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The Collective
Sunday, October 5, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

It has been a bit difficult to get a good feel for Peggy Noonan’s view on Governor Palin. A few weeks ago, an unknown open mic seemed to indicate that Noonan was far from impressed with Palin. Then, on Thursday night after the debate, she was quite effusive in her praise of Palin’s performance (stating, amongst other things, that she “killed”). Her post-debate column was a bit of a mix. In that column she did ponder a not so complementary notion:

A question is at what point shiny, happy populism becomes cheerful manipulation.

She expanded on that populism note this morning on MTP:

MS. NOONAN: Oh, but some people are naturals. She is a natural. I, I will tell you, I, I feel increased concern about her, I think, what she thinks of populism, as her populist approach. There are two ways—you know, her stuff about “I’m Main Street, you’re not, you’re the elite. I’m not the East Coast, I’m Joe Six-Pack.” She actually says, “I’m the Joe Six-Pack candidate.” This left me thinking, “Gosh, would Lincoln say, ‘I represent the backwoods types?’ Would FDR say, ‘Yeah, the New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun. Vote for me.’” It—there’s something weird about it. But there’s also something, for me, concerning populism as a tactic is justified often in politics. “I need this program, the people want it.” Populism as a strategy, “We’re the good guys, you’re the bad guys,” is not good, and, and if that’s the road they’re going, that’s not a good road to be on. It’s not helpful to the country.

(She made a similar point in her column).

Really, Palin’s basic appeal is populistic, plain and simple. She isn’t from Washington, she is a working Mom, she is small towner, she isn’t an “East Coast elite” and so forth. She is “just like you” (well, some of you). The problem, of course, for the McCain ticket, is that that populistic appeal only is likely to influence certain segments of the base. I don’t think it will resonate beyond there.

One thing that also strikes me: one is an “outsider” only up and until the point that one wins. And, further, in the case of someone as inexperienced as Palin, one has to rely very heavily on “insiders” for information and advice.

Bring it back to her column, Noonan notes the following, connecting this populistic appeal to a means of deflecting criticisms of Palin:

I find obnoxious the political game in which if you expressed doubts about the vice presidential nominee, or criticized her, you were treated as if you were knocking the real America—small towns, sound values. “It’s time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,” Mrs. Palin told talk-show host Hugh Hewitt.

She also connects it to the current administration:

As for the dismissal of conservative critics of Mrs. Palin as “Georgetown cocktail party types” (that was Mr. McCain), well, my goodness. That is the authentic sound of the aggression, and phony populism, of the Bush White House. Good move. That ended well.

Indeed, there is a lot about Palin that reminds me of Bush, and that isn’t a compliment. Specifically that lack of specific knowledge is somehow a virtue (or, at a minimum, an unimportant fact).

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Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |

7 Comments »

  1. Noonan is out promoting her book right now, and she’s given a lot of good interviews in the process. She was on the Daily Show last week, and she and Jon Stewart had a conversation that hit on a lot of these points as well- particularly with a lot of the “code speak” that these campaigns are using.

    And I have to admit. It really shows that she wrote speeches for Reagan. You can almost hear her words coming out of his mouth when she speaks.

    Comment by ALmod — Sunday, October 5, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  2. Specifically that lack of specific knowledge is somehow a virtue (or, at a minimum, an unimportant fact).

    It’s interesting that you’ve shown lots of concern over the past month over Palin’s lack of specific knowledge. However Biden’s wholesale invention of facts isn’t interesting.

    The one that I still find interesting was the whole Hezbollah comment by Biden in the recent debate. Forget the earlier Biden inventions (President FDR on TV in 1929, etc.), this one was kind of a trifecta in itself:

    - Inventing the result of a conflict that never existed. Hezbollah was NEVER driven from Lebanon. It was formed in the early 80’s in Lebanon and has never left.

    - Came up with a solution that no sane person would back. NATO troops are never going to Lebanon, not in the current configuration. There’s no interest in NATO allies to send troops there, and especially for American troops (and especially since the marine barracks bombing in ‘84). NATO troops don’t go where they’re not invited.

    - Then criticized the Bush administration for not following his silly advice on an imagined conflict.

    Biden has said several silly things, indeed, all 4 of the contenders have said things that come out wrong. However this comment was in a class by itself. He showed that he had no knowledge of the Middle East, no knowledge of the role of NATO, and absolute confidence in that lack of knowledge.

    There’s an old saying (source unknown) on the order of “It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know that ain’t so”. Biden’s absolute knowledge of something that is so easily proved untrue is much more worrisome than Palin’s occasional vapid answers.

    Comment by Buckland — Sunday, October 5, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  3. A couple of things:

    The bottom line is that I blog about what is interesting me at a given moment. I am not all that interested in Biden, and I am interested in Palin, hence the disparity in coverage. And really, the bottom line is that I am hardly bound to “equal time” in terms of whom I critique ;)

    Part of why I am interested in Palin is that there is a very really chance that she should become the president, and I must confess I find that disturbing. Also, the odds she becomes president are higher than for Biden becoming president.

    Further, I have a general sense of who Biden is, not so Palin.

    Beyond that, I do think that Biden has spent some time thinking about these issues, I am not convinced that Palin has at all.

    I have honestly been meaning to get back to the Hezbollah thing from the debate.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, October 5, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  4. The U.S. and France pushed for a U.N. resolution demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops, and France deployed troops in Lebanon in the wake of that.

    The U.S. would not send troops into southern Lebanon as part of an international peacekeeping force, as was being negotiated when Israel was demanding return of its troops and began its incursion. NATO agreed to only if Hezbellah agreed, but the force would not have included British or U.S. troops. Italy agreed to send troops.

    He seems to have meant that the U.S. would not join France during the Cedar Revolution, but is also conflating it with the July War a year and a half later.

    Comment by bluespapa — Sunday, October 5, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

  5. Hmmm… I hope I don’t throw everyone off by responding to the actual post this thread started with, but here goes:

    In my view, Palin’s performance in the VP debate was an utter disaster for the campaign.

    How can I say that, when there has been so much praise slathered over it? Simple.

    She wasted 90 minutes appealing to the people that were going to vote McCain/Palin anyway.

    What is being sold as her solid performance by the GOP spin-doctors and the right-wing pundits was no such thing.

    Anyone who has been following the campaigns with any more than a passing interest should be well-aware that John and Sarah have their Core vote wrapped-up.

    Where they’re running into trouble is with Independents and Undecideds. Two groups who are notorious for hating BS. Which is all Palin had to offer during the debate.

    I challenge anyone to quote me a specific answer to ANY question she was asked. Her supporters will trumpet her bravery (or is it “Maverickism”?) in openly defying the moderator. To me, that was pure bluster and misdirection.

    Anyone looking for actual answers is likely to feel the same. So, for those of you who have already chosen the GOP ticket - I understand why you’ve deluded yourselves into thinking she performed well. She made you feel good about your positions - which I’m sure can be tough at times.

    But for those of us who (oddly enough) expect to hear an actual answer to a definite question… she blew it.

    There are a lot of us who don’t care how “folksy” a candidate is. There are a lot of us who don’t consider $200K in income as “middle class” (as Palin seems to). And there are a lot of us (I hope) who can see through her veneer.

    She’s clueless. She’s unqualified. And you should have a problem with that. You should also have a problem with the fact that she didn’t even TRY to win over the votes you need to win.

    My impression of the conversation back-stage after the debate:

    Palin: Huh! Whatya think? Pretty freakin’ good, huh?”

    Spin Doctors: Are you Effing kidding? You just set us back 6 months!

    Palin: What’re you talking about? They LOVE me!

    Spin Doctors: YEAH… the same people who loved you when you walked onstage still love you. The people who hated you when you walked onstage hate you even more (and now have more ammunition)… but the people who weren’t sure? With them you dug us a hole. They actively don’t like you now. They don’t trust you. You seem like a liar to them.

    Palin: But I didn’t lie about anything!

    Spin Doctor: No… you just failed to tell the truth on anything. On any… single… thing. She asked you questions that could have been homeruns for you. Weren’t you listening over the last 10 days? Are you aware that you didn’t answer a single question?

    Palin: Uh huh…

    Spin Doctor: Why the F didn’t you?

    Palin: Our supporters don’t like to hear the truth.

    Spin Doctor: But we’ve been rehearsing all week how to make the truth sound less horrific. And besides, didn’t you hear me tell you that our Base isn’t the issue? That we need to connect with the Undecideds?

    Palin: Uh huh.

    Spin Doctor: Then what the F?

    Palin: People like it when I’m Folksy.

    Spin Doctor: Ahh.. for F’s sake.

    Palin: Didn’t you hear me say “… dog-gone-it Joe…” People eat that stuff up.

    Spin Doctor: Nevermind…

    So… a back-handed thanks to Gov. Palin for being so obvious in her obfuscation. And a whole-hearted “Wake UP” to the folks who missed it.

    I make no claim on telling you who you should vote for, but for the sake of America, for the sake of our children, for the sake of your own piece of mind - at least do it with your eyes open.

    Go to the campaign websites. Do some research. If after that it still doesn’t bother you that McCain’s policies don’t match his rhetoric - or only for an hour at a time - that’s on you.

    But PLEASE stop this mindless parotting of the campaign and the pundits.

    This is exactly how Dubya snuck into the White House, and we’ve all lived through the aftermath.

    Don’t you want your candidate to be accountable? Go to sites like FactCheck.Org and Snopes.com to learn some facts about both campaigns.

    I don’t expect (or want) everyone to agree with my viewpoint.

    I just want us all to make informed decisions.

    And in my opinion, anyone who says Palin did anything other than dodge, misdirect and sidestep during the debate wasn’t paying attention.

    Comment by CowboyGP — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 1:33 am

  6. I feel like paraphrasing Jerry Seinfeld about his neighbor:

    “Noonan!!”

    I read that article, too, and there’s something about that woman (Noonan) that makes me….well, I’m not a fan. Something I’ve noticed about the character pushers. You know, the type of person who says that character and personality that make all the difference, and what we need now are people with good character. Despite stating the obvious, these folks also seem to lack in modesty of any kind. As does ol’ Peggy. Good grief, is she pompous. I saw her give a speech at the university of texas, and both my wife and i came away needing to wash our hands. she more-or-less put herself at the center of the reagan revolution. and, you know, she can turn a good phrase now and then, but aren’t there, oh, about 13,000 better writers in the u.s. now? is she really that good??!!

    but that article, grrrr….. i don’t know. i need more than a wink from a veep. again, call me elitest.

    Comment by mbailey@berry.edu — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 3:56 am

  7. Cowboy, all due respect, but this:

    “Don’t you want your candidate to be accountable? Go to sites like FactCheck.Org and Snopes.com to learn some facts about both campaigns.”

    You may or may not have picked up on the rhetoric by now, but guess who is the new “liberal media.” You guessed it. The pundits have been trying their darndest lately to discredit and debunk the independent fact checkers. My particular favorite was the “debunking” of an “incorrect” fact checking of an NRA ad- which was done by the NRA and then later spoonfed to right-wing bloggers.

    Comment by ALmod — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 9:16 am

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