of the multigenerational family, and she quotes the terse, life-changing wisdom of respected elders with the same tone of humility and gratitude VDH does when he speaks of his.

This attitude, which cannot be simulated, resonates with many, many Americans – perhaps even more than would choose, themselves, to live in such a way.  But the principles of this life translate to others.  Here is Palin in the caption of a photo, one that captures her and Todd salmon-fishing:

Todd’s the hardest-working fisherman I know.  He goes days without sleep and picks salmon from the nets with amazing skill and speed.  He’s been at this for nearly forty years.  He hires a crew, sometimes greenhorns, to join us every summer, and if they start off not knowing what hard work is, Todd makes sure they know what it feels like by the end of the season.

The Palins have not left this life, nor do they want to.  How many families are there across America whose members live by a similar creed, whether their professional commitments are to plumbing, accounting, teaching, engineering, coaching, farming, selling cars, or working in canneries?  What Palin understands is what it’s like to be these people.  To view your life as good, to believe in living it by principles passed on from your parents, and to want from government mainly that it stay off your back, and provide a few basic services.

Palin recounts this outburst from a fellow citizen when her predecessor as mayor of Wasilla was talking up his degree in public administration:

I once heard a voter bark at Mayor Stein that he wasn’t impressed with his public administration degree.  “I can’t support a guy whose degree is in public management,” the guy hollered after a local debate.  “The public does not need to be managed!

I’m not sure Peter Wehner understands how strongly this resonates with many Americans.  Nor do I think a lot of conservatives understand how ignorantly condescending it is on their part to think that people like Todd and Sarah Palin need, if not managing, at least someone to articulate principles for them more deeply, or perhaps more elegantly or poetically, than Sarah Palin does here:

Theories like [Karl Marx’s] pretty much get run over on Main Street.  Big Business starts as small business.  Both are built by regular people using their gifts, skills, and resources to turn their passions into products or services, supplying demands and creating jobs in the process – like Todd’s family, with its roots in the Alaska fishing industry.  I had put a free-market, pragmatic philosophy to work in Wasilla, implementing conservative fiscal policies conducive to economic growth, and I got to explain this as I campaigned for lieutenant governor.

Having advocated for local control across the state as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors, I added that principle to my campaign platform.  I had great respect for the need for state government to preserve locally enacted policies.  Likewise, I believed that national leaders have a responsibility to respect the Tenth Amendment and keep their hands off the states.  It’s the old Jeffersonian view that the affairs of the citizens are best left in their own hands.  So when I discussed economic policy, I wasn’t shy about calling myself a hard-core fiscal conservative.  Some folks liked what they heard, and I picked up a couple of endorsements here and there and won some opinion polls.  But I wasn’t part of any political machine, or the Juneau good ol’ boys club, so I was definitely seen as the outsider.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with that.  These sound like “ideas” to me.  I have to confess that I am less and less impressed with people who can talk longer and write more, but can’t get anything done.  Sure, anyone can mount a rhetorical challenge to the principles outlined above.  Anyone can simply dismiss them.  But an awful lot of people have simply dismissed Bill Bennett and Antonin Scalia over the years; there’s a whole segment of the left that knows Bennett as “the guy who gambles.”  Dismissal awaits us all, at the hands of some of our fellows.  No one in the realm of political ideas occupies an unassailable position – and I’m not even convinced that voters are persuaded by elegant arguments nearly as much as they are by evidence of character.

Palin spent her 17-year career in Alaska politics refusing to cave, gloss over corruption, or go along to get along.  After losing the lieutenant governor race she was appointed to head the oil and gas commission, and ended up resigning because of the corruption and cronyism that she was powerless to combat.  The problem ran through the Alaska GOP to the governor’s office, and in confronting it, Palin took as much friendly fire as she did opportunistic buckshot from the Democrats.  The episode was obviously an important one for her, and anyone who wants to understand her decision to resign as governor this summer should start with reading about her tenure on the oil and gas commission (on pages 93 to 100).  At one point she records this telling mental passage:  “… I thought, This is it.  I’m taking on the party and putting it in writing.  My career is over.  Well, if I die, I die.”

She would use these words from the Biblical story of Esther again in explaining her decision to step down in July 2009 (a decision that becomes clearer when you really get a sense of how thoroughly Alaska state business was being disrupted by the endless, utterly frivolous ethics complaints.  By mid-2009 Palin was unable to function as governor anyway).

But as governor, Palin also accomplished the unprecedented in forcing ExxonMobil to begin drilling a package of long-held leases the company had been sitting on for decades.  She prevailed on the legislature to agree to a competitively-bid contract for building the new gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48, as well as to state regulation that would discourage idling the infrastructure, but would also encourage industry investment, without presuming to set its direction.  Only time will tell how well the provisions for transparency in Palin’s Alaska Gas Inducement Act (AGIA) actually come through for the state, but it was a remarkable political victory to get them incorporated at all.  Building a pipeline in Alaska without the project being handled non-competitively, in back rooms, is very unusual.

It is a fair criticism of Palin’s background that it is very Alaska-oriented, and that Alaska is unique in some ways that matter to concepts of governance.  The one that leaps out at an economic libertarian is the idea enshrined in the state constitution of the people being the owners of the natural resources, in the sense of being owed revenues from them by business.  I spent many of my early years in an oil and gas state too, and I can tell you, except for some Oklahoma Indian tribes, the people of Oklahoma don’t receive revenues from oil and gas.  The folks in the business – individual mineral-rights owners, equipment companies, drillers, refiners, investors, employees – get income and profits from them, and the state levies taxes.

It is interesting from this perspective to follow Palin’s account of her dealings with the oil and gas industry.  The vulnerability of this public ownership concept to corruption is, in theory, enormous; what may surprise us more than the corruption there has been is the corruption there hasn’t.  Imagine this concept in place in Illinois, for example.  But Palin’s approach was the opposite of her predecessors’:  rather than carving out her own little piece of the back-room action, she proposed to take the people’s interest seriously, and represent it honestly, demanding true competition between aspiring contractors, public transparency, and mechanisms to hold the industry accountable to the people, very much like the accountability of publicly-traded companies to boards and stockholders.

This seems to me like a key to Palin.  There are a lot of conservatives out here, myself included, who would have a hard time getting past the un-conservatism of the public-ownership concept.  We weren’t, in general, raised from our earliest years in Alaska.  I’m not sure I will ever see this concept of public ownership in the way that seems natural to Alaskans – and I can think of at least 40-some other states it wouldn’t work in.  But all that said, Palin’s unique contribution has been to operate within such a system with integrity and public accountability.

She is not, apparently, the kind of conservative who would concentrate on changing the state constitution to rid it of the public-ownership concept, as a sort of systemic fix to the problem of government-business cronyism.  Her version of not “going along,” in this matter, was to enforce integrity measures on the system that existed.

I can see how some conservatives would regard this as intellectually limited.  Palin doesn’t make any real arguments for the Alaska system, she simply outlines it as the starting point for the state executive.  I imagine its origins lie with the preference of Alaska’s native peoples for village-based traditionalism, and the sense of having collective stewardship of the land and its resources.  We should not too readily dismiss, I think, the apparent compatibility for Palin of this concept with her commitment to free enterprise.  Given Alaska’s character, I’m not sure what value there would be in trying to make a change as radical as transforming the whole idea of resource ownership.  One thing this aspect of Alaska and Palin does highlight is the power of a federal union to offer protection for such a quiescent system against outside predators.  In few other nations on earth would Alaskans have the option of being Alaskan, and avoid being picked over by vultures.

One thing I am confident of, after reading Going Rogue, is that Palin would have no trouble at all understanding the argument I have just laid out.  The impression I have is that she would – wisely – not let herself get bogged down in it:  in wondering what was ultimately right, and what would be the absolute best kind of system to set up.  Conservatives have their own tendency to try to immanentize the eschaton in this regard:  to seek the better at the expense of the good enough.  Frankly, I would much rather elect leaders who aren’t fully convinced that Way A of organizing humanity is better than Way B, but whose priority is to just stop all the unnecessary organizing of humanity while we are still so far from figuring it out.  Just ceasing to heap new regulations, taxes, and fees on me, and then going on to roll some back, would be good enough to start with.

The quality Palin has is trustworthiness in this regard.  She is different from everyone else because of it.  I wasn’t especially thrilled with any of the GOP possibilities in 2008:  sorta liked Thompson, was alarmed by Huckabee’s populism, could have lived with Giuliani but wasn’t overly inspired, voted for Romney in the primary although I have my reservations about him.  What I would have expected from none of these politicians is a principled stand against enlarging government.  The same goes for McCain, whom I of course voted for in the general election.  All of these candidates, even Thompson, had a comfort with the overregulated, financially unsustainable status quo that promised only “more of same”; I went into the election knowing that choosing a Republican would be merely choosing not to be dragged down the path toward socialism as fast as with a Democrat in the Oval Office.

Palin is not a status quo politician.  Her record makes that clear.  As with Reagan, I would consider it reasonable to expect her to behave differently from all the rest of them.  If you want a good outline of the case for her in this regard, read Going Rogue.  Ultimately, I think the pull of Palin on so many people boils down to this, and is generated in large part by her obvious joy in simply being an ordinary American.  She is not a pack-up-and-head-to-Washington politician.  She is happy where she is.  She loves her family and is fully immersed in its life, in the cycle of work and providing for daily subsistence, of raising children and celebrating their passages, cheering victories and healing wounds.  She is the people; she knows what she wants from government, and proposes to hold government to that, rather than using it, in the manner of the professional politician, as a stepping stone to become something else.

Going Rogue is suffused with vignettes of ordinary, quintessentially American life.  There is a lot about Todd, about parents, friends, life at work, life in the community, and of course, about the Palin children.  The most American note struck in the whole book had me laughing out loud, though, and it perfectly encapsulates what so many people love about Sarah Palin.  She writes at some length about Trig, the Down syndrome baby she had while in the governor’s office, and about the remarkable response of the disabled to her candidacy for vice president.  She was deeply affected by their response, but manages to write movingly about it without becoming saccharine.

There is a uniquely American freedom from existential resentment in her conclusion on this topic, an un-ironic appeal to humor and grace that few politicians get away with:

It was after meeting all these amazing people that Todd and I proudly displayed the bumper sticker a very cool group from Arizona sent us, which read, MY KID HAS MORE CHROMOSOMES THAN YOUR KID!

It is a political posture, to believe in taking the life that comes to you and making something good out of it, without feeling sorry for yourself, or theorizing that the whole world has to be reorganized before you can be happy, or before anyone else has a right to.  After reading Going Rogue, this Optimistic Conservative is ready to hear more from Sarah Palin.

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Responses

  1. Optimist , beat me to it! Only as far as the clothes lady showing up with the big bucks wardrobe. Was saying to my friend ( still registered as a Democrat ) that if all the 2.5 million books were bought and read and each reader told only one other person of their reactions to the book, that book could influence about 1 in every 60 Americans. Loved the part where the Chi Coms were bidding on the AGIA but lost out due to incomplete application papers. Good to know Palin isn’t married to Dick Blum.

  2. Thanks so much for a really full and exhausting and profound review. I havn’t read her book yet and maybe won’t. I hope you are right about Sarah, that she could be a Harry Truman kinda President, scoffed at by the cultural elite, but courageous as a lion.

    It does bother me that she is so hated by so many supposedly well educated people, especially women, and I wonder if she can win over at least some of them.

    I don’t know much about General David Petraeus. He does have the West Point & Harvard pedigree, military buffs say he’s a great general, he’s the son of an immigrant and he has a kind of natural gravitas which blasted idiots like Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer right out of their phony disdain. The more they attacked him, the worse they looked.

    What do you think about him as a Presidential Contender?

  3. I probably should have said exhaustive rather than exhausting!

    Sorry, Captain Dee.

  4. Zoltan: I left the Democratic party over Obama’s nomination and joined the Republican party over Palin’s nomination. Hate to say it but a lot of “well educated women” have so little confidence in the choices that they made that Palin scares them. No matter how well educated or beautiful or wealthy these gals are, any one of them would probably chuck it all in to know that at some point in their lives the guy stood by them through it all. Palin also reminds me of Truman.

    Optimist: the book, _Sarah_, by Kaylene Johnson has as an appendix, Palin’s inaugural address as governor ( Dec. 4 ,2006 ). Palin goes into some length about the Alaska Constitutional Convention.Probably worth your time to see if that address is on the Internet. Got the impression from reading this address that Alaska’s unique constitution resonates big with the average Alaskan.

  5. I have not read the book, although I’m about 200th in the reservation line at the Seattle Library for the 25 copies it purchased. It sounds, from your posting/ that there is much of substance in the book.

    Like you, I voted for McCain — one had to be delusional to do otherwise — over Obama. And I probably would have still voted for McCain, even if Barbra Streisand had been his VP. So I was delighted when John chose Palin. While I thought the “howdy, by gosh and by golly” bit was overdone, I liked her enthusiasm and style.

    And, knowing that Obama was likely to win unless something broke the “hopeychangey trance” that had afflicted otherwise sane people, I hoped that Palin might serve as that game-changing force. And, until McCain’s people did their destructive prepping of her, there was some chance that she would revive a moribund campaign.

    Further, since I had to listen to my far Left friends alternate between gloating that this Adlai Stevenson/Jimmy Carter wet dream was going to be the next president and their “bracing themselves” agains Obama’s losing by declaring that most Americans were secret racists (unlike themselves, natch) and would vote against him after lying to the pollsters, I was also delighted by the way in which the very idea of Palin made them livid.

    I mean, I always thought that one would be happy when one’s political opponent made a strategic error. So why weren’t my Leftie friends saying what I would say if Obama had chosen Bill Ayers as his running mate — “you’ve just blown a sure thing, you bozo”? Instead, they felt compelled to lecture me on how “irresponsible” McCain was for choosing Palin — as though they otherwise had had an open mind about who they might vote for.

    By the way, I’d vote for her for President in 2012 in a heartbeat, for the very reasons that you identify: she believes in sound conservative principles and she has the courage to implement those values.

    Now the purpose of this long prologue is to explain where I’m coming from, as they say, when I suggest that you are projecting a lot — of your own hopes and aspirations — when you implicitly argue that Palin can ever be a viable candidate for President. Sadly, she can never win. She could be a great person to get the vote out for a conservative candidate. But she can’t win.

    It’s not really her fault. Granted, she overplayed the “I’m just a simple country girl” bit — even as she tore the hapless Biden apart in their debate. But that type of cutesiness grates in short order.

    Primarily, I believe her radioactivity is due to the McCain campaign’s terrible decision to keep her under wraps and then to play Pygmalion, trying to stuff Beltway-speak into her head. The keeping her hidden only fueled the MSM’s self adulation that they had a duty to “expose” her — they were going to be biased against her anyway, but now they felt enobled by trashing her. If she had been sent out for interviews immediately and told to tell the truth: “I don’t know all the policy “answers” but I’m a quick learner and I have some basic principles that will be crucial when the real and unforeseeable crises arise,” then the American swing-voters (the so-called independents) would have sympathized with her and perhaps have turned on the MSM as well as seeing how an equally inexperienced Obama was getting a free ride from the media based on his “smoothness” (which, as we’ve now seen, is more a pathological indifference to anything beyond his own ego).

    Instead, the MSM and Saturday Night Live were able to demonize her as a bimbo whom even McCain’s campaign didn’t trust to be let out in public.

    The other reason why she will never be a successful candidate is the corollary of why she becamse such a polular figure so quickly with conservatives. Just as the conservatives immediately sensed that she personified conservative principles and the will to achieve them, so too the Left elite immediately sensed the same and immediately began denouncing, marginalizing and demonizing her. And they will do so again, with fair success, if she runs for President. Or, as the spinmeisters say, “her negatives are too strong.” Like it or not, fair or not, it’s true.

    This is a shame, of course. But life is not fair. And we need to focus on finding, and promoting, a true conservative but one who can win — which means someone who has the personality, like Reagan, to stand up to the MSM but not frighten the independents.

    Palin can, and will, have a powerful voice in the policy debates that will arise in the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Indeed, her voice will be accepted by the independents, even though, if she herself were running, many of them would not vote for her.

    One final observation: I don’t know what it is, but Palin drives many women — mostly liberal women but some women who view themselves as independents — nuts. It’s some weird sexual/political jealousy, I think. Whatever the reason, it will really hurt her ability to get the independent votes she would need for election.

  6. Is it true that Todd is so hot that whenever he speaks before a group of women they start throwing their panties at him?

  7. Zoltan, let’s get real here! Guys who stand by gals who carry Downs kids to full term are worth it all no matter what the guy looks like. I hope the Palins make a ton of money with the book. On the campaign trail they went to the dedication of a group home for Downs citizens funded by the family of a young Downs boy. If our citizens want to go the way of the Third Reich, good luck. The Palins, as a family, chose to take another route through the forest.

  8. I like this Orcas 4 Palin image, dude.

    I woke up this morning (a blessing in itself: what a wonderful life!) with the new realization that it really does not matter what the friggin’ intoolektuals think of Sarah. It doesn’t matter that she’s not as sophisticated as Reagan and that Alaska is not California.

    I just hope she reads our Captain’s fine blog here. She’s a Blue Star Mom for crying out loud. She’s got a son in combat. She and only she could get on national TV and tell our nouveau prez., Mister Peanut, to STOP using our military men and women as photo op props, and start helping them WIN.

    Screw the intooklektuals, I say. They will probably never get tired of their conceit and folly. It’s the vast middle of decent people who matter. If Sarah can continue to appeal to them, then she can be our President.

  9. Orcas — thanks for the tip on the Alaska convention references. I’ll check on that (although Mom is coming this week and there’s travel ahead of us, so time will be a factor through early Dec). I do think it’s quite correct that Alaskans are happy with their constitution and its public-ownership provision. That’s not a “Western tradition” feature of law, which is what makes me think it originates with the traditions of the indigenous Alaskan peoples. Hawaii’s constitution also has some provisions about land ownership that reflect, in a somewhat different way, accommodation to indigenous Islanders.

    And yes, I got a kick out of the Chinese not completing their paperwork. It’s a good thing Palin was in office for the decisions about this pipeline — the unwarranted trust with which our national politicians handle China over things like this hasn’t been doing the US any favors.

    Zoltan — “exhausting” will do! Believe it or not, this review was over 5000 words. I was originally thinking 2000 or so, but found I didn’t want to leave anything out, because it’s important to convey the extent to which Palin writes about principle and policy in the book. That, for me, required setting the stage with reflections on other big-name conservatives.

    Of course, what most snap-reviewers are focusing on is the behind-the-scenes dish about the campaign. The wardrobe thing, the Atkins Diet bar thing — it’s ridiculous what people have to let themselves in for. Palin was especially vulnerable, I think, because she came from the remote place she did, and wasn’t hemmed about with the protective network of Washington-oriented politicians, or governors like those of California, Texas, Florida, New York, etc. There was no one to wield a hammer over the campaign in terms of how it treated her, so she was very much at the mercy of McCain’s handlers. I imagine that was a lesson learned for her.

    Sleepless — my apologies that it took so long to “approve” your post. Whenever people use different email addresses I have to give a one-time approval. Anything you post with that address from now on will come up automatically.

    Your points about the hurdles Palin would face in a national election are, of course, completely accurate. It would take a sea-change in the character of an electoral majority, I think, to overcome those hurdles. A whole lot of people would have to be willing to ignore the media’s near-demonic attacks on her, and vote for her in the primaries in spite of the distaste and rejection of influential conservatives. She wouldn’t have the backing of the GOP until she had shown the ability to win big primaries.

    But of course, a lot of that sounds like how Reagan surged to the fore in 1980. He had to overcome the establishment GOP to get the nomination, something a lot of people have now forgotten because he did have so much popular support among the rank and file.

    Zoltan’s sentiment is one I keep hearing over and over. People are increasingly willing to simply ignore the self-appointed intellectuals — in large part because the message of the intellectuals is thoroughly compatible with the unsustainable path of statism we are on. “Programs” and “incentives” can’t fix the mess we’re in: only the restoration of liberty can. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to say that government IS there to serve the people. If the people want roads, the government should lay roads. If the people want national defense, the government should provide national defense.

    If the people DON’T want school lunch programs run by the government, or mandatory health insurance programs, or government control of the thermostats in their homes, then government should not try to inflict those things. Government isn’t there to whip the people into shape, it’s there to be ordered around, and whacked in the head — hard — when it gets out of line.

  10. Am about 3/4 through GR – well into the section that the vast majority of reviewers have focused on, but well past the section that even many sympathizers tend to ignore. I therefore appreciate Opticon’s focus on the first half of the book all the more. To use Mark Levin’s term, the Statists are largely disinclined to recognize as politially substantive anything that isn’t phrased in Statist terms. So of course most reviewers, unlike yourself and Rush, don’t recognize the book as substantive – even under the decidedly uncertain presumption that they did more than skim it.

    SiS, I have to say that your analysis of SP’s political potential is decidedly superficial – based as it is entirely on rather trivial and past-due campaign image-making and opinion sampling. It gives SP something to undo, but the public was always in a position not just to give but in fact to demand a second act from her. That second act has begun, and rather smashingly.

    That’s not a prediction that she will run and win, but I don’t see anyone on the right who is better-positioned – or who, for that matter, has better reasons to run. It’s also a highly debatable question whether defeat with a Palin would be worse than victory with some Brooks/Frum-approved moderate.

  11. meant to say something like: “but the public was always in a position not just to give her a second chance but to demand a second act from her.”

    • Can we demand that she finish out the term of the office for which she ran , she won, and she quit?

      • You can demand anything you want to demand. Whether anyone cares or should care is something else.

  12. Pretty much agree with everything here, other than SiS’ view that ultimately Palin is unelectable… would just add two points: Palin is so popular and so reviled because people intuitively recognize that she embodies what is known as “the right stuff”.

    in the most important of ways, she is another Reagan.

    Palin’s visceral reaction among liberal women is due to the ‘new brand’ of feminism she embodies; a strong woman who actually likes men and who embraces the traditional female roles, as being an important part of who she is but not exclusionary to being just as confident and competent outside the home as any man because gender has nothing to do with either.

    The always outstanding Victor Davis Hanson;

    “Feminists are enraged that her can-do, have a Down’s Syndrome child in her 40s, shoot-moose persona will be used as a paradigm of a liberated women. She is quite attractive, fertile, and married to a Jack-Armstrong 19th-century man.

    Her success as an independent female, who was an up-from-the-bootstraps small-town council member, mayor, state regulator and governor, is antithetical to doctrinaire feminism. The latter devolved into a political and grievance-based creed. It is often whiny, and increasingly dominated by single, childless shrill elites. Many try to equate their own unhappiness in matters of family and sex into some sort of cosmic complaint against male patriarchy — as a way of leveraging influence, access, money, and power or simply justifying now regrettable life choices made in their 20’s and 30’s.

    Feminism is not about ensuring that Dorothy at K-Mart is not fired because she is female. It is more about an upper-middle-class Dedi Wilson-Reynolds getting to the top of the university food chain, law firm, or government bureaucracy, on the assumption that her gender deserves compensation, in the manner of being non-white or foreign-born or non-Christian.”

    Nor is this assessment of Palin limited to just conservatives. The always thought provoking and very rare for a liberal, logically rigorous Camille Paglia;

    Her reaction to the Palin VP announcement:
    “Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.”

    “We may be seeing the first woman president. As a Democrat, I am reeling . . . That was the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. [Sarah] Palin is as tough as nails… Good Lord, we had barely 12 hours of Democrat optimism… It was a stunningly timed piece of PR by the Republicans.” — Camille Paglia

    • Geoffrey, thanks for the VDH , Paglia quotes. Forty plus years after the murder of Robert F. Kennedy the Democrat party is dominated by women like B.Boxer. As a young person ,I was a big RFK fan. So I thought that in the intervening years the Democrats would produce strong male leaders , probably of Mexican-American ethnicity, the party did not. The party is run by women like Boxer. Paglia has been writing for years that women like Boxer can only exist in a civilization protected by male police departments and male military. So these women rule by threat of law suit. The accumulated debts of personal ethics complaints/lawsuits forced Palin out of office in Alaska. Another lesbian who likes Palin is the talk show host, Tammy Bruce. Palin just happens to represent today the inevitable conflict of who will rule us, men who defend their rule over us by lawsuits or the even more laughable women whose only defense against the unwilling public is lawsuits. Elizabeth the First of England held on to the throne because she gave the English people the country that they wanted. The Democrats running the party today are beginning to defy human anthropology. Scary.

      • I was a fan of Jack Kennedy and a liberal for many years after that. In the years after RFK, the democratic party simply continued the trend that McGovern represented, until today there are few conservative democrats left. Of the millions of women like Boxer, few if any acknowledge, even to themselves, the truth of Orwell’s observation, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night, only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

        Elizabeth the First of England, Katherine Hepburn, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin are simply generational examples of strong personalities for whom gender was mere circumstance.

  13. Maybe the idea of limited government is best served by someone so committed to the idea that she thinks that being elected governor doesn’t include a commitment to govern.

    • A cheap shot unworthy of you, fuster? Or simply par for the course?

      • Even I don’t know. I’m troubled by the resignation and can’t understand why anyone would elect her to an office certain to be vastly more difficult to manage after she failed to complete her term as governor.

    • As JED stated in her post, Palin was inundated with so many frivolous lawsuits, that she could no longer do her job. In Alaska, the Governor must pay for lawsuits out of her own pocket…and Palin’s legal costs had already risen to $500k with no end in sight. Under those conditions is it really fair to label her with the label of quitter?

      Given the circumstances, to make that assessment seems to me to be profoundly unfair.

      I’d also point out that quitters do not, in the women’s state basketball championship game, score the winning basket and, do it with a stress fracture in her ankle…

      • As I said, Geoffrey, I really don’t know if it’s fair.
        What I’ am sure of is that it’s more than a bit troubling that she would fail to finish. It can’t possibly be good that she didn’t fulfill the term and I can’t find it reasonable to think that she could be expected to perform well in a national office that offers constant pressure orders of magnitude greater than the governorship of Alaska’s half-million people.

      • We’ve discussed this at length at the ZC blog, cluck, and I referred you both to my own earlier dicussion at yet a third location, as well as to Palin’s own explanations, including the ones she offers in the book.

        I’ll happily concede that the resignation may turn into a problem for her if and when she next runs for office. However, if you consider her predicament leading up to the resignation, and the spectacle before us all now, I don’t see why it should be difficult to understand, at all. Her persona – and all of the attention it attracted, especially from her enemies – had grown too big for the governor’s office.

        There IS a hole in her story, however, in my opinion. Her language is oddly passive and atypically uninformative about the faulty ethics complaint system that she blames in large part for forcing her out. If it’s so deeply flawed as to require the resignation of a governor, surely she could have made a bigger point of demanding its reform. Now that I’ve finished the book, it’s a subject I find myself still unsatisfied on.

        I think she needs both to explain the situation more succinctly and address the impression that she used the untenable situation as a pretext for leaving, while leaving the flawed system behind her as unfinished business. In her story, the system was bad enough to destroy her, but not bad enough to require fixing. I would like her to be more forthcoming – or perhaps more self-aware – about her real priorities and motivations.

  14. I have friends who are R’s but don’t have much of an opinion of Palin. I think/hope that they would vote for her if she became the R nominee, but I’m not sure at this point. I think they’ve fallen trap to the media narrative that she’s some undereducated hick from the outback. (Keep in mind that I live in Boston, not Montana). I try to explain that this reputation of Palin is mostly due to the demagoguery of the media. The left always tries to vilify those on the right who they fear (GWB, Cheney, Rove, Palin).

    I think she would be great in the WH – mostly because of her of her principles. I feel like if she were confronted with a situation that she wasn’t immediately familiar with that she’d find the right answer to it anyway. And her “govt hands off” views seem to fit in very well with the current public backlash against govt intrusion/spending. She might be our best shot at having a govt that recedes rather than expands (with a corresponding public mentality taking hold too hopefully). That alone might might be worth electing her. Last but not least, it would be such a joy to see the left and the feminists go apoplectic over the fact that the first woman Prez wouldn’t be from the D party.

    “He took on the air traffic controllers’ union and prevailed – something conservatives have never, on the whole, thought of viscerally as a triumph..”

    After RR died, I asked an older liberal co-worker what he thought the best and worst things RR did. Another co-worker chimed in that the worst he did was fire the air-traffic controllers. I retorted that that might have been the BEST thing he ever did. It’s great to see a Prez have simple values and stick to them. The ATControllers were forbidden by law to strike, they went on strike anyway, they should be fired. BTW, the liberal older co-worker mentioned that RR fooled everyone into thinking that he was intelligent. Classic lefty. Can’t remember if that was supposed to be the “best” or “worst” thing he did. Palin might be the closest thing we have to a RR type.

    I was looking on an overseas betting site (where you can bet on almost anything). It has Palin at 10:1 to win the next Prez election (Obama, Romney and Barbour(??) are ahead of her). Patraeus is at 40:1. I think I like that bet for the odds! Paris Hilton is 1000:1. God help us if that ever came in. I think I might prefer Paris though compared to the current occupant.

  15. I must persist in my sorrowful conclusion that, if Palin is somehow nominated in 2012, she will lose.

    1. The demonized image of her that the Dems were successful in imposing will not go away in 3 years. 2016 or 3020, I suppose, might be enough time, but I have my doubts.

    2. I agree that she was smart to resign from the Alaska governorship. She was just going to be ambushed by the Dem legislature. Why not break free, write a book, become an independent millionaire, improve her media exposure in a more neutral setting, and join the many conservative critics who have the easiest job on the planet — criticizing the most foolish Administration that we’ve seen since Jimmy Carter worked his magic. That said, resigning did create a problem — Fuster’s observation — that she somehow needs to overcome. I’m not sure what she’ll do — perhaps be a Cabinet officer in what I pray will be a Republican administration in 2012 — but she can find an accomplishment that would nullify the quiter label.

    3. While I agree that her appeal is similar to Reagan’s, I think the comaprison with the Gipper fails thereafter — and may be the reason others on the blog are so starry-eyed about Palin’s 2012 chances. Remember that, when Reagan overcame the Republican establishement, etc., he had been a very successful California governor.

    4. I still don’t think that the preceding bloggers here appreciate the vitriolic opposition that many women have to Palin. Again, there are many possible reasons, some of which are enumerated by previous bloggers. But the point still is that, in the short term of the next 3 years, that vitriolic opposition cannot be effectively lanced. [Nice point, Orcas, about the feminization of the Democrat party. That may explain why, just as many women dislike Palin, many Reagan Democrat men love her.]

    5. Two things we can all agree on: (1) Victor David Hanson is one of the best national columnists around (only Charles Krauthammer and Mark Steyn can compare with him). (2) Camille Paglia is often insightful, always independent and rarely predictable.

    • “when Reagan overcame the Republican establishment, etc., he had been a very successful California governor.”

      Palin was an even more successful Governor, just prior to her introduction as McCain’s VP, her approval rating with Alaska voters was in the mid 80’s…

      The vitriolic opposition that many liberal women have for her is a problem but with her recent approval ratings up to 47% and trending higher, it may well prove to be a surmountable obstacle. Clearly, independents are reevaluating her.

      She has the time necessary to continue to educate herself and thus neutralize her ‘negatives’.

      • One thing I think we should do is stop the comparisons of Sarah Palin to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth the First (for God’s sake!).

        She was governor of Alaska for part of one term and before that mayor of a small town. More qualification and better experience than President Obama, for sure; but not to be compared with Reagan’s full term as governor of a state larger than something like all but nine nations in the world.

        Reagan also had something that Sarah Palin doesn’t (at least yet) have. From thirty plus years of public speaking and answering questions he had developed an almost unique knack for turning aside a question for which he either didn’t know the answer or for which he didn’t want to give and answer. We hate that sort of behaviour in politicians; but it’s actually a very necessary skill for both a candidate and for a president because nobody can have full knowledge of all the potential issues a president is assumed to know the way most of us think we know breakfast cereals because we’ve tried a few and like a couple.

        I saw Sarah Palin on Fox News last week handling fairly soft ball questions. She is far from being Ronald Reagan in that regard. I have hopes that she may develop; but, of course, as she develops she will inevitably be tempted by the Washington establishment. . .

  16. JED: Petraeus!

    What do you think about him and his chances???

  17. Superb review by OC. Wasn’t going to read GR (love Plain but not enough time, many great items unread, etc…,) but now think it just may be worth the effort. Associate myself with most of the comments and really have little to add but will contribute my 2 (progressively more worthless – I’m thinking of going Euro) American Cents.

    Firstly, I’m very much afraid I share Sleepless’ concerns about Palin’s electability. I appreciate OC’s and CK MacLeod’s responses to such and do not doubt that she can rehabilitate herself sufficiently to loose by a narrower margin than McCain in 2008. Still, for her to defeat Obama his and the the Dem Congress’ policies will have to have an even more devastating effect by 2012 – they are certain to have the most deplorable results in years beyond that – than I anticipate they will. (In this respect a Republican takeover of the House in 2010 might only muddy the waters and unhelpfully diffuse responsibility. Still I hope to see such a takeover because I am convinced at this point that Obama is far too ideologically rigid, narcissistic and insular to be able to effectively pivot to the middle and the greater the limitations on the damage the Democrats can do in the meantime the better.) Absent such consequences, however, I regret to say I do not see her getting past 270 in 2012. This is unfortunate for the reasons noted bellow.

    Secondly, for the most part I share OC’s perspective on the 2008 field (needless to say they would all be marathons better than der Barry). As a New Yorker I have the greatest appreciation for Giuliani (even as a kid was impressed by his hard charging ways as the U.S. Attorney in New York – which certainly speaks well of his ability to generate publicity – even though in retrospect I am less than entirely enthusiastic about all of his activities there) and his ability to govern effectively in the most challenging of political environments and make a HUGE difference in the lives many millions of people by the effective implementation of conservative principles. However, as a volunteer in his campaign I can hardly express the extent to which I was underwhelmed by at least some members of his staff and even some of his performances. Romney (who appears to be the front runner, for what its worth at this point in the process) showed the worst possible instincts in his quest for universal health care in Massachusetts. To be sure the system was badly compromised by the huge Dem majorities in the legislature and his successor in The Office. Still, this quest illustrated the most appalling acceptance of the worst Big Government premises (and can, I think be easily differentiated from Palin’s pragmatic willingness to work within Alaska’s distinctive oil ownership structure). Sometimes one just has to realize that the political environment is not suitable to a pragmatic compromise remotely compatible conservative values and limited government. For this reason, were their political prospects equal I would be leaning toward Palin subject to further review. Unfortunately, I am afraid at this point they are not. (Again, just to be clear, my reservations about Romney are in part a product of desperation for someone more appreciative of the practical necessity for limited government – in the manner described by OC in her review. Again, I concur that Romney would have been far preferable to McCain, to say nothing of our present POTUS. The hostility toward him in the Giuliani campaign was disturbing. Some of them seemed more interested in having Romney loose than Rudy win0.

    Thirdly, there is no question that people like Scalia are routinely and often viciously dismissed by at least many among the elite. One of my professors in Law School, a class mate of Nino at Harvard, occasionally broached his name. In most instances a very bright, rational man his approach in these cases was eerily reminiscent of Chris Matthews when talking about Palin. To be sure, some conservative elites mange to ingratiate themselves with enough of the left wing powers that be to put themselves in positions where they can do some good. The most prominent example of this phenomenon, of course is the Chief Justice who in more than 25 years in D.C. managed to stay in sufficiently good graces with people through the political spectrum to make his confirmation rather routine (at least to the extent such things can be routine – we have to remember a 10 seat R majority, etc… and he still absurdly managed to get only 78 votes). In office, however, he has been as principled, brilliant and – within the limits imposed by the composition of the Court – effective a conservative as could reasonably have been hoped for and it speaks exceptionally well for his character and the depth of his principles that he was able to remain a conservative while working his way up the ladder in D.C.

    Finally, there are places where great intellectual gifts and accomplishment can play an important role and one would be hard pressed to identify such role than the dissents in Boumedene. Here the kind of logical rigour and depth identified by Pete Whener have a huge role to play and a Harriet Miers (whose conservatism was in any even in doubt) could not possibly hope to be as effective as a Sam Alito. This is emphatically not consonant with the proposition that John Roberts would make a better candidate or President than Sarah Palin (that E.J. Dionne, obscenely, suggested that Palin was a more irresponsible choice than Miers speaks rather explicitly to his impressive shallowness and bigotry).

    • “Still, for her to defeat Obama his and the the Dem Congress’ policies will have to have an even more devastating effect by 2012 – they are certain to have the most deplorable results in years beyond that – than I anticipate they will.”

      This is the intangible ‘wild’ card. Obama’s ‘policies’ are going to devastate democratic candidates and incumbent’s future prospects, the question is how soon? A highly significant factor in the calculus of probability is the trend downward in both Obama and the democrats approval ratings with independents. This is despite all the MSM can do to run interference for Obama and the dems. Those ratings are dropping like a stone and ironically, the more success the democrats have in passing legislation, the higher the negatives will rise.

      That is because everything the dems are doing is guaranteed to make things far worse for the average hard working voter. Liberals ignorance of the operative principles of econ 101 and the counter-productive consequences of a foreign policy based in appeasement, in no way obviates the law of unintended consequences. Once again liberals shall learn that reality’s a bitch.

      There is much truth in the observation; now that the democrats have to deliver, voting present and mere criticism is no longer an option. They have to make things better, they undeniably have the majority and can enact whatever policies they deem best. If they fail, they will be judged at best as an incompetent joke and at worst as dangerous fools. In governance, either is the kiss of death.

      By Nov. of 2012 there is a strong possibility that the negative perceptions will be stratospheric. By 2016 the democratic parties ‘chickens’ will have come home to roost.

      God help us all.

  18. Yikes. I was sure I closed those italics up there but it seems not. Sorry.

    In any case I just wanted to add that Palin is constantly beaten up by the libs and some conservatives for whining and playing victim. While I think there is a kernel of validity to this criticism it is worth keeping in mind the obscene deluge of abuse that has been dumped on her and the necessity of responding to such with some vigor. Failure to do can have devastating results and illustrated by the case of one George W. Bush (although even he did get beaten up this badly). Moreover one can’t help but notice the tendency among the libs, including most conspicuously The One himself, at the slightest semblance of criticism.

    • FOX reports that the perception of 61% of voters is that Palin has been treated unfairly by the press and her critics. Whatever her resume’s ‘qualifications’ for VP, she was more qualified than Obama and most know it.

      Beating up her children? That’s simply beyond the pale and only the most partisan can condone it.

      Conversely, liberals perception that women are a victim class works against the attacks, for why are they beating up a woman? In the minds of fair-minded liberals, that she’s a conservative can only partially compensate for the vitriol. Finally, Palin doesn’t fit the meme. In the long run that’s a fatal flaw in the categorization of Palin that liberals are trying to maintain.

      In time, just as it did with Reagan, an inaccurate meme cannot withstand scrutiny. Especially when, just as with Carter, the American public is saddled with an obvious mistake.

  19. “5. Two things we can all agree on: (1) Victor David Hanson is one of the best national columnists around (only Charles Krauthammer and Mark Steyn can compare with him).”

    Couldn’t agree with you more SiS.

    The R’s have a knack of nominating whoever is “next in line” (Reagan, Bush 41, Dole before Bush 43). I’d say that’s Romney right now. He may have a hard time shaking that health bill he signed in MA, but I bet he will have learned his lesson and do no such thing if elected Prez. I get the impression that Palin’s principles would have made her disinclined to sign such a bill as governor – even if she was governor of MA. She may have the negatives as noted above by a couple of people. However, if Obama & Co continue on this statist path and manage to ram their liberal agenda down our throats, I wonder if Palin’s worldview will appeal to enough of the electorate to get her into office. It wouldn’t surprise me. A vote for Palin might be a case of the voters rebelling against Obama & Co. Not unlike how a vote for Obama was a rebellion against GWB & Co.

  20. VDH is too wordy. He needs an editor.

  21. CKM — sorry your 6:37 AM comment took so long. How many email addresses do y’all folks have, anyway?

    Better responses later to questions and comments. Gotta run to the airport.

  22. She arose out of the primary when the state GOP imploded over the cozy pipeline deal, which caused the DNR (think Interior Department)
    to quit, the Governor appointing his own daughter
    to the Senate seat, and the sludge pot generated
    by William Allen. Not to mention an atty gen, who had to step down for ethical issuesThe ethics reform was her baby, although she did work with
    the Democrats. She has been the only one subject
    to it, in nearly three years, although there are
    public officials up there with verifiable conflicts of interests who should be subject to it. Even though
    she is very coy about it, her very forceful statements suggest to me, that she will run next
    time, I also think she is much less naive to insist
    on a comprehensive ethics program, which much
    like Campaign Finance Reform, boomeranged on her.

  23. JED:

    Petraeus!

    When your journey permits, please ‘splain what you think of him. I certainly hope he would remember not to call Senator Boxer “Mam.”

  24. Oe doesn’t really know where to start with this rambling eulogy.

    But a few preliminary comments on the opinions our kind host propounds as if they were received wisdom.

    Britai is’t “overwhelmed by welfareism”. She has a fewer percentage of her population unemployed or on welfare than does the US – and certainly far fewer in poverty. A cursory glace at OECD stats would have corrected this incorrect assumption.

    Thatcher may have de-nationalized certain industries – but with less success than the same process in France and Germany, The de-nationalized British car industry went belly-up, while in France and Germany de-nationalized Renault and Volkswagen thrived (Renault eve took over failing Japanese car-maker, Nissan, and made it profitable). Privatized British Rail was a mess of disorganization and part of it had to be rescued by re-nationalization. DB and SNCF remain nationalized, superb, and profitable.

    Rega might have doe some good things (mainly built on a recovery which was already beginnig uder Carter), but his administration was completely responsible for the de-regulation of the banks (replaced by “self-regulation” and “light-touch regulation”) which is at the very root of the current fiacial crisis. Those who try to blame Clinton, Bush(s), or Obama, for the present mess are looking in the wrong place.

    And so to Palin:

    If Palin represents anything it is an undercurrent of anti-intellectual resentment that surfaces in our country every time there is an economic downturn. “College educated elites” (A Limburg reference in a recent TV comment to Palin’s critics) are the bete noire of a minority constituency enraged that an educated black man has stolen “their” country. (This shower doesn’t seem to have noticed that Palin herself had a college education – Perhaps they give her a pass because, unlike Obama, her grades were distinctly mediocre. Their problem may not be college per se, but doing well at college!)

    I confess I haven’t read the ghosted “autobiography” yet, however I greatly enjoyed commentator Andrew Sullivan’s review. He cruelly and meticulously dissects Palin’s serial self-serving factual inaccuracies and her propesity for convenient amnesia.

    Lets get real. Palin is a national joke. Her only attraction to the far right are not the cosy nostrums that her more besotted admirers believe to be profound statements of policy (Chauncy Gardneresque) but the fact that the neo-cons perceive her as malleable. Thankfully (the US public having seen her form) she is not remotely electable. Her appeal is too off-center and unrepresentative of contemporary America. However, the Republican party, in the grip of frothing demogogues like the perpetually hysterical Limbaugh, and preferring ideological purity over electoral success, seems to be hurtling towards a Palin/Lieberman car-wreck for 2012.

    • He cruelly and meticulously dissects Palin’s serial self-serving factual inaccuracies

      Put up a link to the piece that excites your vicarious sadism so. I invite everyone here to read Sullivan’s list of “lies” and reach their own conclusions about how credible they are. A typical one: She claims not to pre-judge gay people, but declines to support gay marriage – therefore she’s a “liar.” If you prefer you can read the reply from Ann Althouse (no Palin fan): http://althouse.blogspot.com/2009/11/andrew-sullivan-has-discovered-michelle.html

      Relying on a fanatic to confirm your prejudices: The epitome of the unthinking self-superiority that causes the resentment you belittle.

    • Let´s say that you are right (for the sake of the argument) and Palin is a “national joke”. The US has many national jokes, some in far more prominent positions. The current vice president is a good example. They don´t cause certain people to foam at the mouth.

  25. C’mon CK, don’t be goaded into anything like that last sentence.

    • What’s wrong with “that last sentence” or “anything like it,” cluck? Can you defend Sullivan’s work, or any inclination to take it seriously? It’s equal parts contemptible and pathetic – even setting aside the “Trig trutherism.”

      • Na, I was talking about after the colon, Colin.

    • Can’t read your mind, cluck. It would be a lot easier if you just wrote whatever is on your mind instead of playing games.

      • “The epitome of the unthinking self-superiority that causes the resentment that you belittle.”

        might be a little bit overblown, might be taking one side of a chicken/egg origin question, and might be better to avoid using “self-superiority”.

  26. So you’re saying you don’t think my blog comment will make the next revision of the Norton Anthology? In my opinion the common term “self-superior” fits peterwise’s tone, attitude, and approach. Apparently, you got my meaning. Beyond that, I don’t see much point in filling up Opticon’s blog with with a discussion of style points.

  27. May I put it on record here that I certainly don’t see myself as superior to anyone here – nor am I. Nor do I see a decent academic record as a character defect.

    However, resentment is not a policy o which you can run a country. It’s a problem – not for the resented, but the resentful. They need to get over it and get a real candidate with real policies. Mitt Romney is a good place to begin. Leave Palin where she belongs – with Paris Hilton (a very clever lady indeed) and Co. on the celeb TV circuit.

    My problem is different, and it is not resentment or self-superiority (whatever that is). It would appear that the letter “n” on my venerable HP laptop is sticking. This is not as trite a problem as it might seem. Living in France, keyboards are i the French format – not the US/UK “qwerty- asdf” format. I hope the on-line suppliers deliver to France – otherwise I may be silenced forever.

    • I certainly don’t see myself as superior to anyone here – nor am I.

      It wouldn’t be surprising if among your pretensions is a belief in your own modesty. Those who presume to condescend to Palin and the Palinists rarely acknowledge their presumptuousness. It’s in keeping with a political style of inclusiveness that begins with exclusion, with claims to greater knowledge and understanding based on incurious ignorance, and with hypocritical where not demented and unhinged attacks on other people’s honesty and intelligence.

      Pick up your keyboard, turn it upside down, shake it a few times vigorously, to dislodge dust and other debris – sometimes only a tiny fragment of paper or, very commonly, your own or your pet’s hair, will ruin the contact. You can also try blowing or using “canned air” beneath the key, or folding a piece of paper and slipping it in between the keys. If that doesn’t work, get a flat screwdriver or nail file and gently lever and pop the “n” up and out – that should work on most keyboards. Typically, you should be able to test whether the contact is functioning properly by pressing with a pencil or other implement. You can then replace the key and try again.

      • I am greatly obliged for your kind advice – both as psychoanalyst and computer repairman.

        However, I am at a loss as to how I might empirically test the validity of the former. (Perhaps I might stand on my head and shake myself and see whether I am still as modest and unpretentious as I thought?)

        regards P.

    • If all else fails, just before you throw your keyboard away, disconnect the keyboard from the computer and hold it over the sink while you pour a bottle of distilled water over and down between the keys. Shake as much of the water out of the keyboard as you can and then put it in a warm, even better a sunny, place to dry out. Don’t tell CK or any other computer geek that you did this. If the keyboard works afterward just tell them you used the air spray.

  28. Gosh, you are a kind hearted manly man, Colin!

    What do the people here think of a super letter P ticket of PALIN & PETRAEUS or PETRAEUS & PALIN?

    I agree that a Palin-Lieberman ticket would be a bad idea. It might prove difficult for too many people to vote for a real woman and a real Jew on the same ticket. We must look to our Democratic friends for guidance on just the right inclusive type ticket.

    How about Meg Whitman and General Petraeus, or
    Cheney’s daughter (forgot her name!!) and General Petraeus, or Glenn Beck and General Petraeus?

    • Petraeus has a job already and it would be quite nice for the US if he took the time to do that job instead of quitting to go campaigning with another political novice.

  29. (note: Most laptops should withstand much greater jostling than you are likely to inflict with some short sharp hair-dislodging shocks. But you might want to de-emphasize the physical violence anyway, back up your hard disk anyway before proceeding with the above exercise, and concentrate on the hygiene more than the physical violence. With a regular keyboard you can have more fun.)

    Neither Liz nor Meg will be credible by 2012, I don’t think. Petraeus only if the walls are tumbling down and there’s blood not just in the streets, but in the hallways, fields, and living rooms. Glenn Beck for anything only if ebola-ized influenza wipes out 99.9% of the population and he’s the only major celebrity left standing. (II think Beck would concur with me on that.)

  30. Glenn Beck might save us all, because he is having so much fun being Glenn Beck it is contageous.

    One of the most effective tactics in politics is ridicule, and he is a master at ridiculing all 0bami everywhere all the time.

    All I have to do is think about him and I start smiling.

  31. Have finished ready Palin’s book. I live in S.F. CA and the socio-economic group I’m within in S.F. is similar to the life VDH describes in his references to Fresno CA. People in the middle survive by avoiding the bureaucrats basically because of the PC corruption. VDH can describe our California better than I. The point being that Palin probably could make it on to a city council somewhere in CA but I don’t think she could get beyond that. Breitbart at BigGov.com is in the process of describing the life and times of San Diego CA with his latest Acorn dumpster documents. Add his descriptions of CA to those of VHD. I don’t know how Americans get past the corruption in both political parties. Every one keeps saying well come to Chicago, no America, well come to California. Why do I live here (the city of St. Francis), because my household’s people have lived here since 1870, and so have a lot of great Chinese and now Philippino and then always Mexicans and Central Americans and now Pakistanis and Indians(Hindu). Somehow our combined households will outlive them all, what Dewey Whetsell calls the Corrupt Bastards Club(Going Rogue, p. 406). But we all have to keep talking to each other, no one of us knows individually how to get through the coming storm.

  32. nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

    It seems to have worked.

    Many thanks.

    P.

    • My pleasure.

      Don’t lose hope if you have to repeat the procedure – or if the problem migrates to some other key along with the dust/hair/debris.

      I pray your restored “n”‘s will be devoted to niceness, not badness.

  33. Zoltan — sorry it’s taken so long to comment on Petraeus. He’s a great guy, one about whom I know absolutely nothing negative. He’s a good general with the troops, from what I hear, and good to work for. He saw clearly what needed to be done in Iraq, and as the CENTCOM commander is exactly the right officer to “vette” General McChrystal’s recommendation — not so much because he’d be sympathetic as because he would have particularly incisive insight into the differences between Afghanistan and Iraq, and why McChrystal has made the request he has.

    It’s no denigration of Petraeus at all to point out that we don’t know some very significant things about him. Their impact is interrelated: one is what his views are on big domestic issues, and the other is how he would perform in an environment in which he can’t just give orders and expect them to be carried out to the letter, with little or no demur.

    I imagine Petraeus is personally conservative in the sense of viewing the outlines of traditional Western life as the right way to live, and not favoring social-engineering projects by government. That is a long way from having a central purpose of keeping government from growing, and preventing Democrats from assuming overweening control of the people’s lives and livelihoods. The fact that Petraeus’ personal fulfillment has come from staying in the Army for over 30 years tells me that he is not strongly motivated by specific views of domestic governance.

    That matters, particularly when one political party has gone as far toward big-government progressivism as today’s Democrats have. I would be very willing to hear from Petraeus on this topic if he retires and decides to put out political feelers. But it IS important to me to hear him lay out his posture in this regard.

    The aspect of dealing with other power players in a political arena, as opposed to working in a top-down command environment, is a major one. My assessment is that Petraeus would have the moral confidence to hold the line on things he believes in, but I don’t think we know very much about his SKILLS in peer negotiation, of the kind Reagan, for one, had acquired so much of prior to entering the Oval Office. How would Petraeus deal with a hostile Democrat-controlled Congress, if he faced one? It’s one thing to survive tours in the Pentagon — a charged political environment, but one in which everyone who’s there in any responsible position, except the Secretary himself, is ultimately competing to have his agenda selected BY the Secretary (or selected in his name by subordinates). It’s another thing to try to persuade separate but equal actors to go with you on matters that there is no “Secretary” with the final verdict on. That’s a whole different level of peer negotiation.

    Flag and general officers are accustomed to the military buck stopping with them, but the political buck is something else, and looking at history, in the US as elsewhere, it’s never a given that a career military officer has the moral bearings to be effective in the buck-stops-here political role.

    That’s a long way of saying that, for me, Petraeus starts with some big positives, but I’d definitely want to hear more from him on a number of topics, and see him in some politically stressful situations, before being sure he’d make the best choice for the GOP nomination.

    Break break

    I’m not sure where peterwise is getting the information on welfare in Britain. According to statistics from 2007, the last year on which I could get both US and UK stats, about 5 million Americans, or 1.7% of the US population, were on welfare — by the narrowest definition of subsisting more than 50% on non-pension government assistance — and 2.6 million in the UK, or 4.2% of the population, were in the same condition. The percentage doesn’t improve for Britain, relative to the US, even when other subsidies or advantages that amount to less than half of what people live on are figured in (again, all of this tallied without including pensioners past working age — SocSec retirees, in US terms).

    This disparity in percentages puts unemployment in perspective too. The latest news reporting puts British unemployment up to 7.8%, compared to over 10% for the US. But the percentage on government welfare maintenance was already substantially higher in the UK. The US and UK didn’t start from an equivalent baseline at the outset of the recession, so suggesting that the lower official unemployment number in the UK means the Brits are doing something cleverer about the economy, employment, and welfare than we are doesn’t wash. If we’d had a higher percentage of people on welfare to start with, it’s a virtual certainty we’d have lower unemployment figures too. British media are also pointing out that the percentage of people in part-time rather than full-time work has increased by more than 150K since this time last year, similar to the parallel dynamic in the US.

    CKM — hang in there. The only thing I’d do differently, if I were you, is not let interlocutors slip in characterizations like “resentment” on you. peterwise can call something resentment — doesn’t mean that’s what it is. One could spend all day replying to freighted or pejorative nouns and adjectives, but there’s no point in such a waste of time.

    Actually, I know you, and I know you know that. 🙂

    To all: great debate, and thanks for keeping it civil.

    peterwise knows so much that isn’t so, it’s impossible to take the time to counter every statement (e.g., Reagan being “completely responsible for the deregeulation of the banks”), but I trust most readers here recognize the not-so assertions anyway. Thanks to CKM for the link on the Althouse takedown of the Sullivan takedown (the latter of which I hadn’t seen, but of course was hilarious).

    RE — funny that your take on the 2008 candidates was so similar to mine. Your point that different roles in government are particularly well served by the gifts Peter Wehner honors is a very good one — I would add that roles in politics are best served by those gifts too, like the roles played by philosophical and systematic thinkers (Montesquieu, Burke, Mill, Hayek, Sowell), political commentators such as Bill Buckley, Irving Kristol, and Bill Bennett, and others like, precisely, the judicial thinkers, the dissenters you cite from SCOTUS on Boumedienne.

    • The great thing about Petraeus is that he appears the perfect apolitical general. He is a complete pro. No one actually knows his political orientation. And that, given his job, is as it should be.

      However, one cannot help but notice his body language when he is in the company of his Commander in Chief. It is very obvious that whatever differences might or might exist between the two men, they have great mutual respect for each other.

      You never know, Petraeus might be a good Democrat candidate in 2014. After all he would still be younger than many previous presidential first-termers.

      Of course this is absolute speculation. But so is your comment.

  34. Thing is, Opticon, I’m not at all sure that resentment isn’t an appropriate response to the attitude and behavior of certain privileged commentators and outright political enemies toward Palin and the Palinists.

    • Resentment is the natural and appropriate reaction for an intelligent human being. Nothing less will do.

      • Yeah maybe, but sometimes something more is also appropriate.
        Maybe a constant muttering of “Sarah Palin is an intellectually superior, highly learned human being and knows how to solve complex problems by applying skillful governance.”

  35. The British have fewer unemployed. They have fewer on ‘disability’. They have fewer non-working single mothers (But they are trying hard to catch up). They have a similar number dependent on social pensions. They have an overall lower dependency rate. Go to the OECD website.

    The French usually have more unemployed, slightly fewer on disability, and far far fewer single mums on welfare (This latter statistic is not achieved by abortion – the French abortion rate is a small fraction of ours). The French have more dependent on social pensions, and an overall welfare dependency similar to ours.

    I kinda liked Regan personally (Ditto, G W Bush – and muttered a silent prayer each day that nothing bad would befall him – particularly, given the alternative), but the fact is that financial services de-regulation was perpetrated during the Reagan administration. No one in the real world is seriously arguing that the irresponsible and delinquent behaviour of the under-regulated financial services sector was not responsible for the crash which occurred during the twilight hours of the GWBush administration. Come on!

    Stating serial inaccuracies – and then wrapping youself in semantics to take issue with inconvenient facts before concluding the everyone agrees with you – is hardly convincing.

    I cannot take the time to counter every miss-statement or bout of amnesia – only a sample of the most egregious.

    • One cannot readily defend the behavior of the financial sector yet it can easily and quite overwhelmingly be argued that the far bigger problem was that this sectore was forced and encouraged to make loans to non-credit worthy borrowers by left-wing policies and the implicit government support of Fannie and Freddie (a distinguished slush fund for all sorts of Democratic party elders – which Democrats took especial care to make sure was not subject to even minimal scrutiny). This circumstances, amplified quite dramatically by the easy money policy of the Fed (fully abated by the GWB administration to be sure) was in fact the principal cause of the collapse.

      The notion that the financial industry is not weighed down with obscene amounts of regulation is absurd. To be sure amidst all of this very heavy regulation basic reserve requirements failed to be enforced by Democratic and Republican administrations. Still, it is absurd to suggest that dumping 10s of thousands of pages of additional regulations on the industry would do any more than make make it more difficult for this industry to finance productive ventures and create even more opportunities for the predatory leeching of trial lawyers, accountants and lobbeyists of all stripes.

  36. Happy TG all. Even you peterwise. I’m not sure what Americans living in France do for TG, but I hope the day is a good one nevertheless.

    Just stuffed myself and now am on my way to Miami. I’ll be away from this fine blog until sometime in the middle of next week. I hope everyone can press on without me. Ha!

  37. Our Franco-American household celebrates TG by murdering an unfortunate French Turkey who presumably cannot understand why Christmas has come so early.
    We also have friends and neighbours around for drinks.

  38. This whining about “anti-intellectualism” or “anti-elitism” is missing the point. Who are American elites? The Ivy league educated 9/11 truther in the White House and the incompetent who appointed him? The tenured radicals who come on European tv to talk about “creeping fascism” in the US? The legislators and lawyers who made the American legal system a joke in Europe? The tax cheating treasury secretary or the tax cheating chairman of ways and means? The Ivy League educated captains of Wall Street? The Rhodes scholar BJ Clinton (not really a bad President but a global embarrassment for sure)?

    None of them make you ashamed as an American? None of them have too much staus and influence? Who really wants to go down that way and defend these people as intellectuals and elites? Who are the real elites? Who represents the productive class?

  39. “[Reagan]was completely responsible for the de-regulation of the banks (replaced by “self-regulation” and “light-touch regulation”) which is at the very root of the current fiacial crisis.”

    Pity those poor bastards at the helm of our economy, the treasury, the fed, the universities, bloody congress – the elites whose reputation you worry about so much – there was just nothing they could do in the intervening two decades. Imagine how it must have been; to see this train wreck coming and not being able to do one damn thing.

    In related news, we now know Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for Pearl Harbor. I also think Napoleon created the Soviet Union but don´t have the time to go into it.


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