Monday, March 29, 2010

Podhoretz on Palin

Norman Podhoretz is one of the best writers and serious journalists around. So I was delighted to see that he turned his attention to the phenomenon of Sarah Palin and the mysterious dislike she evokes not just on the left of the political spectrum - understandable, as she is a terrible threat to their assumption that power and government belongs to them - but on the right as well.

Podhoretz reminds his readers that the right did not support Ronald Reagan at first either for very similar reasons - not one of us socially. He was most definitely not an Ivy League graduate and did not come from the heart of the Republican Party. In fact, he had learned his politics fighting against the Communist infiltration of Hollywood.

Sarah Palin, too, is presented as being dumb and Mr Podhoretz, too, assumes that her IQ and intellectual accomplishments are inferior to those of President Obama's. He just does not think that is so important. As several of the comments point out, we actually have no idea what President Obama's intellectual or academic accomplishments are like as all records have been hidden away not to be read by the hoi polloi. His accomplishments as president are there for all to see and account for his ever-falling popularity; his accomplishments as orator depend heavily on his teleprompter, as has been proved on numerous occasions.
What I am trying to say is not that Sarah Palin would necessarily make a great president but that the criteria by which she is being judged by her conservative critics—never mind the deranged hatred she inspires on the left—tell us next to nothing about the kind of president she would make.

Take, for example, foreign policy. True, she seems to know very little about international affairs, but expertise in this area is no guarantee of wise leadership. After all, her rival for the vice presidency, who in some sense knows a great deal, was wrong on almost every major issue that arose in the 30 years he spent in the Senate.

What she does know—and in this respect, she does resemble Reagan—is that the United States has been a force for good in the world, which is more than Barack Obama, whose IQ is no doubt higher than hers, has yet to learn. Jimmy Carter also has a high IQ, which did not prevent him from becoming one of the worst presidents in American history, and so does Bill Clinton, which did not prevent him from befouling the presidential nest.
Many of Palin's ideas are close to those many conservatives, even of the intellectual variety, espouse. So what is it, asks Horowitz, that makes them attack her with such venom?
Much as I would like to believe that the answer lies in some elevated consideration, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the same species of class bias that Mrs. Palin provokes in her enemies and her admirers is at work among the conservative intellectuals who are so embarrassed by her. When William F. Buckley Jr., then the editor of National Review, famously quipped that he would rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the combined faculties of Harvard and MIT, most conservative intellectuals responded with a gleeful amen. But put to the test by the advent of Sarah Palin, along with the populist upsurge represented by the Tea Party movement, they have demonstrated that they never really meant it.
Setting aside Sarah Palin, whose personality and popular appeal seems to trouble very many people, we are back with the age-old division: the political establishment versus the people. I am reasonably certain that on the other side of the Pond the people will eventually win. Here? Remains to be seen.


  1. People seem to forget how poor Maggie was in opposition. I am a great admirer of her time in office but she was lacklustre before. One of the first things she did as leader was to campaign for the UK to remain in the EEC. Palin hasn't done anything nearly as unsavoury as that.

  2. He, he..."we are back with the age-old division: the political establishment versus the people"...You (and Norman Podhoretz) may be on to something. Scott Rasmussen writes:

    "“The gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th century”.

    Whatever made him think of that? Maybe the results of this poll:
    Most Say Tea Party Has Better Understanding of Issues than Congress

    Some results: 52% of U.S. voters believe the average member of the Tea Party movement has a better understanding of the issues facing America today than the average member of Congress. Only 30% believe that those in Congress have a better understanding of the key issues facing the nation.

    47% think that their own political views are closer to those of the average Tea Party member than to the views of the average member of Congress. On this point, 26% feel closer to Congress.

    Finally, 46% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is more ethical than the average member of Congress. Twenty-seven percent (27%) say that the average member of Congress is more ethical.

    But even more illuminating: Seventy-five percent (75%) of those in the Political Class say that members of Congress are better informed on the issues. Among Mainstream Americans, 68% have the opposite view, and only 16% believe Congress is better informed.

    By a 62% to 12% margin, Mainstream Americans say the Tea Party is closer to their views. By a 90% to one percent (1%) margin, the Political Class feels closer to Congress.

    Rasmussen is not the only one who has notice the discrepancy between the political class and the mainstream voters. Here is a satirical post from the Conservatives4Palin site; well worth reading just for the last wonderful sentence.

    BTW, the Governor herself is not a stranger to satire. The MSM and the Democrats have tried to change the topic of the day. Criticism of the health care reform is now incitement to violence; thus Warning: Subject to New Politically Correct Language Police Censorship, Sarah Palin.


  3. Mrs.Bi says never underestimate the cattiness of women-women can be very jealous of someone they see as being very attractive.Then the knives come out.

  4. Was Mrs Bi thinking of David Frum?


  5. Apart from David Frum Mrs Bi must mean left-wing feminists. Women I know are very pro-Palin or if they disagree with her, do so on various issues. That is allowed, surely. Somewhere Glenn Reynolds links to an article about women being very visible in the Tea Party Movement. I must find it. I bet those women do not feel catty about Palin.

  6. You are right of course. Didn't find Glenn Reynold's articel but here are two otheres confirming your point:

    Who's in the Tea Party movement?

    Face of the tea party is female

    PS: Pace Norman Podhoretz Sarah Palin is not Ronald Reagan (fancy that, who would have thunk?) but still she's got some of his sense of humour. This was from her and McCain's interview with Greta van Susteren:

    "And Cindy McCain -- she's a great -- she's a great American. Tell you what Cindy McCain, too -- she's a perfect example of behind every good, successful, strong man stands.... a very surprised woman."

  7. I think that you are right. She represents a threat to which the Political Class don't have an answer except for underhand tactics.

    For some reason, it is non-PC to say it, but I enjoyed Sarah Palin's book.