Saturday, 8 August 2009

Going off-message

On Sarah Palin and her enemies:
A Sarah Palin who stepped down for the sake of her family and her media-swarmed state deserves sympathy even from the millions of Americans who despise her. A Sarah Palin who resigned in the delusional belief that it would give her a better shot at the presidency in 2012 warrants no such kindness.

Either way, though, her 10 months on the national stage have been a dispiriting period for American democracy.

If Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is — the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity — then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure. But this caricature has always missed the point of the Alaska governor’s appeal ...
Over the last few months I have been enjoying the columns of Ross Douthat, the New York Times' new resident conservative: to give a recent selection, here he is offering a critical take on the US Supreme Court, and on using the Constitution to regulate abortion; giving a sane synopsis of where things stand for America in Iraq; and asserting that the basis of affirmative action (if any) will have to shift from race to class.

Meanwhile the established conservative at the Times, David Brooks — really, as a friend of mine remarked in a nice distinction, the resident Republican — found it in himself to call for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation two months ago ... a sign of how unsupportable the Republican party line has become over the last year. (The fact that he went off-message and criticised the McCain-Palin ticket during, rather than after last year's election, was an early indicator that the game was up.) This week, less than ten of the GOP senators found it in themselves to agree.

In other off-topic news, Barbara Ehrenreich points out that people who were already poor have been hit by the downturn, even if they're not making the news;

a UN official talks about what's right with Japan;

a reporter presents a good-news story on orphanages in Tanzania;

and Matt Bai writes on Obama's sense of humour.


Earwicker said...

This, from Douthat's Iraq article, is great:

"Pro-war Democrats like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton talked a good game about seeing the conflict through, but they got both of the crucial decisions wrong – backing the invasion in 2003 and then, fingers in the wind, voting against the surge in 2006. (Naturally, they were rewarded with the reins of Barack Obama’s foreign policy.)"

Funny how you can develop a reputation for sanity and non-ideological good sense by getting everything wrong.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Yes, that was a bit of an “ouch” moment, as in: the truth hurts, doesn't it.

It's remarkable how much easier it is to accept this sort of assessment from someone like Douthat, who is trying to see the situation straight and will hoe into all parties freely, than from someone like Brooks, where you feel the need to hold onto your wallet and ask what his angle is. Even if the assessment is the same in both cases (and indeed Brooks can be very insightful).

Having said that, I'm actually quite fond of Joe Biden. If nothing else, his issue with saying unscripted things is endearing, given current values.

Earwicker said...

I didn't take it as a criticism of the administration: just a wry reflection on how people attain political office.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Interesting. I agree that the article will support that reading, but I'd taken it more critically: maybe I'm projecting, because I have real reservations about Hillary Clinton's judgement, if not her character. I mean: Hillary-hating is a very unpleasant industry, and crazed on many points; and whatever else she is, HRC is very well-informed and thorough and committed to public service. But she does make bad calls.

Earwicker said...

In my last comment, I had in mind mainly the observation in parentheses, and especially the use of "naturally". Ross Douthat doesn't, to my understanding, think that Obama "naturally" gives decision-making power to those who habitually get things wrong.