The chief of The Washington Post editorial page hired Bill Kristol even after his embarrassing one-year stint with The New York Times. And this weekend Kristol, who has been wrong about everything ever, found something new to be spectacularly wrong about, adopting the spin that Sarah Palin's decision to resign as governor of Alaska may actually prove to be a good thing if she runs for president in 2012.
But I think Kristol was outdone on Monday by his replacement at the Times, Ross Douhat, who delivered a tour de force ofstrong dose of incoherence in his column about Palin. So congrats, Andrew Rosenthal! This was a big day for you too.
Douhat's argument is that Sarah Palin was torn down by her enemies and the vicious mainstream media. She is a victim, and if only she hadn't accepted John McCain's VP offer, she would have been spared this humiliation:
She should have said no.
If Sarah Palin’s political career ended last Friday, 10 tumultuous months after she was introduced as the Republican Party’s vice-presidential nominee, those five words will be its epitaph.
Had she refused John McCain, Palin would still be a popular female governor in a Republican Party starved for future stars. Her scandals would be the stuff of local politics, her daughter’s pregnancy a minor story in the Lower 48, her son Trig’s parentage a nonissue even for conspiracy theorists. There would still be plenty of time to ease into the national spotlight, to bone up on the issues, and to craft a persona more appealing than the Mrs. Spiro Agnew role the McCain campaign assigned to her.
As you read all the way through, it becomes difficult to figure out exactly what Douhat's point is, but here he seems unconsciously to be evoking the maxim, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
Sarah Palin could've turned down McCain's offer, but she didn't, and the reason for that has to do with her defining personality trait: blind, self-serving ambition. She chose to enter the national spotlight while her daughter was pregnant, making herself the embodiment of the absurdity of teaching sex abstinence, and she chose defiantly to show off her children rather than shield them.
To say McCain assigned Palin the role of Agnew is once again to deny her responsibility here. For anyone who's been paying atention, it's clear not only that Palin was a natural for that role but more importantly that that's who she is. She's a petty, vindictive person.
Douhat then goes on to say that Palin remains more popular than we think she is, because she's an everywoman, an ordinary Joelle, and that's why the media turned on her:
But it’s also been tarnished by the elites themselves, in the way that the media and political establishments have treated her.
Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. ...
Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman.
This is ridiculous. Let's quickly review Sarah Palin's debut and why she became an object of derision.
When McCain announced her as a running mate, there was widespread disbelief due to her lack of experience, something which conservatives tried to spin away and dispute but which is undeniable. Then she came out and delivered a great speech at the RNC, at which point coverage of her became almost uniformly positive. The fact that it was an often mean-spirited speech -- the top example being the community-organizer jibe -- was largely ignored.
Then a couple things happened. First, the narrative the campaign presented without evidence, that she was a small-government "reformer" who shook up Wasilla and then Juneau, started to fall apart upon closer examination. Second, campaign officials decided they would bar media access to her, making it appear (correctly) that she could not be trusted to answer questions on substantive issues without making a fool of herself and giving the finger to the democratic process, betting that they could get away with defining a candidate through a few sound bites and refusing to expose her to any sort of scrutiny.
Frankly, it was a decent bet on their part, given the state of journalism in this country. Luckily, it didn't work. Members of the media were insulted by the slight. So they came at her harder than they would have otherwise. Then she began to say really stupid things, ignorant and smug things. And she continued to issue brazen lies, such as her supposed opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere."
In short, the derision she received as someone who was totally unprepared for high office was completely appropriate, but it is not in keeping with the tradition in this country, which somehow experienced a moment of sanity in dealing with her. The fact that Tina Fey was so well-suited to mock her was a stroke of good fortune that may have spared the republic a great calamity. In fact, Tina Fey may have been put on earth expressly for the purpose of bringing down Sarah Palin, a la Owen Meany.
If you're looking for a reason, however, for why the media was cruel to Palin, why it seemed personal, look at the campaign's attempt to shut them out, to deny them what they perceive as both their right and their function, to vet a candidate for the public. It had nothing to do with her class.
And for Palin to complain about the vitriol that's been directed at her is pretty rich. She started throwing cheap shots right from the opening bell ("community organizer") and all the way to the TKO at the end (the ugly rallies she presided over, the remarks about Obama "palling around with terrorists.") For her to now hide behind victimhood, which Douhat is enabling, is a joke, given all her talk about how tough she is, not to mention that Sarah Barracuda's MO has always been to make politics personal and take shots below the belt.