Opposing Viewpoints: Gerson vs Secrest on the Politics and Public Perception of Sarah Palin
June 16th, 2011
Michael Gerson, The Washington Post: "Palin, from candidate to caricature."
It was probably not the intention of liberal investigative journalists to expose Sarah Palin as a figure far more sympathetic than her public image. Twenty-four thousand pages of email voyeurism reveal a politician who has successfully hidden her virtues behind closed blinds.
As Alaska governor, Palin was kind to her staff, responsive to her constituents and protective of her state. She sought God's guidance in difficult decisions, made time for her family and found media questions on the provenance of her youngest child to be "flippin' unbelievable."
Even Palin's vices are unremarkable in a politician. She was ambitious - which defines the breed. She feuded with state politicians - which other governors have been known to do. She paid too much attention to her press coverage - again, hardly unique. From what I've seen, the emails contain just one damning indictment of Palin's judgment: She accepted public relations advice from Newt Gingrich.
Reading through some of the messages brought to mind the rising governor I met in Alaska in June 2007. Palin was a reformer who had opposed the corrupt Republican establishment of her state. She governed from the center-right. Her style was more practical than ideological. Over lunch at the governor's mansion in Juneau, Palin was engaging, informal and earnest. The contemporaneous emails show that she was careful to avoid excessive partisanship - even willing, on occasion, to praise Barack Obama.
Four years later, it is difficult to find this Palin in her public utterances. Her suspicion of the media has become antipathy. Her style is often abrasive and self-pitying. She encourages an odd sort of conservative class resentment, attacking George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush as "blue bloods." Her hyperpartisanship can be embarrassing.
How did a likable, consensus-oriented governor become such a divisive figure?
At the beginning, Palin was given plenty of reasons for grievance. After her selection as John McCain's running mate, some in the press focused unkind attention on her family and faith. From a human perspective, her defensive reaction was understandable. In a memorable convention speech, Palin returned a volley of fist-shaking populism. On the campaign trail, huge Republican crowds - far larger than McCain generally drew - rewarded Palin's feistiness. Following the election, a procession of radio and cable appearances further simplified and purified her persona. The candidate became a caricature. The caricature became a celebrity.
This transformation would be easier for the media to criticize if it did not frequently fall for the same temptation. Audiences for blogs, radio talk shows and cable television tend to reward ringing reassertions of their own certainties. Simplicity is salable. Doubt and complexity are not. Extreme statements attract attention. Soon they predominate. Eventually they define. A pose becomes a brand. A mask becomes a face.
For evidence, it is necessary to go no further than Palin's most persistent critics in the media. It is one thing to disagree with Palin's approach and policy views. It is another to pursue an Ahab-like obsession across endless oceans of emails. And it is another thing to aim a harpoon at her family, which is indeed flippin' unbelievable.
Modern politics has become a vast Pavlovian experiment. The blogs buzz, the ratings come in, the hits are counted. Elements of the press find an audience in criticizing Palin relentlessly. Reflexes become conditioned. People salivate on cue.
In Palin versus the press, neither side has acquitted itself particularly well. Palin became a less sympathetic figure than she once was. The media managed to undermine a low reputation. Their codependence exposes our political culture to ridicule. But it makes for good television.
Barry Secrest, Conservative Refocus: "Waiting For Superwoman: Rebuttal to Dana Milbank's "Tour De Farce" on Sarah Palin"
As with all things truly Liberal, sometimes a catalyst is needed in order to smoke the Leftistly wayward out in full, and who better to do that than the lovely and talented Sarah Palin. When Palin embarked on her "One Nation" tour, not even we Conservatives could ever have dreamed of the angst it would cause the Axis Press and their Liberal Acolytes, the Mainstream Columnists. And at the forefront of this plague of left-wing blow-hards was none other than the ever-so-cunning Dana Milbank. Milbank, to me, often seems to operate much like an ideological chameleon, similar to Gerson, in fact. While it is painfully obvious to the true Conservatives both who and what Milbank ascribes to be, he has a way of writing that often leaves many in doubt.
So bad had it become, at one point, that upon seeing search string after search string pop up in our site analytics, asking the question is "Dana Milbank a Liberal?" I decided to write a quick report answering this question and did so with facts which emanated from none other than Milbank himself. Sometimes, one need only look at that which a subjective writer is constantly attacking in order to understand what, precisely, their ideology is made up of. Milbank, historically, has made a lucrative career of always going after the Conservatives and attacking the most vibrant personalities rather than their ideas, in case you hadn't noticed.
Understanding The Smallish Minded
In that vein, it was Eleanor Roosevelt who stated that "great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people." This is often why so many confuse the nature of Milbank who seems constantly preoccupied with the who rather than the what. He often refers to both the Liberals and the Conservatives as if they are each apart from him, but the Liberals certainly are not, and no one should be fooled by this ploy be it purposeful or otherwise. This is why so many have asked the question: "Will the real Dana Milbank please stand up?"
Ah! There he is now, he appears to be saying something and gesticulating madly...what's that? Oh, a Tour De Farce? Who? Oh, Sarah Palin got you down again, Dana? Well, you think you're angry now, Milbank, just wait until she's President. Talk about payback.
Milbank, it would seem, has something mean and nasty to say about Sarah Palin in volumes, and we are not surprised in the least. Milbank has taken issue with Govenor Palin and her "One Nation" tour, and he appears to be first at issue with Palin's two stopping points of choice: Fox News and Donald Trump. Indeed, Dana, you silly man, would you have expected her to visit with the New York Times and George Soros first? Not so terribly sure that she would have been well-received by either of those, as Milbank must have somehow gathered by now. Milbank also takes issue with the three foot letters of Sarah's name emblazoned on her bus and the fact that she appears to be seeking publicity.
Understanding The Largish Minded
Milbank, in a cloud of confusion, still doesn't seem to understand what Palin is doing. In fact, Milbank's entire column focuses on Palin's mad publicity tour because she doesn't appear to be running. So here it becomes necessary to clue Milbank and perhaps a few others in on what is actually happening with Palin, and I am glad to be the one to do it. Palin is not doing this for her looks; she is well-endowed in that respect. Sarah is not doing this for publicity; all she has to do is tweet her whereabouts to get tons of that. So listen carefully and learn: Palin is conducting an exploratory campaign to see how much money her SarahPAC can garner, along with how much presidential publicity she can access, along with understanding how popular her showing is to the people of the United States. It's simply that simple, and it is a brilliant way to preliminarily run without actually running. She is reserving the right to make that decision in what we could call a grand experiment.
Got it? Sheez, what a bunch of amateurs working at the Washington Post.
She is actually probing around, quite brilliantly, in order to ascertain if she has a meaningful chance at success at the Presidency. We do understand that Milbank doesn't understand this type of tactic, and yet we thought it should be painfully clear to those who keep their noses mired in politics. It's not about popularity at all Milbank, it's about being President, and if the Socialist Obama could do it, then...well, you know.
But to this we should also remind Milbank that, unlike the two of us, Palin is what is commonly referred to as a Celebrity, and she makes gazillions just by appearing; the only difference being that this fact doesn't bother me, or Conservatives in general, in the least, as opposed to Milbank and his brethren. In fact, MSNBC's Charlie Cook actually stated that "Palin won't run, she's making more money now than God ever intended her to make." Indeed that's true, but Cook's and Milbank's version of God in the form of the Obama Administration may have something to say about that, perhaps sooner rather than later, if they have their way.
An Illogical Premise
Milbank goes on to make what must be one of the strangest and gaudiest of comparisons yet when he wheels out none other than Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has fittingly had enough of the Obama Administration. Milbank goes on to slather the praise on Gates while somehow drawing comparisons to Palin's tour and denigrating Palin at the same time. The comparison it must be noted,while creative, simply doesn't pass the smell test, a thing that has probably plagued Milbank for much of his life. Comparing Sarah Palin to Robert Gates is like comparing an Air Force One to the Capital building and oohing and awing over the marked differences between the two. An exercise in protracted buffoonery at best.
Milbank, in one stretch, remarks on how Palin is playing cat and mouse on Interstate 95 with the Axis Press while Gates is touring Asia and Europe. Should we mention the fact that Palin's tour is costing the American people nothing but a large number of the patriotic outbursts that Milbank despises? Should we also point out that a more accurate comparison might involve how much the Axis Press earns from either of the two when we compare reader draws between Gates and Palin? In fact, a media search string with the name Robert Gates yields a healthy 15.8 million Google responses, while Sarah Palin's Google response yields an astounding 81.8 million hits, and she's not even employed by the Government.
At least now we can begin to understand why the media is stalking Sarah. It's not because they hate her so much, but rather it's how they ingratiatingly use Palin to sell print for themselves while at the same time incessantly vilifying her--anteing up the pot in the process. So please don't talk to us anymore about how noble yours and the media's aims are when we can all clearly see what your efforts are actually about, Milbank.
But Milbank persists in the illusory comparison by noting how Gates agreed to stay on and work towards Obama's Authoritarian schemes and anti-constitutional war aspirations, while Palin chose to quit as Governor. It has become common knowledge that the reason that Palin quit, after her run for the Vice-Presidency, was due to the constant flow of harassment lawsuits which were being brought against her as Alaska's Governor by the Progressives. Palin is not even close to being a dummy, and she chose to quit rather than to spend the rest of her term defending herself as Governor in a court of law. No one liked her decision, but most of us could at least understand it, as evidenced by the recent release of her Alaskan emails. Milbanks own paper, the Washington Post, along with the New York Times, among others, actually invited readers to log in and help peruse the Palin emails for damaging facts which could then be forwarded to the attention of the editors.
These facts would then be used to excoriate Palin and vilify her in public. But where is the same journalistic professionalism in efforts against a Government that increasingly seeks to control and alter those same Citizen's lives? Or is it that the Washington Post has become the journalistic equivalent of TMZ? You see, Milbanks says himself that Palin is nothing more than a celebrity. If that be the case, then why the constant efforts to destroy her, Sir, and I use that term euphemistically. It would appear that Milbank might wish to move closer to Hollywood and further away from the Inner-Beltway, his muckraking talents clearly belonging more in the vein of Celebrity Deathwatch than pretending to pursue Watergate-types of Government excess.
Milbank goes on to establish and typify a non-existent dueling Gates-Palin tour and states that it shows the best and the worst in American public life, noting that Gates exemplifies the best tradition of service while Palin is a study in selfishness. Here we must stop and pointedly inquire if Milbank or Gates, either one, performs their selfless tasks for free? Do either of these men skulk away from the limelight when proffered the opportunity? If the answer is no, then Milbank has once again played the ever-present Liberal Hypocrisy Card that Progressives love to throw out and--once again--we are not at all surprised.
We are all then treated to a litany of rantish adverbs from Milbank which include "self-aggrandizing For Palin, self-effacing for Gates, self-harmonized for Obama foreign policy, bulls-eyes for Palin and even blood libel for Palin as well." At this point, however, it becomes necessary to pause and say "wait just a minute Milbank."
Did you just say "Gates produced a self-harmonized American foreign policy?" The Mideast lies on fire and is in tatters, we are on the outs with virtually every nation we have contact with to include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran et al; can Milbank actually produce a fact that is not contra-indicated by the actual evidence? The simple truth is that Gates had nothing to do with either the failure or the success of foreign policy, per se. That role lies with both the State Department and the Obama Administration; to wit, things are not looking so very well in that regard, not even with Israel our strongest ally, for Heaven's sake. Next Milbank calls out virtually every individual within public service stating essentially that, if they do not wish to go home, then something is wrong with them, oddly allowing that "Gates heroically wants to go home while Palin may selfishly want to run for President."
Um...huh? The last we heard, Obama was seeking a second term, Dana; shall you vilify him as well for not wishing to depart for home, or perhaps Milbank has stumbled into a Tea Party-like anti-incumbent angst. If that be the case, then we are really surprised. It would be the first time Milbank actually identified with the Tea Party in at least one respect but he actually doesn't. Unfortunately, at this point Milbank begins to lose his grip on mental lucidity as his column moves out into the fringe of Leftist politics. Milbank perfunctorily begins to elucidate Palin's highly-successful resume' of very recent accomplishments, as if they were somehow a horrid crime against political nature:
- Palin's TLC Show--Stunning ratings
- Bristol's Dancing With The Stars Appearance--Stunning Ratings
- Palin's stoking the Birther Conspiracy, causing Obama to produce a possible forgery
- Palin's utilizing Lear 60 or larger private jets (Pelosi still has her beat there)
- Sarah's wildy popular Rolling Thunder appearance--Massive draw
- The crowd-drawing "Pizza With Trump" episode--Media makes wads of cash on story
- The flattering new movie about Palin--results to be seen
- The onslaught of TV news choppers at every event--a veritable Superstar
- The successful SarahPAC funding effort
Then Milbank moves into a list of Gates' seeming accomplishments, which would seem to simply go along with the job that Gates was hired to do. Signing death letters and admitting that we were in trouble in Iraq, along with banning a standing gag order of our returning dead, are things that Milbank finds to be beyond-stunning accomplishments. Doesn't take much to impress Milbank, would be our response. Gates did do a number of things that were great, but Gates, we would have to point out, faltered mightily in other areas, as well. But what could one expect under a President who loves to loathe the US military while using them profligately to meet his own aims.
Meet Milbank's Personal Hero: "Moi"
At this point, however, we must point out a quote from Gates in which he also euphemistically stated the following:
Pshh! Don't anyone tell Dana about this, he will be furious if he finds out after writing his poorly executed piece.
Milbank goes on to speak to Gates' frankness on many subjects, while even crowing about Gates disagreeing with Obama on his attack of Libya. Wow, he actually disagreed with Obama, and this makes Milbank admiring of Gates? Then I must be a super hero in Milbank's eyes in that respect, because I disagree with Obama on virtually everything. But that's OK, Dana, you need not write an entire column about me with a comparison to Mahatma Gandhi, although that might make infinitely more sense than the one that you just wrote.
Milbank then ends his column with a bit of wishful thinking, in hoping that Sarah Palin might consider emulating Robert Gates' recent quote in which he stated, "The best thing that I could do when I get out of here, for at least some period of time, is keep my mouth shut."
So Milbank wishes Palin to keep her mouth shut, to include every other Conservative in America, no doubt. However, we must point out that we hope Dana Milbank continues his ridiculous comparisons and Liberal politics of individual persecution for at least a little while longer.
I mean, where else will we find any useful material for our rebuttals?