Nothing annoys certain of my fellow conservative intellectuals more than when I remind them, as on occasion I mischievously do, that the derogatory things they say about Sarah Palin are uncannily similar to what many of their forebears once said about Ronald Reagan.
It's hard to imagine now, but 31 years ago, when I first announced that I was supporting Reagan in his bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, I was routinely asked by friends on the right how I could possibly associate myself with this "airhead," this B movie star, who was not only stupid but incompetent. They readily acknowledged that his political views were on the whole close to ours, but the embarrassing primitivism with which he expressed them only served, they said, to undermine their credibility. In any case, his base was so narrow that he had no chance of rescuing us from the disastrous administration of Jimmy Carter.I will admit that Ronald Reagan did not turn out as badly as I expected when I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980 after having voted for Gerald Ford in 1976. I even voted for him in 1984 although I feel worse and worse about that decision with every passing year. I even drew a conclusion similar to Podheretz's in 2000 when the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush president. I figured he wouldn't be as bad for the country as his worst critics supposed. But "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Or as Shrub put it "Fool me once, shame on . . . shame on you. Fool me . . . you can't get fooled again."
I suspect that many of Podheretz's fellow conservative intellectuals are annoyed with him because they have figured out based on W's performance that all air-headed conservative governors are not created equal. They may have concluded, as David Frum, did that pandering to the most ignorant and uneducated elements of the party has not worked out so well.
For Podheretz and his fellow neo-conservatives, however, the Bush presidency was everything that could be hoped for. Having an empty suit in the Oval Office allowed neocons in key posts like Dick Cheney, Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz unprecedented influence to drive U.S. foreign policy in the direction they desired. No doubt, Podheretz is confident that he and fellow intellectual William Kristol will be able to place neocons in key posts in a Palin administration in a similar fashion as a reward for their loyal support.
Podheretz admits that Palin doesn't know anything about foreign policy, but claims an offsetting virtue: "What she does know—and in this respect, she does resemble Reagan—is that the United States has been a force for good in the world, which is more than Barack Obama, whose IQ is no doubt higher than hers, has yet to learn." The problem is that Palin doesn't know this; she simply believes it as a matter of faith. In order to know that what kind of a force the United States has been, you have to have some intellectual curiosity about history. If Palin had ever made any attempt to connect with objective reality, she would have learned as Obama has that the United States is not always a force for good and a course of action does not become good simply because the United States pursue this.