smear campaign notwithstanding
PALIN FOR PRESIDENT?
Solway is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror,
Antisemitism, and Identity. His editorials appear regularly
in FRONTPAGEMAG.COM and
Pajamas Media. He
speaks about his latest book, Hear,
O Israel! (Mantua Books), at frontpage.com.
nature were not base, but thoroughly honourable,
we should in every debate have no other aim
than the discovery of truth;
we should not in the least care
whether the truth proved to be in favour of the opinion
which we had begun by expressing,
or of the opinion of our adversary.
Sarah Palin continues to galvanize the imagination of both her
ardent supporters and her hectoring adversaries. It is easy
to understand her appeal to those who have rallied behind her
and her possible candidacy for the office of president of the
United States. She has a lot going for
her: charm, personableness, natural smarts, moral probity, executive
competence, independence of character, and a passionate love
of country. These are undeniable advantages, or should be in
any sane political environment.
the same time, she steps up to the plate with two strikes against
her — or, in an alternative baseball universe, with three,
four, or five strikes already logged in the umpire’s clicker.
PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome) flourishes on the liberal-left,
to the extent that a correspondent to Salon.com suggests
“we get rid of Palin” by having her electrocuted
like one of Michael Vick’s dogs. According to the media
scuttlebutt and her innumerable liberal detractors, she is poorly
educated, brings no foreign policy experience to the job, shoots
her own dinner, comes across as politically unnuanced, and,
perhaps the most cutting strike against her, lacks gravitas.
These negatives are obviously serious disadvantages for anyone
contemplating a run for the presidency, but are they valid criticisms?
Is she really “out” before she even takes a swing?
Let’s consider each of these knocks against her in turn.
begin with, Palin is by no means poorly educated; she merely
did not graduate with a degree from an Ivy League institution,
which by any reasonable account in today’s academic milieu
should stand decidedly in her favor. Harvard, Princeton, Yale,
Columbia, Berkeley and other so-called elite universities charge
prohibitive tuition fees while, for the most part, delivering
second-rate curricular fare. They represent the kiss of intellectual
death — unless, of course, one wishes to enter the service
of the State Department or practice trial or immigration law.
Palin did well to avoid these bastions of mainly liberal-left
for the absence of foreign policy experience, David Jenkins
reminds us in an article for Pajamas Media that, with
the exception of the elder Bush (who, incidentally, was no presidential
cynosure), “it is not common for presidents to enter office
with foreign policy experience.” In this respect, Palin
is no different from the vast majority of her predecessors and
certainly not from the present incumbent. What is needed in
this domain is precisely what Palin would bring to the highest
office in the land: insight and principle. As Jenkins writes,
“she knows that America must be strong in order to be
safe, and . . . that we must develop our own resources and end
our dependence on foreign oil.” Palin also knows that
an American president does not bow and apologize to foreign
despots and does not alienate loyal and tested allies, but comports
himself or herself with dignity and courage.
is there anything wrong with shooting one’s own dinner,
especially when one considers that liberal urbanites are perfectly
OK with having other people shoot their dinner for them. Unless
they are dedicated vegans, their hypocrisy is indigestible,
and even vegans would surely vote for a meat-eating Democrat.
Being handy with a shotgun and knowing how to skin a caribou
is plainly not the real issue here. The implication is that
Palin is some sort of primitive rustic rather than a credentialed
cosmopolite. But the truth is that frowning on Palin’s
wilderness skills is nothing but class snobbery on the part
of those who would be utterly lost were they stripped of the
‘civilized’ amenities they thoughtlessly take for
granted. It is their mincing pretentiousness and fashionable
outrage, not Palin’s honest hardiness, that is deplorable.
Palin is by no means politically unnuanced. Quite the contrary,
she is as politically savvy as they come, whether on the domestic
or international front. Her speeches during the recent congressional
elections were not only unteleprompted barnburners in the best
populist tradition, but revealed a meticulous command of the
domestic issues currently bedeviling the nation as well as a
finely nuanced understanding of America’s pancreatic failures
in international diplomacy. She displays a far more realistic
perspective on the Middle East and has far more accurately taken
the measure of America’s geopolitical competitors, particularly
Russia and China, than anyone in the Democratic administration.
does not believe in tax and spend, in fiat printing, in redistributive
economics, in ObamaCare, in the AGW nonsense that is only an
opaque wealth transfer scheme, in making purses out of sows’
ears (aka pork and earmarks), in pressing reset buttons, in
blaming Israel for the Palestinians, or in a degrading and unproductive
“outreach” to the Islamic umma. These are policies
she would reverse, as indeed would anyone with a nuanced understanding
of the economic and political worlds. There is little doubt
that Palin would be a strong, resolute, and effective president
should she ever accede to the White House. Unlike Obama, she
would not try to square the Oval.
if Palin lacks gravitas, then so do many others on the current
political scene. Barack Obama, for example, not only lacks gravitas,
he exhibits the moral and intellectual substance of a will o’
the wisp. This is not to take anything away from his golf game,
but in political life he is always badly in need of a mulligan.
Joe Biden is a figure straight out of vaudeville who can be
dependably counted on to drop the cane he is trying to twirl
— though, it must be admitted, he would look great in
a straw boater. Hillary Clinton is, frankly, a wizened party
hack and, like her husband, an adroit shape-shifter: one cannot
trust a word she utters. No gravitas to be found amidst this
the possible Republican contenders there are (or were) some
potentially credible choices, at least from the standpoint of
knowledge, experience, and/or presence. Newt Gingrich carries
weight and political erudition but unfortunately also carries
baggage. The same may be said for Jeb Bush, whose family name
still remains a heavy burden he may not be able to shuck. His
opposition to Arizona’s immigration law is also a very
bad sign. Others like Marco Rubio and Allen West, both highly
impressive figures, are too young or new to the field to be
presidentially assessed. Chris Christie is a bold and ethical
administrator, but is not a particularly persuasive communicator.
John Thune is little known and Mitch Daniels is aura-challenged.
Mike Huckabee’s banjo is not an electoral plus. Bobby
Jindal and Tim Pawlenty are “good people,” but Jindal
does not seem ready for higher office and Pawlenty is prone
to misjudgment, such as withdrawing from the race for a third
term as Minnesota governor that he could have won handily. Mississippi
Governor Haley Barbour may have disqualified himself from consideration
owing to certain insensitive or ambiguous racial comments —
at least, journalist and fellow-Southerner Kyle-Anne Shiver
appears to think so. John Bolton would make a decent president
but an even better secretary of defense. Rick Perry’s
secession remark, however flippant, has cost him dearly. Mitt
Romney seems to wear a certain gravitas, but the ‘RomneyCare’
fiasco that he imposed as governor of Massachusetts shows his
weak and fallible side.
real problem, however, is that ‘gravitas’ is a vague
and unreliable personality construct and, moreover, one that
can be readily simulated by a good actor. Al Gore, for instance,
managed to project seriousness of purpose for a time, until
greed, corruption, and deceit tore away the mask with which
he dazzled his public. ‘Gravitas’ functions primarily
as a media buzzword that can be applied indiscriminately, either
to demean or to inflate its chosen subject. Only in the most
proven and ineluctable cases can it be said to be an appropriate
descriptor, and these are far and few between. Whether or not
Palin is deficient in this regard, what she demonstrably lacks
is the approval of a reprobate and partisan press, which is
itself cripplingly short of integrity, not to mention gravitas.
is Palin electable? The next two years will determine whether
she will be able to counter the slanderous media campaign against
her candidacy and her competence, and so convince enough people
that she has the right stuff to lead the country in perhaps
its most perilous historical moment since the Civil War. Clearly,
she suffers more than her share of antagonists among the megabuck
left and their myriad satellites, Ivy League academics, mainstream
journalists, public intellectuals, union impresarios and henchmen,
and the entitlement-addicted segment of the public. They are
terrified of her. She even has the panjandrums in the Republican
old guard shaking in their Guccis.
Victor Volsky writes in American Thinker, “in
the eyes of the political/cultural aristocracy, [Palin] is the
embodiment of its worst nightmare: the revolt of the masses
against their masters.” And she knows that the master
class will mobilize its considerable reserves against her. The
question is whether, by sheer force of character, will, and
charisma, like an American version of Delacroix’s Marianne
leading the charge at the electoral barricades, and by pursuing
a tireless itinerary, she can prevail against overwhelming odds
and bring to the American people authentic change and genuine
hope for the future.
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