History will praise this beautiful woman who became one of the most thoughtful leaders of the American conservative movement. Now, what single word in that statement alerts you that I am not talking about Sarah Palin? In fact, I'm speaking of Peggy Noonan who recently wrote an essay on Alaska governor that might just as well have been entitled, "The Emperor Has No Depth" ("A Farewell to Harms," Wall Street Journal, July 11-12, 2009).
She went on the trail a sensation but demonstrated in the ensuing months that she was not ready to go national and in fact never would be. She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful....She never learned how the other sides think, or why.
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough.
The notion that she is going to spend the next few years in research and reflection is naive and an example of tragically pitiful wishful thinking. "But she is a ponder-free zone," says Noonan. "She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan."
Looking more broadly to the genuine leadership needs of the Republican Party, Noonan states the truth for out time: "This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think." This is not only true on account of the great international dangers that surround us, but also because of the overwhelming surge of charming statism that is flooding the nation and suffocating liberty.
William Buckley died in February of last year, just months before John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate and everyone went ga-ga over her cutely stated conservative affirmations. The liberals went apoplectic with indignation and so we reveled in the wisdom of our nomination. But not only is Palin "no Bill Buckley," she is a caricature of the sort of conservative that Buckley managed to discredit within the GOP and replace with principled people devoted to the timeless truths that provide the indispensable intellectual foundation of the great American political experiment.
That is why, now that they have won the election and are vacuuming up power and control from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, liberals are lavishing attention on Sarah Palin with lots of flattering photographs, and celebrating her as the great hope of the Republican Party. (Time ran a cover story, calling her The Renegade.) But they're just baiting the elephant trap. says Noonan, "She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated."
It is interesting that Sarah Palin is an Evangelical Christian, a group that secular liberals consider stupid and easily manipulated. If conservatives and Evangelicals are going to be helpful to their country, we have to be more than right. We have to be thoughtful. We have to got beyond talking points and zingers, and return once again to a principled and persuasive understanding of the nature and foundations of political, economic, and spiritual liberty.
David, allow me to take the part of the Governor over against the oleaginous and unctuous Peggy Noonan. She was thrown into the imperial snakepit before her time, no question about that. But the only people that have any chance to survive that trial by slander, rumor, and humiliation are those who grew up with the boys and girls in that little club and are thus just like them. The savaging she has endured from the best and the brightest is unprecedented, and she has had zero--ZERO--support from the heroic elected Republicans inside the Beltway. In fact, some of the most outrageous attacks have come from the little backstabbing bedwetters inside the McCain campaign itself. As far as supportive pundits or journalists, I think it reduces to Bill Kristol and a couple of others at the Weekly Standard. (See Victor Davis Hanson's thoughtful reflections in "What is Wisdom? Sarah Palin and her Critics" ) With only support from the great unwashed, she has held her ground. And I don't know where this charge that she doesn't know anything comes from--aside from beltway ambush interviews. While being a mother of five, she dominated multi-party, multi-million dollar negotiations on a giant pipeline deal that had been mired for decades in the corrupt good old boy network and got a deal done. How did that happen? I notice hers is one of the few states in the Union that is in good fiscal condition--a veritable petro state awash in petro dollars, which few politicos would be able to keep their hands off of. She has, and the state of Alaska is positioned to be a leading economic factor when grownups get back in control of the national economy and energy policy. Oh, and as far as not being thoughtful, how about leading a meaningful reassertion of the Tenth Amendment as part of the conservative resurgence of constitutionalism among state legislatures and governors? This is just the first of many moves she will be making. She may not be destined for the presidency, but she will galvanize the conservative movement in ways Noonan never has or ever will, a factor that ought not to be overlooked when judging Noonan's analysis. And lets face it--it doesn't matter whose face is associated with conservatism, he or she is portrayed as either stupid or evil or both--e.g., Gingrich, Reagan, Thatcher. Besides, the left is brimming with really smart people who think they know how to run everyone's lives, and where has that ever worked out? Self organized, bottom up structures such as political self rule and free markets rest more on practical wisdom than the imperial court craftiness and scientific management principles the left prefer for their scheme to rule every last detail of our lives.
I don't think the left's attempts to hang Palin around our necks as some kind talisman of stupid is going to work, despite all of Peggy Noonan's good work. And regarding the Time magazine cover above (I agree with your assessment of what they are attempting), Palin will be around long after Time and Newsweek have died from lack of circulation. George W. Bush, the dumbest president ever, ran circles around them for most of eight years despite their shameless derogation of him. And remember that even Reagan was just an "amiable dunce" to these geniuses. Which leads me to a final thought. What would Noonan's old boss think of Sarah Palin? I'm guessing he would be her biggest supporter, and would be disappointed at Noonan's slide into lust for the cocktail party circuit at the expense of conservatism. I think Peggy Noonan left the reservation long ago, and I never read her anymore--not since she was caught on an open mic disparaging the rank and file of the party--something Ronaldus Magnus would never have done, or accepted.