Candlestick or face?
- Columnist Maggie Gallagher sets boundary conditions:
Sarah Palin has become a giant inkblot test in American politics.
This is neither her fault nor her virtue.
I cannot help but admire Gov. Palin's resolute capacity to remain herself -- confident, eloquent, relentlessly optimistic -- in the face of a national campaign of hate and ridicule the likes of which I cannot recall seeing. Ever.
Gov. Palin's appearance on "Saturday Night Live" this week was remarkably good-humored under the circumstances. But Sarah Palin has, whether she likes it or not, transcended the status of an actual human being to become a symbol in American politics and culture.
A symbol of what, exactly, is still being contested. . .
The New Republic suggests that Gov. Palin is seething with resentment at her treatment by the urbane best and brightest of Wasilla. As Sam Schulman noted in this week's Standard, "(Norm) Scheiber spoke to various people from Gov. Palin's past, all of whom have two things in common: Every one of them is smarter than Palin and none of them has been heard of since their encounter with her."
But Gov. Palin has also become a symbol of discontent in certain intellectual quarters on the right. David Brooks, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, George Will and the latest, the beloved Peggy Noonan -- sweetheart of Reagan conservatives -- have joined a chorus of concern about Gov. Palin.
- Assistant Village Idiot speculates about the scope of "smart" and how it applies to Palin:
[D]efining pure intelligence as . . . pattern-recognition, analogy creating, platonicity [is] a limitation. I had long been suspicious of top-down central planning, which always looks so plausible but has a poor track record. Taleb’s writing, pointing out the besetting dangers of such intelligence took me a step further. "Smart" people create a different type of errors. They become enamored of a pattern or theory and push it forward in spite of contrary evidence. . .
Nescience (not having knowledge) can create all manner of trouble, but false pattern recognition (believing predictions that aren't true) will be catastrophic. Such as, oh, believing that subprime mortgages are valuable to hold, if you've got enough of them to distribute the risk. If you see a pattern where there is none, or miss the real pattern, you won't just get a wrong answer. You will keep getting wrong answers over and over, and you won't quit. Smart people can create far more damage than mere fools. They set up government programs that don't work but never end. They run major corporations into the ground. . .
I willingly concede that Palin might be in the first group of more minor fools. . . The frustration is that the argument is being carried on with people who . . . think the second group is the height of wisdom.
- She's smart enough, says Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy:
The meme that has arisen that Sarah Palin isn't smart enough to be Vice-President (and potentially President) strikes me as quite implausible. Focusing on the big picture: she has been an extraordinarily successful governor with substantial policy accomplishments in a short time, she has an 85% approval rating [NOfP note: details in Charlotte Allen's Weekly Standard article], and she knocked off an incumbent and former governor to be elected. And, as I've previously discussed, based on my experience working with and in government, being governor of a state is an extremely difficult job, much more difficult than being a Senator (for instance). . .
Put another way, to believe the view that Sarah Palin is unintelligent you would have to have an awfully low opinion of the voters of Alaska and the overwhelming majority of Alaskans who approve of her job as governor. It seems much more plausible to me that when you are dealing with someone who has an impressive record of accomplishment as governor, won a couple of very tough elections, and has hugely high approval ratings, there should be a strong presumption that the person is capable and intelligence. And it is very difficult to hide if you are an incompetent governor (unlike being in the Senate, for instance). Alternatively, you would have to believe that she is simultaneously dumb yet so smart that she can fool the voters of Alaska into not realizing how dumb she is. There are probably some people out there who do believe that Alaskans are that dumb, but that's not who I'm thinking of. And when it comes to the issues that Palin has dedicated herself to mastering and acting on, such as energy policy, there seems to be little doubt that she understands quite well what she is doing.
Given this, how can it be that many reasonable people can suggest with a straight face that Palin is dumb--leaving aside those who actually do think that Alaskans are stupid? . .
Some thoughtful people simply have a tendency to confuse intelligence with the ability to be glib, or more precisely, to bs. And I think that is much of what it comes down to--if Palin doesn't know the answer to a question, she just isn't that good at making something up. Biden, by contrast, is a master bs'er, as his debate performance exhibited. As a general rule, the less informed he was about the answer to a question, the more assertive he was in answering it.
- Given the public school mantra "it's all on your permanent record," economist/columnist Thomas Sowell compares the top of the Dem ticket with the Rep's #2:
Sarah Palin's record is on the record, while whole years of Barack Obama's life are engulfed in fog, and he has had to explain away one after another of the astounding and vile people he has not merely "associated" with but has had political alliances with, and to whom he has directed the taxpayers' money and other money.
Sarah Palin has had executive experience-- and the White House is the executive branch of government. We don't have to judge her by her rhetoric because she has a record.
We don't know what Barack Obama will actually do because he has actually done very little for which he was personally accountable. Even as a state legislator, he voted "present" innumerable times instead of taking a stand one way or the other on tough issues.
"Clean up the mess in Washington"? He was part of the mess in Chicago and lined up with the Daley machine against reformers.
He is also part of the mess in Washington, not only with numerous earmarks, but also as the Senate's second largest recipient of money from Fannie Mae, and someone whose campaign has this year sought the advice of disgraced former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, who was at the heart of the subprime crisis.
- The leftist Chicago Sun-Times touches bottom in Palin yardsticks--clothes and shoes.
- Finally, producer Lorne Michaels rates Palin's Saturday Night Live appearance:
I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her.
Wednesday's New York Times publishing even beyond what's fit to print:
Sarah Palin’s wardrobe joined the ranks of symbolic political excess on Wednesday, alongside John McCain’s multiple houses and John Edwards’s $400 haircut, as Republicans expressed fear that weeks of tailoring Ms. Palin as an average "hockey mom" would fray amid revelations that the Republican Party outfitted her with expensive clothing from high-end stores.(via The Corner, twice, Instapundit, TimesWatch)
Cable television, talk radio and even shows like "Access Hollywood" seemed gripped with sartorial fever after campaign finance reports confirmed that the Republican National Committee spent $75,062 at Neiman Marcus and $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue in September for Ms. Palin and her family.