Over the past few months I have become a bit of a connoisseur of anti-Palin invective, to the extent that, if knocking Palin were an Olympic event, I would feel qualified to be on the panel of judges. In the last couple of days I have encountered a couple of masterpieces of the genre. First, from Sunday, the New York Post’s Kyle Smith (reviewing the new biographical film about Palin):
Its tone is an excruciating combination of bombast and whining, it’s so outlandishly partisan that it makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln and its febrile rush of images — not excluding earthquakes, car wrecks, volcanic eruption and attacking Rottweilers — reminded me of the brainwash movie Alex is forced to sit through in A Clockwork Orange. Except no one came along to refresh my pupils with eyedrops.
I’d sooner have watched a Michael Moore movie.
Second, from social-conservative Catholic blogger Mark Shea:
I have no doubt at all that Palin was *totally* well-read in the minutiae of American Revolution lore and absolutely had this obscure 1798 letter in mind when she was babbling her syntactic linguini last week. This isn’t any kind of after-the-fact attempt to patch up an illiterate gaffe or anything. . . . The great groove she’s got going is that she can literally do no wrong with her adorers. If she bails on her responsibility as governor to chase after riches and celebrity, it’s because the media was too mean. If she runs for President, it’s because she has the courage to Face the Heat (though “facing the heat” means “only allowing her image to be channeled through propaganda organs” rather like Obama). If she says something stupid, it’s because she’s a Woman of the People who isn’t beholden to those Pointy-Headed Intellectuals and their Book Learnin’ . . .
Remember: This is coming from someone who shares Palin’s agenda on social issues, and can’t be dismissed as an Ivy League RINO squish. I think Shea’s most astute comment on Palin actually comes in the comboxes, in response to a criticism that Palin is not actually a dope. He comments:
I don’t think she’s a moron. I think she (and most of her fanbase) are postmodern narcissist [sic] who don’t know how to cope with things when they discover that reality does not conform to their desires. So instead of saying, “Yeah, that was a goof” and moving on, she digs in. . . . I’d actually rate her as having above average intelligence in terms of her skills as a pol. The way she plays the media is like watching Jascha Heifetz with a violin. People like her don’t come along every day. But yeah, in term of other gifts and skills, she seems about average to me. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with average. I do, however, think there’s a problem with narcissism and I think Palin has that in spades too. It makes her unable to deal with substantive (as distinct from merely b****y) criticism, it causes her to hole up in her own fictional reality, and it makes her try to bend facts to suit whatever narrative her stream of consciousness is bubbling up today. Hence, it [sic] not her gaffes, but her inability to acknowledge them, that I find troubling.
This tallies with something I have consistently maintained: that Sarah Palin is a very bright woman — as evidenced by her ability to manipulate any attack on herself into a further justification of her possible candidacy — and that a lack of native intelligence on her part is not the major problem with the idea of a President Palin. (It’s rather like my criticism of Bill Clinton back in the 1990s: He’s a really bright guy, but he’s focusing that prodigious intellect chiefly on getting himself out of messes he himself created.) And as I wrote back in December, it’s not out of the question that some good might come of a Palin presidency:
Palin is succeeding in convincing resentful masses of Americans that she is on their side against a big-spending elite. So far, so banal: She’s telling people what they want to hear, and therefore they applaud her. But if the bond she creates with her audiences is real, doesn’t that create an opening for some real leadership? Wouldn’t she, as president, have greater standing than the typical politician to ask Americans to join in shared sacrifices, to pull the country away from complete bankruptcy?
As I say, not out of the question (though somewhat less likely than when I wrote it last December). And her current “One Nation” tour is clearly an attempt to transcend her political base and reach out to the broader electorate, in a way that would be necessary if she were going to be able to govern successfully. But Republican primary voters need to ask the tough questions, about whether she’s got the particular skills necessary to lead all America, and not just a relatively small segment of it, at a time of great national peril.
PS to possible competitors in the anti-Palin Olympics: Concocting nutty conspiracy theories about her son is grounds for immediate disqualification.