Tuesday, August 11, 2009


With all the speculation about Sarah Palin's reasons for resigning -- dodging a scandal? planning a divorce? raising her profile in in the Lower 48? needing to be out of office to hoover up that legal-defense-fund cash? -- one reason didn't get mentioned: now she gets to be a freelance GOP talking-point crazy. Along with Beck, Limbaugh, Gingrich, and a few others who don't hold office, she can say the out-there stuff the Beltway types feel the need to tut-tut (why, there's Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia calling Palin's "death panel" post "nuts"!) -- and the GOP benefits from both Palin's push-the-envelope framing of the issue and the insiders' rejection of that framing: Republicans maintain the image of being a sane, within-the-pale party as far as the mainstream media is concerned, yet the GOP still gets the benefit of selling Palin's niche product to people eager to buy it. If your best weapon is the anger of ill-informed ordinary citizens -- plus fear on the part of people in the middle that the angry people might just be right when they talk about how scary the Democrats' plans are -- you want crazy talk out there, denied in "polite" circles but filtering into a million e-mail forwards and talk-radio calls and message-board posts and backyard-barbecue conversations. You want it to go viral, so it can frame the debate even as it's being denied. Let's face it, "Obamacare = euthanasia" wasn't going viral when the best-known person pushing that line of argument was Betsy McCaughey. Palin has the juice to be a national conversation-starter; she's the reason this became a Jon Stewart bit. She's very useful to the GOP that way. So her power will be harnessed.

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