2008 September 10 Wednesday
Some See Sarah Palin As Talented Political Performer

Former California Assembly speaker and Democrat Willie Brown sees Sarah Palin as a talented political performer.

I actually went back and watched Palin's speech a second time. I didn't go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. I had to make sure I got the lines right. Her timing was exquisite. She didn't linger with applause, but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke. And she delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid. She didn't have to prove she was "of the people." She really is the people.

As for Palin herself, she is going to be very, very effective on the campaign trail, especially if McCain's people can figure out how to gently keep her from getting into confrontations with the press. If she can answer questions like she handled herself at the convention, Palin will turn out to be the most interesting person in all of politics, and the press will treat her like they treated Obama when he was first discovered. And remember, the Palin bandwagon needs to roll for only two months.

At Lying Eyes ziel thinks Palin is smarter than Half Sigma gives her credit for being.

Meanwhile, blogger HalfSigma has questioned Palin's intelligence, guessing she's in the 110 range. It's an interesting post with lots of comments including from yours truly. He bases it on her taking six years to get through college and the generally working-class life choices made by her and her family. I'd guess she's a little smarter than that, but she seems to have such a natural affinity for leadership I find it unlikely she would not have landed herself in a far more lucrative position if she were especially smart. So this is an interesting question, as it may ultimately restrict her ability to rise too far.

James Fulford, in the VDARE blog, found an interview with her where she expresses admiration for Ron Paul, so she at least has promise to be something other than the package the McCain campaign will box her into. Again she speaks effortlessly without notes about some mildly technical issues, so I'm guessing she's a bit more intelligent than Half Sigma claims.

In an exchange with Ross Douthat Tyler Cowen comments that he sees Sarah Palin as politically formidable.

T.C: There is also the notion that the Kennedy School of Government does not and never will rule America and that America can revoke an electoral victory for the Democrats "at will." Sarah Palin is a populist of the right, and that scares a lot of people. I differ from her myself on many fundamental views, but I will confess that I am enjoying seeing her upend so many presuppositions of her critics.

I tell you, I watched a big chunk of that debate she had when she ran for governor of Alaska a few years ago. She crushed her opponent. If she can survive the next few days, she will prove a very formidable opponent for the Democrats. They are torn between realizing that and not wanting to admit it, by painting her as a lightweight. She isn't.

Everyone is harping on the experience issue. The biggest question is how good a decision-maker you are and how "meta-rational" you are, namely having the ability to recognize your own imperfections. I don't know how she does on those counts, but those are the more honest questions, not whether she can name or understand all the different factions in Afghanistan. No one can.

Tyler does not see her as a libertarian.

Over at Gene Expression Razib decided (correctly) that Audacious Epigone doesn't get the size of readership he merits. This led into a discussion thread on the political suppression of human biodiversity research which is really worth reading in full, particularly Godless Capitalist's comments. But Mencius also makes a number of points worth considering when looking at McCain and Palin as candidates.

And the second thing you're missing is the symbolic nature of the Presidency, especially in Republican hands. Ever see an article in the Times complaining about "political interference" with "nonpartisan public policy?" If you've seen one, you've seen a thousand. And they are the exception that proves the rule. The 20th-century American civil-service system was designed, in the Progressive Era, to respond with perfect fidelity to Harvard, and completely ignore all elected officials. Americans could elect Sarah Palin for four straight terms, and there still isn't a damn thing she could to do to get NSF to hand out grants to creationists.

Ie: don't be manipulated by the fear of an imaginary boogeyman. It is a mistake to think of electing Republicans as turning America into Palin-stan. When you vote for Democrats, you are saying that the people who have real power should stay there. When you vote for Republicans, you are agitating and disrupting the system, if to a much lesser degree than most think.

There are two genuine, positive effects of voting Republican. One, it serves as a symbolic protest against the rule of Harvard. (Or, to be more specific, of Drew Gilpin Faust.) Progressives are very good at calibrating their demands to what the public will accept - I believe it's one of Alinsky's rules. By saying, "we want Palin," you implicitly say, "we have an issue with Maoist freshman indoctrination struggle sessions" - and many other such things. This does not stop such programs, not at all, but it strikes a little bit of fear into the enemy's heart. By saying "we love Obama," you say, "full speed ahead." This is basically gc's argument.

Second, the American right is a destructive tool. It cannot error-correct the great consensus, with its one tiny little flaw. And it is full of errors itself. But suppose that consensus cannot correct itself, either? Then we know of one tool that can be used to help destroy it.

Since the right has no significant elite and no intellectual institutions, its beliefs are not a good guide to the beliefs of a world in which the progressive edifice has been toppled and shattered - a change that would make the fall of Communism look like a petty detail. After that great, cataclysmic collapse, which I'm sure would discard some good along with the bad, a new intellectual elite would have to construct itself. And you, personally, would be on the inside track for membership. With your present views, you are certainly not eligible for membership of the current ruling elite.

The whole thread is worth reading. Godless Capitalist's argument that thread is the most troubling one I've heard about the downsides of an Obama presidency. GC fears Obama will clamp down on genetics research into human biodiversity just as DNA sequencing costs have gotten so cheap that questions about genetic causes of human nature have become answerable. The Left does not want those answers. They do not want scientific evidence that supports thought crimes.

Whether you think Obama or McCain will be worse depends in part on your values. But it also depends on your assessment regarding what sorts of damage they each might cause. I'm aware of the threat that McCain poses in foreign adventures. But I think our biggest problems are domestic and we should focus our concerns chiefly on what either of them will do with domestic policies. Obama is a typical Leftie who wants to do Robin Hood taxation. He's to the Left of Bill Clinton on welfare and tax policy. But I'm more worried about what he'll do with racial preferences and restrictions on research into taboo subjects.

Peak Oil, the US trade deficit, the retirement of the Baby Boomers, and the lingering effects of the unfolding financial crisis will make the economy into a disaster zone regardless of who gets elected. So the next President won't be popular.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 10 10:59 PM  Politics American Presidency

ziel said at September 11, 2008 6:51 PM:

Well I'm not at all pleased with her Charlie Gibson interview segments ABC showed tonight. Could be the McCain team has just straight-jacketed her too much, but I'm more inclined to believe she has no real opinions of her own on foreign policy. We'll see how the rest of the interview goes, and if she can recover much from further press coverage. I have no idea how the interview plays generally, but I'm not feeling too good about her right now.

JBS said at September 13, 2008 7:35 PM:

"I have no idea how the interview plays generally, but I'm not feeling too good about her right now."

Palin does not want war with Russia.

ABC edited her comments to make it sound like she was ready to march US armored divisions on Kursk:


GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?

PALIN: Well, I’m giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.

We also see from Palin's following remark, which was also edited out, that she is far from some sort of latter day Cold Warrior which the edited interview made her seem to be:

We cannot repeat the Cold War. We are thankful that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War, without a shot fired, also. We’ve learned lessons from that in our relationship with Russia, previously the Soviet Union.

We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.

Palin's extended remarks about defending our NATO allies were edited out to make it seem that she was ready to go to war with Russia.

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to — especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.

PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.

And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.

It doesn’t have to lead to war and it doesn’t have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.

His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that’s a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen

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