Sunday, September 14, 2008

What (some) Republicans are saying about Sarah Palin

I thought I might expand on a reply I gave to "anonymous", who commented on my post Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson, part 1 - EPIC FAIL.

I think it's rather interesting how many Republicans, conservatives and other right-leaning folk are decidedly unenthusiastic about Sarah Palin - and about how this reflects on John McCain's judgement in choosing her as his running mate.

Firstly, here is Karl Rove on Face the Nation, August 10:

Karl Rove argued that if Obama picked Tim Kaine for VP, it would be for purely political reasons and would ignore the responsibilities of the presidency. On the show, Rove said the following -

"I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice," Rove said. "He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president...

...With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished, I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America...

...So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, 'You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States? What I'm concerned about is, can he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia, the 13 electoral votes in Virginia?'..."

And here he is saying it. Striking how Palin's experience is even less than Tim Kaine's, isn't it?:

Next, here are Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan talking incredulously about the possible nomination of Palin as VP candidate (on the morning the announcement was made, but before the announcement itself):

Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post, August 29 - The Palin Puzzle:
The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama's inexperience and readiness to lead -- on the theory that because Palin is a maverick and a corruption fighter, she bolsters McCain's claim to be the reformer in this campaign...

...To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful "Is he ready to lead" line of attack seems near suicidal.

Ramesh Ponnuru in the National Review Online, August 29 - Cold Water on Palin:
Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain's age raised the stakes on this issue...

...Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?

David Frum in the National Review Online, August 29 - Palin:
The longer I think about it, the less well this selection sits with me. And I increasingly doubt that it will prove good politics. The Palin choice looks cynical. The wires are showing...

...Here's I fear the worst harm that may be done by this selection. The McCain campaign's slogan is "country first." It's a good slogan, and it aptly describes John McCain, one of the most self-sacrificing, gallant, and honorable men ever to seek the presidency.

But question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?

Mark Ambinder talking about Republican political strategists in The Atlantic, August 29 - GOP Strategists Mixed Reviews:
I cannot overestimate the degree to which Republican political strategists were stunned by the pick...

...A few are cautiously optimistic that it'll turn out OK, but most of the strategists and consultants I've spoken to, e-mailed with, or read/watched are struggling with it. They expect her to have a good week... and then to crash and burn when she hits the campaign trail as scrutiny catches up with her.

Some of these strategists are close to those Republicans who were vetted but not picked, but many of them aren't. "It's like playing poker blind," one strategist said. Another e-mailed: "Obama's lack of readiness was THE only way to win." When these Republicans ask the McCain campaign for guidance, all they hear back is: "She's more experienced than Obama is."

David Frum in the National Post, August 29 - Palin the irresponsible choice?:
Ms. Palin's experience in government makes Barack Obama look like George C. Marshall. She served two terms on the city council of Wasilla, Alaska, population 9,000. She served two terms as mayor. In November, 2006, she was elected governor of the state, a job she has held for a little more than 18 months. She has zero foreign policy experience, and no record on national security issues.

David Frum in the National Review Online, August 30 - My Palin Mailbox - Updating:
Likewise, had Sarah Palin decided in 2005 to run for president in 2008 - had she spent 3 years mastering the issues and explaining her views in public statements - had she one by one recruited leading experts on economic and defense issues to her cause and privately explored the issues of the day with them - then her current background would not be disqualifying. Indeed it would resemble that of many successful presidents.

None of those things happened. She was plucked by John McCain because of an electoral calculus. She could be vice president of the United States in January 2009 - and president at any moment thereafter, abruptly thrust in supreme command of two wars in two different countries. And who knows how she'll do? She does not know what she would do. Yes she might turn out to be a Harry Truman. Or she might be an Andrew Johnson. Wouldn't you wish for some hint in advance of which it might be?

Shannen Coffin in the National Review Online, August 30 - Palin Pick:
But the notion of plucking a governor with less than two years of experience that would count for anything (unless your a fan of movies like Dave) to serve as Vice President to a 72-year old President is troubling, to say the least. The pick comes with enormous risk, both as a matter of politics, and more importantly, governance...

...That lack of experience is a political liability for the very reason that it is a real liability...

...The choice also says a lot about McCain. First, that he is a bit desparate [sic]...

...Second, that he is one arrogant SOB. McCain is essentially telling the world that he doesn't really need a Vice President.

Andrew Sullivan, quoting an email from an unnamed Republican voter in The Daily Dish, August 31 - The Shock Of Palin:
I've voted a straight Republican ticket every year of my life since 1975, when I first came of voting age, but I was stunned and horrified by McCain's choice of Palin. I simply cannot even consider voting for McCain after this choice, which speaks loudly of his own selfishness and fundamental frivolousness...

...While Obama might do a hundred things as President that I believe are bad for the country, I am confident that he would surround himself with experienced, informed, competent advisors and that he would make no world-destroying blunders. I cannot say the same about Palin and, in view of what this choice reveals about McCain's character and judgment, I cannot say the same of him either.

David Brooks in a New York Times Op-Ed, September 1 - What the Palin Pick Says:
So my worries about Palin are not (primarily) about her lack of experience...

...My worry about Palin is that she shares McCain's primary weakness - that she has a tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political philosophy...

... If McCain is elected, he will face conditions tailor-made to foster disorder. He will be leading a divided and philosophically exhausted party. There simply aren't enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats. He will confront Democratic majorities that will be enraged and recriminatory.

On top of these conditions, he will have his own freewheeling qualities: a restless, thrill-seeking personality, a tendency to personalize issues, a tendency to lead life as a string of virtuous crusades.

He really needs someone to impose a policy structure on his moral intuitions. He needs a very senior person who can organize a vast administration and insist that he tame his lone-pilot tendencies and work through the established corridors - the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council. He needs a near-equal who can turn his instincts, which are great, into a doctrine that everybody else can predict and understand.

Rob Portman or Bob Gates wouldn't have been politically exciting, but they are capable of performing those tasks. Palin, for all her gifts, is not. She underlines McCain's strength without compensating for his weaknesses. The real second fiddle job is still unfilled.

Dr Laura (!) in her blog, September 2 - Sarah Palin and Motherhood:
I am extremely disappointed in the choice of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party. I will still vote for Senator McCain, because I am very concerned about having a fundamental leftist, especially one who is a marvelous orator, as President...

...I am haunted by the family pictures of the Palins during political photo-ops, showing the eldest daughter, now pregnant with her own child, cuddling the family's newborn. When Mom and Dad both work full-time (no matter how many folks get involved with the children), it becomes a somewhat chaotic situation. Certainly, if a child becomes ill and is rushed to the hospital, and you're on the hotline with both Israel and Iran as nuclear tempers are flaring, where's your attention going to be? Where should your attention be? Well, once you put your hand on the Bible and make that oath, your attention has to be with the government of the United States of America.

From a report on Huffington Post about off-mike comments by Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy, September 3 - Peggy Noonan, Mike Murphy Caught On Tape Disparaging Palin Choice: "Political Bullshit," "Gimmicky":
Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan and former John McCain adviser, Time columnist, and MSNBC contributor Mike Murphy were caught on tape disparaging John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate.

"It's over," Noonan said.

When Chuck Todd asked her if this was the most qualified woman the Republicans could nominate, Noonan responded, "The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives. Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and that's not what they're good at, they blow it."

Murphy characterized the choices as "cynical" and "gimmicky."

Ben Stein, being interviewed on CNN, September 3 at the Republican convention:
I don't think she has said a word in her whole life about the national economy, which contributes to making this one of the oddest choices in the history of presidential politics. I think this may go down as the most peculiar vice-presidential choice there's ever been...

...She should have Henry Kissinger baby-sitting her!

David Frum in the National Review Online, September 11 - Presidential Knowledge:
Somebody who knew President Bush well once remarked to me. "You'll notice he never asks questions."

"Why not?" I said.

"Because he doesn't know what it's okay for him not to know."

Again and again through the ABC interview with Sarah Palin, Gibson asked questions to which an evasive answer would have been perfectly appropriate...

...But Palin never punted. She tried to bluff her way through, pretending to know what she obviously did not know. It's an understandable impulse, and in the context of a single interview, not so very terrible. But is it an impulse that she'd lay aside once in office? Or is it a deeper habit? A lot may turn on the answer to that question.

Kristen Soltis at The Next Right, September 12 - Where's Sarah? The Palin Interview, Night One:
There were oh so many times when I could practically envision the talking points. "We shouldn't second guess Israel. No matter what, they are our ally. We don't second guess Israel." And so it went. "We can't second guess Israel, Charlie."

Whether that's the correct policy or not what I'm debating. What matters is that it didn't seem like it was really her opinion. I can't see inside the mind of Sarah Palin, so I have no place saying if it is ACTUALLY her opinion or not. But the feel of it? It didn't feel genuine. It felt like a repeated talking point. It felt "done".

And if you're going to try not to sound political, of all the things you can't afford to do, it's sound like Bush. Remember - he was the candidate of cowboy authenticity, shoot-em-straightness, of "lets do this thing, lets get them terrorists". No doubt Palin has been prepped by Steve Schmidt (Rove's protege), Nicolle Wallace (former Bush staffer). So maybe that's why I'm so sensitive to Bush-sounding language.

Ross Douthat in The Atlantic, September 12 - Will McCain Ruin Palin, Revisited:
But a vice-presidential run isn't the ideal place to develop that potential in the best of times, and a vice-presidential run under the tutelage of the McCain campaign is likely to produce a lot more of what we saw from Palin in her interview last night: Rigorously memorized, carefully regurgitated talking points, a determination to avoid making enormous gaffes, and not much else.

Ross Douthat in The Atlantic, September 13 - Sarah The Unready:
Now that we've seen the entirety of the Palin-Gibson tete-a-tete, I concur with Rich Lowry and Rod Dreher. The most that can be said in her defense is that she kept her cool and avoided any brutal gaffes; other than that, she seemed about an inch deep on every issue outside her comfort zone.

Rich Lowry in the National Review Online, September 13 - Palin's Performance - Fine, But...:
My take (and I didn't see the bits that aired on 20/20 or Nightline last night, although I read the transcript) was that she survived. That's all she had to do...

...But this was a merely adequate performance. The foreign-policy session was a white-knuckle affair. She barely got through it and showed no knowledge more than an inch deep...

...The fact still remains that she very likely didn't know any of the possible definitions of the Bush doctrine. I can't imagine if Obama had picked Gov. Tim Kaine and he had had a similar moment, conservatives would have rushed to say that the Bush doctrine is just too amorphous and complicated for him to know anything about it. Palin seemed weak on economic and budgetary policy too, talking in the vaguest generalities.

Rod Dreher in Crunchy Con at, September 12 - Latest ABC Palin interview -- not mo' better:
Just saw Palin talking about domestic issues on ABC World News Tonight. Depressing. Programmed, just like last night. Charlie Gibson asked her twice what she and McCain would do about the economy different from Bush. Answer: not much. Here's the Palin economic plan:

Get government out of the way of the private sector. Cut taxes. Control spending. And when Gibson pressed her, she added "reform agency oversight. "

Entitlement spending reform? Pass. They're going to cut spending by rooting out -- wait for it -- waste, fraud and abuse. (This year's GOP buzz word for that hoary phrase: "finding efficiencies.")

To quote the latest McCain commercial about Obama: "That's not change. That's more of the same."


But perhaps you don't believe that these people I've quoted above are "real" conservatives. Here are some details on each of them:

David Brooks - Canadian-American political and cultural commentator. Brooks served as a reporter for the Washington Times, a reporter and later op-ed editor for The New York Times, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard from its inception, a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly, and a commentator on NPR and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Brooks, now a conservative, describes himself as being originally a liberal.

Pat Buchanan - former senior adviser to American presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996.

Shannen Coffin - attorney who served as general counsel to Dick Cheney until early November 2007. He was previously at the Department of Justice, where he served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division.

Ross Douthat - a "new-generation conservative" author and blogger. He is a senior editor at The Atlantic, and he has written Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (Hyperion, 2005) and, with Reihan Salam, Grand New Party (Doubleday, 2008), which David Brooks called "best single roadmap of where the [Republican] party should and is likely to head."

Rod Dreher - Dallas-based writer and editor. He is an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News and a contributor to The American Conservative and National Review. Previously, he was a columnist for The New York Post. He also runs a blog called "Crunchy Con" at

David Frum - Canadian-born conservative and journalist active in the both US and Canadian political arenas. A former economic speechwriter for George W. Bush.

Charles Krauthammer - Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and commentator, generally considered a conservative or neoconservative. He appears regularly as a commentator on Fox News and as a weekly panelist on Inside Washington. His weekly column appears in the The Washington Post and is syndicated in more than 200 newspapers and media outlets. He is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and The New Republic.

Dr Laura - Laura Catherine Schlessinger, American radio host, author and conservative commentator. Once a professional counselor, Schlessinger offers advice to callers every day on her nationally-syndicated radio show, The Dr. Laura Program, which airs through Premiere Radio Networks.

Rich Lowry - editor of National Review and a syndicated columnist. He regularly appears on the Fox News Channel. He has guest-hosted on Hannity and Colmes and Fox & Friends, and is a guest panelist on PBS's "The McLaughlin Group" and Fox News Watch.

Mike Murphy - Republican political consultant. He has advised such nationally prominent Republicans as John McCain, Jeb Bush, John Engler, Tommy Thompson, Christie Whitman, Lamar Alexander, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was, until January 2006, an adviser to Mitt Romney, the Governor of Massachusetts and an about-to-become candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for the 2008 presidential election. He stepped down as a result of his role as chief strategist to Governor Romney as well as Senator McCain, who were both widely expected to be Republican challengers in the primaries of the 2008 Presidential election. Murphy said he had decided to be neutral in a contest between two close clients, although he would advise each informally.

Peggy Noonan - author of seven books on politics, religion and culture, a weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and was a primary speech writer and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. She is considered a political conservative.

Ramesh Ponnuru - Washington, DC-based Indian American columnist and a senior editor for National Review magazine. He has also written for several other newspapers and publications, including The Weekly Standard, Policy Review, The New Republic and First Things. A conservative pundit, Ponnuru has appeared in many public affairs and news interview programs. He is perhaps best known for his 2006 book, The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life.

Karl Rove - Deputy Chief of Staff to George W Bush until his resignation on August 31, 2007. He has headed the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. Since leaving the White House, Rove has worked as a political analyst and contributor for Fox News, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. Rove is an informal advisor to John McCain.

For most of his career prior to his employment at the White House, Rove was a political consultant almost exclusively for Republican candidates. Rove's campaign clients have included Bush, Senator John Ashcroft, Bill Clements, Senator John Cornyn, Governor Rick Perry, and Phil Gramm.

Joe Scarborough - former member of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 as a Republican from the 1st district of Florida.

Kristen Soltis - Director of Policy Research for The Winston Group, a Republican affiliated public opinion research and strategic consulting firm in Washington, DC.

Ben Stein - American attorney, political figure, and entertainment personality who in his early career served as speechwriter for US presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Recently, he has become an outspoken critic of evolutionary theory, which he describes as "Darwinism," and an advocate for intelligent design.

Andrew Sullivan - prominent blogger, author, and political commentator who considers himself to be a classical libertarian conservative.

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Pink Armchair said...

Thank you for putting all of these opinions in one place -- it was fascinating reading. I can only hope that as the election gets closer, the American public will truly question whether McCain really had our country's best interests at heart in choosing someone so unprepared to be "a heartbeat away" from the Presidency, or whether it was, as Peggy Noonan said, just "political bullshit." And I wonder how it must feel for Palin, who must surely know she's on the ticket as a token. Because it's absolutely true that if she were a man, she would never have been chosen or even considered. Did the McCain campaign really think that disgruntled Hillary supporters were just going to fall in line with this choice?

Anonymous said...


This is a fantastic blog. You were fair and pulled out good quotes from Republicans. One of the quotes talks about McCain's honor. I would argue that he squandered his honor with his pandering to the right, his irresponsible choice for VP, and the outright lies he's telling about obama. He's fighting dirty and he's proved that he'd rather be elected than be honorable. He'd rather be elected than keep his integrity. Honorable? No, not any longer.