Wednesday, October 20, 2010

David Solway: Palin, Frum, and the Tea Party

Canadian David Solway, author of the recently-released Hear, O Israel, takes on notorious Vichy Republican and Conservative Lite® David Frum for the latter's unfortunate Palin obsession in a Pajamas Media op-ed. Solway's full opinion piece is what we consider a must read, but here are some excerpts to prime the pump:
To my mind, Frum is tooling about in another galaxy; yet, oddly enough, his mugging of Sarah Palin in a series of newspaper articles belies his own recommendation. According to Frum, Palin is “rambling, angry, and self-pitying.” She self-immolated in the 2008 elections and is guilty of “dereliction of duty.” After having once dismissed her as a “neophyte” — what, one wonders, does that make Obama who, unlike Palin, had no governing experience whatsoever when he came to power? — Frum goes on to suggest that there is a “sexual dynamic at work” in the enthusiasm for Palin among a contingent of conservative men. What other reason, after all, could explain such advocacy? Palin is hot and conservative males are randy. “Whatever impulse it is that so excites Palin supporters,” he opines, “it is not shared by their wives.” Frum’s drearily incessant diatribes steer perilously close to unwholesome obsession, so much so that there seems to be something distinctly “Freudian” about his imagined relationship to the poor woman. It is as if, pace Frum, there were a “sexual dynamic at work” here too. Certainly, when it comes to Sarah Palin, he has not availed himself of the temperate address he solemnly urges upon others.


Frum is way too nuanced about the battle for America’s soul that is playing out before our very eyes. He may ride a bicycle to the Washington Mall — a nice little touch — but he would be far more useful, metaphorically speaking, doing yeoman service in a tank. Frum, I suspect, was always a PRINO, a Prospective Republican in Name Only. It’s consoling to note that Frum seems to be wrong about most things. He predicted that the economy will have improved by this November and that the advantages of Obama’s health care legislation will have become evident by then. He predicted that Sarah Palin’s career “seems headed nowhere positive” with her approval ratings in free fall. Perhaps we should take a cue from Lewis Carroll and “shun the frumious Bandersnatch.”

Palin, for her part, is constantly being savaged and grossly misrepresented by an “educated elite,” including many of a conservative persuasion, whose scorn and contumely seem to be a function of class. She is derided as grammatically challenged, but then she does not rely on a teleprompter and speaks extemporaneously, pretty much like any normal person. She is derogated as flaky and impetuous, as someone who would not fit in with the New York cocktail crowd or the Princeton intellectuals, and is regarded by the patrician cenacles as, in effect, a rabble-rousing commoner and uncouth provincial. Such taunting is truly beyond the pale, or beyond the Palin, and only reflects back upon the empty self-regard and caste pretentiousness of the accusers themselves.

I have heard people say — responsible, thoughtful people — that Palin is a one-dimensional dilettante, someone who has never read a book. Apart from the absurdity of this claim, it should be obvious that reading a book with understanding and profit depends upon sensibility and temperament. Obama has presumably read a book (apart from The Communist Manifesto and Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals), Van Jones has read a book, Larry Summers has read a book, Tim Geithner has read a book, John Brennan has read a book, Cass Sunstein has read a book, Valerie Jarrett has read a book, Rahm Emanuel has read a book, Hillary Clinton has read a book, Robert Gibbs has read a book, Joe Biden has read a book (well, maybe not), David Plouffe has read a book, Andy Stern has read a book, David Axelrod has read a book, Pete Rouse has read a book, Ken Salazar has surely read a book — some of these people have even written a book — and look at the mess they have created. Seriously, though, Palin strikes me as better informed than all of these political actors lumped together. She has most certainly read a book with understanding and profit and it wasn’t Lamont the Lonely Monster or Fun with Dick and Jane. Her recent speeches have been impressive and display a sure knowledge of American history and the intricacies of the Constitution — far superior, as it happens, to the president’s wobbly grasp of such matters.

There is another factor at work in the demonizing of Sarah among people who should know better. Even those who believe they are inured to the media’s disingenuous spin and are too savvy to be influenced by its microbial indoctrination are nonetheless subtly infected. The often unfavorable response to Palin by both liberal and conservative intellectuals is, without their being fully aware of it, in some measure a response to the media’s artfully crafted simulacrum. Palin’s one public relations disaster was the infamous interview with Katie Couric, but we forget that the interview was pre-recorded and that many hours of tape were afterward segmented and spliced to put her in the worst possible light. The gaffe-prone Joe Biden was treated very differently by Couric (who infamously let slide his remark about FDR going on television after the stock market crash of 1929), as was, for that matter, Barack Obama and his numerous howlers, displaying both unfitness for public office and wholesale ignorance. Palin, being neither liberal-left nor a member of the prestige class, was and is a customized victim of cliché knowledge, which circulates readily despite the supposed immunity of the intelligent. The media contagion goes deep.

The staple accusation that Palin is merely an uncultivated zealot who has no program to bring to the nation can be easily “refudiated” (lovely word!) by simply paying attention. Palin has strongly endorsed the basic Republican platform — limited government, reduced taxes, race-neutral justice, Constitutional oversight, sealed borders, a muscular foreign policy, closer ties with Israel — much of this before the new Pledge to America was released. So it’s not correct to say that she is merely reacting rather than proposing.

On the contrary, Palin should be respected for her natural intelligence, her stick-to-it-tiveness, and her patriotic instincts. She had no real material advantages, came from relatively humble origins, did not attend the best schools (had she been African-American, affirmative action would likely have lofted her into Harvard), yet rose to become the governor of a state whose political sewers she cleaned out despite determined opposition. This is not a feat that many politicians would have been capable of. Palin is indisputably miles above anyone on the liberal-left side of the ledger. If one compares her — on such criteria as personal integrity, logical consistency, moral authority, strategic insight, and political rectitude — to the other two most conspicuous women in the political theater, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, well, it’s just no contest.

- JP

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