Max Boot compares AOC to Sarah Palin, faces backlash

Max Boot is the Washington Post columnist who recently announced (in book form) that he was leaving the right. But today, Boot has a column that almost makes it sound like he’s equally disaffected with the left. Specifically, he’s not terribly impressed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, as he points out, has already received far more attention than she deserves:

I feel a little guilty writing this column because “AOC” has already gotten more publicity than she deserves…

In traditional Washington terms, this 29-year-old former bartender is a person of little significance — one of the most junior members of the House, she can expect to wait decades before exercising any real power in this hierarchical institution. But, being telegenic, down-to-earth and quick-witted, she is already a multimedia star. She has 2.1 million Twitter followers — more than Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — and she was just interviewed on “60 Minutes,” television’s top-rated news program.

At this point Boot devotes a whole paragraph to the “singular ineptitude” of her right-wing critics, citing as one of his examples the circulation of her college dance video. As I pointed out yesterday, that entire story seems to have been a left-wing over-reaction desperately in search of a right-winger to blame. In any case, having sated his readers’ desire to lash conservatives for sins real and imagined he returns to his actual point: Ocasio-Cortez has made a number of verbal and mental blunders in her short time on the national stage.

Ocasio-Cortez has been particularly inventive, if not especially persuasive, in trying to explain how she would pay for her socialist agenda, including free health care, free college tuition, and jobs. She mystified observers when she said: “Why aren’t we incorporating the cost of all the funeral expenses of those who died because they can’t afford access to health care? That is part of the cost of our system.” That is the kind of word salad you expect from our president. Worse, she earned four Pinocchios when she asserted that the Pentagon had a pool of $21 trillion that was unaccounted for, and that could be used to pay two-thirds of the cost of Medicare-for-all. That the Pentagon has trouble tracking transactions doesn’t mean it has vaults full of cash that can be raided for progressive priorities…

In some ways, Ocasio-Cortez reminds me of Sarah Palin, a comparison neither woman will appreciate. Palin was another talented young communicator who made a big splash in national politics before having her lack of knowledge painfully exposed. Instead of studying up, Palin gave up any pretense of seriousness and has now disappeared from the debate. This is a cautionary tale for Ocasio-Cortez. She is a politician of immense gifts who can have an outsize impact — but only if she masters the intricacies of policy and curbs her fatal attraction to political celebrity and vacuous soundbites.

Ocasio-Cortez responded to this broadside on Twitter. She didn’t mention the Palin comparison but did suggest Boot’s piece was motivated by misogyny:

To be fair, Boot described her soundbites as “vacuous” and he never used the word “unlikeable” in this column. On the contrary, he said she was “telegenic, down-to-earth and quick-witted” which seems like the opposite of unlikeable. In any case, Boot is being slammed by AOC’s ARMY of defenders. Just look at the ratio on this tweet, nearly 7,000 replies to 1,500 likes. Ouch.

I’m not going to expend any energy defending Max Boot because I think he’s demonstrated he’s just another former conservative blowing in the resistance wind. His recent attempt to blame the right-wing media for acts of domestic terrorism was especially shoddy and despicable. But leaving Sarah Palin out of it, he’s right about Ocasio-Cortez being more flash than substance at this point. Where I disagree with Boot is that I suspect he sees her vacuous statements about funding for her agenda as tangential to her promotion of Democratic Socialism, whereas I see them as necessary to it. The ability to talk at length about the glories of socialism, even when the project is clearly failing, is a fundamental skill of every socialist leader. Both Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez used to hold court for hours at a time, but few people would want to live in Cuba or Venezuela as they exist now rather than in, say, America. You can’t write off capitalism and all it has helped human beings achieve without being a bit out of touch with reality.