By David Boaz
Talk about Sarah Palin running for president continues to mount — in the liberal media. Conservatives smile and look away when the topic is raised. They want to watch her on TV, they want to turn out for her lively speeches, but they don’t see her as a president.
Liberals, on the other hand, are jumping up and down at the prospect of a Palin candidacy. She could win! they urgently insist to skeptical Republicans; you should get behind her. Don’t throw us Democrats in that Palin briar patch! The latest example is the star columnist of the New York Times, Frank Rich. His Sunday column is titled “Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha.” Palin’s got a huge television presence, Rich says — 5 million viewers for her new TLC series. Which is slightly less than the 65 million it would take to win a presidential election. She’s running, he says; her upcoming book tour “disproportionately dotes on the primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.” Well, yes, she’s going to both those states, along with 14 others. But the link that Rich generously provides — a citation, like an old-fashioned footnote — indicates that she will not go to New Hampshire. If I were advising her putative presidential campaign (bargain rates, Governor!), I would tell her that New Hampshire is kind of important in the Republican primary process. So is Florida, which she’s also not visiting. You could almost get the impression that Frank Rich is seeing what he wants to see — a Sarah Palin presidential campaign.
He’s not the only one. On Huffington Post just before the election, Jeffrey Feldman told Democrats, “The key to busting through election rhetoric gone stark raving mad might well turn out to be two words so simple that they have eluded the usual Democratic Party language consultants: ‘President Palin.’” Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrings his hands over her potential. New York magazine’s cover blares “PRESIDENT PALIN.” NPR jumps on the bandwagon, as does Mark Halperin in Time.
Meanwhile, as Rich acknowledges, Republicans know as well as he does what a Palin nomination would do:
Politico reported just before Election Day that unnamed “party elders” were nearly united in wanting to stop her, out of fear that she’d win the nomination and then be crushed by Obama. Their complaints are seconded daily by Bush White House alumni like Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, and Mark McKinnon, who said recently that Palin’s “stock is falling and pretty rapidly now” and that “if she’s smart, she does not run.”
Peggy Noonan spoke for a lot of Reaganites when she responded to Palin’s suggestion that being a Fox-TLC celebrity was a reasonable platform for seeking the presidency, since after all “Ronald Reagan was an actor”:
Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped their lids, but I’ll voice their consternation to make a larger point. Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president.
The point is not “He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,” though that is true. The point is that Reagan’s career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him.
I made a similar point back in February when David Broder was pushing Palin’s prospects. And two months before that I noted that the Washington Post had run two op-eds “by” Sarah Palin in the space of five months, so that one ”might almost think the Post wanted Palin to be seen as a leader of Republicans.” In the coming months, watch for it: Democrats, liberal journalists, and red-state bloggers will talk up Palin’s chances. Republicans and conservatives who want to defeat President Obama in 2012 will try to change the subject.