Last Wednesday, the Daily Beast website published an article from author Mark Lewis, a major supporter and defender of Sarah Palin, who among other things had edited a book of Palin quotes, The Quotable Rogue. After years of significant support, he wrote a long article here wondering if conservative adoration of the former half-term governor has finally ended -- and deservedly so. This comes after her speech in Iowa that he notes was poorly received. And in the end he notes, "It’s probably time to concede that the early critics of Sarah Palin had a point, and that they shouldn’t have been tarred and feathered..."
The article got a lot of attention and praise. Even its very title jumped out with its bluntness, "You Betcha I Was Wrong About Sarah Palin." It's taken me this long to write about because...well, I've finally un-gnashed my teeth. It was a terrible article.
While I'm glad to read Mr. Lewis's criticism and comments, and know it couldn't have been easy for him to do, which I admire -- my admiration stops there. Because it's what he actually writes that is so lame. It came across like the male version of a Peggy Noonan faux-mea culpa.
(I've written several times about the conservative Ms. Noonan's attention-getting criticisms of George W. Bush and even Sarah Palin that seem so great on the surface but stink to high heaven when you look close. That's because they come long-after the fact when they'd mean anything, when most of the public has long-since come to the same conclusion and Peggy Noonan is basically kicking a dog when it's down self-protectively so as not to be tarred by any connection, giving half-hearted criticisms without significant substance, and conveniently failing to mention her own mean-spirited nasty attacks against her subjects' early critics and her own part in building up the very people she now says are empty.)
Mr. Lewis pretty much did the same thing.
I don't have it in me to shred his article point-by-point, there's so much to dissect in almost every paragraph, but a few passages do leap out more than others, and those are worth noting.
For instance, early on he asks wide-eyed of today's Sarah Palin, "What changed?" Well...nothing. While he continues insisting that Ms. Palin was so truly great in the early days and how he had pushed for her to be the VP nominee and she was so dynamic during the campaign (never mind her meltdown over foreign affairs and seeing Russia, and her inability to answer Katie Couric's softball "What newspapers and magazines do you read?"), he blindly ignores that she was scary-incompetent from Day One. And I mean "Day One." I say this as someone who wrote an article for the Huffington Post, "The Worst Vice-Presidential Nominee in U.S. History," that is time-stamped in the early-morning hours the very day after John McCain introduced her as his running mate. (I actually sent the article in a mere three hours after the announcement, but it took a while for it to make it through the editorial approval process.) You can see it here with the date and time. The point here isn't that I criticized her early, the very first day -- it's that what I was criticizing for is in many ways precisely what Mark Lewis now sees as problems with her. Supposedly news problems. But there's zero new about them. She hasn't "changed." And for him to suggest otherwise ignores history and reality.
Additionally, he later refers to Sarah Palin as "once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating." This sound pretty darn noble. It's also a bunch of malarkey. She had such a high approval because she was newly-elected, Alaskans hadn't had much of a chance to really get to know her yet, and the state has a law where a percentage of oil exploration profits are returned to the public, and so as long as the people get their money back, they're happy with their governor. What he conveniently leaves out is that by the end of the presidential election campaign, a matter of just two months, her approval rating in Alaska plummeted down to 68 percent. And the only thing that had changed in that short period of time is that Sarah Palin had become the GOP Republican Vice-Presidential nominee! You'd have thought Alaskans would be proud and thrilled, and that her approval would have skyrocketed. Instead, people for the first time saw her for what she was, and whammo. Down, down, down her approval went.
It's also worth noting that her highest approval was not the stunning 88 percent, virtually nine out of 10, as Mr. Lewis wrongly states, but 82 percent. Still very high, but not the near-unanimity he's trying to suggest. "But something happened on the way to Des Moines," he writes, referring to her disastrous speech the other week that prompted his article, 6-1/2 years after her nomination. Sorry, guy, it didn't take 6-1/2 years for "something" to have happened. Her state's approval had the bottom collapse in a mere two months -- and what happened is that she was required to speak about substantive matters, and even tiny ones, and people actually listened..
More to the point, Sarah Palin was never a "reform-minded governor." She had barely even been in office a year-and-a-half when he left the state to go on the national campaign trail. And now long after she lost and returned to the state, she quit halfway through her term. Sarah Palin wasn't in office long enough to reform anything in Alaska -- other than who occupied the governor's office.
But the most telling passage in this supposed high-minded criticism of Sarah Palin is when Mr. Lewis writes --
"My harshest criticism was directed at conservative writers whom (I felt) prematurely attacked her during the months of September and October in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Once again, this sound absolutely great. His Harshest Criticism! Wow, impressive. Except -- well, take a closer look. It's only directed at conservatives. He was slamming people not because they said things critical, but only because they should have been her friends, and how dare they. That's hardly harsh criticism in my book.
And in fact, he still feels that way. The very last paragraph begins -- "It’s probably time to concede that the early critics of Sarah Palin had a point..." Remember that sentence? I quote it at the very beginning. And okay, that sounds pretty good. Except...well, keep reading because what he continues saying in that sentence is --"and that they shouldn’t have been tarred and feathered and (in some cases) nearly purged from the conservative movement." In other words, even today, after almost seven years of inanities from Sarah Palin, in his own supposed-mea culpa article...the only people he's finally willing to concede were right in their early criticism are conservatives!! The liberals? Everyone else? He goes on in the very next sentence and continues dismissing them -- "I'm not excusing the vilest attacks, of course."
Of course. Indeed. That is one pathetic apology for getting it wrong about Sarah Palin.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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