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    Wolf in the Breast

    I’ve been following the reactions to the Sarah Palin candidacy without reading too much into every word and gesture. She’s a new figure as a national politician, and while the frenzy to find out about and create a convenient persona for her is tiresome, it was also predictable.

    But things got out of hand very quickly. Eric says,

    Considering the way the vicious attacks on Sarah Palin generated sympathy for her (with a resultant backlash reflected in earlier polls), I would have thought that her attackers would by now have learned to control themselves, at least for the few weeks that remain in this increasingly ugly campaign.

    It is amazing that Sarah Palin is continuing to cause so many people on the left to miscalculate on such a grand scale, but for a lot of reasons, she is. The disinvition to an Ahmadinejad protest is proof that she triggers an emotional reaction which her enemies cannot control — even when (as here) she agrees with them! Incredible.

    Once again, they really can’t help it.

    For those of us who are trying to evaluate Palin as seriously as possible as a candidate, this state of affairs is really annoying. She’s being (ahem) given the opportunity to demonstrate grace under fire, but it’s a general sort of grace in response to general nastiness. I think most people figured she was capable of that already, and those who didn’t now have all the reason they need to see her as practically a martyr to lefty outrage. The hysterical detractors are succeeding admirably–if that’s the word–at getting the public to associate opposition to Palin with derangement.

    Meanwhile, the tough, useful questions that are being asked are being drowned out. Victor Davis Hanson has put the best possible face on what we know about Palin to date:

    I am not calling for yokelism, or a proponent of false-populism. Rather, I wish to remind everyone that there are two fonts of wisdom: formal education, and the tragic world of physical challenge and ordeal. Both are necessary to be broadly educated. Familiarity with Proust or Kant is impressive, but not more impressive than the ability to wire your house or unclog the labyrinth of pipes beneath it.

    In this regard, I think Palin can speak, and reason, and navigate with bureaucrats and lawyers as well as can Obama; but he surely cannot understand hunters, and mechanics and carpenters like she can. And a Putin or a Chavez or a Wall-Street speculator that runs a leverage brokerage house is more a hunter than a professor or community organizer. Harvard Law School is not as valuable a touchstone to human nature as raising five children in Alaska while going toe-to-toe with pretty tough, hard-nose Alaskan males.

    I understand what Hanson’s saying here, but I still think it would be nice to see some real scrutiny given to what she’s reading (Proust or otherwise) and whom she’s relying on to get her up to speed. Palin’s alert and inquisitive and has a forceful personality–great. It’s reasonable to say that her practical knowledge will give her good perspective. Or to note that her unimpressive college record doesn’t stack up too badly against, say, dropping out of Vanderbilt Law School (and, IIRC, basically flunking out of the divinity school). A love of ideas without regard for their consequences is bad; I still don’t know whether Palin has the love of ideas with regard for their consequences that’s good, and it’s getting harder, not easier, to assess that.

    3 Responses to “Wolf in the Breast”

    1. Maria says:

      I don’t think it’s a fair comparison when both Gore and Palin received Bachelor’s degrees, correct? Now, if Palin had finished grad school or law school, then, obviously, she would be showing greater academic achievement than Gore. But, they’re equal, essentially, with undergraduate degrees.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I agree, Maria–my point wasn’t that Palin is more academically accomplished than Gore, only that she doesn’t appear to have done too shabbily. I haven’t heard anyone either touting or panning her performance in college, which probably indicates that it was solid but undistinguished. Gore’s record is the sort of thing that, if it belonged to a Republican senator’s son who’d grown up to become a blowhard social engineer, would be brought up constantly as evidence that he was an idiot and probably didn’t understand the big concepts he was pushing.

    3. Maria says:

      I see your point, Sean. I just know that there are lots of different reasons for why people drop out or fail in school, that it isn’t always because someone is an “idiot.” The world and the human brain are much more complicated than that. But, I know you know that. It is sad how the discourse of our country gets chopped up into microscopic sound bites making it impossible to have a sophisticated nuanced discussion about the issues that really matter.

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