Saturday, July 11, 2009

Palin: Out of Her Depth in a Shallow Pool

Peggy Noonan on Sarah Palin:
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.
Noonan goes on to respond to a number of myths being peddled in her defense. The upshot?
Here's why all this matters. The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment. This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think.
Am I beating a dead horse by posting negatively about Palin? The reason I do is because, even though neither "conservatism" nor "liberalism" are the gospel, they are also not equal. I believe that conservatism has a lot more truth to it than its alternative. And I would like to see that flourish in the public square. And supporting Palin seems to do virtually nothing to advance that cause.

I usually agree with Peter Wehner's analysis, and this issue is no exception. He writes:
Sarah Palin has star power, she’s quite popular with a significant portion of the G.O.P., and she can raise lots of money. Few figures generate the excitement she does among core party supporters. So it would be foolish to write off her political future.

On the other hand, she has done enormous damage to herself since her single shining moment: her acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in early September. In interviews she has come across as unable to offer up more than a sound bite argument on virtually any issue (with the exception of energy). She seems to have memorized answers rather than thought through issues. She doesn’t seem able to articulate a core philosophy. And her announcement that she would not complete her term as governor was rambling and at times incoherent. She strikes me as terribly out of sync with the needs of this moment.

The G.O.P. is at low ebb; rebuilding its reputation depends on emerging public figures who are conservative and principled, who radiate intellectual depth and calmness of purpose, who come across as irenic rather than agitated, competent and reliable rather than erratic and uneven.

Sarah Palin may prove to be more impressive than many of us believe she is. And she has every right to make her case and test herself against others. But even those of us who were disposed to like her cannot deny that her public appearances have generally ranged from mediocre to awful. She’s had more than a handful of chances to show her stuff; what we’ve seen has not been reassuring, and at times alarming.

If Sarah Palin becomes the face and future of the G.O.P., it would take a huge step toward securing its position as a minority party for many years to come.

See also John Hinderaker, who supported Palin but explains why her explanations of why she quite mid-term are not very persuasive.

I've said my piece. From hereon I'll try to restrain myself. But the key word is try!

(To anticipate a point surely to be raised in the comments. Calling Noonan or Wehner a member of the elite media is not a compelling response. I will also be the first to admit that she has been treated in a degrading, insulting way by many in the media.)