FAILURE HAS A THOUSAND FATHERS
What I find most striking about Sarah Palin's inability to name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade that she disagrees with is that this would be a ridiculously easy question for a wide range of righties -- not just political pros but online wingnut amateurs. Um, the banning of public-school prayer? That still gets ordinary right-wingers' juices flowing. How about the recent eminent-domain case Kelo v. New London? That one infuriated the Freepers. Or what about the decisions that have tried to constrain the White House's detention policies -- Boumediene v. Bush, for instance? That one also had Freeper knickers in a twist. So Palin isn't just less informed than the average VP candidate -- she's less informed than thousands of random message-board and blog devotees on the far right.
The standard response to that is, of course, "What the hell was John McCain thinking?" But I want to know: what was the right-wing punditocracy thinking? The Palin pick, after all, wasn't just some ramblin'-gamblin' roll of the dice John McCain made in isolation. A lot of conservative opinion-mongers thought she'd be a swell VP choice, too, and said so a while ago. Did it never occur to them that she might be totally unqualified? Were they just too smitten to inquire?
The key text to read on the subject is this New Republic story by Dave Jamieson. As Jamieson explains, Fred Barnes was the first big-league righty to get the Palin bug, after meeting her on a Weekly Standard cruise that stopped in Alaska. He published this glowing write-up of Palin in the Standard in July '07. By the summer of '08 -- a couple of months before McCain made his pick -- Palin, as Jamieson notes, was being touted as an excellent VP choice by the likes of Bill Kristol, Larry Kudlow, Glenn Beck, and Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. What were these people thinking?
Oh, and as I've noted before, there was also a mysterious suggestion, in the October 2007 issue of the hoity-toity magazine Monocle, that there'd been "gossip" about Palin as a possible running mate for then-GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani. Just imagine that -- a guy who knows nothing whatsoever about foreign policy (apart from three numbers) with Palin as his VP pick. Who exactly was "gossiping" about that?
A lot of allegedly bright and well-informed righties were spreading the word in their insular little world that Palin was a real pistol and would make a hell of a VP. They didn't seem aware that she didn't know a damn thing about the subject matters that concern the Executive Branch -- they didn't know this or they didn't care. Did she just titillate them? Did they assume that anyone with a conservatively correct set of positions on a few issues would just do things their way on other issues by instinct? Or is their contempt for the very existence of government so deep-seated that they actually didn't care that she was totally unqualified, just so long as she could help get 50% of the electorate plus one to the polls?