Douthat on “The Palin Tragedy”

Here’s Ross Douthat‘s take on Sarah Palin then and now:

“Palin was caricatured viciously, but in response she decided to essentially become the caricature, giving her enemies exactly the kind of Spiro Agnew-in-heels performance they expected, and then chasing celebrity in destructive (if lucrative) ways once the initial firestorm around her subsided. The only thing that can be said in her defense is that her choices, while misguided, have been very, very human. Consider: If you were bounced from obscurity to national prominence and immediately found yourself attacked from every angle imaginable — the personal, the political, and everywhere in between — to whom would you instinctively turn to for advice and counsel? To the elite Republicans who seemed to disdain you from the beginning? To the McCain strategists who sent you out as an attack dog and then blamed you for their own missteps and misjudgments? To the establishment media mavens who never gave you a fair shake? Or would you turn instead to the various conservative commentators, activists, radio hosts and bloggers who made it their business to champion you as the second coming of Ronald Reagan, to defend you from every attack (fair and unfair alike), to spin your blunders as successes and your gaffes as wisdom, and to generally insist that you could do no wrong?

“We know how Palin answered that question. She has been ill-served, to put it mildly, by her ‘you’re great, you’re perfect, don’t change’ admirers; she would have been far better off taking advice from some of her more constructive critics instead. But listening to one’s critics is hard; listening to the people who stood by you when you were in the crucible is far more natural and understandable. And that all-too-human tendency, as much as anything else, explains why we’ve ended up with a Sarah Palin who sounds more like, well, a right-wing talk-radio host than the promising politician she once was.”

Read the rest here.


  • Alan Cross

    Is there now a need to say that Sarah Palin has “changed” so that we feel good about once having championed her? If you look back, she had a couple of good speeches when she was first trotted out, but had little substance beyond reading a script. Her undoing cannot be blamed on others, I don’t think. I really think that this is who she was – it just took conservatives longer to realize it because they were beguiled by the prospect of a strong, female, conservative candidate. Yes, she got bad advice. But, I think that it is the advice that she wanted. She was only promising because of our projections upon her, not because of any merit of her own. Maybe we were just wrong?

  • Kevin

    What’s really interesting about this article is to read the comments made on the NY Times website. Its strange because what those people accuse her of is exactly what I would accuse our current president of being. Someone who is in way over their head and has no education that will assist them in the task. We have a president with no experience outside of the classroom. A theoritician and nothing more. I agree with them that Palin was not ready for the role of president or VP. What they miss is that it seems pretty clear that Obama wasn’t either

  • yankeegospelgirl

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I actually think the campaign had a corrupting effect on her because of the way she compromised to cooperate with McCain. I think it would have been very bad for her if they’d won the election. It has nothing to do with “listening to her supporters.”

  • Derek

    I’m with you, yankeegospelgirl. Who exactly are the people who are calling Palin the “second coming of Ronald Reagan”? Douthat should cite examples if he is going to dismiss Palin’s admirers off writ large.

    I am a person who admires certain aspects of Palin and is off-put by other characteristics, but this article seems excessively critical – I daresay that you couldn’t accuse every single politician and his/her followers with a certain type of blindness and “you’re fine, don’t change a thing” attaboys.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    Well actually people have compared her with Ronald Reagan, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. At least I wouldn’t have a problem if she acted like Ronald Reagan! But I’m sorry, to say that McCain was “solid on all the issues” just wasn’t true. Now, would I vote for her in 2012? Setting aside my preference for a male President, I would consider it. But honestly, the more “like a conservative talk show host” she sounds, all the better from my perspective.

  • Smithbaptist

    From the beginning, I was confused by the excitement about the governor. I think many wanted her to be the anti-Hillary.

  • RD

    What’s happened/happening to Sarah Palin was inevitable, I think. When she gave her convention speech everyone was energized. But it became all too apparent all too quickly that there was very little personal depth behind the smile. She simply isn’t well rounded enough to engage in international politics, and she’s not sharp enough to think on her feet when she is put in positions where she must. If she wasn’t a strikingly attractive woman she’d have very few followers. She’d certainly never been given the platform she’s been given. That might sound harsh, but I think it’s the absolute truth.

  • Derek

    What I meant to say is that every politician has a base of folks who think they are the next great Reagan or Kennedy or whoever. Douthat hasn’t said anything to demonstrate with either facts or by way of comparison, that Palin has more mindless followers than other politicians do.

    Douthat is a melodramatic pundit who strikes me as just one more among the chattering classes of NY and DC to pile on with another swipe at Palin and her supporters.

  • Christianes

    People like Sarah. She’s ‘likable’.
    But when I think back to the Couric interview, I thought that Couric did NOT design an interview to ’embarrass’ Sarah.

    Why do I think that?
    Well, Sarah was known to be a college graduate. And anyone who interviews for a college of any stature KNOWS that they will ask you questions like:
    ‘What books are you reading or have you read lately.’
    THAT question is a ‘standard’ for interviewees, to see if they are thoughtful people who read and can discuss what they have read.

    And the ‘newspapers’ question?
    Sarah was running for Vice-President of the United States. Was it not a matter of interest to everyone watching to know what SOURCES of information about the world that Sarah was drawing from?

    The interview questions were predictable. And that is why people were shocked that Sarah seemed ‘unprepared’.

    It was a painful interview to watch. But it revealed a ‘gap’ in Sarah’s preparation to engage on a serious level, even at the level expected of an interviewing college applicant.

  • Nate

    While Palin may never be President she did have a big impact in the birth of the Tea Party movement and the 2010 elections. She influenced many of those elections with her campaigning for those who ran.

    Why is it if someone falls short of being the President of the U.S. they are considered hapless. What have any of us ever been elected to? She was elected a governor, a position of power that only 50 others achieve in this country. What has Douthat achieved?

  • Paul

    “While Palin may never be President she did have a big impact in the birth of the Tea Party movement and the 2010 elections. She influenced many of those elections with her campaigning for those who ran.”

    An accomplishment for which she should be tarred and feathered. The tea party is simply the republican party distilled to its basest elements. They’re the Crystal Meth of politics, and many of the tea party’s members look like disheveled meth addicts, too.

  • Derek

    “The tea party is simply the republican party distilled to its basest elements”. Interesting comments from someone who gets a bee in his bonnet any time liberals are collectively described, much less criticized.

    Paul, something tells me you’d fit in with the rabble of characters who protested up in Madison, WI. Family friendly bunch they are. 🙂

  • yankeegospelgirl

    Well actually I do think the tea party could be stronger on social issues, though fiscally of course they’re very sound.

    But that’s coming from someone who isn’t really a Republican anyway. I guess you could say the party left me. 😉

  • Paul

    awww my comments didn’t even get moderated. They just got flat out denied. That makes me sad, Denny.

    And since I’m not typing it all out again, Derek, you win. The tea party is absolutely brilliant, and the protesters in Madison had no business fighting for their livelihoods.

  • Derek

    If only the protests WERE actually about people’s livelihood, that would have been nice. Those protests were about fat cat union chiefs and about maintaining retirement benefits that non-union members pay through the nose for and do not benefit from. Those protests were about the rights of unions to buy politicians so they can rip off taxpayers. I have both family who are union members in WI and non-union. Sorry, but the unions have a completely unrealistic and unsustainable set of benefits. Even rank and file union members know it.

  • Nate

    “And since I’m not typing it all out again, Derek, you win. The tea party is absolutely brilliant, and the protesters in Madison had no business fighting for their livelihoods.”

    Paul, while I understand the frustration that comes from Denny moderating comments, your response reeks of what you typically chide others for; snide remarks.

    There are so many issues with what happened in Madison it would be difficult to understand exactly where your support for government workers begins. Does it begin with lawmakers refusing to come for a vote in the legislature? Does it come from an understanding that government officials who take money from union lobbyists are the ones who are supposed to be arguing for the people of Wisconsin at the bargaining table? Or, do you believe that all employers should fund full pension plans, health plans, etc for their employees regardless of the cost versus profit margin?

  • Paul

    Now, Derek, how about some of your thoughts instead of Fox News talking points.

    WI residents don’t benefit from a pension that public employees DO pay into?

    You don’t think that everyone in WI benefits when WI can claim some of the best public schools in the country? Look at the caliber of teachers (and the results thereof) in WI and weight that against any of the states where collective bargaining has been outlawed. WI is near the top, and the five states where teachers are at the will of republicans that hate smart people ALL rank at the bottom.

    Now look at the grown-ups coming out of WI vs. the grown-ups coming out of South Carolina. Even the Republicans in WI are level headed and articulate (which is why Paul Ryan scares me…he’s crazy AND smart). As opposed to the tea party members of the south who hate the civil rights act and think it’s against the law to spell correctly on any 3’x2′ sign that can be photographed for the whole country to see.

    In other words, WI had always been a fantastic state with great schools and a lot going for it, precisely because it respected its unions and it’s workers in general. We’ll see how long it stays fantastic under Walker’s rule. Especially because it’s pretty much common knowledge that he did an awful job running Miwaukee County.

  • Paul

    oh, come on. Maybe it’s because I live somewhere where they take pride in the public school system, but I can think of 4 school districts within 30 miles of my house that any rational person in the country would envy. Mouth breathers that think that public education history books are too liberal do not count as rational.

  • Derek

    Re: the snide Fox News comment, Paul – curiously I was watching MSNBC a few weeks ago and even one of the liberal commentators noted that he talks to a lot of Democratic legislators and they said that while they disagreed with Walker’s approach, that the union position was untenable and that many Democratic politicians are afraid of the unions because they bankroll their campaigns.

    Something’s gotta give. Everyone in this economy is working longer hours, or taking less in wages or benefits. Public employees have to give a little back too. And by the way Paul, full-time state- and local-government employees are participants in the Wisconsin Retirement System, which uses taxpayer money to fund the state’s generous pension package (5% of the employee’s salary. Not only THAT, but the union bought politicians have rigged it so that the taxpayers also pick up another 5% that used to get picked up by the employee! In some cases, it has been discovered that for every $1 a WI state employee contributes, taxpayers have contributed $57. Sorry, Paul, but you are peddling union propaganda.

  • Derek

    Just curious, where did you learn grammar?

    “Mouth breathers that think that public education history…” should be written “Mouth breathers em think that public education history…”.

  • Derek

    Something happened with the html in my last post:

    “Mouth breathers that think that public education history…” should be written “Mouth breathers who think that public education history…”.

  • Nate

    Paul, if Wisconsin has the best public schools and they loved the unions so much and all the “we are the world” love and adoration you proclaim, then why did they elect Walker? He ran on reducing govt. spending. If the state of WI was in such great shape, then the majority of its citizens wouldn’t have elected him.

  • Paul

    He ran on reducing government spending, but didn’t mention a word about taking away collective bargaining from the unions, which saves nobody any money. Not in the short term, certainly, and likely, not in the long term. And when the quality of teachers goes down because WI adopts a pay freeze, goes with lesser health insurance for public workers, forces furlough days or anything else that will now be on the table, WI will be quite upset that they elected Scott Walker (not that they’re not already – look at that guy’s poll numbers…there’s no way he gets a second term, if he doesn’t get impeached before that).

    As for YGG – now liberals who are your brothers in Christ are trolls? That’s just as unreasonable as the bit about you having no patience for anybody not just like you on your website. Nice work.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.