Give Sarah Palin this: she isn’t driven by polls. If she wanted to improve her chances at political success, she would have used her book and promotional tour to convince America that she has substance and gravitas.
Instead, she is reinforcing the perception that she is a self-obsessed, celebrity-seeking empty suit, with no interest in anything beyond her paycheck and personal grievances.
Given the opportunity to play at the highest levels of public policy, Palin has chosen instead to be merely a mascot for the conservative movement, barely distinguishable from Carrie Prejean (the former beauty queen who is also making the rounds with a new book about her victimization at the hands of liberal elites).
To that extent, Palin is the opposite of Mitt Romney. She is authentic but uninformed. Romney calculates every public move and policy position for political effect, but takes constant pains to burnish his reputation as a smart, informed leader.
Romney, whose upcoming book reportedly focuses on foreign policy, would never let himself sound as ignorant as Palin has in recent interviews. Despite nearly a year to prepare for her public re-launch, Palin can barely stammer her way through right-wing blogosphere talking points on basic policy issues — and she doesn’t even have the excuse of a busy day job, since she abandoned her gubernatorial post in July.
Palin seems intent on proving that she remains as ignorant as she appeared at her worst moments in the 2008 campaign. When prodded in interviews for the answer she never gave Katie Couric about what she reads, Palin now cites the conservative Web site NewsMax and the ridiculous Jonah Goldberg bestseller Liberal Fascism — which, as primary source material for understanding the world, are probably worse than nothing at all.
Palin wants to be taken seriously as a major political figure, while refusing to learn anything at all about the world. She embraces her anti-intellectualism — in fact, she touts it as a qualification for president. Consider this exchange last week, on FOX News with Bill O’Reilly:
O’REILLY Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?
PALIN I believe that I am, because I have common sense and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact résumé that’s based on anything but hard work and private-sector, free-enterprise principles.
That strain of anti-intellectualism has always had an audience in America, and it currently works wonders with resentful, angry, populist conservatives.
But it says nothing useful to actual “regular Americans” (who do not, regardless of what Palin says, regularly hunt for their own provisions — unless perhaps you include Wal-Mart as hunting grounds).
They have real issues to deal with, which have nothing to do with death panels, bowing to world leaders, ethnic profiling of American soldiers, or any of the other nonsense Palin is spouting.
That’s why Palin’s popularity keeps dropping, everywhere but among the red-meat conservative base.