The Palin Card

posted at 9:00 am on September 18, 2010 by Doctor Zero

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic thinks it’s time for the Obama Administration to play the “Palin Card,” setting the former governor of Alaska up as the target for some Alinsky-style frozen personal polarizing.  He dismisses fears that such Presidential attention will elevate Palin to greater national prominence:

Elevate Sarah Palin? How much higher can she go? Everyone knows her.  Some of Obama’s advisers have argued in the past that the attention paid to Palin by Americans in the last stages of the 2008 campaign is one reason why Obama was able to win so cleanly.

Palin and the Tea Party movement are not the same thing. The movement, evolving out of movement conservatism, is principally about government and the economy. Palin revels in the culture wars. But when that part of the Tea Party that does care about social issues becomes the story, linking the two in the public’s mind is easier.

Yes, the election is about control of Congress. But at a larger level, it’s about competing visions of the world. John Boehner v. the Democratic agenda is a boring contrast. Many Democrats couldn’t tell a Boehner from a Cantor. But everyone knows who Sarah Palin is.

He’s right that low-key, largely unknown politicians like Boehner and Cantor don’t make very good targets for the politics of personal destruction.  The effort to inflate stuff Boehner into a Darth Vader costume over the past few weeks was comical.  If the Democrats want to run some more plays out of Alinsky’s faded old handbook, they’ll need to focus on someone exciting.

Palin is linked to other high-profile female candidates, like Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell, so she looks like an inviting target.  The subtext of the media narrative Democrats are trying to spin is that outspoken female conservatives are somehow unnatural.  Comfortable, maternal leftism is the natural philosophy of caring women, you see, and the State is their only ally in the quest to shatter those increasingly transparent glass ceilings.  A woman who would enlist in the heavy infantry of the regressive fundamentalist Republicans must be crazy.

I hope the White House takes Ambinder’s advice, because it would be suicidal.  His crack about Palin’s “reveling in the culture wars” betrays his ignorance.  He is confused by the details of her biography, and the sincere affection she earns from her admirers.  His Palin Card is drawn from the wrong suit.  She’s the Queen of Diamonds, not the Queen of Hearts.  Her most impressive statements over the last two years have been on matters of economics, policy, and politics.  She has shredded the Administration over health care, the Gulf oil spill, and unrestrained government spending.  She’s endorsed dozens of primary candidates, with something like a 70% success rate.  Her most notable clashes with “culture” have involved asking it to stop making rape jokes about her daughters.

If you want to criticize someone for reveling in culture wars, I suggest you take a look at the power-drunk clowns tossing around gigantic bills that “control the people” right down to the menus at fast-food restaurants.  Just wait until they start rolling out the class-war arguments for higher taxes to sustain their frenzied spending.  That will be some serious revelry.

Obama would be making a deadly mistake by calling out Sarah Palin for a political cage match.  Let me put this bluntly: virtually no one in America gives a damn what Barack Obama says about anything at this point.  What could be more predictable, and less interesting, than Obama’s opinion on any given subject?  Who wants to contemplate the economic wisdom of a guy who looted the Treasury for a trillion dollars, with less benefit than we could have achieved by stuffing hundred dollar bills into random cereal boxes?  Who’s excited to hear about the next plan to convert taxpayer dollars into Democrat campaign funds?  Who’s hungry for another hour of tedious excuses about permanently broken markets and the titanic dead hand of George W. Bush?  Who wants a lecture on ethical business practices from the titular head of the party that gave us Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters?  What use is another hollow foreign-policy speech from a man who sees no global adversary to rival the menace of Arizona?  Even Obama’s supporters don’t hear anything he says any more.  There’s nothing left to hear.

Palin, on the other hand, commands attention.  Lots of it comes from people who dislike her, of course, but she definitely gets people talking.  Many of her detractors have a surprising ability to quote her verbatim, stretching back for weeks.  Obama’s critics need Google searches to remember what he said yesterday.  They can only recall that it was boring, and expensive.

The strategy behind playing the Palin Card is to capitalize on her approval ratings, which liberals incessantly remind us are lower than Obama’s.  They misunderstand the reason why.  Most Americans aren’t political junkies.  They hear news about politicians spending big bucks and getting things done.  The wisdom of spending the big bucks is almost never questioned.  Meanwhile, private citizens are portrayed as merely talking. They have no vast departments or nine-figure budgets.  They are part of the sideshow, while elected officials are the star attractions.  Those who are not dedicated supporters know them primarily through popular culture’s impression of them.

This is Palin’s situation at the moment.  Average people don’t read her Facebook page, and they won’t hear speeches like the one she gave in Iowa on Friday.  They know who she is, but mostly they hear about her, rather than listening to her.  All that will change if the White House points at her and commands the media to attack.  Clubbing someone with a microphone is a mistake if they have something interesting to say.

There are lots of colorful personalities making news during this election season, but these elections are not about personality.  Describing them as expressions of unreasoning anger against the Democrats underestimates the thoughtfulness and determination of the Tea Party movement.  Voters are not just looking for scapegoats to punish for a lousy economy.  They are preparing to act against the system itself, in a manner without precedent in modern history.  Palin understands this better than any other frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential nomination.  Her presumptive rivals have ties to various aspects of that system, as with Mitt Romney’s precursor to ObamaCare in Massachusetts.  Too many of them treat the repeal of ObamaCare as a sensitive topic, while Palin uses it as a battle cry.

The last thing Obama should do is pull Palin onto the stage as his chief rival.  She might talk about the perpetual corruption engine of “stimulus” dollars protecting union payrolls, and filtering down into Democrat campaign coffers.  She might ask “centrists” how they can find the center of a system tumbling over the left edge of a cliff.  She might ask “independents” how much independence they think they can retain after a few more years of wild government growth.  She might ask how a President with so little faith in the American people dares to complain when they show him anything less than complete trust and unquestioning obedience.

The President’s plan to overcome the Tea Party is to make voters afraid of them.  Incubating fear and hatred of those who want to disassemble this dysfunctional State requires us to doubt ourselves, and our ability to survive without the protection and nourishment we are given in exchange for our freedom.  Let the President share the stage with someone whose belief in her fellow Americans is boundless, and whose philosophy of governance begins with the cheerful invitation to share that belief.  Let us see which one the public wishes to hear more from.

Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.

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If there has been any rule governing politics for the last two years, it is never underestimate Sarah Palin. I saw that principle in action when I spoke with one of my Palin skeptics, Ron Siedelmann, immediately after the speech.
Siedelmann, who had supported Mike Huckabee in the 2008 caucuses, was a man transformed. “Sarah Palin would make a pretty good president,” he said with conviction in his voice that grew with every sentence. “To me, she seemed like she’s really down to earth. It’s the first time that I ever sat down and listened to her. I think she’d make a damn good president.”

unseen on September 18, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Did you ever lose big growing up?” she asked the crowd. “You lose some and you win some. For the sake of our country, America’s primary voters have spoken and those internal power struggles need to be set aside.”

unseen on September 18, 2010 at 12:18 PM

Excellent post, Doc. Obamalinsky is in a lose/lose situation wrt Sarah Palin. Ignore her at their own peril. Freezing/polarizing/demonizing only gives her more attention, and debating on the issues exposes them as the marxists frauds that they are. With the speech in Iowa last night, the ball is clearly in her court. She is the original Tea Party candidate and I believe she is driving the political narrative right now. All she has to do from this point out is hone her skills (reload), continue to campaign for those valuable house/senate seats and then launch a presidential campaign to restore America to Land of Liberty and not land of hand outs and entitlements.

long_cat on September 18, 2010 at 12:34 PM

You are why I come to Hot Air anymore Doc. Ed’s still got it, but he’s not hungry anymore and he isn’t motivated to be passionate about it. Allah has become no more than provocative, and often petulant about it.
Immolate on September 18, 2010 at 10:53 AM

How do you know how hungry Ed is? He puts out so many posts every day, not to mention TEMS & personal appearances, & he has a lovely family to care for.

itsnotaboutme on September 18, 2010 at 12:41 PM

…(S)he is utterly fearless, indeed, the courage is like a bolt of lightning.

turfmann on September 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM

The most amazing thing about Sarah Palin being fearless is that she is able to instill a little of that fearlessness in many of us.

Fallon on September 18, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Thanks Doc. Wow!

chaswv on September 18, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Terrific post, Doc.

Except you should have kept it secret. I sincerely hope that no Democrats pay attention to it, but then they’re so arrogant, if they do see it, I suppose it would never occur to them to heed it.

They are preparing to act against the system itself, in a manner without precedent in modern history.

I honestly don’t think we’ve seen anything like this since the 1700s.

INC on September 18, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Palin has been running against Obama for at least a year and gutting him in the process from her facebook page. Does he really want to put her in his sights?

silvernana on September 18, 2010 at 2:01 PM

How do you know how hungry Ed is? He puts out so many posts every day, not to mention TEMS & personal appearances, & he has a lovely family to care for.

itsnotaboutme on September 18, 2010 at 12:41 PM

Not to mention that Ed is the one promoting Doc’s posts.

gh on September 18, 2010 at 2:11 PM

I wonder when Obama is going to play the governing card?

tarpon on September 18, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Palin/Zero ’12.

BDavis on September 18, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Look Doc, you are absolutely right about what you are saying in that column up there.

But given this administration’s track record, and it’s petulance and it’s thin-skinnedness, they are not going to take this advice.

They couldn’t wait to get out there and take on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Palin hasn’t even announced yet and this White House is full of people that can’t wait to take her on because of all that criticism she’s been directing at them.

manofaiki on September 18, 2010 at 2:50 PM

A-hunting we will go,
We’ll catch a little fox BHO,
And put him a box, and never let him go.

Caststeel on September 18, 2010 at 3:15 PM

You won’t hear the media calling Obama sexist because he will play hardball with Sarah Palin even though some in the media thought Romney was sexist because he ran against three women in Massachusetts and played hardball each time.

Conservative Samizdat on September 18, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Being a Palinista that was great Doc but you know bo only can take pot shots at Sarah because there is no substance to any thing he does. Sarah will make him look like the empty suit that he is if they debate!

tim c on September 18, 2010 at 4:00 PM

This article is a masterpiece! What an awesome piece of writing….

myx0mop on September 18, 2010 at 4:33 PM

What could be more predictable, and less interesting, than Obama’s opinion on any given subject?

A root canal? No. A root canal without anesthetic.

Jeckle on September 18, 2010 at 4:38 PM

If, indeed, following Ambinder’s advice would be “suicidal,”
why then offer the warning publically to “the enemy”?
I mean, if your opponent is self-destructing, don’t interrupt!

Lockstein13 on September 18, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Palin certainty helped O’Donnell but I don’t know if it will last after this new headline Shock Story: O’Donnell Admits That She Hung Out With Nancy Pelosi When She Was Young

Nearly Nobody on September 18, 2010 at 6:30 PM

I love Sarah Palin as only a recently converted Palinista could, but she’s got a serious problem with the lack of an organization managing her messaging. Worse, it seems she doesn’t have anyone around her who can stand up to her and tell her NO.

It’s a potentially fatal weakness because she definitely needs to refine her presence back to the professionalism and stature she had back in 1997.

She needs to trim back the folksiness and focus on her strongest issues. Basically she needs to be able to get on television and GET COMFORTABLE again… like she was back in 2007.

Here, look at clips of Palin back in 2007 on Charlie Rose and CNBC:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbSlc4XGGnk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GE11URmmnc

That was a year before the campaign and you see a confident, poised, professional chief executive that still dispenses the charm and colloquialisms we expect in Sarah today.

But back then she seemed a lot more comfortable. A lot more POISED and engaged than her performances even on friendly territory at Fox has been.

Watch those clips and you see a woman who belongs in the Oval Office. This lady with the awkward speech delivery hammed up with smiles and winks? Not so much.

Obviously she’s capable of being that woman, she just needs someone who can bring her back.

Khorum on September 18, 2010 at 6:59 PM

virtually no one in America gives a damn what Barack Obama says about anything at this point.

This is the problem in a nutshell

John the Libertarian on September 18, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Precisely because he just won’t shut up his trap!

ProudPalinFan on September 18, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Khorum on September 18, 2010 at 6:59 PM

She is doing just fine as she is.

The “someones” you are talking about are who screwed everything up in 2008 for her from the get go.

She has learned from that experience, that most political image packager types are not quite the geniuses they sell themselves to be. She has a great connection to the pulse of America, and phony image makeovers would only mess it up, IMO.

A big part of her appeal is, she is who she is, period. It isn’t a managed product from a campaign strategist, although I’m sure she does consult with trusted people about how to generally attack this or frame that issue.

Brian1972 on September 18, 2010 at 7:51 PM

This is a great piece, Doc.

You are singing my tune about this.

Well said, and keep up the great work.

Brian1972 on September 18, 2010 at 7:53 PM

They couldn’t wait to get out there and take on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Palin hasn’t even announced yet and this White House is full of people that can’t wait to take her on because of all that criticism she’s been directing at them.

manofaiki on September 18, 2010 at 2:50 PM

That is one of the exciting parts of this whole mess. I can visualize Sarah with her fists ready to punch, but she’s just giggling so hard at what I have been calling “future news” by pseudo-journalists that put on their “turbans” hats, pull a Johnny Carson move and try to predict what she’s gonna do next. Not working, people! Precisely because she’s the Queen of Diamonds, is that she’s keeping her cards folded very closely in front of her.

She’s playing poker with everybody and nobody knows what her next move is. Now why DC, the lamestream media can’t just get this right? Who in the world would be so crazy lunatic to announce NOW a ’12 run for POTUS? We’ve seen the men go to Iowa (beats me why, and why now) and by doing so, these same men are way off the tangent. They are the power-hungry. Their dance with the GOP caucus there is doing nothing but stepping on each other’s feet.

Why not the dumb-proof plan that she mentioned in the speech? Get out, do your job and help these candidates win in November? Throw out that 2012 towel, if you care (or wanna give the impression to GOP’ers that you care but you don’t).

Do you guys realize now why the Iowa GOP caucus leader (forgot his name) was grinning from ear to ear when he escorted off the stage after her speech? Go and watch; priceless.

ProudPalinFan on September 18, 2010 at 8:00 PM

Sarah Palin is the queen of nothing, outside of her household. Do not make her royalty. We have too much of that attitude in Washington now.

What we need to focus on is playing Whack-a-Mole with the Marxists in Washington. They’re trying to whack Sarah while Rush is putting buckshot in their butts; then, when they turn to Rush, Boehner’s firing darts in their butts; go after Boehner, then the Tea Partiers are sticking pins and needles in their arms and feet; attack the Tea Party, here comes Sarah again with a small thermonuclear device.

We have too many weapons for them to successfully focus on one to freeze, etc., per Alinsky. On the other hand, we have only three to really worry about — Obama, Pelosi and Reid. I discount the Propaganda Department (MSM). That enemy is accelerating its suicide dosages.

either orr on September 18, 2010 at 8:59 PM

Sarah Palin is the queen of nothing, outside of her household. Do not make her royalty. We have too much of that attitude in Washington now.

either orr on September 18, 2010 at 8:59 PM

Lighten up, Frances.

It’s just a metaphor, and a good one.

We could call her Queen of the Castle, after Delaware. :)

Brian1972 on September 18, 2010 at 9:03 PM

Magisterial, good Doctor. Bravo!

Mason on September 18, 2010 at 9:48 PM

A big part of her appeal is, she is who she is, period. It isn’t a managed product from a campaign strategist, although I’m sure she does consult with trusted people about how to generally attack this or frame that issue.

Brian1972 on September 18, 2010 at 7:51 PM

No, you’re wrong.

My whole point was that she IS NOT who she is. This Sarah Palin with the permanent smile and the winks and the awkward disjointed delivery IS NOT the woman that governed Alaska in 2006 and 2007.

I linked that interview with Charlie Rose and another with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC from back in 2007. Here I’ll link them again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbSlc4XGGnk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GE11URmmnc

THAT was Palin at her most confident and consequential. Back when she had nothing to fear from a hostile media and back before the stakes were no higher than getting the Alaska legislature to behave. THAT Palin was back in 2007–before the campaign “makeovers” and before she was self-conscious about her role in national politics. THAT was the real Palin.

She was poised, confident and professional. Her speeches weren’t indulgent and meandering like it has been recently. She spoke clearly and passionately and frequently dispensed facts and figures to bolster her argument.

Now look at her speech from last Friday and compare today’s Palin to that woman who was confidently sparring over energy policy on CNBC back in 2007 and tell me which one sounds like she belongs in the Oval Office.

Khorum on September 18, 2010 at 9:48 PM

Nothing will elevate Sarah more than Zero going after her because media will have to get her to comment about Zero’s attacks and she’ll cut him to ribbons. Even Dirty Harry and Auntie Nana will grow to love her.

Herb on September 18, 2010 at 10:28 PM

This is the most brilliantly written paragraph I’ve read for quite some time…So few words, so much wisdom…

virtually no one in America gives a damn what Barack Obama says about anything at this point. What could be more predictable, and less interesting, than Obama’s opinion on any given subject? Who wants to contemplate the economic wisdom of a guy who looted the Treasury for a trillion dollars, with less benefit than we could have achieved by stuffing hundred dollar bills into random cereal boxes? Who’s excited to hear about the next plan to convert taxpayer dollars into Democrat campaign funds? Who’s hungry for another hour of tedious excuses about permanently broken markets and the titanic dead hand of George W. Bush? Who wants a lecture on ethical business practices from the titular head of the party that gave us Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters? What use is another hollow foreign-policy speech from a man who sees no global adversary to rival the menace of Arizona? Even Obama’s supporters don’t hear anything he says any more. There’s nothing left to hear.

Marconi on September 18, 2010 at 10:46 PM

What is interesting about Palin is that she strikes terror into the hearts of liberal progressive socialist fascists like no one I have ever seen before.

I am not sure Doc Zero should be giving Obama good advice, but we do know that The Big Dog is a bubble boy and won’t take any sensible advice from anyone.

Dhuka on September 18, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Hmmmm.

We are the Tea party. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

memomachine on September 18, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Hmmm.

“I am not sure Doc Zero should be giving Obama good advice, but we do know that The Big Dog is a bubble boy and won’t take any sensible advice from anyone.”

That’s ok. If I remember right many conservatives practically begged liberal Democrats to avoid putting John Kerry up for President in 2004 because he was a lousy candidate with a checkered past. That evidently convinced many liberal Democrats that they absolute had to nominate John Kerry for President in 2004 … which showed that he was a lousy candidate with a checkered past.

Go figure.

memomachine on September 18, 2010 at 11:26 PM

Now look at her speech from last Friday and compare today’s Palin to that woman who was confidently sparring over energy policy on CNBC back in 2007 and tell me which one sounds like she belongs in the Oval Office.

Khorum on September 18, 2010 at 9:48 PM

I agree with your assessment. Palin is good for the country, but she needs to take a breath and relax for a moment. I think she’s got a nagging fear of getting trapped on a question, more of a dependence on her talking points, and is more eager to win her audience’s acceptance.

Palin today is not as good a speaker as Palin at the convention. Given the shock treatment that the media dropped on her and her family, I can understand being a bit nervous. But she needs to get over it.

Part of me wonders if some of W’s handlers got to her. Bush was a much more eloquent, intelligent speaker before he ran for President. His handlers had him emphasize his “folksiness”, which I think helped polarize people. His fans found him to be just like the guy next door, and his detractor said didn’t sound smart enough to run the country. Sarah may be falling into the same trap.

hawksruleva on September 19, 2010 at 1:09 AM

Go figure.

memomachine on September 18, 2010 at 11:26 PM

My first Law of Politics: The Democrat is wrong.

hawksruleva on September 19, 2010 at 1:09 AM

Bravo, Doc.

andycanuck on September 19, 2010 at 2:09 AM

this is what I have been saying about the policy of “Free trade”

So you thing government is better at managing trade?

Another socialist masquerading as a conservative.

What is with the “I believe in small government except for….” contingent of the Republican Party?

MSimon on September 19, 2010 at 3:33 AM

Hmmm. I never associated the words comfortable, maternal, or caring with women who insist on the unfettered right to abort as many of their defenseless babies as they choose

Step right this way. I have a government program that absolutely positively can fix this problem. Guaranteed.
/s

“Government can….”. I have news for you. No it can’t.

MSimon on September 19, 2010 at 4:48 AM

Wow, Doc – that’s gonna leave a mark!
`
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I don’t know what to think of the strategy of “demonizing the Tea Parties” for the Democrats. How exactly does it differ from their strategy towards the Tea Parties over the last 15 months or so? How’s that working for you so far, Barry?
`
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This bunch are not “brilliant campaigners” any more than they are brilliant policy makers. They are one-trick ponies with a one-page playbook. They happened to hit a perfect political storm when their line of BS caught fire. It was like winning the lottery: against all odds, and don’t count on it again.

Adjoran on September 19, 2010 at 6:48 AM

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