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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Palin’

Community Organizers

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

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Count me in as someone who just doesn’t get the right’s obsession with denigrating community organizers. Aside from the offensives of it all, which Benen lays out nicely, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. At least in the context of the 2008 election it was meant to be a shorthand for “Barack Obama is inexperienced.” Attacks against your opponent’s perceived lack of experience has pretty much never worked in modern American Presidential politics, but what else did the Republicans have to work with after 8 years of Bush? But now, Obama is the actual President. Only 42 other individuals in the history of the United States have done that. And even though he’s only been President for 16 months, that’s infinitely more experience in the job than any of the Republicans criticizing him have. Sarah Palin isn’t very bright, but even she has to realize that it would be absurd for a former half-term Governor and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska to argue they have more relative experience for the Presidency than the incumbent President…right?

Amateur Hour Continues

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

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So for her latest trick, Sarah Palin is apparently attacking, or her eldest daughter is anyway, Family Guy for a not really thinly veiled jab at her special needs son. I don’t really think the cartoon is that offensive in the grand scheme of things (it features a teenaged girl, as opposed to a toddler or infant, who’s only real identifier is having “odd” facial features) but YMMV. Here’s the clip:

Now there’s a couple of different ways you can go after this. On the one hand, there’s the gobsmacking passive-aggressive tactic of funneling your criticism through one of your other kids. I mean, what’s the point of that, exactly? It carries extra umph coming from one of her kids instead of her? It gives her plausible deniability? I legitimately don’t get it. On the other hand, however, there remains the simple fact that, at some point, Palin is going to have to stop being offended by everything. It’s not so much that I think it hurts her credibility with anyone, opinions on that are probably set in stone by now, but rather that Palin is going to have to come up with some other trick if she actually intends on running for President. As I’ve said many times, the one thing that most commentary on Palin’s Presidential odds fail to account for is the new dynamic she’ll have to confront in a Republican primary campaign. So far, her entire national political life has revolved around liberal foils. When she came on the scene, she was the VP candidate, running against the Democratic ticket. Since (excluding her brief period back in the governor’s mansion), she’s mostly opposed abstract figures like “liberal elites,” with some attacks on the Obama administration thrown in. And that’s all well and good, but at some point, if she wants to be President anyway, her opponent is going to be other Republicans, at least one or two of whom it stands to reason will be people in good standing with movement conservatives. And if she’s the front-runner, then they’re going to try to bring her down a peg. That’s just the nature of campaigning. But what is she going to do then, complain that other Republicans are campaigning against her? What’s she going to do when someone brings up the tax increase on oil companies she signed while she was governor? Or when someone appeals to conservative dogma on court matters by intoning that they damn sure can name some Supreme Court decisions they disagree with? Is she going to accuse the boys of ganging up on her? Hide behind her kids? Quit?

And, of course, there’s the risk of self-inflicted wounds. Family Guy is a reasonably popular show, although I have no idea how popular it is with Republican primary voters, and it’s on the Fox Network, with is obviously something Palin is also affiliated with now via Fox News. So to a certain extent, if anyone actually wanted to ding her on this, they could ask her why she isn’t ending her relationship with Fox if she feels that strongly about it, or mock her for her PC sensibilites, etc. More broadly, this is just further confirmation that Palin is incapable of ignoring any perceived slight. She just can’t let anything roll off her back. That’s not a trait that’s going to suit her well over a long, grueling, boring, primary campaign, and it’s just further proof that Palin, and the people she’s taking advice from (if anyone) don’t really know what they’re doing. Assuming the idea is winning votes, anyway.

Palin’s Still a Longshot, And Nate Silver is Overrated

Friday, January 8th, 2010

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by Brien Jackson

Nate Silver writes:

I find this truly remarkable: in a National Journal survey of 109 Republican “party leaders, political professionals and pundits”, not a single one deemed Sarah Palin to be the most likely Republican nominee.

I’ve written extensive commentary about how I think Palin’s chances are in fact pretty decent. I’d probably call her the “favorite”, although “favorite” in this context might mean having a 25-30 percent chance of winning.[…]

But back to the point I made in November — there’s going to come a time, probably in July 2011 or so, where the knives are really drawn on Palin and Republican pundits, strategists and candidates start saying in public some of the things they’ve been thinking in private. And that in all likelihood will play very well for her. Although the Establishment’s concerns about Palin’s viability as a general election candidate are well grounded, mostly they’re just terrified of her because she doesn’t need them.

This largely misses the point. The problem with having no “establishment” support for your candidacy is that the establishment contains pretty much everyone with any idea how to run a campaign. Particularly the national campaign it takes to compete in a Presidential primary. We’ve spent a lot of time mocking Palin’s current staff, and some of the rather comical missteps they’ve made, and that’s just in booking speaking events. How well is she going to manage a year’s worth of on the ground campaigning in multiple states/regions if the same people she has arond her now are in charge of managing things? Moreover, the Clinton campaign proved that even professional operatives can be bumbling idiots, how well is a group of amateur bumbling idiots likely to do? And popularity alone, especially popularity within a narrow subset of the electorate, isn’t a substitute for a functioning campaign. Ask Fred Thompson.

But a larger point that needs to be made here, at the risk of sounding like a politco version of Mike Silva, is that Nate Silver actually doesn’t seem to understand that much about politics. He understands statisitcs and polling, to be sure, but that only takes you so far. His schtick, basically, is built on taking polling data and plugging it into a computer model that runs a lot of times, which tells you the most likely outcome. And that’s great, but it’s also a lot of work that really doesn’t add much value to the task of predicting election outcomes. I didn’t have a sophisticated compter program running thousands of scenarios, but I still managed to come pretty close to the ultimate outcome of the 2008 cycle; missing only Missouri in the Presidential contest, correctly predicting every Senate and Gubernatorial race, and missing by 6 seats in the House. Which isn’t (totally) to toot my own horn, so much as it is to point out that sometimes there’s a level of obviousness involved in last second pick ’ems, and you don’t really need computer simulations to figure this stuff out, particularly when the election isn’t very close. Perhaps Silver’s computers add value in an unusually close contest, but those are, well, unusual.

There’s nothing wrong with Silver’s blogging mind you, but he’s much better when he’s analyzing polling and numbers, as opposed to trying to analyze non-statistical aspects of politics. Which isn’t to say he can’t toss his two cents out by any means, but I wish more “A-Listers” would keep that in mind a bit when reading him. I mean, Silver’s models still give Democrats a better shot to retain Blanche Lincoln’s Senate seat in Arkansas than Joe Biden’s old seat in Delaware. Perception and conventional wisdom can often prove to be wrong, and polling can, over time, show where it’s wrong, but that has to pass the smell test too, especially this far out of an election, with little to no actual campaigning having occured, and with very little data to work with.

Palin Resigns!

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to make sense of Sarah Palin’s announcement that she’s resigning the governorship of Alaska barely halfway into her first term. A lot of other people have tried parsing the text of the speech, which I’m not going to do, in part because it was totally incoherent, but also because the reason for the resignation probably won’t be found in the speech. But if you want to, well, I warned you:


Anyway, a couple of points. From a political standpoint, this is pretty much the end of Sarah Palin. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying too hard. Plenty of Governors have declined to run for re-election to seek another office (Charlie Crist is doing it now), but, so far as I know, none of them have actually resigned the office to do so, at least not successfully. Also, if this was the intention of the speech, I imagine Palin would have announced her candidacy. It’s too early for that, of course, but it’s also hard to get credit for something you’re not really doing. Palin’s political advisers might be amateurs, but I don’t think even they could make such a silly mistake.

With that in mind, the other thing I’ll note is that this was obviously not a well thought out, highly planned, decision. The speech was clearly not written by a professional, the delivery was rushed, hectic, and uncertain. If I had to guess, I’d venture that the decision to resign was made no sooner than 36 hours or so before the press conference. This raises the rather tantalizing question as to what exactly is going on, and perhaps we’ll never know that. There’s been speculation that another major scandal may be about to break, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If there’s an ethical, or even legal, problem coming down the pike, resigning the office won’t stop it from breaking, and being out of office puts you in a weaker position, politically, than being in office. Now it’s certainly possible that Palin and her team are just too dumb to realize that, but given that mch of Palin’s political persona revolves around “fighting enemies,” it just seems unlikely that such a potential issue would be met with resignation.

Doing a two dollar examination from afar, with the perspective of an ex-political operative, my best guess is that someone has dug up some embarrassing personal information about Palin and has used it to get her out of the way. What could do that? It’s hard to say. Something that would destroy her credibility with the Republican base would be especially damaging, because not only would it wreck her political ambitions, it would erode her ability to cash in on her political celebrity by depriving her of a fanbase. So that’s what I would bet on.

In any event, somewhere Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour are smiling.

Sarah Palin Still Not Ready For Primetime

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

Sarah Palin is in the news again, and more or less for all the reasons she was such a soap opera before. First, she was an on-again-off-again presence at a major Washington fundraiser, which I’m told left quite a few donors very unhappy with the Alaska governor, and very unimpressed with the ability of her staff, then she gave an interview with Sean Hannity full of abject nonsense.

I’m on the record predicting definitively that Palin will not be the Republican nominee in 2012 (I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t win any primaries/caucuses, other than Alaska’s), and these stories pretty much illustrate why. Ultimately, Palin, and the people around her, are amateurs. Her staff doesn’t know how to manage her schedule or build relationships with donors, activists, and other such people she’ll need help from to mount a national campaign of her own, and Palin herself still isn’t versed enough in either national issues or conservative mythos to avoid embarrassing herself, even with a softball interviewer like Hannity. Palin can dodge this sort of stuff in a general election by wailing against the media, but that’s simply not going to work in an all Republican contest. And frankly, at this point I just don’t think she has it in her. Whether she’s not smart enough to learn the material or she doesn’t feel like she needs to put any effort towards it, it seems clear enough that she’s not going to stop saying stupid things any time soon and, frankly, I don’t know any strategists/operatives/activists itching to line up behind Palin in 2012. I know people bacing Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Jon Huntsman, even Newt Gingrich and Bobby Jindal, but no one who, given the choice of 5-6 Republicans, has Sarah Palin as a first preference.


Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

I had thought that Mark Krikorian was a shoe-in for the title of Most Absurd Thing Written About Sonia Sotomayor, but I must confess, this Daily Beast column from Elaine Lafferty, arguing that Republicans shouldn’t attack Sotomayor’s intelligence because that’s what sexist Democrats did to Sarah Palin, is going to be incredibly hard to top.

To wit, Democrats didn’t “attack” Palin’s intelligence because they think women are stupid, but because she herself proved, over the course of two months of national campaigning, that she wasn’t that smart. She gave answers like “what the bailout does is help those people who are concerned about the healthcare reform we need” and “in the great history of American rulings there have…of course…been rulings…” She didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine was, indeed, didn’t even seem to know that it related to foreign policy. She couldn’t name a single media source, not even a local one, she reads regularly. Perhaps unintelligent isn’t the right way to describe this, but at the very least she proved to be deeply ignorant about national issues. And, in any event, it certainly seems bizarre to say that Democrats made a mistake in attacking Palin since, obviously, Palin’s ticket lost, and exit polls suggest Palin lost McCain more voters than she gained him.

On the other hand, maybe Sotomayor really isn’t that intelligent. I don’t know her, I’ve never spoken to her, so I’m not really in a position to make broad conclusions regarding her intelligence. But what evidence I do have available to me suggests that she is, in fact, incredibly intelligent, and a very competent jurist. She has, after all, already been confirmed for a spot in the federal judiciary twice, both points involving Republicans in some way (she was appointed by George H.W. Bush to the District Court, and confirmed to the Circuit Court by a Republican Senate). If anyone has counter-evidence I’m open to evaluating it, but there really hasn’t been anything of this nature presented. And that’s the crucial difference between attacks on Palin and attacks on Sotomayor; Democrats were basing their critiques on Palin’s statements and actions, whereas conservatives are arguing that since she’s a woman and an ethnic minority, she must necessarily be less intelligent.

When Ambition Hurts

Friday, March 20th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

On the perennial dilemna of Governors harboring national political ambitions, Anonymous Liberal writes:

Governors with presidential ambitions often spend much of their time in office trying to raise their profile and pad their resume for a future presidential run. That’s to be expected, and in general, it’s not a bad thing for the people of their state. Yes, these governors probably spend a little too much time in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they also tend to do things to bring positive attention to their states. Governor Mitt Romney, for instance, worked with Democrats in his state to construct a universal health care system, the first such system in the country. Though his ultimate ambitions were clear, he attempted to further them by creating a record of accomplishment as governor.

What’s happening now, though, is very different. The Republican governors with presidential ambitions are tripping over each other to be the one that hoses over his own constituents the most.

This is, of course, pretty obvious. Ever 4 years, you get a rash of Governors who kick around the idea of running for President, and this generally leads them to try to do a lot of good things for their state in order to create a list of accomlishments to, possibly, run on. Similarly, Governors often run for the Senate after leaving office which, again, is usually predicated on being remembered fondly by the voters of their state. Here, however, you have a rather odd scenario in which a group of Republican Presidential aspirants have decided the best way to further their national ambitions is to give the residents of their state the shaft. And, perversely, they’re probably right. It’s certainly not hard to imagine a non-Gubernatorial candidate for President, say, Mitt Romney, criticizing any governor who accepts federal money as only paying lip service to their opposition, and it’s also not that hard to see national Republican voters punishing them for it. So the real lesson here is how decrepit the national Republican Party has really become, that in order to succeed internally, Republican governors must sacrifice the people of their states on the altar of ambition.

I do hope, however, that the DNC and various state Democratic parties make a point of connecting the actions of Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford to their naked political ambitions and, by extension, the national GOP.

Volcano Monitoring

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

This will be my last Jindal post, at least for today, I swear.

One of the odder things about Jindal’s speech was his singling out of volcano monitoring money as an example of wasteful government spending. Generally speaking, even wingnuts tend to agree that watching out for natural disasters is a good idea. No one ever really argues that the government should cease funding that goes to watching for hurricanes out in the ocean, for example. And it’s not like it has a funny sounding, easy to misunderstand name you could mischaracterize either. “Volcano monitoring” is pretty straight forward, and sounds like something most people would agree we ought to be doing.

When I exchanged emails about the speech with a friend who works at the RNC this morning, he singled out the line about volcano monitoring spending as something he expected to see mocked in coming days, and really didn’t know how he was going to spin it. He also, more bluntly than Dave Noon, hypothesized that it might have been something of a jab to Sarah Palin. In case you didn’t hear, there’s a big volcano set to erupt in Alaska, and because of volcano monitoring the state and federal government have been able to evacuate people from the area, probably saving some lives and a whole lot of potential property damage. The thinking, I suppose, goes something like this; Jindal scoffs at volcano monitoring funding in his nationally televised, speaking-for-the-GOP speech; the people of Alaska find out about this just as a volcano is about to erupt, and demand that Palin repudiate Jindal’s comments. Seeking re-election, Palin will have little choice but to distance herself from a comment that’s both incredibly stupid and has real local significance to her constituents. By this point, the idea goes, “volcano monitoring” enters the right-wing’s vernacular as a short hand for pork in general, and Jindal will have his main rival for the support of the conservative-populist aspect of the base on record supporting this erstwhile symbol of government waste.

It seems like something of a bank shot to me, but I don’t see any more likely answer as to why Gov. Jindal seems to think we don’t really need to spend money watching out for natural disasters.

Republicans Don’t Understand Republicans

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

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To answer Matt’s question, and to follow up on something I wrote yesterday, another interesting thing to ponder about the Deep South (and Alaska!) Governors considering turning down federal stimulus money is who, exactly, they think they’re playing to. It’s certainly true that the rump presence of the Congressional GOP is disproportionately right-wing, and Southern, but is there any indication that the national GOP is in the same boat? Well, not really.

Remember that the Republican Presidential primary, like the Democratic primry, consists of capturing delegates. But unlike the Democratic Party, the Republicans do not have a uniform standard for delegate allocation, favoring instead a system that yields an early end to the contest. This includes states that are winner-take-all, some that are proportional, and some that are a mix. It also, ironically, is one that favors big states, at least with the 2008 schedule. New York, New Jersey, and Florida are all winner take all contests, and California is winner take all by Congressional district. It was in these states, plus Arizona and Missouri, that John McCain won the nomination. In fact, he didn’t win a single Deep South contest, other than South Carolina. Mike Huckabee swept the rest…and was completely crushed in the delegate count by McCain. And with a Democratic incumbent in 2012, independents who want to vote in a primary election are going to flood into the GOP process, making it even more moderate than usual.

In other words, even if it weren’t the case that governors were largely judged on the basis of performance, and could get by with being ideological standard bearers, Jindal, Sanford, Palin, and Barbour are playing to an ideological base that has no power whatsoever even in the GOP primary process. It’s possible, of course, that the rules could drastically changes before 2012, but that seems like an awfully big thing to bet on now, doesn’t it?

Banking on teh Crazy

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

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I haven’t yet commented on the Republican governors considering declining their state’s stimulus money (or actually doing it), mostly because I haven’t yet figured out what I think about it. Steve Benen calls it a race to out crazy one another, but that seems a little too credulous for my liking.

First of all, the obvious connection between Governors Jindal, Palin, Barbour, and Sanford is that they’d all like to be President, and are all clearly convinced that opposing the stimulus is your best bet in the Republican Party. And I’m sure that’s a wise calculation, but there’s a bit of a difference between opposing the bill and actively turning down money for your state. As I noted the other day, national politics is relatively short on governors who served during economic downturns, mostly because it’s hard to accumulate a list of accomplishments to run on as a result. You get to cut spending on state services, and that’s a hard sell to make down the road, even to the national Republican Party. So I suppose these governors are trying to distinguish themselves, but it seems a little odd all the same.

For one thing, they’re taking an awfully big gamble. Congressional Republicans opposing the stimulus bill makes sense; if it works you’re not going to get credit regardless, but if it fails, or is seen to have failed, you can gain from having opposed it. Now that it’s passed, any governor actually thinking about turning down the money is betting on an awfully big stretch; that their state’s economy will do better than the rest of the country without the money. That’s the only way this can really work out as a positive for them, and the only way they could really sell this nationally. Obviously that’s quite a bit unlikely, and the downside is much starker; the national economy recovers, at least somewhat, while your state continues to suffer, or even to recover at a pace slower than the national average. In that case you’ve not only hurt your own personal political career, you’ve provided an incredibly stark, side by side comparison of two competing worldviews, and if you bust you’ll have a hard time defending your entire ideology for a generation or so. It won’t be an abstract debate over competing economc theories, it will be an objective assessment of the two theories played out in real time.

Of course, it’s also possible that the governors are trying to short circuit the plan. That theory would be bolstered by what has been refused so far; Jindal wants to refuse additional millions for unemployment insurance, and Sanford is going to refuse money to make buildings more energy efficient. These are not only some of the most popular aspects of the package, but also among the most stimulative. The wrench in this view, I think, it that it’s just hard to see how refusing money to be spent in Louisiana or South Carolina is going to have a huge ripple effect on the national economy. Neither state is all that big, and there’s nothing particularly special about either state that gives it a disproportionate impact on the national economy. So the most likely outcome is that these state economies lag behind the rest of the country, which is bad for the citizens in those states, but also bad for the governors managing the situation as well.

It is, in other words, totally crazy.

The Curious Case of Sarah Palin

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

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Nate Silvers on Palin’s media problem:

People weren’t turned off by Palin because of the questions about her wardrobe or baby Trig. They were turned off because — fairly or not — they couldn’t become comfortable with the idea of her sitting in the White House. Giving interviews to the likes of John Ziegler or exchanging nastygrams with the Anchorage Daily News isn’t going to get her to be taken more seriously.

I think that’s largely right, but I think a lot goes unsaid in this as well. Namely, Palin’s problem wasn’t Wardrobegate, or Tina Fey, or the sight lies of her back porch, ultimately Sarah Palin’s problem was that she was totally ignorant about the national issues that defined the 2008 election. Yes her statements in interviews were largely incoherent. Does anyone else remember when the bailout was good for those people who were concerned about the healthcare reform we need for the economic recovery? Good times. But the reason she was incoherent was because she really had no clue about the background information or the relevant facts to the discussion, and so she came off sounding like any college student who’s ever tried to bullshit their way through an essay exam.

And this is where Palin’s political path gets rather difficult to navigate. On the one hand, she needs to find ways to stay visible and relevant to the political world. Going back to Alaska and handling the work of the state is probably not going to get her much ink, and the last thing she wants is to cede the visibility war to Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. But at the same time, if Palin’s bitching about the media to John Ziegler, she’s not learning about foreign policy or healthcare, or even boning up on the right-wing catechisms. And one thing the general election really obscured was how unfamiliar with conservative orthodoxy Palin was, which was sort of shocking. And while right-wing activists may have rallied around her in opposition to Barack Obama, you had better believe they’re going to care if Palin can’t name a Supreme Court decision she disagrees with in 2011.

All of which is a long way of saying that, while she’ll undoubtedly prove an amusing sideshow for quite a bit longer, the odds of Sarah Palin actually enjoying any electoral success in a respectable field of contenders are quite slim.


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