Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Blogging for The Atlantic in response to Sarah Palin's Wall Street Journal health care op-ed, Marc Ambinder argues for a media shunning of the ex-governor:

...Palin's existence in this debate does not ... lend her voice any credibility ... it does not follow that, because her voice is credible, it ought to be influential....

There are many Republican, conservative health care spokespeople who have earned the right to speak for their party's principals, and, truth be told, can recite the talking points (complete with Ronald Reagan quote) better than Palin and her writer can. They're the ones who should be offended if Palin's op-ed becomes the voice of the opposition tomorrow, because Palin isn't seen by most Americans as a particularly trenchent analyst of policy....

So here's a challenge to the media: if you want to do justice to conservative ideas and find some balance in your coverage tomorrow, book serious Republicans with original ideas on your programs. If you don't, Palin is giving herself a voice at your expense and through little effort of her own.

... if the media treats her as as a legitimate and influential voice today, she won't need to do the hard work that will result in her learning more about policy and actually becoming conversant in the issues that she, as a potential presidential candidate, will deal with....

Like Ambinder, I'm extremely skeptical about Palin's seeming mastery of this subject. But that's why I'd love to see her at the center of this debate. I'd love to see her have an opportunity to argue the points made in this op-ed in a forum in which she's not being asked softball questions. I'd argue that every media outlet should try to book her for an interview, just to give her a chance to show off her chops. (Yes, I know -- she'll turn them all down, except for right-wing talk radio and Fox. But the non-GOP-noise-machine press should try.)

But what Ambinder seems to be calling for is a mutual agreement by a lockstep media to freeze Palin out of the debate. That sounds like one of Palin's own paranoid fantasies about media elites -- and I'm sure she and her backers will cite Ambinder's call for a media blackout as more proof that (a) we of the Vast Liberal Conspiracy are afraid of her and (b) we of the Vast Liberal Conspiracy want to silence her, because she's a conservative woman, or not a Georgetown cocktail party attendee, or both, or whatever.

Better to take her at face value right now. OK, Ms. Palin -- you're a wonk now? Answer these wonky questions. You agree with a Cato Institute scholar that we should have individual tax credits for health care, Medicare vouchers, tort reform, and insurance purchasing across state lines? Well, here are arguments against individual tax credits; here are arguments against Medicare vouchers; here are arguments on the question of whether tort reform is the magic bullet; and here are arguments against an interstate health insurance market.

Ms. Palin, your thoughts?

It's hard to imagine she'll ever let herself get into a scrum like that -- in fact, I think she literally believes she can avoid hard questions all the way to the White House. I think she literally believes she can question the motive of any reporter (or debate opponent) who challenges her on substance, all the way to the Oval Office. In other words, I think she thinks she can BS her way to the top.

But let's find out. Let's invite her to debate seriously. And if she refuses, that's her doing. (And we should debate the ideas she's putting forward in any case, with whatever surrogate will stand in for her, because her name on an op-ed makes those ideas part of the debate whether we like it or not.)

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