Heather Mac Donald and Laura Ingraham go around and around over Palin after the publication of Mac Donald’s anti-Palin article. Mac Donald stresses Palin’s lack of qualifications and her thin record, and Ingraham comes back again and again to Obama. This is a strange response, but it is a very common one. There is an assumption that if the media are treating candidates by different standards, conservatives should actively lower theirs for their candidates to compensate. If Biden makes gaffes or false statements and these go unreported, conservatives must pretend not to notice when Palin makes super-gaffes or spouts utter nonsense. If Obama has not held executive office, that somehow makes Palin’s less-than-stellar performance in executive office, her apparent abuse of power and concerted efforts to evade transparency rules perfectly fine. At least she ran something, these people say! Don’t pay close attention to how she ran it, mind you, but at least she made decisions!
Should you notice any of these things despite people constantly shouting, “Yeah, but Obama…,” you must not think about them much, and if you must think about them it is absolutely out of the question to speak publicly about them. The people who wanted to berate Obama for his tendency to pause and think during debate or interview answers–Sen. Harvard needs a TelePrompter, they would laugh–embarrass themselves with elaborate excuse-making for why Palin frequently makes no sense or repeats canned answers that may or may not be related to the question asked. Gone are the days when they would spread the rumor that Palin winged her entire nomination speech from memory, and now you can almost hear them saying, “For the love, get this woman to a TelePrompter!” We have heard more about malicious interview editing, “gotcha” journalism and “speaking over the heads of the media” in the last month than we have probably heard in the last two years, and all of it to cover up for the fact that Palin doesn’t answer questions, especially follow-up questions, well. As everyone has already noted many times, the person sent out to ask who Obama is has never held a press conference since her nomination; accountability for thee, not for me, she says. Instead of paying attention to excellence and merit, as Mac Donald urges, Palinites want to avoid measuring her against high standards because they know she will fall short, and the best they can say in response is that they think Obama is worse.
Despite knowing very little about her political philosophy, you hear Ingraham affirming her support for Palin on the grounds that Palin’s philosophy is similar to her own. In fact, the number of subjects on which we have any evidence for her independent, pre-nomination views is incredibly small, and what we do know is not necessarily encouraging. To the extent that we know her views on anything since her nomination, she has predictably aligned herself with McCain, whom we are repeatedly told by many party loyalists is not very good in conservative eyes on a number of issues. In other words, to the extent that anyone knows anything about Palin’s views, much of it is simply a reflection of McCain’s views being fed to her, but her views are supposedly what endear her to her supporters. Despite a record that would not compare favorably with many other Republican governors who have been derided as friends of big government, as I have stated several times to the complete indifference of her admirers who claim to care so much about her record, her record as governor has been invoked countless times–and Ingraham invokes it again–as proof of something.
I mention all of this by way of getting to Patrick Ruffini’s complaint that “the conservative establishment” has betrayed movement conservatives in their criticism of Palin. Oh, the betrayal! Ruffini writes:
In this charged environment, there is almost irressistible movement-conservative temptation to raise the figurative middle finger to anyone or anything associated with establishment Republicanism — one which gave us runaway spending, a $700 billion bailout that preceeded an 18% stock market swoon, and bank nationalization….
Now, zoom back in on the Palin situation. In the midst of the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, conservative establishment pundits appear to blame John McCain’s inability to seal the deal not on the misfortune of being the candidate of the in-party of his thin track record on economic matters or his jarring response to the crisis, but on a hockey mom from Alaska.
Ruffini isn’t resisting that temptation. Now here’s the thing: Palin is now directly associated with establishment Republicanism. As you may have heard, she is John McCain’s running mate. McCain backed the bailout that Ruffini rightly hates, and his mortgage-bailout-in-every-pot scheme makes Paulson’s partial nationalization move look like weak-kneed gradualism on the road to the lenders’ paradise. Palin works for McCain. Think about that. She is one of the people mostly closely associated with establishment Republicanism, because she is the foremost public ally and backer of the consummate insider, establishment Republican. Furthermore, one of the likely reasons for McCain’s jarring response to the financial crisis–the suspension/cancel the debate/go to the debate soap opera–was to distract attention from his running mate’s disastrous interview. Finally, and this is really the most important part, the selection of Palin itself was a foreshadowing to how McCain would respond to the crisis, because it was typical of his seat-of-the-pants, stunt-oriented style of planning and preparation. Palin herself is not, or is no longer, the biggest drag on the ticket, but the selection of her is indicative of the serious flaws in the McCain campaign and in McCain as a candidate that have dragged him down (and dragged her down along with him).
Ah, but Ruffini will tell you that she is part of “the grassroots conservative / outsider / Mark Levin circle,” which is roughly as credible as her story about telling Congress no thanks to a certain bridge. Of course, criticism of McCain for his blunders has been plentiful on the right from the same treacherous pundits who also dared to criticize Palin (Will’s crack about McCain’s characteristic substitution of vehemence for coherence was a particularly good line). They can see McCain’s flaws just as well as Palin’s, and they don’t think it is their task to stay quiet and pretend that everything is fine or tie themselves in knots making ridiculous justifications for poor performance. Indeed, what movement conservatives ought to find so annoying about these establishment pundits who are now becoming critical of McCain/Palin is that they did not speak up earlier and more forcefully when Mr. Bush was leading them all off a cliff with those “good instincts” they are always praising. Instead, in perfect knee-jerk reflex mode, they will rally around Palin and make all the same mistakes.