Now that all that business is settled, we can move on to something important — the Campaign of ‘12, opening this morning.
Picking candidates four years out is a dinner-party exercise, more fun than Trivial Pursuit but no more enlightening than spin-the-bottle. Nevertheless it’s what Washington groupies and junkies do. There’s the delicious prospect of what will inevitably be called — gasp! — “a cat fight.” Sarah Palin vs. Hillary Clinton. Yum, yum.
This assumes that (a) Gov. Palin wants a career in national politics and has caught an incurable case of Potomac Fever; (b) Barack Obama will reveal himself to be the sweet-talking, seductive empty suit that so many don’t know and love with a feel-good speech for every occasion but maybe a one-reel wonder for all that; and (c) Hillary Clinton didn’t really mean it when she said the chances of her trying again are approximately zero. Even a cautious bettor will be tempted to go for this trifecta.
Hillary has only to watch and wait, to see whether Mr. Obama is headed for Mount Rushmore or to the dustbin, where history consigns honey-tongued pretenders. She and Bubba paid their dues, campaigning for the messiah with the appearance of rooting for him, even if they did it with fingers crossed behind their backs. Hillary was hard on the job yesterday in New York, working the lines of New Yorkers waiting to vote. Bubba worked Florida hard enough that he can credibly take credit for what the Democrats accomplished there.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, still has to prove that she’s the real goods with no imminent sell-by date. The press never let up from the hour John McCain introduced her as his running mate, mocking her as “Caribou Barbie” who abandoned her children for politics and failed her husband to march hopelessly out of step with real women. They roughed her up but she didn’t whine, and when the press ridiculed her children, she shoved them proudly in their faces, even the little boy with Down syndrome. The governor had been a beauty queen and could still give a good account of herself arrayed against women two decades younger than she, with her dazzling smile, trim ankles, red spike heels and a body that turns every male head. Some women could never forgive her for that. Not only was she bereft of an Ivy League credential, but she succeeded as a graduate of the University of Idaho, with credits from Hawaii Pacific University, North Idaho College and even a semester at something called Matanuska-Susitna College. She didn’t have a master’s degree in women’s studies from Harvard, nor had she ever taken a course in art appreciation at Stanford. She didn’t have a doctorate from Yale in the poetry of Nineteenth-Century Romania or the politics of the Third Ten-Year Plan for Agricultural Reform in Uzbekistan. She was begging feminists with fancy credentials who had never accomplished anything to hate her, and they did.
Her smarter critics knew better than to show up at a Palin rally, where crowds bigger than John McCain’s and some of them approaching the size of Barack Obama’s went bonkers when she stepped on the platform. The multitudes cottoned to the plain way she talks, her lack of affect. She has the gift. Ronald Reagan had it first, the ability to connect with plain folks, telling it like the unwashed masses think things ought to be. Sarah Palin, like Reagan and Maggie Thatcher vastly underestimated early on, comes across as the real number.
She didn’t have time to polish her act this time. She made the mistake of listening to the men who coached her for the disastrous interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, who asked the “gotcha!” questions prepared for them (and they didn’t know the answers themselves), and only when she “went rogue” did Sarah Palin capture her moment. She can take a lot from John McCain’s last hurrah, beginning with a list of people never to hire in 2012.
Almost anyone can cram for an exam; almost anybody can memorize the names of the assistant third secretary of the motor pool in Lower Volta and the keeper of the seal of the People’s Republic of Western Granola; these are the questions the chattering class use as the test for true intelligence. Sarah Palin has the opportunity to seize the falling flag, to keep it away from the Republican careerists perfectly satisfied to be lickspittles permanently subservient to the majority Democrats. This could be a hoot, this Campaign of ‘12.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.