You Don’t Need A Weatherman: Conservatives Respond to Sarah Palin

August 31, 2008, 1:19 pm

Do you know that Radicals read conservative publications? Well, they do — if they want to keep up, that is. I am even signed up for alerts from Human Events which, along with the National Review, I read regularly (this is the only thing, as far as I can tell, that I have in common with Dinesh D’Souza, unless he is secretly gay. Then there would be two things. Or maybe still one, since it is not a secret that I am gay.)

But D’Souza reminds me of an important point. The Republican Party, which has done its best to dismantle affirmative action and revile Democrats for trying to establish “quotas,” may have trouble with the Palin candidacy because they, and their stalking horses in the conservative intelligentsia, have gone to a great deal of trouble to convince their base that promoting the interests of women over men is ethically wrong. And there is at least the appearance that this is what they are doing with Sarah Palin.

My conclusion from scanning the Usual Suspects this weekend? Most of the conservative establishment likes Sarah Palin, some love her, but there is also a glimmer of serious dissent. McCain himself has the look of a man in a shotgun marriage in some of the pictures, and the rumour mill suggests he was very lightly involved in the choice. And since everybody doesn’t love McCain either (Patrick Buchanan seems to actually loathe him,) it probably isn’t the smashing coup the Republican National Committee hoped it would be.

The Palin choice could even be a sign that the RNC knows they can’t win this one, and they are not throwing a good candidate like Elizabeth Dole to the dogs. My guess? They have asked Palin to fall on her sword, and have promised her Ted Stevens’ Senate seat when he is, almost surely, forced to retire for ethics violations. You heard it here first.

John McCain (who I always kind of liked until he repudiated everything he stood for to kiss the RNC’s nether parts) is beginning to remind me of Elvis at the end of his career: to all outer appearances Elvis was still “Elvis,” but the person inside had become obscure, so surrounded was he by handlers who made all his decisions for him, crafting a superstar image that he didn’t want.

So, forget about me. What do conservatives think? Here are a few samples, starting at the center: announces that Sarah Palin “electrifies the conservative base”, however some conservatives Politico didn’t talk to seem to be on the verge of grabbing a fork and sticking it in a wall socket to achieve this effect. Right wing pro-gay-marriage queer Andrew Sullivan is spitting mad as far as I can tell, calling the Palin nomination “the most irresponsible decision by any leading presidential candidate since Bush picked Quayle.” Tell it, Mary.

The Weekly Standard has more or less fallen into line to back the choice, but strangely, columnists like Dean Barnett, William Kristol, and Fred Barnes have almost nothing to say about the substance of her candidacy and have focused their remarks almost exclusively on how the Democrats will try to destroy Palin’s reputation through lies and misrepresentations (Republicans would never do such a thing, I know.) And am I right that there seems to be only one woman who writes a regular column for The Weekly Standard? Someone else go take a look and tell me if this is a lie or a misrepresentation, and I will retract it.

In its typically genteel way, the National Review has endorsed Palin, but also has virtually nothing to say about Palin’s qualifications for the job.

Commentary has maintained what I would say is an ominous silence for the two days since Palin got the nod. One insight here would be John Podhoretz’s strongly argued column favoring Joe Lieberman for veep (strong on foreign policy, strong on Israel, terrifying on the war of terror.) I’m not sure Palin does much for foreign policy intellectuals for whom putting Israel first is an article of faith: as a matter of fact, I doubt that Israel comes up in Alaskan politics at all. And I think Podhoretz was right — this would have been the smart pick, and I am very relieved that, for whatever reason, it did not work out.

David Horowitz, at has said — nothing. Which is very unusual for him. Ditto Ann Coulter, who hates McCain, and won’t be mollified by Palin if she runs true to form. Coulter has posted links about Palin in a sidebar on her website but has, as yet, failed to make a statement about her party’s nominee. I think we have to think that Horowitz and Coulter might be part of the conservative base still trying to get the fork out of the socket.

Veering back to the center-right, The Wall Street Journal‘s response was fair, but tepid. “Most years, vice-presidential picks end up having little concrete impact on the outcome. Voters usually tell pollsters they care little about the second name on the ticket,” the Journal notes. “But the 2008 race, already unusual in other ways, could be an exception, because both choices are meant to deal with key issues the presidential candidates haven’t been able to solve on their own.” But the article — co-written by Laura Meckler, Elizabeth Holmes and Jim Carleton, also cites the Quayle pick, and ends the article with reference to something we will hear more about I am sure: Palin’s apparent dismissal of a high-level government official in what may have been a personal matter. They continue:

While she revels in her reformer role, Ms. Palin has not been free of controversy herself. In July, she fired Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. He later said that Gov. Palin and her husband had pressured him to remove a state trooper who had been married to her sister and feuded with the family. Gov. Palin denied that, saying she removed the commissioner she appointed 18 months earlier because she wanted “a new direction,” and offered him a job as liquor board director which he turned down.

Some legislators have called for an investigation into the affair. “This is going to show people just how vindictive and obsessed the Palins were with this guy,” says Andrew Halcro, a rental-car executive in Anchorage and fellow Republican who ran against her in the 2006 gubernatorial contest. “It’s not going to be pretty.”

I will also be very surprised if McCain’s high stakes gambling does not become an
issue in the campaign, as well as questions about how and why he “transitioned” years ago from the wife of modest means (who kept the family together while he was a POW) to the rich wife (who buys houses on impulse and finances Senate campaigns for those she loves.) Details about both of these issues are well-known, undermining his rock-solid leadership image, not among Democrats, but within his own party.

Other than grumpy right-wingers roaming the streets of St. Paul, the other thing that is not going to be pretty next week is Hurricane Gus which, as of this writing, seems to be on target to slam into the Big Easy and the surrounding Gulf Coast in the next 24 hours with winds currently at 120 mph. Michael Moore’s comments on Keith Olbermann’s show couldn’t have been in worse taste, could they? A kernal of truth remains: other than being a tragedy for those whose lives will be ripped apart by the storm, it couldn’t be a worse piece of luck for the already shaky McCain campaign.

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