Ross Douthat smartly reviews the unfolding civil war in the conservative pundit-sphere over Sarah Palin, and tries to call a truce of sorts:
In such circumstances, what's the best course of action - denouncing the rats, or trying to figure out why the hell the ship is sinking? Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on - note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren't Helping The Team these days - are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their "seat at the table" is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point. And if I were Hanson or Levin or Steyn I'd be devoting a little less time to ritual denunciations of heretics and RINOs, and at least a little more time to figuring out how to build the sort of ship that will make the rats of the DC/NY corridor want to scramble back on board, however much it makes you sick to have them back. Who knows? It might just be the sort of ship that swing-state voters will want to climb on board as well.
I'm with Ross on the fact that we have bigger fish to fry than pundit-on-pundit action right now. But once the post-election recriminations begin, and when someone starts to bury Palin with blind NYT quotes, I'll stand firmly in the Palin camp. And here's why.
Ross underestimates the deep way in which movement conservatives have felt betrayed by their own establishment -- with which the likes of Brooks,
Kristol (Update: a reader reminds me that Kristol is solidly in the Palin camp), Will et al are aligned -- and never more so than in the last four weeks.
We have seen a situation yesterday in which the Republican Secretary of the Treasury acted as a handmaiden to socialism. I am not given to hyperbolic language, and I use the phrase not to pass judgment on the necessity of what happened, but the forced nationalization of banks is socialism by any grade school definition.
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. And not entirely without cause.
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. Who just happens to be part of the grassroots conservative / outsider / Mark Levin circle. Who, from a conservative point of view, happens to be the one bit of relief we've gotten from this crap sandwich of a political environment that's been going on for three years now. Who, in a movement and a party bereft of fresh faces, seemed to represent a rising new guard.
Can you see why
they we are angry?
Never mind that the political case for Palin decisively hurting the ticket is thin at best.
Never mind that when Palin actually mattered, McCain was ahead.
Never mind that Palin seems to be the only one willing to go on the attack (and I'm not one who believes slash and burn is called for right now, btw).
Then there is the media.
In what universe do Sarah Palin's gaffes matter, and Joe Biden's 20 years of gaffes get ignored? In what universe does Sarah Palin get called unqualified, and this prompts absolutely zero scrutiny and commentary on Barack Obama's resume, especially amongst conservative pundits bashing Palin. Is it because Obama shares their alma mater? (As an Ivy League grad, I'm not one to launch anti-elitist cracks, but this one happens to be true.)
Even if one concedes that these are not entirely apples-to-apples comparisons, it's willful blindness to suggest that Sarah Palin hasn't been given the short end of the stick in entirely relevant experience comparisons with Obama and in temperament comparisons with Biden. Biden has a longstanding reputation as a less-than-Presidential hothead who's used racially-tinged code language to describe his running mate -- and not a peep from the media and our conservative emissaries to the Times editorial board.
Now can you understand the frustration?
Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham aren't defending the campaign to the hilt because they are McCain people, or even McCain/Palin people. It is because they are Palin people. They believe Palin is the only smart move McCain has made. And events since since Palin faded from the spotlight haven't exactly disproven their point.