People on Twitter are nudging me to write about it, but what is there to say? The mainstream leftist take on Palin should be familiar to the point of utter banality by now; the only fresh element to Meacham’s and Thomas’s pieces is that they resist invoking Richard Hofstadter, which means they’re not even good drinking-game material. (That’s especially disappointing in the case of Thomas, who usually leaves no opportunity to demagogue the right untaken.) Andy Levy calls the two articles some of the laziest political writing he’s ever read, which is appropriate: Via Karl, compare this week’s Newsweek cover to this 1995 classic from Time magazine. We’ve been here before, folks. Many, many times.
Obama knows the long odds against a right-wing populist winning the presidency, no matter how good she looks in a skirt (or running clothes), brandishing a gun. He shouldn’t be too cocky, however, because the death of the center is ultimately a problem for him and the whole country. If the Palinistas seize the GOP, they probably cannot take the White House. But their brand of no-prisoners partisanship sure can tie up Congress…
Dwight Eisenhower governed in the 1950s by deftly uniting center and right, and Ronald Reagan did the same in the 1980s. They needed to be flexible to the point of gross expediency. To placate the far right, Ike shamefully refused to stand up for his friend and fellow statesman Gen. George Marshall, who was ludicrously attacked by Sen. Joe McCarthy as “soft” on communism. Reagan piously gave lip service to the right-wing social agenda while doing nothing to further it by legislation; he also chose George H.W. Bush to be his vice president and allowed the ultrapragmatic James A. Baker III to run the White House. The “Gipper” talked tough about the Russians–while doing more than any other president to foster détente. With a slyness that belied their smiling patriotism, Eisenhower and Reagan confused and occasionally exasperated their own followers. But it’s no coincidence the Eisenhower ’50s and Reagan ’80s were periods of unusual peace and prosperity.
“The ‘only good Republican is a dead Republican’ meme again,” sniffs Karl. As for Meacham:
We have been to this movie before, when the unreconstructed liberals of the fading New Deal–Great Society coalition obstinately refused to acknowledge the reality that America is a center-right nation, and that Democrats who wish to win national elections cannot run on the left. We are at our best as a country when there is something approaching a moderate space in politics. The middle way is not always the right way—far from it. But sometimes it is, and a wise nation should cultivate a political spirit that allows opponents to cooperate without fearing an automatic execution from their core supporters.
Meacham, at least, has been consistent on this point. Not so for many of his friends in establishment media, who’ll be clucking in agreement with this sentiment tomorrow morning despite not worrying terribly much last November that Democrats might use their huge majority in Congress to ram through a Great Society II agenda. Funny how the virtues of moderation seem to reveal themselves only when it’s conservatives who are behaving immoderately. (Which, these days, it isn’t.) I wonder, does the fact that independents are starting to break big towards the right affect the conventional wisdom on where, precisely, the moderate middle is located these days, or is it fixed for the time being at wherever our “pragmatist” post-partisan president happens to say it is?
If that’s not enough Newsweek for you, enjoy senior editor Michael Hirsh wringing his hands this morning on CBS over Palin’s “disturbing” vindictiveness. This comes on the same day, mind you, that news is breaking about how Anita Dunn’s fantastically petty attack on Fox News did indeed come from the top, likely ordered by a guy who’s been known to act out the fantasy deaths of his political enemies with a steak knife. Exit question: What’s the most cynical part of Newsweek’s attack? That they’d wait for the week when her book dropped to try to piggyback on the buzz? Or that they’d use that cheesecake photo from Runner’s World on the cover to try to sell it?