Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard:
If Sarah Palin visits Nashville on her book tour, she really ought to stop by the Hermitage. Andrew Jackson’s plantation is a lot more than a beautifully restored example of Greek Revival architecture and design. It’s also a monument to the seventh president’s democratic legacy–of rule by the people, of competitive commercial markets, of entrepreneurial individuals lighting out to the territories. It’s a legacy to which Palin is heiress. And one she ought to embrace.
The upshot is a creative and unregulated political marketplace. The most compelling figures and ideas prosper. No one has a dominant position. But it’s also clear that what Michael Barone has called the “balance of enthusiasm” in politics is now squarely on the right. And yet, like all markets, the political trading post is prone to bubbles, excesses, rumors, and even the occasional conspiracy theory.
All of which creates a gigantic opening for a politician to display imagination and leadership. An opportunity for a figure who will separate the good populism (championing free-enterprising individuals) from the bad (concocting loony theories and vilifying “enemies of the people”). Someone who will give voice to the millions who don’t want government aggrandizing the powerful; who don’t want government risking dangerous fiscal imbalances; who do want public policies that create the conditions for a general prosperity. Someone, in other words, who can play the same role in contemporary politics that Jackson, Bryan, and Reagan did in the past.
She lives in Alaska.
The similarities between Jackson, Bryan, Reagan, and Sarah Palin are striking. This is not to say that they are alike in every respect. Nor is it to say that Palin’s achievements to date rank with the others’. And, of course, American populism is a deep and complex tradition. But it’s nonetheless true that a couple of traits span the centuries and unify these four political figures. The first is the reaction they provoke among the elites of their age–what one might call the “Coonskin Cap Critique.” The second is their advocacy of dispersed power, open markets, and American individualism.
Elites regard challenges to their authority with condescension and contempt. They routinely underestimate the capacities of populist leaders. They mock their enemies as uneducated provincials who lack expert knowledge and therefore have no place interfering in politics. They contemptuously refer to the supporters of populist politicians as an ill-kempt and dangerous mob.
Daniel Libit at Politco:
The Weekly Standard magazine will toast associate editor’s Matthew Continetti’s new book, “The Persecution of Sarah Palin,” Tuesday at a private party. But the book — and, naturally, the party as well — comes about three months before originally planned.
Continetti’s book had to rush to print after the former Republican vice presidential candidate announced that her autobiography would be released in fall 2009, instead of spring 2010.
Even with the sped-up publishing date, Continetti will have the defending-Palin market cornered for a scant week. Palin’s own book, “Going Rogue,” comes out Nov. 17. The date change turned out to be the second time Palin thwarted Continetti’s plans. He was already well into in the writing process when she announced her resignation from the Alaska governorship on July 3. “I was surprised when she decided to do that,” Continetti says, adding that the decision didn’t complicate his defense.
He wrote a cover story for The Weekly Standard the week of her announcement, in which he had his one and only opportunity to speak with the former governor. Palin, he says, has a standing policy of not participating in book projects about her, but Continetti was able to weave some of his notes from the magazine article into his book.
Continetti had been sold on Palin early on.
“I thought it was a game-changing thing,” he told POLITICO of Sen. John McCain’s decision to tap her for the ticket last year. Continetti’s Weekly Standard colleague, editor Fred Barnes, had published one of the first national magazine profiles about the former governor in July 2007.
Shawn Macomber interviews Continetti at The American Spectator:
Victory for Palin’s enemies would come if they succeeded in their attempts to drive her out of public life. sThat hasn’t happened. If anything, she has become more powerful, more influential, over time. She did more to change the shape of the health care debate in one Facebook post than any other major Republican politician. She led the way in national Republican support for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Alaska was holding her down. So she broke free. And now she can speak out as often as she wants.
Palin has a habit of making bold decisions that may seem odd at the time. When she entered the Alaska Republican gubernatorial primary in October 2005, she was making an extremely risky decision. When she made her surprise announcement that she would resign from office on July 26, 2009, nobody knew what to think. In retrospect, both decisions make eminent sense. She won the 2006 primary in a landslide and won the general election to become governor. Her resignation has allowed her to return to the national stage as a leader of the conservative populist revival. We’ll see what the future holds. But whatever happens, it will be quite a ride.
The two Daniel Larison posts. Here:
In reality, Jackson’s legacy is the antithesis of much of what the Whigs and Republicans have stood for in domestic politics since 1824, and Palin has no claim on such a legacy. The financial sector bailout last year was the sort of close collusion between government and banks that infuriated Jackson and his followers. The so-called heiress of Jackson endorsed the bailout. There is a Jackson-like anti-Fed populism out there, but Continetti and his colleagues have no interest in encouraging Palin to embrace their arguments. So Continetti creates a safe, generic Jacksonian “legacy” that sounds as if it had come from the late Jack Kemp. Everything that made Jackson and Bryan’s populism interesting gives most Republican and movement conservative leaders hives, because these men married cultural and economic populism together. As the GOP’s Palinolatry itself shows, cultural pseudo-populism is at least tolerated as a gimmick or electoral maneuver, but even a whiff of real economic populism has always been toxic for Republican leaders and activists. There is a reason why Palin’s own Alaska record of hiking windfall profit taxes on oil companies has been carefully and consistently eliminated from all conservative discussions of her time as governor. That is her claim to some measure of populist leadership, and it is the one thing about her economic conservatives and national GOP leaders would like to forget. Indeed, as she has become a national figure she has run as far away from the substance of what she did in Alaska as possible, because raising any taxes on major corporations for any reason is exactly the one thing that will never fly with Republicans on a national level.
There is another passage in Continetti’s Palin article that tells us a lot about the mentality of Palinites and those who would pander to them:
Dismiss airy prophecies about “peak oil,” “green jobs,” and “limits to growth.” Pledge, instead, that Americans will have access to as much of the cheapest, cleanest energy they need to stimulate the economy. Palin is right. No limits.
In other words, the right-populism of which Palin can supposedly be the great leader is going to a movement of irresponsible consumption, limitless appetite and unfettered desire. This is so obviously at odds with both Christian stewardship and conservative temperament that it scarcely seems necessary to mention it, but here we find the moral vacuum at the heart of Palinism. It happens to be expressed here in connection with the use of natural resources, but it conveys hubris, arrogance and self-indulgence and indifference to the welfare of the commonwealth that will be inherited by those not yet born. “No limits” is the slogan either of the anarchist or the libertine. There is no sane populism that would embrace such an idea, and it certainly has nothing to do with anything recognizable as conservatism.
Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene:
Mathew Continetti reinforces my belief that it is wise to limit one’s stay in Washington DC, lest you’re tempted to start writing nonsense like this, embarrassing yourself in the process. Populist leaders have held very modest views of government, Continetti writes, name-checking Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan and Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Continetti’s language might also lead readers to imagine that a natural gas pipeline has been built in Alaska, thanks in part to Sarah Palin, but actually construction on the project hasn’t even begun. My understanding is that she worked on issuing a contract for the project, not its construction. You’d think that competition in bidding would be termed “a basic responsibility of competent officials operating under any governing philosophy” as opposed to “populism.”
Overall, it’s just a terrible piece — check out what Mr. Continetti thinks a populist approach to health care entails — though I suppose it’s becoming fairer everyday to call Mr. Continetti “the intellectual force behind Palinism.” Talk about damning with faint praise. My least favorite emotion is embarrassment for others. It is particularly unpleasant when a guy with an agile mind and writerly talent finds himself lacking the intellectual integrity to do good work.
Napoleon Linardatos at Frum Forum:
It is very telling that her record as governor of Alaska gets only scant mention in Continetti’s essay and it’s the usual limited list of accomplishments, the ones we heard about when she was introduced to the nation. Since the defeat of the McCain ticket in 2008, Palin as governor failed to make any serious progress despite the fact that she had gained tremendous prominence and influence on the right and that she was at the helm of a conservative state. At the end she decided to resign, 18 months before the end of her term, admitting that she was no longer able to effectively govern the state. It should have been a “mugged by reality” moment for the Palinistas. But for them her resignation was proof of the everlasting prosecution. Palin would leave governing, as the Washington Post reported, because it was “in the best interest of the state and will allow her to more effectively advocate for issues of importance to her, including energy independence and national security.” Those who can’t govern perpetually campaign.
Continetti argues that Palin is similar to three other political figures: Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan and Ronald Reagan. Making the association with the first two figures is politically questionable, and in the case of Ronald Reagan, Continetti can only establish one similarity only. It is true that Reagan was despised by the nation’s intellectual and political elites but the similarities between Reagan and Palin start and end there. From then on we have to deal with an increasing array of differences. Unlike Palin, the more the American public knew about Reagan the more they liked him. And if someone wanted to know how much Reagan was engaged with national issues and how well he mastered them, he could take a look at the Reagan and Robert F. Kennedy debate back in 1967, fourteen years before Reagan became president.
It would be interesting for Continetti to explain why Palin is more like Reagan and not more like Nixon. Again in the case of Nixon the similarities between him and Palin are limited. Nixon a very intelligent man (not wise though) with a deep knowledge and command of the national issues, was nevertheless loathed by Washington and he could appeal to his base only in proportion to the perceived animus of his detractors.
David Frum at The Frum Forum:
Matthew Continetti has a piece in this weekend’s Weekly Standard hailing Sarah Palin as the ideal leader of a new populist uprising. One obvious objection to his thesis: The populist Sarah is in fact one of the most unpopular figures in American life.
According to Gallup, 63% of Americans say they would never consider voting for her. By a margin of 62%-31% Americans rate Palin “unqualified” to serve as president – by far the worst score for any leading Republican.
In comparison, only 51% of Americans say they would never consider voting for Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee – and a plurality of Americans rate the two as “qualified”: 50-36 say Huckabee is qualified, 49-39 say Romney is qualified.
Palin supporters have constructed an alternative reality in which their heroine is wildly cheered by the American yeomanry, and despised only by a small coterie of sherry-drinking snobs. No contrary evidence, no matter how overwhelming and uncontradicted, can alter this view: not the collapse in Palin’s support in just 5 weeks in 2008, not the statistical studies that show her as the only vice presidential nominee in history to have hurt her ticket, not her rampant unpopularity with American women, not her own flinching from a second encounter with the Alaskan electorate.
In this regard, Continentti’s comparison of Palin to William Jennings Bryan begins to look not only apt, but ominous.
Doctor Zero at Hot Air on Frum:
This is an important point, because poll numbers never change, especially for private citizens who haven’t declared any intention to run for office, three years before the elections. How often to polls have to shift, or produce completely inaccurate numbers, before people stop trying to use them to shape the reality they supposedly measure? A nation looking for confident, visionary leadership is not going to look down and notice David Frum waving a spreadsheet of poll numbers.
I doubt many of the respondents to that Gallup poll could specify exactly what the “qualifications” for the President are. It’s a singular position, with qualifications that change based on current events, and the mood of the electorate. I suspect the electorate of 2012 will be looking for someone who isn’t a “community organizer” with a shady past and zero governing experience, riding a wave of uncritical media adulation and touting an education at elite universities. Palin doesn’t have the only resume that fits the bill, but nobody else’s resume is selling millions of copies at the moment.
Given the difficulty in itemizing the exact “qualifications” for President, and the painfully thin portfolio of the current occupant of the White House, a poll pronouncing the former governor of Alaska “unqualified” is really measuring the effectiveness of crude media caricatures from 2008. Palin isn’t currently running for anything, so people who don’t follow politics closely are left with the afterimage of her savage treatment in the last campaign burned into their memories. That might change when people read her book, and follow her appearances on the book tour, but otherwise I wouldn’t expect much movement in her poll numbers unless she actually tosses her hat in the ring. Why would disengaged voters think of her as anything but a celebrity author until then?
Comparing Palin’s “qualification” ratings to Romney or Huckabee is a little silly, because neither of them took the kind of pounding she did. The Left’s supply of anti-Mormon bigotry remains locked in the toxic waste dump of its soul, where it will remain until Romney looks like he’s going to win the Republican nomination. Huckabee seems to be carefully laying the groundwork for a 2012 run, but right now he could interview live extraterrestrials on his Fox show without pulling a fraction of the sustained media attention Palin continues to receive. Much of this attention is negative, but any principled Republican who thinks he would draw positive media coverage is fantasizing more than the most ardent Palin supporter.
Meanwhile, on another point in the book, David Weigel at The Washington Independent:
Paul Bedard gets an early look at “The Persecution of Sarah Palin,” the second book by young Weekly Standard writer Matthew Continetti, which draws lessons about the media, feminism, and elitism from the former Alaska governor’s rapid rise and fall. In this excerpt, Continetti analyzes the meaning of Tina Fey’s iconic impersonation of Palin.
It was telling that Fey should be the actress who impersonated Palin. The two women may look like each other, but they could not be more dissimilar. Each exemplifies a different category of feminism. Palin comes from the I-can-do-it-all school. She is professionally successful, has been married for more than 20 years, and has a large and (from all outward appearances) happy family.
The “outward appearances” bit gives me pause, as I know that Continetti has made trips to Alaska to research the book. And the Palin family has been the target of lots of tabloid rumors — some of those rumors pushed by Levi Johnston, the father of Palin’s grandson. Is the book going to tackle any of this? Moving on.
[W]hile Fey is also pretty, married, and has a daughter, the characters she portrays in films like Mean Girls and Baby Mama, and in television shows like 30 Rock, are hard-pressed eggheads who give up personal fulfillment—e.g., marriage and motherhood—in the pursuit of professional success. On 30 Rock, Fey, who is also the show’s chief writer and executive producer, plays Liz Lemon, a television comedy writer modeled on herself. Liz Lemon is smart, funny, and at the top of her field. But she fails elsewhere. None of her relationships with men works out. She wants desperately to raise a child but can find neither the time nor the means to marry or adopt. Lemon makes you laugh, for sure. But you also would be hard pressed to name a more unhappy person on American TV.
This is all subjective, but I’d say even the fictional Liz Lemon has fewer problems than the real-life former governor of Alaska, who quit her job under the pressure of frivolous ethics complaints and who seems to get into monthly feuds with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend.
Eric Alterman at The Nation:
I had higher hopes for young Weekly Standard writer Matthew Continetti. His first book, on the corruption of the so-called Gingrich revolution, while lightly researched, was smart and well written. I even praised it in print, something rather rare for a Nation columnist reviewing a book by a Weekly Standard writer.
But with his new book, an even more lightly researched study of the alleged “persecution” by the “elite media” of Sarah Palin, I see that Continetti has decided to hell with all that and embraced the tactics of his ideological predecessors. For this he has been rewarded with blurbs by such journalistic luminaries as Karl Rove (“tough, revealing”), Brit Hume (“compelling”) and Michael Barone (“the truth”). It’s a sad commentary to note that these three are also considered respected members of the conservative media, because if they actually believe their own words, they would not recognize an honest work of journalism if it shot them in the face.
To be fair, Continetti is handicapped by his subject’s refusal to speak to him for the book as well as her snap decision to quit her job without a credible explanation. (And perhaps as a result, his readers are handicapped by his refusal to support anything he claims with source notes, an index or a bibliography.) He asserts hypocrisy on the part of the “elite media” bent on Palin’s “persecution,” an assertion he pretends to prove by quoting descriptions of the ex-governor, on the one hand, and dissimilar descriptions of her opponents, on the other. But never does Continetti demonstrate much interest in employing equivalent or even terribly similar examples. More risibly, his idea of the MSM apparently includes: Naomi Wolf, “MarkB,” Jamie Lee Curtis, “ArcXIX,” Roger Ebert, Gawker, Buzzfeed.com, Catherine Deveny of Australia’s The Age, Heather Mallic of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, comedian Bill Maher, ex-junkie/crackhead British comedian Russell Brand, Hustler Video and, I kid you not, “a Chinese language newspaper.”
His logic, moreover, is a wonder to behold. It was “telling,” he writes, that Tina Fey should impersonate Palin. Why? Palin “is professionally successful, has been married for more than 20 years, and has a large and (from all outward appearances) happy family.” And yet Fey, also (apparently) a happily married, professionally successful mother, nevertheless portrays characters in films and TV who “are hard-pressed eggheads who give up personal fulfillment–e.g., marriage and motherhood–in the pursuit of professional success.” Get it? The actress plays imperfect individuals in her (comedy) roles. That proves, um, well, I can’t tell you, and neither, alas, can Continetti.
Matt Gertz at Media Matters:
If you followed that, Continetti claims that Fey and Palin “could not be more dissimilar.” Why? Well, Palin “is professionally successful, has been married for more than 20 years, and has a large and (from all outward appearances) happy family.” On the other hand, Fey… well… is also apparently married with a daughter, but the CHARACTERS SHE PLAYS are not. In short, his evidence that Fey and Palin “could not be more dissimilar” is that Palin and LIZ LEMON are different. And that proves that Fey is the type of feminist purportedly out to get Palin because Fey is “rankled” that her own “path to glory” was more difficult.
In other news, Barack Obama and Will Smith could not be more dissimilar because Obama has yet to blow up an alien mothership.
UPDATE: Alex Massie
Reihan Salam at The American Scene
Daniel Larison on Salam