The thing about Sarah, &c.


I’d like to say something about Sarah Palin — but I first need to say something about Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel peace laureate who was the subject of my column on Monday. I promise that my point about Ebadi will relate to my point about Palin.

About a year ago, I was talking to an Iranian friend of mine, an exile journalist. We were talking about his countrywoman, Ebadi. I was kind of griping about her. I said, “You know, if she wants to oppose the Afghan and Iraq wars, fine. She can denounce them if she wants — plenty of respectable people do. But why can’t she say one word for the people who suffered terribly, for years, under the Taliban and Saddam Hussein?”

I think I went on this way for a while. When I was done with my little rant, my friend said, “But then she wouldn’t be Shirin Ebadi, she would be Jay Nordlinger.” In other words, she has the right to be the kind of person she wants to be, rather than the kind I would have her be.

A few nights ago, I was having dinner with another journalist friend of mine — an American, a conservative, like me. We were talking about Sarah Palin. And we were saying what we had both wanted for her: We wanted her to go back to Alaska following the 2008 presidential election. Be the best governor she could be. Bone up like crazy, on issues national and international. Emerge for the 2012 presidential cycle informed to the gills, but still with her lovely, fresh, irreplaceable charisma. Then sweep the world.

That’s what my friend and I wanted for Palin (and us). But she wanted the TV reality show, the move to Arizona, etc. Fine. Her life, not mine. But . . .

Don’t you hate it, sometimes, when people aren’t what you want them to be? When they are, instead, what they want to be?

Do you think Anthony Weiner will survive his scandal? Brazen it out? He certainly could. He could be holding public office for decades to come.

During “Lewinskygate” and impeachment, a lot of us said that this was a test of America, as much as a test of a particular man, Bill Clinton. The president used a 21-year-old intern for sex in the Oval Office (as I remember). There followed perjury, subornation of perjury, abuse of power, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, etc., etc., etc.

And the American people were basically cool with it. Oh, yes they were. Those of us who were not cool with it were denounced as squares, prudes, killjoys, shredders of the Constitution. Clinton seemed to get ever more popular. His party had a field day at the polls in 1998, the sixth year of his presidency, a year that should have been terrible for Democrats. And make no mistake: If not for the Twenty-second Amendment, he would have been elected to a third term. Hell, he might still be president today.

The American people are a lot like Weiner and Clinton: They just wanna get they freak on. And they don’t really mind whether public servants do. Such is life in a “post-moral” society. The “Sixties” — to use a broad, metaphorical term — have won.

I’m sorry, dear readers: I’m just not very gooey about “the American people,” sometimes. I think I’ve met too many of them — and that does not exclude those who travel in conservative circles, believe me. I might be in a cynical mood just at the moment. I’ll let you know when it passes . . .

Last week, I had a blogpost, titled “Wives.” It was a little reflection on Mrs. Anthony Weiner and Mrs. Bill Clinton. I said,

Many of us said, during 1998, that much depended on how the wife reacted. What would Hillary do? Would she stand by her man, or declare that she had had enough? She chose to do the former: making accusations of a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” That saved him (although Ken Starr saved him too, by tipping him off about the dress). (For chapter and verse on this affair — all of Lewinskygate and impeachment — see Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf’s Truth at Any Cost. It is the definitive book, so far as I know.)

A reader wrote me,


The mom of that girl out in Seattle has just called Weiner out on the carpet. She said, “I’m really upset. I feel like he’s a person of power and influence, who can make a statement and make all this go away.” Another quote: “As her mother, I’m really upset.”

That reminded me of what I often thought during the Lewinsky scandal of 1998: Where’s the dad? If it had been me, I would have marched to the White House and demanded to see the president so I could punch him in the nose. I wouldn’t have gotten in. But I would at least have let the press know what a lowdown, no-good, rotten guy I thought Clinton was.

If that had happened, I think Clinton doesn’t make it past a week. What do you think?

I don’t know. Interesting point.

Note the contrast between the behavior of former congressman Chris Lee and the behavior of still-congressman Anthony Weiner. The first gets caught in a “social media” scandal, and immediately resigns. Weiner lies for a while, until it becomes impossible: and then determines to brazen it out.

The next House election is a long way off. Year and a half. Will people remember Weiner’s scandal at that point? Will it lend him cachet? “Edginess”?

This is perfect: “NBC News is hiring former National Public Radio chief Vivian Schiller, who left this year in the midst of a political controversy . . .” (Rest of the story here.) NPR, NBC, ABC, XYZ — does it really matter? Is it not all one club, so to speak?