Give Andrew Sullivan credit for allowing Patrick Appel to speak his mind on the Palin issue. The Dish has always set the gold standard for airing dissent from across the political spectrum, and I hope more people favor Sullivan’s approach to online discussion over, say, RedState’s.
As to the merits of the issue, I think Appel’s take is pretty authoritative. The scope of the supposed conspiracy around Trig’s birth is ludicrous, and multiple eye-witness accounts confirm Sarah Palin’s pregnancy. Arrayed against all this is one ambiguous photo and a confusing timeline of events. Needless to say, I find Appel’s case a lot more persuasive.
However, I remain baffled by Sullivan’s willingness to pursue this issue beyond all reasonable limits. The substantive relevance of Trig’s maternity was so minimal – and the invasion of her family’s privacy so extreme – that there was never any reason to investigate Palin’s pregnancy in the first place.
I don’t dispute the fact that blogs are useful tools for keeping campaigns and traditional media outlets honest. I also understand that the pace of blogging is faster – and therefore less considered – than a conventional news cycle. But cyberspace shouldn’t make basic courtesy obsolete. I’m sure writing this will make me a hypocrite within a matter of weeks, but whatever. Consistency is for the unimaginative and all that jazz.
Andrew Sullivan’s latest on Trig Palin’s maternity is uncomfortable reading. After wading through the muck, I’m left wondering why he feels the need to badger the poor woman over the circumstances of her son’s birth. Even if everything he says is true – the pregnancy was staged to protect her daughter; the entire story is fraudulent; the press is silently complicit – I still have no idea why we should care. If Palin is lying to protect her daughter, I have nothing but sympathy for the poor woman and her family. And after all this time, the justification behind Sullivan’s one-man inquisition is still incredibly weak:
And yet in the campaign, the pregnancy and baby were offered at every moment as a reason to vote for Palin. If the Bridge To Nowhere is worth checking out, why aren’t the pregnancy’s bizarre details? Without the Down Syndrome pregnancy, Palin would not have had the rock-star appeal to the pro-life base that contributed to her selection. She made it a political issue by holding up the baby at the convention.
To suggest that a staged pregnancy is the root of Palin’s political ascendancy is absurdly reductive. Anyone following the campaign could point to ten other reasons why she immediately connected with the Republican base.
But beyond all this is the issue of basic courtesy. Politics, of course, is a full-contact sport, and when it comes to contentious issues or even personal failings that illuminate a candidate’s character, I’m all for roughing the other team up. But when it comes to someone’s family or personal life, there are certain things that simply aren’t done. As a practical matter, making politics even less palatable by propagating mindless conspiracism is a good way to discourage civic participation, but even if this weren’t the case, I think people deserve a certain degree of privacy and respect. Basic courtesy should still apply when someone decides to run for office. Sullivan, who devotes so much time and effort to defending the dignity of historically marginalized groups, ought to know better.
According to a new CBS poll, the biggest reason voters switched from McCain to Obama was McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as running-mate. I’m suspicious of polls that suggest a single explanation for a losing campaign, and I think it’s impossible to separate the candidates’ personalities from strategic and electoral considerations, but CBS’s findings confirm something I’ve heard anecdotally for quite some time now. Friends and acquaintances who would have otherwise voted for McCain shook their heads in disgust at the Palin pick and are now either sitting the election out or reluctantly pulling the trigger for Obama.
My circle of friends skews toward recent college graduates, and I think it’s likely that young twenty-somethings are more susceptible to SNL mockery and media skepticism than other demographics, but proponents of Palin in 2012 should consider a serious media makeover before reintroducing her to the general public.
I can’t vouch for the science, but according to this article, McCain has a 22% chance of dying during his first term.
Everyone should check out this excellent Ben Smith post on the road not taken by Republican operatives in 2008. I’ve expressed my frustration with this phenomenon before, but Smith does a fantastic job of explaining why the naked cultural appeals of McCain’s media enablers are so politically ineffective.
It’s also worth noting that it didn’t have to be this way. Our worsening economic recession does not mean a Democratic win was written in the stars. If Joe the Plumber can articulate a coherent, effective critique of Obama’s economic policies, why can’t John McCain explain his response to domestic problems without sounding like a complete moron? For all her charisma, Governor Palin’s approach is hardly an improvement – someone really ought to tell her that crying “socialism” is not a compelling rejoinder to Obama’s tax proposals.
In 1992, Ross Perot (of all people) made an effective case for fiscal austerity in the midst of an economic downturn. The appeal of small-government conservatism – particularly in a country that most characterize as “center-right” – does not disappear when the stock market takes a dive. It does, however, require an effective political messenger. On that count, the McCain/Palin ticket – and the conservative media – have failed miserably.
Andrew Sullivan is at it again:
How anti-intellectual is Sarah Palin?
Ramesh Ponnuru asks the question. He refers to Noam Scheiber’s devastating piece on Palin’s Nixonian hatred of educated elites. But Ponnuru wants more evidence. Here’s one way to look at the question: how has Palin brought up her own kids? Her eldest son is a high-school drop-out. Her eldest daughter has had, so far as one can tell from press reports, very uneven attendance in high school, and no plans for college. Her other daughters seem to spend a lot of time traveling the country with their mom at tax-payers’ expense. I’ve seen them at several rallies with the Palins this fall. Are they not in school?
The least one can say is that none of her children seems to have been brought up thinking that college is something to aspire to. And her new son-in-law just dropped out of high school as well.
Sarah Palin’s own record of several colleges over several years – ending with a degree in sports journalism – tells you a lot. So does her interest in policing the Wasilla library as mayor and using the town’s money for a sports stadium.
If we’re going to criticize Palin for anti-intellectualism, let’s stick to her obnoxious remarks about civilian casualties in Afghanistan or her nonsensical take on anthropogenic global warming. Knocking her kids for skipping school is neither here nor there, and given the fact that her oldest son volunteered for military service in Iraq, I think we should applaud the Palin family for encouraging certain worthy alternatives to college.
Moreover, attending college in modern America has never been a leading indicator of intellectual curiosity. In fact, questioning the benefits of a four year college degree is one of the more persuasive conservative criticisms of higher education to have emerged in recent years (see this recent Cato Unbound discussion). And if I ever become a parent (God forbid!), I hope to have the good sense not to force my children into higher education against their will.
As for Sarah Palin’s own record of educational achievement, I recommend this LA Times article on her college years. Reading it, I was instantly reminded of the hard-working commuter students I knew at school. They didn’t have the luxury of a parental stipend and usually worked a job on the side, and they rarely (if ever) made it out on weekends. But they always attended class (which is more than I ever did), took copious notes, and generally did everything possible to get a damn good return on their investment. Palin may have come from a parochial background, but she evidently cared enough about her intellectual development to work her way through five years of post-secondary schooling. I can’t imagine it came cheap or easy.
And why the hell would Wasilla need a museum, anyway?