Friday, November 26, 2010

Lance Fairchok on The Pain Factor: Even Republican Elites Don't Get It

The Labashing of Sarah Palin
Like us, Lance Fairchok was shocked to see a Sarah Palin hit piece at the previously Palin-friendly Weekly Standard:
I happened upon an article in the Weekly Standard by Matt Labash with a title poking fun at Palin's Twitter abbreviations: "R U Lovin' Sarah's Alaska?" Labash throws quite a number of petty hits at Palin, ridiculing her folksy language, her rural underpinnings, and her lack of "gravitas" in the context of her hit TV show. Conservative elites have heretofore been more circumspect with their criticism, preferring the knife in the back in a dark alley to open confrontation. Apparently, that is changing as 2012 approaches.

While Labash mouths the standard criticisms of the "lame-stream media" in homage to his magazine's conservative bona fides, he is clearly not a Palin fan. Labash channels Dick Armey and Karl Rove throughout the article. It will rub more than a few conservatives the wrong way to see such inane criticism of a conservative icon on the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and not at the Palin-hating New York Times. Palin often criticizes the Republican "old boy network" that brought us John McCain, and for good reason. One wonders what elderly political pulse Labash has his journalistic finger on -- the same one, perhaps, that thinks the government health care-supporting Mitt Romney will make a far better president in 2012 and is positioning against Palin now.

The Labash Palin-bash includes some nasty lines that should have the elites tittering into their expensive cocktails. He refers to "Sarah's Alaska": "And that's what Sarah Palin's Alaska is really about: self-love," meaning, one assumes, self-aggrandizement and tastelessness. This next gem should cost the Weekly Standard some subscriptions: "On the show, this involves seein', and doin', and experiencin' things that don't require a 'g' on the end of them, such as shootin', and rock climbin', and snow machinin', and clubbin' halibut over the head ('let me see the club, you look crazy,' says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin' and BlackBerryin', which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures." And "While many suspect Palin wants to be president of the United States, she writes as though she just wants to be president of Brent Bozell's Media Research Center," which I, for one, think is a good thing after the despicable treatment she has received and continues to receive from the press. (Does Labash also hold the Media Research Center in disdain?)


As people watch the train-wreck that is the Obama administration unfold, they are beginning to realize just how much the press, the politicians and their government has lied to them. There is a dawning realization that being a mayor of a good-sized town gives a person some very useful skills. Taxes, utilities, law enforcement, education, and myriad other things fill a mayor's day. Palin did it for ten years and did it well. It is true community organizing. It is a leadership proving ground with measurable human consequences -- America and America's problems in a microcosm. Palin cut her teeth there and made it to the governor's office, where, brief though her tenure was, she excelled. Her entry into national politics was perhaps premature, but the crucible of the 2008 election cut away much of her naïveté.

Here in flyover country, we see an honest woman with our values and our best interests at heart. She is not a liar, nor is she a fool, and she is as angry as we are. The "we love her but don't want her to be president" push poll is meaningless two years out from 2012. It is a tool to mute enthusiasm for her. The electorate is tired of "old boys" and their endless manipulations. The Tea Party and Sarah Palin are not sitting back, content to savor the latest victories. The spin-masters and talking heads who lament Palin's lack of "gravitas" forget that Obama has "gravitas" aplenty. Obama's attitude is a façade and an affectation, while Palin, love her or hate her, is the real deal. Unlike Obama, you can read the details in her résumé. That counts for something now.

Some on the liberal left and the libertarian left have opined that Labash's bash of Gov. Palin signals that the neoconservative right has turned against her because The Weekly Standard's founder and editor Bill Kristol is a neocon. Labash, however, doesn't march to the neocon cadence. But neither does Sarah Palin, as she has an identifiable small-government and fiscally responsible libertarian streak, though the libertarian left ("social libertarians") can't stand her.

In a 2003 interview, Labash revealed that a writer need not be a neocon to survive at TWS:
"I suppose I should come up with some sort of game plan, but the Standard is a very comfortable place to work. Even if your sensibilities don't exactly match the editors, they pretty much let you go your own way."
So why is Labash Palin-bashing? We may have found a clue in the same interview. Consider Labash's reply when asked if he had ever entertained the thought of a career as a television pundit:
"No, I hate television. I love to watch it. That's my place -- in front of the TV. I have friends who go on TV a lot and say, 'You ought to be on TV.' I don't do it partly because of performance anxiety. I'm pretty sure I'm going to screw it up. Second, it just makes me feel like a fraud. Popping off about issues of the day that I'm considered an expert on simply because I read the paper that morning doesn't feel right to me, which is surprising because I pop off a lot in real life. You take me out to lunch and put a few beers in me and I'll pop off all you want."
So Labash hates television and knows that he doesn't have it in him to be good at doing television. Could some of his disdain for "Sarah Palin's Alaska" be rooted in base jealousy? We'll leave that one for the psychology majors to kick around. No, we think someone took Labash out to lunch and got a few beers in him. Then he went back to the office and "popped off" a hit piece on Sarah Palin. Matt, you really shouldn't try to write when you're high.

- JP

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