It's like a particularly horrible game of would-you-rather: Sarah Palin, media mogul, or Sarah Palin, political figurehead? And do we really have to choose?
Right now, Palin is a little of both. She is becoming increasingly visible in the media world, with her new reality television show and her constant appearances at various black-tie events. It is easy to make fun of her, but as we become more and more saturated with Palin-fatigue, the question where is this all going? is only further obscured.
On one hand, we have the Television Palin, whose very presence makes liberals shudder and late night talk show hosts stiffen with excitement. This Palin is comedy gold; she's piloting a reality show that is sure to be ridiculous (jump to Jimmy Kimmel's recent "preview" of said program), she's appearing as the host of a new Fox News series with guests Toby Keith and LL Cool J (this is real, and it is happening this Thursday), and she has shown the world that she knows how to use Facebook to its full potential (to drum up controversy while commenting on March Madness, obviously). This is the Palin that leads Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post to conclude that Palin is "running to head a media empire rather than a presidential campaign." He writes:
As a potential candidate, Palin has done nothing to show that she's boned up on the issues that often tripped her up in 2008. As an emerging media star, she's played her cards just right. She makes news with a couple of paragraphs on her Facebook page. Can Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney say the same?
Of course, the possibility that she may seek the Oval Office — despite resigning as governor after 2 1/2 years — stokes interest in everything Palin does. But when it comes down to raising money, participating in debates and having to be interviewed by the likes of Katie Couric, I don't think so.
Kurtz seems to think that Palin is smart enough to know that she's too dumb for any real responsibility. We're not convinced. And Norman Podhoretz doesn't really think it actually matters whether or not she can list the countries in Africa, or even locate the continent on a map. His "defense" of Palin, published yesterday at the Wall Street Journal basically asks who gives a flying fuck if she's an idiot?:
Nothing annoys certain of my fellow conservative intellectuals more than when I remind them, as on occasion I mischievously do, that the derogatory things they say about Sarah Palin are uncannily similar to what many of their forebears once said about Ronald Reagan....
What I am trying to say is not that Sarah Palin would necessarily make a great president but that the criteria by which she is being judged by her conservative critics-never mind the deranged hatred she inspires on the left-tell us next to nothing about the kind of president she would make.
Take, for example, foreign policy. True, she seems to know very little about international affairs, but expertise in this area is no guarantee of wise leadership. After all, her rival for the vice presidency, who in some sense knows a great deal, was wrong on almost every major issue that arose in the 30 years he spent in the Senate.
Podhoretz concludes that the reason many neocons hate Palin has more to do with their thinly-veiled classism than anything else. Palin represents the "loathsome 'Tea Party' rabble," the Wal-Mart shoppers, the poor and uneducated folk of Real America. Self-proclaimed conservative intellectual Podhoretz concludes:
As for me, after more than a year of seeing how those "prodigious oratorical and intellectual gifts" have worked themselves out in action, I remain more convinced than ever of the soundness of Buckley's quip, in the spirit of which I hereby declare that I would rather be ruled by the Tea Party than by the Democratic Party, and I would rather have Sarah Palin sitting in the Oval Office than Barack Obama.
Fortunately, Podhoretz is in the minority - which is obviously why he felt the need to write a "defense" in the first place. While there are still some people who like Palin, many more seem to feel that the more she talks, the further she pushes herself from the White House. She may be able to, as Michelle Cottle suggests, "step up and save the Tea Party from itself," but on it's current course, the Tea Party remains somewhat of a fringe group.
For most of us, it's hard to envision our future president interviewing LL Cool J and fighting bears in the Alaskan wilderness (yeah, I have an inside scoop). Logically, it would seem that the more she markets the Sarah Palin Brand, the less likely she is to garner votes in 2012. Yet this is what makes her perfect for the Tea Party, with their off-beat tactics and angry rhetoric. And unless Podhoretz is able to singlehandedly convince the rest of the neocons "maintain their haughtiness and status by, curiously, backing the most dim-witted Republican available," Sarah Palin will remain, in Michael Wolff's words, "something of a pawn."
Palin, Inc. [Washington Post]
Queen Tea [The New Republic]
OK, Sarah Palin Might Be Stupid, but Why Is That Bad? [Newser]
In Defense Of Sarah Palin [Wall Street Journal]
California Lawmaker Seeks Amount Paid For Palin Speech [Salon]
Jimmy Kimmel Gets A Preview Of Palin Reality Show [Media Bistro]
Sarah Palin To Host First Fox News Show Thursday - With LL Cool J [Mediaite]