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October 17th, 2008
03:55 PM ET

What does Palin stand for? After 7 weeks, we still don't know

Peggy Noonan
Wall Street Journal columnist

There has never been a second's debate among liberals, to use an old-fashioned word that may yet return to vogue, over Mrs. Palin: She was a dope and unqualified from the start. Conservatives and Republicans, on the other hand, continue to battle it out: Was her choice a success or a disaster? And if one holds negative views, should one say so? For conservatives in general, but certainly for writers, the answer is a variation on Edmund Burke: You owe your readers not your industry only but your judgment, and you betray instead of serve them if you sacrifice it to what may or may not be their opinion.

Here is a fact of life that is also a fact of politics: You have to hold open the possibility of magic. People can come from nowhere, with modest backgrounds and short résumés, and yet be individuals of real gifts, gifts that had previously been unseen, that had been gleaming quietly under a bushel, and are suddenly revealed. Mrs. Palin came, essentially, from nowhere. But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic. You have to give people time to show what they have. Because maybe they have magic too.

But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite—a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.

But it's unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. tracy hawaii

    Palin loses bid to block beluga whale protection
    Federal government declares population off Anchorage 'endangered'
    hurrrah.

    October 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  2. Sarah (another one)

    "She stands for real people. She is not a polished politician and for that she is being criticized. She is a real person who works for the people and stands up to what is wrong."

    Sandra, I am a real person. My children are real people. My elderly father is a real person. And she does not stand for any of us. We believe in tolerance, kindness and honesty–and those are not values that she upholds at all.

    October 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm |
  3. Ruth M from Alabama

    The "Book of Sarah" written by the Village Voice tells you everything you need to know about Sarah. She is totally unqualified. If she had any competence at all, why would the GOP keep her scripted? What are they afraid of? She is definately the biggest mistake John McCain has made in his entire career.

    October 17, 2008 at 6:52 pm |
  4. Nicole in Birmingham

    If Obama runs this country the way that he has run his campaign this country will be in great hands. I love to hear McCain supporters say that Obama isn't qualified to be President when just his educational background alone makes him more than qualified. BTW, didn't McCain graduate bottom of his class and how many colleges and years did it take Palin to earn her degree in Jouralism and boy talk about that degree did her some good in that Katie Couric interview. I degree in Jouralism and couldn't name one major newspaper or magazine. I guess being a former POW and a mother of a special needs child and being against abortion trumps everything else.

    And can somebody please let me know where I find a list of states that are "Pro America".

    October 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm |
  5. JP

    Wow! First I have to comment on "Real Republican's" comments: ARE YOU SERIOUS? As a serious Obama supporter I can tell you what he wants to change. He wants to change the PATHETIC way the government is running this country. He wants to make sure that people like me -who busts my hump working a full time job, going to school full time, and can BARELY make rent- can go to the doctor when I need to and AFFORD IT. He wants to make sure people like me can AFFORD an education so we can CONTRIBUTE

    October 17, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  6. JUDY L. SMITH, Flordia

    Why isn't anyone investgating or mentioning Sarah Palin and her husband's involvement with AIP-Alaskan Independence Party?
    It's charter commits to the ultimate independence of Alaska from the US. Wasn't her husband a member for 7 yrs. and she gave a keynote address in '06 and a video greeting for the convention in '08???

    October 17, 2008 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Linda from Chicago

    Regarding Palin's approval ratings in Alaska–don't you think most governors of a state with a HUGE budget surplus would have a high approval rating? When you don't have to make tough decisions on where to spend the state's money, it makes things a heck of a lot easier than the situation that faces most of the country. She inherited the surplus (as did Bush). I wonder how long it'll be before her state has financial problems.

    As for Troopergate, it seems Palin's supporters think any behavior that isn't strictly illegal is OK if her motives were to protect her family. Never mind the fact that the allegations of the threats have been highly disputed by the investigation. If she were VP or President, would she use similar tactics against the people she regards as the enemy? She comes across as a mean-spirited, petty person who has to get her way no matter what–even if it means using her office's resources for a personal agenda. I don't want that kind of person in any elected office.

    October 17, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  8. sabra

    ive been very patient and tolerant i think of waiting to hear from sarah pallin about who she is....sound bites and what other people say about her doesnt give you a true understanding of a person...youve got to see them one on one with many to show all of them..a full-ness . why wouldnt sarah go on shows like the view. she would have elizabeth hasselhoff as a help and what did oprah have that barbra walters doesnt have..why ask katie curic whos ratings were slumping and whose experience in one on one interviewing was weak...not saying katie isnt good or weak, but her strengths arent in getting past the preping...she managed to touch a little surface but going for a walk, etc, made the whole thing look casual :something you would do on a second or third interview.....I thought it insulted my intelligence....i thing sarah insults my intelligence...For her to think that dropping a few lines here an there and winking into the camera , dragging her whole family on and off planes, putting an obvious shell shocked and terrified teenage boy on the spot in front of the entire world saying this is the one who inpregnated my teenage daughter,(how much did they have to pay his parents to do this to their son and what kind of people are they to let them do this to him)...shouting at rallies and allowing horrible comments to be made at those rallies answering her back , ....she may not of gone on any talk shows or allowed any interviews but actions speak louder than words always.....my hope was that words would of led her way and given me a reason not to be one sided...

    October 17, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  9. Betty, Virginia

    Some of you defenders must live in her "pro-american" part of this country. I get it, you get her us against them attitudes.

    Sorry Palin, even if you become VP you'll still have non-white, pro-choice, and "liberal" people in this country and guess what... they are AMERICANS! What an idiot you are!

    OBAMA 08

    October 17, 2008 at 6:19 pm |
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