‘The epitome of conservativeness’

I’ve never had much to say about Sarah Palin one way or the other, because I’ve always had trouble putting what I think of her into words, but one of her supporters does so in the video above, explaining that she is:

… the epitome of conservativeness.”

Just so. It’s not that she has any actual conservative ideas, or any ideas at all. This is not to run her down. There are different kinds of people in the world, as my late mother-in-law used to say. Most are either people people or things people. When I protested to my wife that I saw myself as neither, she said there was a third, less-mentioned, category, idea people.

Sarah Palin is not one of them. Frankly, I suspect she’s a people person, which I think is what a lot of her supporters sense. But I haven’t been able to stand to observe her long enough to tell. Just last night, I surfed past an interview she was having with one of those talking heads, and I could only listen for about five seconds, but ranted at my wife about what I heard in those five seconds for the next minute as I surfed on, which was my wife’s hint that I was feeling a lot better and could start fetching my own cups of convalescent ginger ale.

What got me was that she didn’t have ANYthing to say. She ranted against the stimulus, and when the friendly interviewer asked her what she’d do instead, she slid into vague mumblings about cutting government and returning power to individuals — incantations, rather than arguments.

She doesn’t so much have conservative thoughts as she is… conservative-y. Conservativish. Just loaded with “conservativeness,” which I take to mean the appearance, the general aura of being “conservative,” which is a quality that fewer and fewer of those who embrace the description can coherently describe (and before you liberals start feeling all smug, you have your own set of problems, and they’re not that different).

As you get farther into this clip, if you’re like me, you start to feel sorry for the subjects. I mean, it really IS mean and unfair to ask private citizens who love Sarah Palin to explain their views. I started feeling bad for them the way I felt bad for the gun nuts in “Bowling for Columbine.” Rather than getting upset over our overarmed society, I got ticked at Michael Moore for being a sneering bully.

Which of course is another secret to the Sarah Palin appeal: She generates that kind of resentment toward elites (not that Michael Moore is an elite, even though he thinks he is, even though he would claim that he’s not, and so on…). It may be THE secret of her celebrity.

You hold a microphone in front of Sarah Palin, or someone who admires Sarah Palin (for any qualities other than her undeniable pulchritude), and keep asking “Why?” or “Could you explain your view about that?” and you’re going to come across as obnoxious.

30 thoughts on “‘The epitome of conservativeness’

  1. Bill in Lexington

    Brad – I am a long time reader of your work. I frequently disagree with your political leanings. On this post, however, I have to agree. Palin strikes me as more of an advocate for herself than any coherent world view or political agenda. She spews dumbed down conservative talking points, but I’ve never heard her explain the foundation for supporting market based economic policies or traditional social policies.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    I think there is a certain symmetry to the lack of coherent thought or lack of coherent articulation of thought between Palin and her admirers. It’s a kind of fuzzy-logic-loving mentality–I think it’s based in a lot of emotionality. I’m not putting it down at all, although I cannot stomach Sarah Palin, either. You’re right that it has a lot to do with being people people.

    Lots of people people can also articulate coherent thoughts, though, and can name periodicals they regularly read without viewing such a query as gotcha journalism.

    Obama needs to work on his people people skills.

  3. Karen McLeod

    But so many people think that she actually says something, and they don’t think about the implications of what she does say. BTW did you see the SNL “2012” send up re: her possible election?

  4. Doug Ross

    McCain couldn’t explain his selection of Palin very well either.

    That dumb move may have cost him the election. It revealed what many of us already had figured out early in the campaign – that he had decided he would do anything to win the election. He shed his maverick skin and became just-another-politician.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Doug, McCain’s “sin” in picking Palin wasn’t what you describe. Same thing, only I see it from a different perspective.

    The problem was that once he decided the nutballs in his party who barely tolerated him would never tolerate a clone of him like Joe Lieberman (whereas I would have rejoiced), and that they had to be mollified — and Doug, there is no inherent sin in being realistic about trying to keep your crew together and win; it does not make you an illegitimate person — was that he decided the hell with it at that point. He didn’t think the choice of a veep was that important, since he wasn’t planning on turning over the reins (and there’s where fighter jock arrogance comes in), so he said, “How about Sarah Palin? Y’all will LOVE her. Maybe that will make you happy.”

    To be perfectly accurate, he liked her too, because he liked the traditional-values part of her. The thing about being such an unformed conservative like Sarah is that different kinds of conservatives can look at that attractive package and project what they want to see, particularly if they are of the male persuasion.

    By the way, I have to smile now when I look back at how my friends on both the left and the right got all over me for being dismissive of Palin as the “glamorous secretary” of 60s sitcoms. Not long after, folks on the left were giving me a hard time for not being hard enough on her. (It really torqued them off the way I utterly ignored her in endorsing McCain.)

    But my sin with regard to Palin is akin to McCain’s — I never took her seriously one way or the other.

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    Uh, how old is John McCain, and what exactly is his health status? Awfully cavalier of him to select Whatever as a Veep under the circumstances….

    But then we know how cavalierly Republicans treat their offices–cavalier,indeed. See, also, Sanford, Marshall–Hiking

  7. Steve Gordy

    So I don’t get accused of McCarthyism (either direct or reverse), Sarah P. strikes me as a latter-day version of Father Coughlin (go read any history of the 1930s to learn about him).

  8. bud

    … and before you liberals start feeling all smug, you have your own set of problems, and they’re not that different).
    -Brad

    That provacative statement cries out for follow-up. The example you used several months ago to make this same absurd point was to compare Paul Krugman to Anne Coulter, an utterly ridiculous comparison. Liberals are our best hope. The conservative movement, as epitomized by the hapless Sarah Palin, is utterly incoherent. She rambles without saying anything. Uses the victim card “liberally” to dismiss her atrocious performance in interviews and generally lacks any recognizible thought process at all.

    Liberals, like Al Franken by comparison, do have ideas, great ideas. They do the research and present plans in a coherent, logical manner. Liberals are in favor of single payer health insurance because it is proven to work well in other countries. Liberals oppose war-based solutions because that only leads to death, destruction and lays the groundwork for more war later on. WW I being the prime example of that.

    As a proud liberal I resent throw away comments by folks who simply adhere to a bipartisan dogma that treats both political extremes the same. Liberals could be the salvation of America if only given the chance. Sadly we seem to be stuck with the nattering nabobs of bipartisanship to our national detriment.

  9. bud

    That dumb move may have cost him the election.
    -Doug

    Probably not. McCain was sinking fast before he picked her. It may have even secured a few votes in red states thereby making the popular vote a bit closer. McCain was just too much like George W. Bush to have any chance of winning.

    But my sin with regard to Palin is akin to McCain’s — I never took her seriously one way or the other.
    -Brad

    But you should have. You claimed to like both presidential candidates yet when given the perfect opportunity to choose the right candidate you simply ignored the very real probability of a Palin presidency. How could you possibly ignore such a shocking possibility.

  10. David

    John McCain breathed life into this political monster.

    If Sarah Palin ever gains national office, I think it would be safe to say that, despite his intentions, whatever good one may believe John McCain has done as a politician in establishing a bipartisan or independent spirit in this country could never make up for the harm he has now done in putting someone like Palin in the national spotlight. That reckless move has consequences beyond the 2008 election. To say that Palin is not an “ideas person” is putting it lightly. She’s divisive for divisiveness’ sake, uncritical, self-serving, and lacking in integrity. And now she’s everywhere.

    In fairness to John McCain, he did not know what Sarah Palin would become. But that just shows the recklessness of such a choice. Why put such an unknown in a position to be the VP of this country? I don’t buy that the VP is unimportant or that McCain thought it was unimportant. And even so, I want a President who makes every decision affecting this country carefully. So I don’t buy that it’s ok for John McCain to just wash his hands of such a decision as Brad suggests.

    I disagree with Lieberman on seemingly every issue. And yet, I could have at least respected that choice. Only John McCain could have picked someone who appeals only to the base Republican and had supporters say, “Well, when you take into account his ‘fighter jock arrogance’ it fits right in with his maverickiness!”. Why do McCain supporters feel the need to defend the man so vehemently on this? It’s ok to admit he made a mistake. He’s not infallible. He’s not a deity; he’s a Republican.

  11. Brad Warthen

    Kathryn, bud, everybody’s got their flaws. Obama has, let’s see — an alarming belief that jurists should rule for desirable outcomes (that’s an oversimplification, but I don’t feel like repeating my whole column on the subject here) and a willingness to subordinate anything, including foreign policy, to the whims of organized labor.

    With McCain, you get the guy who ignored the threat receiver warbling in his ear to stay on target on a bombing run over Hanoi, so that the SAM hit his plane before he could possibly evade. Crazy brave. You can either emphasize the crazy or the brave. It’s like a glass half full or half empty kind of thing. I go with the brave in this case.

    McCain wasn’t planning on getting killed that day, but he was willing to take the risk (with his life, and with our multi-million-dollar airplane). He wasn’t planning on dying in office, either — he was planning on being the president, not on Sarah Palin being the president. Sarah Palin was a means to that end, and he had no intention of her ever being the end.

    You think I’m justifying him? I’m not. I’m just trying to explain this flaw in his thinking.

    Some of you think that because there was a flaw in his thinking, I shouldn’t have endorsed him. You apparently believe that there are no flaws in the thinking of Barack Obama. Anyone who thinks that isn’t thinking.

    You look at the good with the bad. Almost NEVER is the choice 100 percent either way. You choose what you’re going to live with.

    By the way, even if McCain had done what I wanted him to do (what he himself wanted to do, I believe) and picked Joe, we’d be saying the same things about him. Just another kind of reckless, taking his iconoclasm to extremes and doing what he damn’ well pleases.

    It still wouldn’t have changed the fact that the economy fell apart on Sept. 15, and from then on the election was going to the Democrat.

    By the way, anyone want to get back to the subject at hand — trying to define Sarah Palin’s conservativeness?

  12. Karen McLeod

    Ms. Palin is throwing out slogans, left and right (excuse me, right and further right)without considering what she’s talking about. We’ve heard this before with the “make love, not war” vs. the “America, love it or leave it” parties. Once you get a slogan (or 20) you don’t have to work with facts. You’ll have anyone on your side who likes those slogans. Likewise once you label your opponent (Obama=communist/fascist/foreigner: Bush=facist/dictator/devil incarnate)you don’t have to explain why you think that person merits those labels; it’s enough that you’ve labeled them. This, unfortunately, is the way most people frame their political preferences. It’s why negative campaigning works so well.

  13. Doug Ross

    Palin’s conservatism is a mile wide and an inch deep. I’d actually like to see her become President in 2012. It might prove those prophecies about the world ending true. At the least, it would be entertaining.

    I still am unconvinced that women find Palin a worthy candidate. I think the male dominated Republican leadership completely misreads what women think of her.

  14. David

    McCain wasn’t planning on getting killed that day, but he was willing to take the risk. He wasn’t planning on dying in office, either — he was planning on being the president, not on Sarah Palin being the president. Sarah Palin was a means to that end, and he had no intention of her ever being the end.

    You think I’m justifying him? I’m not. I’m just trying to explain this flaw in his thinking.

    Some of you think that because there was a flaw in his thinking, I shouldn’t have endorsed him. You apparently believe that there are no flaws in the thinking of Barack Obama. Anyone who thinks that isn’t thinking.

    That’s fair. But there was a chance, however small, that that flaw in thinking could have lead to a BIG mistake.

    What is Sarah Palin’s version of conservatism? I see a populist trying to appeal to what she sees as “Real America”: Christian, patriotic, traditional family. To me, it seems she recently picked up on the extreme economic conservative stuff to fit in with the base and it shows. Every time she speaks about the economy, it’s never in depth. Always some sophomoric rhetoric about cutting taxes, government trying to take over our lives, the stimulus is bad, or “freedom”. But there’s nothing really there beyond that.

    I think she is poison to conservatism. They can’t let her speak for them.

  15. bud

    Why bother with Palin. She’s not in office nor is she ever likely to be. She serves as good comic relief in the very serious business of American politics. I regard her as nothing more than a foolish woman who doesn’t know how ridiculous she looks. How can you take someone seriously that has a child who became pregnant at 17 while she extols the virtues of “just say no” family planning. And what is this crap of her dragging her 8 year old daughter around the country during the school year to help hawk a book on her victim status. She really is a peice of work and hardly anyone to be taken seriously.

    McCain on the other hand is still a United States Senator and a dangerous one at that. He’s demonstrated throughout his life that his judgement is flawed. He lost his aircraft and nearly his life because he chose to ignore the warning signs. He cheated on his first wife to go after a rich bimbo because of financial greed and political ambition. He chose the worst possible running mate because of poor judgement and political expediancy. And he continues to show his true, conservative poor judgement by rejecting a perfectly good candidate for SCOTUS. And he rails against sensible health care, necessary stimulus programs and essential rethinking on foreign policy. So how is it that he’s different from Jim Demint?

    McCain is just another GOP shill who works against the interests of the American people by living in some sort of deranged conservative trance. He’s far more dangerous than the hapless Palin who isn’t smart enough to fool enough people to ever get elected. McCain and his ilk are the real danger to the security and welfare of America. As long as people buy into his phony maverick persona we need to stay alert and never let someone as dangerous as McCain get close to the Whitehouse again.

  16. Brad Warthen

    Actually, bud raises a good point, a point about the way things SHOULD be… indeed, we should be ignoring Sarah Palin, because she is a person without standing, while McCain is a senator. Unfortunately, the way it works is that the partisan gossip machine that is our national political conversation treats failed presidential candidates in the past tense, and goes nuts over the kind of people who make Reality TV possible, and that’s exactly what Sarah Palin is. She’s the kind of political contender you get in the era of American Idol. People are drawn to her for the same reasons they follow all those people I could not possibly name who are apparently household names in the households where one, if not more, televisions are turned on all the time. If she had qualifications it would spoil the effect.

  17. Kathryn Fenner

    “Kathryn, bud, everybody’s got their flaws. Obama has, let’s see — an alarming belief that jurists should rule for desirable outcomes (that’s an oversimplification, but I don’t feel like repeating my whole column on the subject here) and a willingness to subordinate anything, including foreign policy, to the whims of organized labor.”

    You say that like it somehow equates to choosing a not-unlikely President–given his health/age–who cannot name a periodical she reads, and does not know what the Bush Doctrine is, etc. Even if what you say about Obama is true, and that’s an “IF” –what is so horribly wrong about “desirable outcomes” and “organized labor”–which does not have “whims” BTW–that IS over the top. You have been management for far too long, yet one would hope that you time on the streets might have given you a greater appreciation for the plight of the oft-laid-off, down-sized, out-sourced worker. Maybe you need to eat breakfast with someone besides the plutocrats.

    and bud–you forgot Sarah Palin’s own “elopement”–she and Todd weren’t saying “no” either.

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    and Karen is on the money with Sarah Palin’s conservativishness. It’s bumper-sticker time slogans. Check your brain at the door and start yelling, folks. Why? ’cause it’s easier and it feels good! Forget those messy nuances and complications. Just say “no”! Drill, baby, drill! Death panels will kill gramma! You betcha! We’re the real America!

  19. Kathryn Fenner

    Boy, the way Glenn Miller played
    Songs that made the Hit Parade
    Guys like us we had it made
    Those were the days.

    And you knew who you were then
    Girls were girls and men were men
    Mister, we could use a man
    Like Herbert Hoover again

    Didn’t need no welfare state
    Everybody pulled his weight
    Gee our old LaSalle ran great
    Those were days.

  20. Burl Burlingame

    I have to snicker whenever I hear commentators suggest that Palin should have her own interview show. All the questions to her guests would start out, What do you think of ME?

  21. David

    No standing? She is one of the most visible members and loudest voices of one of the two organizations that runs this country. She holds no office, but she’s not powerless.

    Here’s the self-serving Sarah Palin questioning the President of the United States’ patriotism. Using support of the military for one’s own political gain? Disgusting.

  22. Brad Warthen

    Kathryn, I’ve TRIED breaking my fast with non-plutocrats; I really have. Just last week, I ate at another public eatery (the morning after I spent the night on the twins’ couch when my daughter went into the hospital — the infamous night of the burned peas).

    As I documented on Twitter, the woman at the next table expounded loudly and at length about her colonoscopies all during my meal. That’s “colonoscopies,” plural. After she told all about one colonoscopy, and all about each polyp that was found — doing everything but giving each of them a name — she then told us about a subsequent colonoscopy in which, if you can believe it, they found MORE polyps that they missed the first time! Her friend gasped at all the appropriate places.

    I counted. She said “colonoscopy” six times.

    I forgot to mention that little episode in my tale of woe about that day. Note that the next day was when I collapsed…

  23. Kathryn Fenner

    Burl–She’d be just like Charlie Rose, right? Just less wordy…or maybe not.

    Yeah, I thought about that Lizard’s Thicket breakfast you wrote about–your friends and neighbors. I eat breakfast with a more sophisticated bunch–a professor and two dogs–bitches to be exact. We argue about who’s going to read the front page and who’s going to let the dogs out–me and the professor, that is. The dogs just want to go in and out, chasing squirrels off the deck.

  24. Karen McLeod

    Burl, That’s scary. I could condense everything I’ve heard that group say into 3 pages, double spaced, easily. Kathryn, isn’t it amazing how often those who preach abstinence only don’t practice it. It’s a pity they don’t learn something about contraception along the way.

  25. Kathryn Fenner

    My husband and I were immediately on to his now sister-in-law (his brother’s wife) when she proudly displayed the hard copy of Dan Quayle’s Standing Firm. She lived up to our initial impression, in fact.

    Burl–
    colostomy is different from colonoscopy, but you knew that, right?

    Why do I hate Sarah Palin’s nose and the tilt of her jaw? I turn off the radio when she comes on NPR. I do not do this for other conservatives–even Ann Coulter. Something about her really gripes me. Extreme smugness without any justification? At least Coulter is intelligent and well-read (there’s a better word for what I mean than that), if not a lot of other things.

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