Monday, January 10, 2011


Jonathan Marin of Politico thinks the Tucson shooting is a turning point for Sarah Palin. That sounds right, but it's nonsense:

... the rush on the left to affix some of the blame on her for the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has suddenly turned the tragedy into a defining moment in Palin's meteoric political career.

Whether she defends, explains or even responds at all to the intense criticism of her brand of confrontational politics could well determine her trajectory on the national scene -- and it's likely to reveal the scope of her ambitions as well.

... now, for the first time, Palin is being forced to choose between the public and private spheres she operates in. If she has any intentions of running for the presidency, she must begin to appeal to the country's broad political center. And that task just got harder in the wake of Tucson.

The other option is to simply remain in the private sector where she can continue to issue the envelope-pushing jeremiads and employ the overheated rhetoric that appeals to her loyal base, sells her books, draws TV viewers and makes her irresistible to a sound byte-hungry media.

Either way, she'll have to show her hand....

No, she won't. Not soon.

Please remember: if she runs (and if her own mistakes and the establishment right's attacks on her haven't ruined her chances already), she doesn't have to start appealing to the center for about a year and a half, even though she going to have to declare her candidacy (or not) sometime early this year. Until well into 2012, all she has to do is appeal to the base. And, given how huge the GOP field is likely to be, all she has to do is appeal to a very small slice of the base -- the winner of the nominating fight is probably going to be the winner of a lot of early primaries and caucuses, and some of them are going to be won with maybe 18% or 20% of the vote.

Then, in 2012, it's probably all about the economy -- if unemployment is still well above 9%, any Republican can win, including Palin.

(And I want to remind you that if she does win the nomination, the mainstream press isn't going to say, "Omigod, the Republican Party has really gone off the deep end this time." No -- the mainstream press is going to declare her normal and acceptable, just because she's a winner and a Republican, and we can never, ever say that the Republican Party is a dangerous extremist organization.)

You could argue that Jonathan Martin has it exactly backward -- Palin might have more motivation to be conciliatory if she isn't running. If she's running, the people she has to appeal to are those who think Jared Loughner is a dirty liberal and the sheriff who denounced our political rhetoric is a dirty liberal, too. Only if she's blowing the race off can afford to climb down from her hardcore rhetoric.

But, in fact, she just has to lie low either way, which is what she's doing. If she still wants to run, this means that her base will infer that she's not lashing out because the liberal-fascist lamestream media is persecuting her -- but she'll get brownie points for not going wobbly and saying she's sorry. And if she just wants to be a celebrity, well, you can be any kind of headcase in that world, and until you reach Mel Gibson levels of dysfunction you're fine -- ask Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Naomi Campbell, etc.

(Yes, I know there was a semi-climbdown in which a Palin aide and Palinbot radio host Tammy Bruce insisted that the map crosshairs in that notorious ad were merely surveyors' symbols. But that works as a non-concession concession -- "See? The elite liberals, with their clean fingernails and hoity-toity jobs, don't know the difference between this symbol of manly wildernessitude and this other symbol of rugged, windswept, frontier freedom." It doesn't matter that we know the argument is completely post-hoc and nonsensical -- the base thinks we've been trumped.)


UPDATE: In comments, Betty Cracker says:

I read the Mansour "surveyor's symbol" climbdown differently: I think telling such a transparently pathetic whopper indicates Team Sarah understands full well how awful their Photoshopping gun sights on Giffords' district looks in retrospect, and they're desperate to contain the potential damage. Of course Palin's cultists will view her as the victim; that's a given. But being called out for that graphic months ago by the primary target of the assassination attempt is a PR nightmare. There's just no way around that.

And, well, that would explain why Palin is climbing down again, by sending an e-mail to Glenn Beck, which Beck read on the air:

I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love and God as the answer. -Sarah

Still, she can't quite distance herself from violence and angry rhetoric and leave it at that -- there has to be a dig at critics of her and other angry right-wingers (I'm sure she doesn't mean to include in her criticism the fellow righties who are blaming Loughner's acts on his alleged leftism). And the God reference is at once a shout-out to her Christian base, an attempt to offend lefties (all of whom she surely believes hate religion and Jesus), and a shout-out to those in her base who want her to offend lefties. So that's where we stand now.


MORE: Whoops -- I missed this. According to Beck, the real victim is Palin:

Glenn Beck told his radio audience this morning that Sarah Palin had e-mailed him about the tragic shootings in Arizona this weekend....

During his show, Beck also urged Palin to seek extra security for herself and her family.

Adds Roy Edroso:

One of Palin's target's gets shot, but Palin is actually the one in the cross-hairs. In Hell Joe Goebbels is laughing his ass off.

And what did Beck say exactly?

"I know you are feeling the same heat, if not much more on this. I want you to know you have my support. But please look into protection for your family. An attempt on you could bring the republic down."

Right -- the nation survived the assassinations of Lincoln, two Kennedys, King, and Malcolm X, but a mere attempt on Palin's life? America is toast.

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