Monday, July 06, 2009


Yeah, I suppose, as Steve Benen says, it's rather remarkable when Fred Barnes, one of the right-wingers who first became, um, enamored of Sarah Palin a couple of years ago after meeting her on a Weekly Standard cruise to Alaska, concludes that maybe she doesn't have the right stuff after all -- but even he can't quite let go of the dream (emphasis added):

Forget about Sarah Palin as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and probably ever. She may have no interest in seeking the GOP nomination. But if she does, her chances of winning the nomination have been minimized by her decision to resign as governor of Alaska. She's knocked out one of three legs of the presidential stool and a second one is wobbly.

... personal magnetism is only one of the legs, or underpinnings, for a successful race for the Republican nomination. The other two are experience in office and enough knowledge of foreign and domestic issues to talk about them persuasively. By stepping down, she's cut her experience short... And, from all appearances, Palin has made little headway on the issue track.

... I first met Palin in 2007 and talked to her over lunch at the governor's mansion in Juneau. I was impressed. She talked quite ably about energy, taxes, and the environment--issues on the table in Alaska. I wrote a highly favorable story about her. I thought she was a brilliant choice as McCain's
vice presidential running mate in 2008.

By itself, two months on the Republican ticket won't propel her to the presidential nomination. But there is a way: win Alaska's lone House seat in 2012 and oust Democratic senator Nick Begich in 2014. A term in the House and another in the Senate--nothing would do more to groom her for the White House than this and transform her into the best Republican candidate for the presidency in, say, 2020, when she'd be 56.

To a certain subset of Republicans, she's still Chauncey Gardiner from Being There, or nearly so -- unlike Gardiner, she may not seem across-the-board brilliant to these folks yet, but to them she has the potential to be unspeakably brilliant, and her path to brilliance is so clear, so feasible, so obvious.

Meanwhile, fellow Standard-ite Bill Kristol thinks she's crazy like a fox -- and quotes an e-mailer who perfectly exemplifies the Chauncey Gardiner thinking about Palin:

She needs to own two substantive areas: for example, energy and federalism. And she should contrast flat out with Obama. She is Big Daddy; he is soft mama. She should be as specific as possible with real data on the issues she takes on. With cap-and-trade looming, the energy issue especially promising.

She needs to get her impressive record down to an accessible litany and keep it in a message framework (reform, responsive, accountable, limited government). She needs to contrast with Obama reckless, feckless, opaque (middle of the night, unread legislation), command and control.

...Don't try to be an expert on foreign policy. But have grasp of large principles. And apply to current events-- Iran, NK....

See? Easy as pie.

These people are right: she could do all this ... if she wanted to make the slightest effort. The delusion is that she ever will.

But I would argue that whenever she runs for president -- and I do think it will be 2012 -- she won't have do do any of this work (a) because her fans will still think she's going to do it any day now and (b) she will be able to take advantage of Wingnuttia's tremendous group persecution complex, of which she's the perfect embodiment. Again, let me quote Kristol's e-mailer:

...[Palin's] narrative is "I am tough", but if she doesn't articulate the politics of personal destruction just right, she will appear weak. She doesn't want it to slip into 'she's leaving because they are picking on her.' Unfortunately, in the era of Soros, the cost of pubic service is fly swatting frivolous ethics complaints; still, it doesn't compare to being prosecuted after the fact for opinions rendered while in office, a la the "torture" lawyers.

Yes, there it is, folks: only Republicans are subject to ethics complaints, and it's all George Soros's fault -- unless they're "prosecuted" (um, who's been subject to that) for "torture"-in-scare-quotes, which is equally unjust.

Those are the only ways someone in government can be laid low by investigations. In other words, the 1990s never happened.

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