Jewish World Review July 23, 2010 12 Menachem-Av, 5770
Sarah Palin at the Top
By Roger Simon
It was not the most popular column I ever wrote. I remember sniggering and mockery from those who could not find actual vegetables to throw.
As was widely believed at the time, Sarah Palin was an idiot. Her interview with CBS's Katie Couric had proved that. And Palin's approval rating as governor of Alaska, once so high, had plunged to 54 percent. (An approval rating I suspect Barack Obama would love to have today.)
Sarah Palin was a hick and a rube. She was a gun-toting, snow machine-riding pit bull with lipstick, with a family that was portrayed as somewhere between a reality show and white trash.
Now, more than a year later, I have not changed my mind about Palin's political potential. This is not based on the polls — especially a recent one showing her in a 46 percent to 46 percent tie with Obama in a hypothetical 2012 face-off. I don't believe such polls tell us anything meaningful.
I am basing my belief now, as back then, on Palin's ability to connect with the base of her party. Name a bigger name in the Republican Party today. Heck, name any name in the Republican Party today.
And the most energized wing of her party — Republican tea partiers —- have good reason to like her. At a February tea party convention in Nashville, Tenn., Palin told the crowd, "America is ready for another revolution, and you are a part of this." Which set off one of many standing ovations.
Making fun of President Obama, Palin asked the crowd, "How's that hope-y, change-y stuff working out for you?"
She believed what the crowd believed: It wasn't working out very well.
Maybe she wrote those lines on her palm — I don't know. But I don't think the crowd cared, especially when Palin said, "This is about the people, and it's bigger than any one king or queen of a tea party, and it's a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter."
Today, Palin is going around the country endorsing and making speeches for Republican candidates with some success. Tuesday night in Georgia, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who was endorsed by Palin, got 34 percent of the vote, while former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, endorsed by Newt Gingrich, got 23 percent of the vote. The two will face each other in a runoff for the Republican nomination for governor next month.
(On July 7, 2009, I wrote, "And tell me that a Sarah Palin-Newt Gingrich ticket would not set several conservative hearts aflutter." I still believe it.)
Since unsolicited advice is a columnist's stock-in-trade, I had seven suggestions for Palin, back last summer when she was still governor of Alaska: Dump Alaska, surround yourself with people smarter than you are, pick a handful of issues and stick to them, study up, don't believe you can't do it, don't go changing and don't worry about failure.
Whatever Palin has been doing since then seems to be working. And I have noticed a certain change in how the media are viewing her. In a recent column giving advice to journalists, Marc Ambinder of Atlantic Media wrote: "Be humble about conclusions. … Sarah Palin may not be ready to be president today, but that doesn't mean she won't be ready to be president tomorrow."
In even better news for Palin, her political opponents continue to dismiss her. Mark Halperin wrote in Time magazine recently, "An adviser to Mitt Romney … says of Palin, 'She's not a serious human being.'"
Which leads me to believe that Romney needs to get himself some new advisers. Or at least he ought to remind them of the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, who wrote, "No disaster is greater than underestimating the enemy."
Besides, does the most serious human being always win? Did Al Gore? Did John Kerry?
Sarah Palin has something more than intellect. She has the ability to understand, connect with and energize her party.
And considering her likely opposition — Romney, Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee or Haley Barbour — tell me she has no chance. Go ahead and tell me. It's enough to make one snigger.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate