Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is Palin getting off easy?

Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum says her readers always ask the same question about Sarah Palin and the media. "Why don't you take the gloves off?" they ask. She's a charlatan, and you're letting her off easy, they say. In fact, the readers conclude, "Palin's rocket ride to political fame says less about her talents than it does about the staggering cynicism of contemporary media and politics."

Daum agrees. She's no Palin fan. But in retrospect, Daum wishes she had hit harder. And yet ...
"It's impossible not to feel like we're punching shamefully below our weight, which everyone knows is against the rules. Palin lacks the intellectual, analytical and rhetorical skills to have a competent discussion about policy or much else. She is handicapped not only by a lack of education, experience and curiosity about the world (wearing a Star of David in Israel doesn't count), but by a speaking style that often collapses under the weight of disjointed, undiagrammable sentences. She is, in terms of the political arena, easily outclassed."
But that's no excuse, Daum says. Palin is a big girl and capable of taking criticism. Politics is hardball. And folks aiming for the presidency should come under particularly hard scrutiny. But even with increasing likelihood that Palin won't run, Daum says, the gloves still have not come off - nor are they likely to.
"Not only because it would be cheap and lazy and unbecoming, but also because Palin is too well-shielded by her own incompetence. By casting herself as the less privileged, less polished outsider in the fancy school, she fashions the rest of us into playground bullies (ironic, given her predilection for bullying language) who taunt her with big vocabularies and book learning and obsession with nuance. By playing the victim (ironic, given how closely she associates victimhood with liberal whining), Palin forces her critics to choose between the roles of merciless oppressor and guilt-ridden enabler. And since the merciless oppressor part is already played ably by various screamers on blogs, cable TV and Internet comment boards, writers like me have taken the other route, leaning over so far backward to avoid saying the obvious that we sometimes can't get enough air in our lungs to say much at all."
Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say.

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