Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sarah Palin-Two Views

"The Palin farce is already the stuff of legend. For a generation at least it is sure to keep presidential historians and late-night comedians in gainful employment, which is no small thing. ... John McCain's choice was not a fluke, or a senior moment, or an act of deperation. It was the result of a long campaign by influential conservative intellectuals to find a young, populist leader to whom they might hitch their wagons in the future. ... After the campaign for Sarah Palin, those intellectual traditions may now be officially pronounced dead. ... In a country susceptible to political hucksters and demagogues, [conservatives like Buckley, Krsitol, Glazer, Moynihan, Himmelfarb, Berger, Kirkpatrick and Podhoretz] studied the passions of democratic life without succumbing to them. They were unapologetic elites, but elites who loved democracy and wanted to help it. ... It's a sad tale that began in the '80s, when leading conservatives frustrated with the left-leaning press and university establishment began to speak of an 'adversary culture of intellectuals.' ... In 1976 Irving Kristol publicly worried that 'populist paranoia' was 'subverting the very institutions and authorities that the democratic republic laboriously creates for the purpose of orderly self-government.' But by the mid-80s, he was telling readers of this newspaper that the 'common sense' of ordinary Americans on matters like crime and education had been betrayed by 'our disoriented elites,' which is why 'so many people--and I include myself among them--who would ordinarily worry about a populist upsurge find themselves so sympathetic to this new populism.' ... They mock the advice of Nobel-Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and televison, they have a found a large, popular audience that regularly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. ... What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience and that they be educated to serve the public good. ... There was a time when conservative intellectuals raised the level of American public debate and helped to keep it sober. Those days are gone. As for political judgment, the promotion of Sarah Palin as a possible world leader speaks for itself", my emphasis, Mark Lilla (ML) at the WSJ, 8 November 2008.

"Because Sarah Palin is not only a conservative, but a Western populist, she is far less amenable to control by the New York-Washington axis of bureaucratic insiders, media commentators and think-tank grandees that dominate the Republican Party elite. McCain's advisers discovered this late in the campaign, when they complained she was going rogue and attacking the Democratic candididate instead of quietly and dutifully following Mr. McCain into genteel defeat. This independence, combined with her huge popularity among the conservative base, means that the Republican East Coast elite knows it has to destroy her now, before she becomes the obvious alternative to a second Obama term. ... It must be understood that the East Coast elite would far rather lose the White House, House and Senate than lose its influence over the Republican Party. ... The social conservative measures such as California's Proposition 8 that conservatives have been told to abandon have nevertheless proven to be popular vote winners even in democratic states, whereas elite-approved measures such as alien amnesty, the foreign occupations and the Wall Street bailouts are hated by Republicans and Democrats alike. It is illogical, bordering on downright insane, to conclude from this that less of the former and more of the latter will result in any improvement in Republican fortunes", my emphasis, Vox Day, 10 November 2008 at

"Among the many wonders to be expected from an Obama adminstration, if Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times is to be believed, is ending 'the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life.' ... During the 1930s, some of the leading intellectuals in America condemned our economic system and pointed to the centrally planned Soviet economy as a model--all this at a time when literally millions of people were starving to death in the Soviet Union, from a famine in a country with some of the richest farmland in Europe and historically a large exporter of food. ... In the 1930s, it was the intellectuals who pooh-poohed the dangers from the rise of Hitler and urged Western disarmament. It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th century--far more so than ordinary people. ... How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable--or even expert--within some narrow band of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation. But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking", Thomas Sowell, 11 November 2008, at

"Strip away the fluffy historical and theoretical camouflage in Mark Lilla's 'The Perils of "Populist Chic"' (Weekend Journal, Nov. 8) and you find a Democratic creed that is simple, arrogant and all too familiar: 'We smart few know what's best for you not-so-smart masses.' ... What this Columbia professor really means in that she isn't Ivy League educated and isn't from New York City. His attack on the current crop of Republican intellectuals implies that his elite Democratic colleagues got it right in their selection of Barack Obama, who both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton criticized for his lack of judgment and who both said isn't ready to be president", Peter Murray letter to the WSJ, 15 November 2008.

"Prof. Lilla urges conservative intellectuals to 'own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites.' The need for elites? Most of us nonelites are a little down on elites right now after the role they played in the current mortgage crisis and its resulting meltdown of the financial markets and global economy", Robert Smith letter to the WSJ, 15 November 2008.

"The professor who teaches at an 'elite' university that bans the Reserve Officer Training Corps but allows the president of Iran to speak, surely shouldn't be in politics. A saying someone told me a long time ago still holds true: Those who can, do; those who can't teach. I would rather have a tested executive from a nonelite school than an untested elite-school graduate who has never had to manage anything or maintain a balanced budget", Wayne Dettinger letter to the WSJ, 15 November 2008.

"For Prof. Lilla, Gov. Palin's appeal to 'ordinary Americans' is 'populist demagogery' and represents a 'vulgarization all democracy tends toward.' Given this bleak view of our republic from the liberal intelligensia, give me a double shot of Gov. Palin's 'populist chic'," William White letter to the WSJ, 15 November 2008.

"But the academic elite deserve no excuse. There is no clearer example of 'populist chic' than Barak Obama's utterly sophomoric mantra of cosmic change. Yet the eminent Dr. Lilla chooses to leap into the Gov. Palin scapegoat fest as his excuse to trash the entire conservative world view. What is that called: 'chutzpah chic' or just plain cheeky ignorance?", Charles Kiene letter to the WSJ, 15 November 2008.

"In times like these, when conservatives are licking their wounds and trying to figure out what comes next, a helpful framework exists. It starts with a simple, self-evident fact: There is such a thing as elite opinion that is not the same as popular opinion. ... At other times, elites in a democracy have a tendency to get overly bound up with social status and careerism, and there is a premium on conformity. Having the right views, and the right way of expressing such views, becomes an emblem of elite status and a harbinger of career advancement. More and more issues become 'not debatable.' At such times, elite opinion is likely to to see itself as self-evidently superior to popular opinion, and its role toward popular opinion as--shall we say--educative. ... The reason elite opinion makers are set on destroying [Palin] is fear. They sense that like Ronald Reagan, and unlike say, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, she really, genuinely doesn't care what they think, and for that reason is willing and able to go over their heads and make a strong, direct appeal to voters. ... One of they key characterisitics of elite opinion, particularly at times like the present when it has become so unanimous that it has forgotten what it is to have a real debate, is repetition of the claim that some issues are settled, or no longer subject to serious debate", my emphasis, Jeffrey Bell, 17 November 2008 at

ML is a Columbia humanities professor. Professor Lilla, most esteemed sir, in addressing you, I kowtow in the Japanese manner. I, a Sans-culotte am one whom your piece oozes contempt for. I have no special regard for Nobel Prize winning economists' opinions. I've been taught by some, I went to school with one. So? Two were behind Long-Term Capital Management. I think your revulsion at Palin's nomination arises from her being an Ivy League degreeless Sans-culotte. That's it. A Palin's becoming president would be an Ivy League disaster. People would: hold mock funerals in Harvard Square and tear their clothes on 116th Street and Broadway. The wails from Hanover, NH, New Haven, CT and Providence, RI would be so loud they would be heard in Boston and New York! Jim Cramer would yell "short-sell Harvard"! The Ivy League would bemoan its end as "gatekeeper of presidents". Do you believe double Ivy Leaguer Obama a huckster and a demagogue? I do. Feel free to look down on me for this. I saw this "adversary culture of intellectuals" in college in the late 1960s. I ask: why did "conservative intellectuals" take about 15 more years to see it? I ridicule ambassadors and diplomats. So? Learned professor, have you the temerity to call me an ignoramus? You're probably surprised I knew the word and used it properly, aren't you? Have you considered exchanging your current appointment for one at the University of Laputa?

I agree with Day. If Palin had a graduate degree from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, or Harvard's Kennedy School, the Republican East Coast Elite would fall all over her. Even Democrats would praise her.

Intellectuals' deception and ignorance can stagger. Many were victims of the USSR's "Potemkin Villages". The NYT's Walter Duranty concealed Stalin's 1933-35 Ukraine famine. The NYT told us Castro was only an "agrarian reformer" among other intellectual fiascos. Follow the current flap over schooling and affirmative action or the Wall Street bailout as opposed to Joe Schmoe's position.

How right you are Mr. Murray.

Yes Mr. Smith.

Dettinger, the good professor knows one thing about Obama, he has two Ivy League degrees and that's all he need know.

White, amen!

Kiene, I agree. I doubt Obama could have survived in my fifth grade class intellectually. Really. But the O-man was Harvard Law Review president. What does that say about Harvard Law School?

I agree with Bell. Palin may become my "Andrew Jackson" in a dress. Imagine Palin arriving at the White House with a pair of flintlocks! Lock and load Sarah! This thought terrifies our East Coast elites. Imagine Palin telling Harvard's faculty, "I don't care what you think. And if you don't like it would you rather look down the muzzle of one of these"? Shocking!


Anonymous said...

Dear IA...

I agree with your sentiment about elites becoming "removed" from the needs of the people... and increasingly confiscating the wealth of the masses... such an old story... it is the theme of all ancient and modern history...

And you look back at the 1830's... to Old Hickory... such a great leader... busting up the National Bank...

Dear IA... Gov Palin may have the feeling to diss the elites... but I'm not quite sure that she has the tools or talents to do such... cause it won't be done with a flintlock... I think it will be done with tech+transparency+liberty

The conservative DC elites... must be cushy there... the credit winter will chill their ranks... and I hope that they take new heart in the oppurtunities for conservative principles... it is all a cycle... an upward moving cycle... hard to see the progress while in it...

Keep groovin IA... you write such great stuff... :)

Independent Accountant said...

I agree, I don't think Palin has the intellectual capability of knowing what's wrong, but she can see something is wrong and that none of the "usual suspects" has an incentive to fix it.
Thanks for the compliment. If you are interested in Old Hickory, I've got a few references to him on this blog, including excerpts from his 1832 speech vetoing the Second Bank of the US's recharter.

Printfaster said...

Love the discourse on Palin. Hickory and Palin have more in common than simple populism which I assign to Bryan and FDR. The latter brand of populism was about having DC print money, and having DC take care of things, although Bryan did go after the banking establishment, while FDR was their tool.

The most lamentable president was Wilson who presided over income tax, and the Federal Reserve among other idiocies. To me Obama represents a redux of Wilson more than any other president: Princeton/Harvard, seeking a conciliatory path in the face of shifting foreign alliances, monetary issues being dealt with through taxation and redistribution.

Perhaps it is time that I need to go back and revisit Wilson for more corollaries.

Independent Accountant said...

It's interesting you mention Wilson. Wilson has long been my least favorite president. I mention him at this blog on: 30 July 2007, 6 February, 10 June, 11 and 14 September 2008. Little know fact: Wilson changed the offical White House usage. Before Wilson the phrase was, "The United States Are", after Wilson, "The United States Is".

Anonymous said...

"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes...

In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the law undertakes to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government...

Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress."

+ + + +

The solution for provision of "equal protection and equal benefits" from the government is informed and concerned citizens and transparency... darkness begets crimes... sunlight exposes the thieves and their actions...

It's difficult to make the case against the FedRes and the banking system because it is so complex... curious to know how Jackson made his case to the public... through the newspapers? Imagine communicating in 1832 America... on foot, on horseback, through newspapers and letters... amazing...


Krupo said...

Well your analysis explains the "now that it's no longer off the record" back stabs.

I'm still perturbed by the idea she doesn't know basic elements of geography though.

Independent Accountant said...

So? I don't like it either. Obama said he would campaign in all 57 states. Check it out. Ignorance runs rampant in the US.

Krupo said...

The "so" is that I hope a US President can find most countries on a map with minimal assistance. Palin strikes me as the kind of person who would get pranked successfully by people asking her to point out Iran on a map - where Australia is labeled Iran. In fact, Montreal DJs successfully DID prank her, pretending to be Sarkozy. I'm sure you heard about it. The gag ran so long that the DJ had to adlib his remaining gags because he was sure he would've been cut off at least halfway through the video.

I don't see any proof of Obama's ignorance in the much maligned "50... 7" clip. He apparently doesn't have much awareness of Canada, but sadly neither does much of the world so I'll give most US politicians a "pass" on that until they're working a cross-border job.

Palin points seem to have been actual knowledge deficits - i.e., she didn't know what the heck she was being asked about - whereas the Obama slip was a just that - a slip in his train of thought, where he dropped off the forty, and the reference to the continental US.

"The actual intent behind Senator Obama's misstatement is easy to discern without the need to invoke an obscure international organization. He was trying to express the thought that in all the time he had spent on the campaign trail so far in 2007-08, he had visited all (48) of the states in the continental U.S. save for one (i.e., "one left to go," excluding Alaska and Hawaii), but in his weariness he slipped up and started off with "fifty" instead of "forty." (Note the long pause in the video clip between the words "fifty" and "seven.")"

RKORAS said...

Dear IA,

Great article. The thing that bothers me about Palin is that she can not show that she can or will think about issues. She appears to be someone that applies her understanding of ideology to all things, even when some of those things would require learned/advised excution of vague policies. I don't see her taking all sides and all consequenses into consideration. I agreed with an intervention into Iraq, but I would not have gone in without an exit strategy and identified new goverment and leaders. Her 'black and white' approach to all things is respectable in some ways, but scary in certain situations.

Also the biggest problem is, she will not win in a national election. The reality is Obama will most like win a second term with ease. The real young/first time voters love him so much right now. In eight years the demographics and thinking of the country will not allow her to be popular enough in many states. If the republican primaries don't expose her as having an anti-thought process, democrats will openly paint her as unable to tolerate different and combine foreign policy actions with domestic resources the way we think a president should (even though most times they probably don't). It will be tough to appear absolutely intolerant and win in a nation that will soon be comprised of mostly different.

volleyguy said...

People who don't believe Palin is intelligent or knowledgeable need to pay less attention to Tina Fey's version of the woman and more to the actual person. Anyone can be "pranked" with sufficient preparation on the part of the prankster; the Sarkosy-DJs incident was designed to make her look bad. She knows Africa is a continent; CNN, of all organizations, reported on this canard. Did you see the Greta van Sustren or Matt Lauer interviews? The Couric interview was 2 hours long and edited down to 6 minutes. Again, anyone can be made to look foolish under such circumstances. It seems to me that IA and RKoras have confused intellectualism with intelligence. I don't need a President who is an intellectual; I'd be very happy with an intelligent and straight-forward person who has a set of core principles and beliefs and consistently acts in accordance with them. Palin has acted in this fashion; Bush, Obama, Clinton, and the whole political class have not.

Just my 2 cents

p.s. The Snopes explanation of Obama's 57 states gaffe strains my credulity. I've heard the audio several times and do not hear an extraordinarily long pause between 50 and 7. What rubbish.

Independent Accountant said...

I've heard the Obama 57 audio too and agree with you. Half Sigma has posted on his estimates of Palin's IQ and bemoans how low he believes it to be. I don't think Palin is "Ivy League material". So? I don't think Obama or his wife is either. Some of our Ivy League presidents have been amongst our worst. Look at Woodrow Wilson. Our worst president, in my opinion. Wilson was once the President of Princeton. So?

Charles Kiene said...

Hey 'Independent Accountant" :
I feel rather flattered that I, an ordinary every day conservative, would be so honored to be mentioned in this deep and verbose blog with my comments about Professor Lilla. I'm impressed too. So little said in such long and tedious a screed you produce. Yet you managed to fit me in. Perhaps if you considered the wisdom of brevity being the soul of wit I might have figured our what in the heck you were talking about before I found my name. Thanks again.