Monday, July 6, 2009

Palin Pulls the Chute

Last fall, a friend who works in television told me, “I supported John McCain until he put Sarah Palin on the ticket – that woman is a deal-breaker!” Now, this pal of mine didn’t know the first thing about Palin’s politics, but she had made up her mind, and she was mad about it, to boot. As American philosopher William James stated, “Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

Now that Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has announced her intention to step down as governor of Alaska with sixteen months remaining in her single term, she is once again in the spotlight (as if she ever left it). Some admirers tout Palin as a presidential candidate in her own right, but what is most striking about the Palin phenomenon is the viscerally negative reaction she engenders.

I was in the hall at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota when Palin delivered her famous “pit bull” speech, and the atmosphere was extraordinary. But almost as soon as that night was over, Palin’s performance on the campaign trail, and her poll numbers, slumped.

National media interviews exposed gaps in her knowledge and perhaps this was for the best. After all, if you can’t handle Katie Couric, how will you cope with Vladimir Putin? To that point, I wish Barack Obama had been subject to at least half the scrutiny Palin got. I don’t mean the personal attacks and cracks about her children, I mean the pointed questioning she received from Couric, Charlie Gibson and others. Left-wing media are a refining fire for conservative candidates. Liberals and Democrats have no such advantage. If more reporters had asked frankly of Candidate Obama, “Do you understand the basics?” he might have been better prepared when he attained America’s highest office.

But Palin-hatred did not begin when she booted Gibson’s nebulous question about the “Bush Doctrine.” Rather, as with my TV friend, some folks just detested her from the jump. Whether it’s because of her pro-life views and the threat she poses to modern feminism, as some have suggested, I do not know, but it is a peculiar and ugly thing. In response, comedian Dennis Miller summarized why he likes Palin: “Too many people I don’t respect hate her.”

The unhinged hatred of Palin and idol worship of Obama are inverse symptoms of the same mass psychosis. As I have written before, if a commentator makes even the slightest criticism of Obama, he or she will hear at once from angry, glazed-over nutcakes, issuing pronouncements like, “Obama is building a new world for us all!” To those people I say, softly and with concern, you very badly need to get a life.

And to those who’ve shown hatred toward Palin, I say you’re better than that. Do you really want to be part of a mob that goes after a woman’s teenage daughters and questions the parentage of her infant son in vicious terms? There are excellent reasons to oppose Sarah Palin becoming president of the United States, but many of her harshest detractors couldn’t tell you what they are.

Ideas, not personalities; facts, not caricatures, should prevail in our public discussion. That may seem unrealistic and simple-minded, but the same can be said of politics.

Theo Caldwell is the author of Finn the half-Great.