The extent to which Sarah Palin–a non-office holder, the veteran of less than a single term as Governor of Alaska, an unsuccessful Vice-Presidential candidate who, polls tell us, incurs the disapproval of most voters–dominates the news these days is remarkable. If you run your eyes down the headlines of any on-line newspaper, you will most likely see multiple Palin stories. Take today’s Washington Post, for example: An Excerpt from Sarah Palin’s New Book (which is actually an anti-Palin cartoon), Sarah Palin’s “Snuff Film” Has Animal Rights Activists Angry, Who Will Be Next Year’s Bristol?, Attack on Michelle Obama Shows Palin’s Ignorance of History, Palin Fires Back at “Blue-Blood” Barbara Bush.
Is there any precedent for this level of obsession with a politician who, by any objective standard, should be a secondary figure at best? I can’t think of one in my lifetime. Consider the other losing Vice-Presidential candidates of recent years: Sargent Shriver, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferraro, Lloyd Bentsen, Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards. A couple of them I had to look up. Several were important for other reasons. But it would have been absurd to think of any of them dominating the headlines two years after losing their Vice-Presidential races.
Some say, of course, that Palin’s omnipresence is due to her unique political genius. Perhaps. But take another look at those Post headlines, which are pretty typical of the coverage Palin gets. I’m not sure it is a mark of genius to generate a steady stream of negative publicity.
Palin’s backers say that the Left constantly attacks her because it is afraid of her. I think most liberals detest Palin, but I don’t think they fear her. On the contrary, I’m pretty sure most liberals fervently hope that she will be the Republican nominee in 2012, and they put the spotlight on her in part because they think it weakens the GOP and the conservative movement if she is our most visible spokesman.
Liberals also are trying to promote the theme that there is a deep split in the Republican Party, and they use Palin for that purpose. In that regard, the most significant of the Post’s current Palin headlines is the one about her exchange with Barbara Bush:
In an interview Wednesday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, Sarah Palin fired back at former first lady Barbara Bush, opting to make a class issue out of Bush’s comments earlier in the week. Bush told CNN’s Larry King in an interview that aired Monday that she hoped Palin would stay in Alaska. From Palin’s interview with Ingraham:
“I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and I want to say it will all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue-bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition,” Palin said.
This is the kind of intramural spat that the liberal media love to play up. It serves their purposes to portray the Republican Party as divided between “establishment” or “country club” Republicans and Tea Party upstarts led by Governor Palin. Some conservative activists are too willing to fall in with this liberal theme. In truth, there is not a single “country club” Republican among the party’s Presidential contenders, and there are precious few in Congress. I think Palin understands this, and I blame Barbara Bush for her gratuitous swipe at one of her party’s leaders. In some social circles, attacking Sarah Palin is more or less mandatory. But Mrs. Bush is a public figure, the wife of a former Republican President, and should not have advanced the interests of the Democratic Party by indulging in a cheap crack on the Larry King show.
Sarah Palin can be a great asset for the Republican Party and the conservative movement, but only if the Democrats’ plan to use her to create a needless schism in the movement fails. Palin has generally been scrupulous about not criticizing specific Republicans, but occasionally falls into stereotyped attacks on unnamed “establishment” Republicans. Worse, in my view, are the anti-Palin Republicans, some of whom talk about her as though she were a vampire to be warded off with a clove of garlic. Palin is not my first choice as a Presidential nominee, but so what? The conservative movement is not, and cannot be, a one-person show. Conservatives of all stripes need to resist the liberal media’s effort to stir up intramural brawls in our ranks.