Monday, July 13, 2009

Kicking Around Palin

I have been reading Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein and I was struck by how completely the political pundits wrote Nixon off after he lost the California’s gubernatorial race in 1962 and announced “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Is the current certitude that Sarah Palin has ruined her chances for higher office similar wishful thinking? Pat Buchanan seems to think so, and he should know. He helped Nixon exploit the same working class white resentment that Palin feeds off.

The most important difference between Nixon and Palin is that Nixon was a genius—an evil and paranoid genius but a genius all the same—while Palin is a nitwit. Nixon understood the populist appeal of railing against elitism, but he wasn’t a one-trick pony. He understood economics and foreign policy and how to make himself palatable to whatever constituency’s support he was seeking. It is difficult for me to believe that Palin will ever be able to broaden her appeal simply because she would rather have narrow adulation than broad respect.

Peggy Noonan wrote a devastating critique of Palin in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend.
“In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.
In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.
Noonan is of course being vilified by the Palinists, but as a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, her conservative credentials seem pretty solid.

Reagan of course was also a master at exploiting white working class resentment. I have always thought it pretty “horrifying” that he launched his 1980 presidential campaign with a speech supporting “state’s rights” in Philadelphia, Mississippi, but I guess that didn’t bother Noonan. Reagan was never particularly well known for his command of the facts either, but he was capable of speaking in complete sentences. He also surrounded himself with advisors who knew things about the areas in which he was ignorant.

1 comment:

  1. Noonan's critique is right on and devastating. I love it.

    Nixon was intelligent (although badly flawed) and Reagan was a fairly fluent communicator (although somewhat ditzy). Palin is neither of those things - well, she's flawed and ditzy. Still, given the current state of the GOP, I wouldn't be surprised if she's still hanging around in 2012.