Conservative commentators* piled on after the vice presidential debate last week. Greg Sheridan made no attempt to hide his pleasure:
“Sarah Palin, the pitbull in lipstick, the hockey mum from Main Street, did brilliantly well in her debate with Joe Biden yesterday. It was a good illustration of one of the iron laws of politics.
Whenever you hear commentators declare that a senior politician is as thick as a brick or an idiot, it is much likelier that the commentator is the idiot and the politician has simply offended some orthodoxy of the zeitgeist.”
Janet Albrechtsen was no less thrilled:
Palin has attracted the blowtorch from progressives for one reason alone. What really scares them are her conservative views about family, faith and country – not her political inexperience. And what frightens them even more is the fact that Palin speaks directly to a broader audience of social conservatives whom progressives can never really understand because they dont want to.
Entirely understandable, of course, if a little overblown. Not only didn’t Palin implode, as many had expected, she was feisty, unapologetic and occasionally even made sense. Had she truly been a modern version of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, it might almost have been tempting to (carefully) join in the cheering.
Unfortunately, any doubts on that score were definitively set to rest in recent days. The polite ingenue of Thursday night took off the mask in Florida:
“Okay, so Florida, you know that you’re going to have to hang onto your hats,” Sarah Palin told a rally of a few thousand here this morning, “because from now until Election Day it may get kind of rough.”
You betcha. And the person dishing out the roughest stuff at the moment is Sarah Palin.
“I was reading my copy of the New York Times the other day,” she said.
“Booooo!” replied the crowd.
“I knew you guys would react that way, okay,” she continued. “So I was reading the New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago.”
It was time to revive the allegation, made over the weekend, that Obama “pals around” with terrorists, in this case Bill Ayers, late of the Weather Underground. Many independent observers say Palin’s allegations are a stretch; Obama served on a Chicago charitable board with Ayers, now an education professor, and has condemned his past activities.
“Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” Palin said.
“Boooo!” said the crowd.
“And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'” she continued.
“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.
“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.
Palin went on to say that “Obama held one of the first meetings of his political career in Bill Ayers’s living room, and they’ve worked together on various projects in Chicago.” Here, Palin began to connect the dots. “These are the same guys who think that patriotism is paying higher taxes — remember that’s what Joe Biden had said. “And” — she paused and sighed — “I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America, as the greatest force for good in the world. I’m afraid this is someone who sees America as ‘imperfect enough’ to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.”
“Boooo!” said the audience. [my emphasis]
It doesn’t need much understanding of human nature or history to know where incitement of this sort leads, and any political leader who traffics in it puts themselves beyond the pale. Sadly, it’s no isolated incident; the Republican campaign is now rife with this sort of unedifying muck.
Those who’ve been so eager to sing her praises are, I think, duty bound to do a little soul searching.
*(How did this once useful and honourable word become quite so bastardised?)