I feel I Knew Too Much—about The Woman Who Knew Too Little.

By Andrew Sargus Klein


Sarah Palin recently nabbed the spotlight in another news cycle regarding her upcoming speech at the National Tea Party Convention. Politico reported that the ex-Governor rakes in “$100,000 for each speech she delivers, though she gives a $75,000 discount for West Coast appearances,” and has “reportedly waived her fee for speaking at some charitable events.”.

That’s some serious cash for the raging populist from Alaska. In the ensuing backlash (tickets to the Tea Party Convention cost several hundred dollars), Palin has declared she will charge no fee for her appearance – the press is uninvited, of course.

Amidst the current news cycle, we have learned of Palin joining FOX News—a veritable cornerstone of the mainstream “gotcha” media, where she will surely reap an enormous salary for sitting in front of a camera and crowing (the norm for roughly 96 percent of cable news anchors).

As a liberal I’ve long since burned away my Palin ire, and now see her as a political figure, her approval ratings, and, as such, she is almost certain to crash and burn as a Republican/third party candidate for president (her disapproval ratings) or settle into comfort as yet another FOX demagogue.

Palin's appearances with Bill O’Reilly aren’t the stuff political dreams are made of, but are a far cry from her disastrous interview with Katie Couric in ‘08, though some of the old Palin resurfaced during this exchange with Glenn Beck. When asked who her favorite Founding Father was, she hemmed and hawed like only classic Palin (or maybe Caroline Kennedy) can and answered “all of them.” Beck presses the question, and here is her answer, emphasis mine:

They were led by, of course, George Washington. So he’s got to rise to the top. Washington was the consummate statesman. He served, he turned power to the people. He didn’t want to be a king. He returned power to the people. Then he went back to Mount Vernon. He went back to his farm. He was almost reluctant to serve as president too and that’s who you need to find to serve in government, in a bureaucracy—those who you know will serve for the right reasons because they’re reluctant to get out there and seek a limelight and seek power. They’re doing it for the people, that was George Washington.

"Reluctant” is hardly a word anyone would use to describe Palin’s relationship with the spotlight.

These minor developments in the Palin saga are significant in the context of how her defenders treat her. And by defenders I mean right-of-center thinkers making honest attempts to reconcile her explosive popularity with her obvious shortcomings. It’s an all too common dance—with an obvious parallel with President Obama and the liberal blogosphere re: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the Defense of Marriage Act; military tribunals; and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

But the struggles intelligent conservatives face, concerning Palin, are a world away from the liberals’ issues with Obama. Those seeking to find a middle ground with Palin inevitably twist themselves in irrevocable knots.

It's Painful To Watch a Level-Headed Conservative Defend Sarah Palin


My case in point appeared at Front Porch Republic, a wonderful salon-style online publication that traffics in deeply thought-out libertarian, conservative, local and similar issues. Jeff Taylor, writing from Jacksonville, AL, (the site almost always attaches datelines to its articles, as if such analytical and theoretical columns were dispatches from the real America) put down nearly 6,000 words on Sarah Palin—the spillover from a 3,000-word review of Going Rogue that ran in The American Conservative (also not a terrible place for the left-thinking).

The review opens,

I want to like Sarah Palin. But to borrow a title from Hitchcock, I feel like The Man Who Knew Too Much—about The Woman Who Knew Too Little. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care that Palin is not a policy wonk. In some ways, that’s a plus


It takes Taylor all of 49 words before he’s tiptoeing around the rational—she’s not a policy wonk—and the irrational—he wants to like her. Everything that ensues in the review and the spill column falls along those lines. He makes an admirable attempt to view her strengths and weaknesses in as fair a light as possible—characteristic of a lot of the reasoning going on at those two outlets, regardless if you agree with the conclusion or not—but simply can’t avoid using broad strokes to skirt around larger issues nor the tendency to present straw man binaries.

Before I get into those I want to mention “Sarah Palin the Moose Killer,” wherein Taylor offers perhaps the most cogent analysis of the trope:

All of us have heard about Sarah the moose slayer. Not everyone is charmed by the image. I recently received an email from an impassioned critic: “Sarah Palin is a wolf killer. She is also a bear killer. Sarah Palin is a destroyer and a murderer. Sarah Palin is despicable.” In response, I told the writer that while I, too, support animal rights, the vast majority of Americans do not. They see nothing wrong with shooting a wolf (from an airplane or the ground), or killing a moose, bear, deer, cow, pig, or chicken. There’s no use trying to hold Palin to a higher standard. In my book, the gratuitous killing of a goose by a costumed John Kerry for the sake of a campaign photo op is more disgusting. I’m guessing the two hours he spent in an Ohio cornfield and the bloody goose he hauled out lost him more votes than he gained. At least Sarah Palin hunts without inviting the press.

It’s hard not to mention the ridiculous turkey slaughter clip, but his point is well taken.

But later on Taylor concludes that Palin was over-prepped for the infamous Couric interview and the VP debate, to which one can only ask, “Really?” Even if she was force-fed talking points she was still unable to regurgitate them in any coherent way and mostly without any regard for syntax.


In the spillover piece, Taylor’s civility cracks slightly when he writes,

People don’t like to be talked down to or have their communities dismissed as fly-over country. There is a reason why we find a sea of red with islands of blue, mostly representing the metropolitan centers, when we look at a map of U.S. counties for recent presidential elections. Maybe talk of “real Americans” is the revenge of the demeaned. When compared to cosmopolitan elites, there is an element of truth to it.

How he follows “revenge of the demeaned” with “there is an element of truth to it” is simply beyond me. Is Palin’s potential as a fired-up populist who leaves liberals (and not a few conservatives) almost literally foaming at the mouth just too much to deny? There is a whiff of resignation in Taylor’s pieces, one of, “Well, she’s here and a lot of people like her so we might as well try to reconcile her tangible negatives with her intangible positives.” Since she quit the governorship she lost any accountability—she’s a FOX pundit now for god’s sake—and so her statements and speeches exist solely in the echo chamber. Obama catches flack on the far left for the issues listed above, but he’s an elected official leaving behind policies both good and bad in his wake.

On the topic of Palin leaving the Alaskan statehouse, Taylor twists himself around reality and projection once again:

Admittedly, resigning the governorship is a strange move when you have 1½ years left in your term—years, not months. Having over one-third of your time left is not lameduckery! At the time, there was speculation that a scandal or indictment would soon follow, but the other shoe has not dropped. Maybe it does have something to do with Palin’s unsophisticated maverickhood. Perhaps she really did want to allow Alaska government to move on without being tangled up in political controversy, simultaneously freeing her to pursue her national ambitions without being tied up back home. The resignation may have been a mistake, and it’s doubtful that she was completely honest about her reasons, but it does reinforce her reputation as an unconventional politician.

For someone who considers Palin’s character as her “strong suit,” that Taylor thinks she was full of crap about her intentions for leaving the governorship is pretty transparent. He writes, near the end of the spill piece, “With typical lack of nuance, Sarah caused a stir when she accused Obama health care reform as paving the way for ‘death panels’ which might pass judgment on imperfect babies and ill grandparents.” What Taylor perceives as a “typical lack of nuance” is amoral fear mongering, deliberately coercing and lying to her supporters with demonstrably false information.

In the conclusion of his review, Taylor switches back to level-headed mode:

The contradiction of populism is that the sincere champion of the common people must be better informed, more astute, and more steadfast than the people themselves in order to serve them effectively. Identification with the people must coexist with discernment about the world of power and wealth. Or, as the Galilean said long ago to His disciples, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Spiritually and politically savvy yet true in intention and pure in action. That is a high calling, and it remains to be seen if Sarah Palin has what it takes.

I have seen no evidence of any savvy from Palin outside of scoring cheap political points on the issues of the day. What I’m left with at the end of these 10,000 words is the repeated feeling that this good-intentioned, freethinking conservative is in a bind. Palin isn’t a non-starter, but she’s far from a finisher—the notion that she can improve or better verse herself in the issues is pretty close to saying, “she’ll be prepped and handled better and will spin better.” Palin’s speaking fees and move to FOX only say one thing: She looks out for Sarah, either in the form of money-power-respect or straw polls.

The twisting and over-rationalization isn’t going to stop anytime soon—and I fully recommend reading both of Taylor’s pieces to the end. Overall, his commentary is a good lens for the broader conversation: what we look for in a leader. 

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20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Snowy
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 15:48:00

    While the old men in suits who control the GOP are happy to have Palin reinforce the prejudice of the conservative masses who look to Fox News for their knowledge, I think the very thought of her in a position of real power, such as POTUS, must be just as repugnant to them as it is to anyone else with an informed political opinion. She'll make a lot of money for herself and Fox news in dumbing down political debate in the U.S., but ultimately that will be to the detriment of the GOP and, in the short term, the U.S. The real winners are the Dems, so long as they treat the U.S. public as intelligent voters capable of discussing real political issues in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance. The American people are better than what Palin and Fox News take them for. Articles such as the above prove that.


  2. FlynnD
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 15:51:00

    Why haven't we heard more from Todd Palin?


  3. FlynnD
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 16:00:00

    To continue my comment about Mr. Palin… why is he content to remain in the background like republican wives of the the past? Does Mrs. Palin wear the jock in the family?


  4. KaJo
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 16:14:00

    "I have seen no evidence of any savvy from Palin outside of scoring cheap political points on the issues of the day…"


  5. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 16:30:00

    I see that neither of them are wearing a wedding ring. I don't know what that might mean, because this family has it's own set of whacked out values. Todd's buying property from neighbor and overlooking a massive compound building project. All going on in the area of that house built on Lake Lucille by Wasilla Tax Payers. People will do anything, I mean anything for $


  6. FlynnD
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:09:00

    Maybe Sarah n Todd represent the new paradigm. There is too much hidden power backing this family. Too much money is at stake for these folks to have been chosen haphazardly. Too many secrets have been bought off. Too many computer hard drives have been seized and erased. I'm waiting for a latter day Oliver Stone (but saner) movie interpretation of what we've just painfully experienced.


  7. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:29:00

    You can't make this stuff up. Her money backer and character referece to Alaska was Wally Hickel. Old men find it hard to resist pretty women who think they're smart. We know Sarah is NOT smart, all the better. Wally thought he can finally get that LNG project pushed by a 'fresh face' it turned ugly. The face and the relationship. When those Alaskans who voted for her finally figured her vindictive and abusive tendencies out it was too late. Because people are drawn to the lower base of emotion with her and she is a total train wreck, people can't get enough.


  8. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:51:00

    No, I understand. There are many unanswered questions. How can a woman all of the sudden out of nowhere say she's 7.5 months pregnant and than travel, break water and than travel more to mysteriously have a baby about 3 weeks later, roughly 8.5 months along. Why would WSJ remove a quote from an Alaskan senator stating that there is a possibility that Palin would be RECALLED/Impeach for being found GUILTY of Abuse of POWER- if she can do that to a former family member- she would abuse power towards anyone. How can a state "Executive" of 2.5 yr. get away with doing state business on Yahoo and than able to delete, transfer or erase state emails? Oh, yes, then put someone else in jail for trying to fact check… She clearly used state funds to perpetuate her run for VP and before. How was she able to undermine ethics laws by saying "They're all frivilous complaints by those jealous citizens"
    Great People don't need others to make excuses for their bad behavior and tell us they're great.


  9. FlynnD
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:03:00

    "Because people are drawn to the lower base of emotion with her AND she is a total train wreck"… right on! It used to be that beauty was truth and truth beauty and that was all we needed to know on earth but it seems baser instincts rule the day. I thought I'd seen it all with Dubya but he's got nothin' on this airhead.


  10. FlynnD
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:07:00

    It seems to me Levi Johnston and his family and friends have been mum far too long. Could there be something in the works?


  11. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:51:00

    First off, I want to see both these kids succeed. I think Levi needs to focus on this custody battle and get his GED and a "real job".
    I'm almost sure there is something in the works. There is more to the story! Levi explained his reasons for spilling unflattering information about the Palin family and said he was keeping some "huge" secrets.Among other things, Johnston said Palin joked about her son Trig's Down Syndrome, calling him her "retarded baby."


  12. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:59:00

    Thanks Snowy
    ..treat the U.S. public as intelligent voters capable of discussing real political issues in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.
    ..That is said so perfectly


  13. FlynnD
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 19:02:00

    I think Levi has been a total gentleman given the circumstances. I'm more confident that he'll remain true to himself through come what may than any of the Palin brood.OT… I'm pleased to have somehow stumbled here. Syrin's site is a delight.


  14. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 19:10:00

    A day late and a dollar short, that's Sarah Palin …LOL!
    Here's one.. The lights are on but, nobody is home, that's Sarah Palin…


  15. ken
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 20:13:00

    don't allow yourself to be this idiotic. it won't be the top 10% of the population thats going to be paying for the unions first class health ins.,its going to be you.don't be fooled by this shell game………


  16. KaJo
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 13:55:00

    Ken, I'm getting the feeling by what you wrote that it isn't me you're concerned about, referring to "the top 10% of the population"…it's YOU.


  17. ken
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 14:33:00

    i'm no where near the top 10% and if you do i little research you will find out that its not the top 20% who will pay for it,or the bottom 20%,but the middle class that will pay for it.and you will pay for your private ins. and for the public mandate.government is not the answer to any problem………..


  18. writeidea
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 20:09:00

    Syrin – Great post today, and great comments from you in the follow-up.
    I am so thrilled to see that someone in Wasilla is not afraid of the fraud that is Sarah Palin.


  19. zane
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 05:11:00

    Great website, I just bumped into in from Palingates.


  20. Syrin from Wasilla
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 20:53:00

    Welcome Zane… I appreciate being bumped… 😉


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