Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich in their Sunday New York Times columns give two excellent examples of how smug dismissal of Sarah Palin can quickly turn into admiration. The Beltway Village during 2008 and mostly up until now was more concerned with Tina Fey's imitation of Palin than with what Palin and her supporters were about. Especially as that might be indicated by Palin's own neo-Confederate and theocratic ties.
Maureen Dowd is in her more liberal mode lately. Which is kind of hard to distinguish between her Bush-friendly mode. But her latest, Visceral Has Its ValueNew York Times 11/21/09, shows how the Village script of Palin as a ridiculous dummy can easily morph into appreciating her as the voice of Real Americans. And the Villagers all fancy themselves as in tune with Real Americans. You know, the ones for whom the federal budget deficit is the biggest problem the country has. (Yes, Village thinking is often quite bizarre and contradictory measured against normal standards of reality. But since they think the deficit is critical, they assume as always that the Little People think the same.)
MoDo, who likes to remind us that Obama is a girl (not a compliment in MoDo's gender obsessions), now admires Palin for "her visceral power," the inner energy she radiates (MoDo used a quotation to say that - I guess it sounded too New Agey to put in her own voice), her dynamism, her close contact with the grass roots, her exuberance, and "the good looks, the tabloid-perfect family, the Alaska quirkiness, the kids with the weird names." With a mixture of admiration and snotty condescension - who says in print that other people children have "weird names"? - MoDo manages to both pump up Palin's image and give cred to her the-elites-look-down-on-us-Real-Amurcans" schtick. Palin's neo-Confederate ties? Her theocratic, superstitious, extremist brand of Pentecostal Christianity? I suppose MoDo would find that sooo booo-oooring to write about. So instead she insults Palin's children's names.
Did I mention that MoDo is one of the star opinion "journalists" in what is still considered the leading "quality" paper in the United States?
She actually spends most of the column trashing Obama in various ways. Then at the end she kinda-sorta defends him. But does it in such a pitiful way all that she just reinforces the Republican and Broderian criticism of Obama being supposedly "indecisive".
Frank Rich, who often writes some atrocious stuff, too, and has been recently taking the Republicans' bait to ridicule the Party base and their heroes, in The Pit Bull in the China Shop 11/21/09 actually manages to criticize other Villagers for delivering their authoritative opinions on Palin's book without actually having read it! Criticizing fellow Villagers is so rare that he at least deserves one hand clapping for that. (I would just note, without detracting from his unconventional stance, that one can certainly form a reasonable opinion about well-reported portions of a book without having read it cover to cover.)
Rich claims to have actually read her book. And coming from a guy who just a few columns ago was chortling over how the Tea Partiers (aka, Palin fans) were leading the Republican Party to a new 1964 landslide defeat, statements like this are another wonderful illustration how sanctimonious Village ridicule can quickly become star-struck admiration: "Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid. Those who wishfully think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves."
Rich goes on to focus on what are the important issues - in the eyes of our Village Pod Pundits. Palin's show-business acquaintances. Levi Johnston.
Neo-Confederate ties? Theocratic Christianism? Rich doesn't get into those, either. The Village script still calls for leaving those out. Even though they are highly relevant to understanding her politics and what the Republican Party has become. And it's understandable. Facing up to what today's Republican Party is would make the practice of High Broderism, with his idolatry of bipartisanship (on the part of Democrats) nearly impossible to practice. Later on, he cities some polls showing that Palin is a Republican favorite in the polls for the 2012 Presidential nomination just behind Mike Huckabee, he doesn't cite any polling data to support his assertion that Palin "the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama." If the polls he's using show Huckabee leading Palin among Republicans, wouldn't that make the Huck a more important brand at the moment?
Rich devotes a paragraph to pointless ridicule of a pious letter Palin wrote for her baby Trig that is reproduced in the book. He is ruffled that she worded the letter as a letter from God. Pop psychology, yes. Actual analysis of her theocratic religious ties? Not so much. The only exception is a really vague and speculative reference to Palin's "'rapture' theology" - to which Palin may or may not subscribe from anything we see in Rich's column.
Rich's utter helplessness is trying to actually analyze her appeal is illustrated by the following comment, which is correct: "The more she is attacked for not being in possession of pointy-headed erudition, the more powerful she becomes as an avatar of the anti-elite cause." But without understanding that in the context of the dominant Christian Right culture in the Republican Party, it tells us nothing. Except that Frank Rich is disturbed at the dumb masses he takes the Real Americans to be.
With all that fluff in his column, I do give Rich credit for at least mentioning the anti-gay position of the far-rightist Lynn Vincent who Palin chose for her ghost-writer.
And to top it all off, Rich manages to sing the praises of that greatest of all Mavericks, St. John McCain. Yes, that would be the St. McCain who made Sarah Palin a national figure by choosing her as his Vice Presidential nominee in 2008. Our pundits' love for the mavericky Maverick McCain is even greater than their love for Monica Lewinsky.
Maybe I'm getting a bit too deep into the weeds on this, too deep at least for my own comfort. But this David Sirota column that provides a refreshing trashing of Dean Broder and our Pod Pundits generally over the Afghanistan War, Intelligentsia against intelligenceSalon, even he manages to embrace the notion that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are somehow harmless entertainment on the fringes of the Republican Party:
The trend is deeply disturbing. It's one thing for talk-show-host wannabe Sarah Palin or carnival-barking provocateur Glenn Beck to glamorize willful ignorance -- that's been the narcissistic act of celebrity court jesters since the dawn of history. But it's an entirely different thing when hostility to intelligence and to the basic process of thinking itself emanates from the very professional thinkers who lead the nation's intelligentsia. [my emphasis]
Our pundits, even supposedly solidly liberal ones like Frank Rich and David Sirota, are just having a hard time facing up to what the Republican Party has become.