Saturday, January 10, 2009


David Frum, responding to Sarah Palin's interview with right-wing propagandist/documentarian/amateur pollster John Ziegler, seems to believe that Palin is a naive innocent who needs to be rescued from evil people who would do her harm:

... Now Palin is hiring her own handlers, making her own decisions, speaking freely. And if anything, the results are even worse than they were in 2008.

Watch the Ziegler interview yourself, and you will see what I mean. Ziegler represented a new and subtle kind of danger for Palin, the overly friendly interview. Ziegler's questions were all traps, no less dangerous for being set unwittingly. Palin stumbled into every one.

Again and again, Ziegler invited Palin to engage in self-pity and self-excuse - and again and again she accepted.

She tells us she was a victim of sexism. She tells us she was a victim of class prejudice. She complains about her media treatment - then insists she never watched any of it. She deplores the unpleasant personal comments directed against herself, while offering up some equally unpleasant personal comments of her own. She repeatedly shades the truth in order to escape blame for her own mistakes....

A smart politician rebuffs all invitations to speak about his or her own hurt feelings.... such talk betrays a self-involvement that alienates voters almost more than any other personal quality....

At the Mahablog, Barbara has the correct response to that:

Frum says Palin needs to learn to let go of her grievances if she’s going to be a viable presidential candidate in the future. But Frum misunderstands his own people. Righties love her because she embodies grievance, because she gives voice to their Inner Victim. If she ever started to sound unselfish and mature, her fans would lose interest.

I think Palin grasps, at least on some level, that five of the last six presidents we elected -- every one except for Poppy Bush, going back through Carter -- won while facing questions about qualifications, and grasps that all of them managed to make it seem that not fitting the "traditional" presidential mold was actually a good thing, because all of them persuaded voters that they had an approach to politics that was better than a traditional pol's.

So Palin may be breaking the rules because she thinks that breaking the rules works.

Frum is probably right to argue that the electorate at large doesn't appreciate a whiner, while Barbara is correct when she says that Republicans love whining. I think either (a) Palin has such right-wing tunnel vision that she doesn't understand the broad national electorate's aversion to self-pity, and will thus probably suffer a Goldwater/McGovern-level defeat if she's the 2012 nominee, or (b) Palin isn't necessarily aiming at the White House after all.

As I've said before, she may just want to be some sort of Queen of the Wingnuts -- maybe in the House or Senate (as, say, a non-racist Jesse Helms with lipstick), maybe as a (ghostwriter-aided) pundit/provocateur, maybe even on TV or radio (she ain't Cicero in that Ziegler interview, but her sentences in response to a simpatico interviewer are a hell of a lot easier to follow than her responses to Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson).

For what it's worth, I'd say that the persona she's crafted for herself is a feminized combination of Antonin Scalia's arrogant screw-you personality and Clarence Thomas's persecution complex. For right-wingers, at least, I'd say that's a potent, intoxicating brew, and Palin knows it.

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