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Pope, Rush

jesuitreductionOne of the many advantages of not being religious is that I don’t have to spend any time wrestling with the “contradictions” of my faith.

Christianity has—stretching from its murky beginnings to its wildly syncretic present—quite a few of those.

Writing on his always fascinating (if sometimes infuriating) blog, Andrew Sullivan takes Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin to task for making insufficient effort to reconcile their views on Pope Francis’s demagogic attacks on free markets with the Christianity that the two also profess. I don’t have a god in this fight, but read what Andrew has to say, and judge for yourselves. I should say that this this was one of his high-octane days, and that can make for a rough ride, but I’ll admit that this made me laugh:

In the Church of Limbaugh, there is no greater heretic than Saint Francis. Francis even believed in the sanctity of the natural world, regarding animals as reflecting the pied beauty of a mysterious divinity. Sarah Palin, in contrast, sees them solely as dinner.

And how right she is.

“Pied beauty of a mysterious divinity”, or just beautiful in pies?

With apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins (and pun-hating readers), I’ll take the latter.

Andrew concludes:

Christianity is one of the most powerful critiques of radical market triumphalism. And it’s now coming – more plainly and unmistakably in our lifetimes – to a church near you.

Well, “radical market triumphalism” is a mistake, but one that is more talked about than real: for the most part it is a straw man. On Andrew’s broader point, we’ll have to see whether the religious left is indeed going to enjoy another surge. Maybe, maybe not. It won’t be the first time. Or the last. But, there is a slight something in Andrew’s tone—a shadow, no more than that—which is a reminder that when such surges occur, liberty frays.

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Sarah Palin, not so topical

I noticed today that Center-Left establishment tool Jacob Weisberg is still posting his “Palinisms” at Slate. I never read these because they never seemed as funny as the Bushisms. It seems likely that the George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush have some cognitive linguistic problem which results in the mangled syntax for which they became famous. Sarah Palin on the other hand just sounds dumb a lot of the time.

But my bigger thought is who cares? Here’s some Google Trends for the past 30 days:

Remember, Weisberg is the scold who was outraged by Peter Thiel’s plan to encourage some college students to take a few years off. Weisberg went to Yale, and has marched his way through establishment media outfits since graduating. Can’t he find something better to do with his time?



The Palin Fundamentals

In your heart you know he could be right, The Conservative Establishment’s Addiction to Tactics:

…John McCain was a widely admired war hero with a reputation for moderation who had favorable ratings well over 50 percent on Election Day and he lost to a first-term senator with a black nationalist spiritual mentor. Palin isn’t the most formidable candidate out there, and in a very close election her flaws could easily deny the GOP the White House. And very close elections do happen—think how important the 2000 presidential election was in retrospect. But most elections aren’t that close, and if the fundamentals are strongly against Obama—which they may be—Palin will beat him.

I have a friend who was active in conservative punditry up until the spring of 2008. He basically realized that he had no idea what was going on when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. His own model, and 20 years of personal investment in research and analysis, indicated that the Clinton machine was just going to steamroll. Obviously Obama refuted the solidity of his model of the world in a really deep sense, and he decided to focus less on day to day politics, and more on bigger picture policy issues. The point is that in some ways there’s a lot more uncertainty here than we’d like to admit. The Republicans have modestly higher unfavorables right now than the Democrats, but they’ll still win big anyway. There’s always a first for everything.



DeMint’s Choice (2)

From O’Reilly (Nov 16 2007):

O’DONNELL: They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they’re already into this experiment.

Via National Review:

Krauthammer: You don’t stop [the Obama] agenda by nominating an O’Donnell in Delaware and turning a Senate seat from safe Republican to safe Democratic. If DeMint and Palin want to show that helping O’Donnell over the top — she won late and by six points — wasn’t a capricious spreading of fairy dust, perhaps they should go to Delaware now and get her elected to the Senate. You made it possible. Now make it happen. I would be happy to be proved wrong about O’Donnell’s electability — I want Republicans to win that 51st seat. Stay in Delaware and show us you were right. The beaches are said to be lovely in the fall.

Via Politico

Gingrich: “Sen. Jim DeMint and Gov. Palin deserve enormous credit [for O’Donnell’s win]…”

Perhaps Newt could go to Delaware too.

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Sarah Palin 2012

Noah Millman mulls the chances. Noah is not a fan, to be sure. I’ve increased my probability that Palin will be the nominee in 2012 a fair amount since I last thought about this. Also, since we’re midway through 2010, closer to the point where the nomination will be de facto secured, my uncertainty window has decreased. I assumed that the Republican establishment would simply screw her at some point before 2012, but my assessment of that establishment’s strength has diminished (e.g., their candidate did not win in the Kentucky or Nevada primaries). Additionally, I think the passage of the spring health care bill reduces Romney’s chances, who is probably ideally positioned to catch the backing of the establishment.

So if I had to guess I would say a 25% probability of securing nomination in 2012 for Sarah Palin. This underestimates my new evaluation of Palin because I don’t know for sure whether she’s running. I’d guess a 60% chance she runs seriously, so that means a 42% probability of winning if she ran.

I judge that Mitt Romney’s chances are not very high right now, mostly because it’s just too easy to depict him as a milquetoast moderate flip-flopper with no real charisma. It’s too easy because there’s a lot of validity to those charges. I wouldn’t say 0%. There were times when John McCain looked dead in late 2007. But I’d probably pin Romney at 5% at most as his current ceiling.

Let me end by saying that I don’t follow politics closely, so the numbers above are more to give you a good precise sense of my vague impressions, than anything I have real confidence in. My uncertainty is probably +/- 10% standard deviation for the Palin probabilities.




Palin Inc.

New York Magazine has a long profile of Sarah Palin up right now. Its focus is more publicity, personality and celebrity, than politics. The profile reduces my probability that Palin will make a serious run (as opposed to a pro forma one) for the highest office in 2012.* It also leaves me impressed by how quickly and efficiently she’s leveraged her celebrity and gone from moderately upper middle class** in income (and in serious debt due to legal bills after the 2008 campaign) to wealthy. Some Republicans are apparently worried about her becoming the “face of the party,” something that crops up now and then in the media, but it doesn’t seem like they really have to worry that much unless the party has no real substance and is rooted only in style and the need to get elected. As for Sarah Palin, whatever you think of her politics or personality, she’s offering a concrete product distributed through the private sector. The article mentions that her book was a major reason that Random House generated a profit last year! Whatever criticisms one might lodge, she’s not getting rich by being a rent-seeker, as so many of our public and private sector elites have become. In fact the article points to a whole industry of liberal critique which has emerged around her, so she’s not even capturing all the wealth that she’s responsible for (spillover effects).

I have always been relatively unimpressed by the arguments of those on the Left and Right who view her as a potentially transformative figure in American politics. I have too great of a faith in the power of elites to squelch populism on the whole (this doesn’t mean that populists don’t sometimes succeed, it just means that you have to generally bet against populism all things equal). As an empirical matter it does seem like that she’s becoming the conservative equivalent to Al Gore, someone beloved within their own partisan faction, and able to maintain their celebrity and have some influence, but ultimately constrained in their reach because of their polarizing personality.

* Serious as in will she expend all her capital, fiscal and personal, during her run, or will she have to balance her desire for the highest office with having to maintain her career in case she doesn’t succeed. In other words, I don’t think she’ll go “all in” because she will want to continue and maintain her future income generation possibilities, which have a large upside.

** Though socially and culturally I think one can make the argument that the Palins span the working & middle class, their incomes were well above the national average by the time she came to prominence.



Okey Dokey

Via AP:

LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) – Sarah Palin spoke to a crowd of about 16,000 attending an evangelical Christian women’s conference in Louisville Friday night.

The Courier-Journal reports the 2008 Republican candidate for vice president mixed stories of personal struggles and calls for women to be good mothers and good citizens with criticism of President Barack Obama – although she did not mention him by name.

Palin asked the women to provide a “prayer shield” to strengthen her against what she said was “deception” in the media.

She asserted that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that “God should be separated from the state.”



The logic of belief: the Palin version

Sarah Palin loves God. God loves Sarah Palin.

And that is why they hate her…and Him.

And why she — and He — will be back.

From God and Sarah Palin. So if they didn’t love each other, they’d both stay away?   Can we intercede?




Sarah Palin




Right-wing identity politics

Victor Davis Hanson hits hard at Sarah Palin’s liberal attackers today, launching the usual and undoubtedly often justified accusation that they have been driven to a state of frenzy by her anti-elite lifestyle.  But Hanson, for whose intellect, learning, and writing talent I have only the highest respect, fails to show that identity politics—or what Davis approvingly calls Palin’s  “authentic middle-class persona”–are not just as central—indeed, exclusively so–to the frenzy of her supporters.  He says not one word about the most serious count against her: her abysmal control of language and argument when speaking extemporaneously, a lack of control that raises questions about her capacity to make complex decisions, lead, and inspire.  Instead, he attacks a series of straw men: 

[As] a mother of five, knee-deep in local politics, without money and leisure, [she] is not going to be reading Gibbon for perspective, or spending the afternoon perusing Foreign Affairs. Nor is she going to remember a quip that her Prof at the Kennedy school once offered years ago. Nor is she going to recall clever repartee at a Georgetown dinner party from one grandee to another.

Now perhaps some people are truly disturbed by her lack of Kennedy School quips.  But how about the series of non-sequiturs with which she regaled the public in her resignation speech, or the pretense of moral righteousness which she slathered on her decision to quit office midterm?   (We will pass over in silence her excruciating interview performances during the campaign.) 

Davis doesn’t mention the actual content of her recent speech at all, other than to speculate about whether the resignation will damage her politically.   I don’t understand why conservatives, who should stand for the defense of the highest achievements of intellect and culture, so gleefully revel in Palin’s inarticulateness.  Obviously, there are plenty of people with her background and associations who could make strong arguments and speak clearly, but she is not one of them.  It is not “elitist” in the negative sense to hope for a political leader who can use our wonderful capacity for reason and eloquence to even modest effect. 

Nor does Hanson offer any strong evidence of her skills and accomplishments other than to say that a. she must be capable, given her position in Alaskan politics and b. people with agricultural or mechanical talents are smart and more trustworthy than the elites.  These are categorical arguments, not Palin-specific ones.  She had plenty of opportunities to show off her alleged skills during the campaign; I would argue that she did not deliver on them. 

Palin has always shown every sign of believing the hype around her: that merely by being who she is, she was qualified for the highest office of the land.  Hanson mocks the left’s efforts at psychoanalyzing her.  Arguably, she set herself up for such efforts.  Is Hanson really charmed by her cloying mannerisms, which he unflinchingly captures:

She winks, and gestures as if she’s running a raffle stand at a PTA carnival and flirting with the local State Farm insurance agent.

and does he really find them appropriate for the leader of the Western world?

Hanson is absolutely right that liberals and the left should expose themselves to the perils of entrepreneurship.  But their own blindness to the economic and social values that undergird American prosperity and stability is no excuse for conservative indifference to the values of achievement,  learning, and eloquence that we should expect from our leaders.    If Palin does try to pursue the presidency, she will further fracture the country’s conservatives.

(Hanson mentions a Huffington Post satirist joking about Trig’s disability, in which case I was obviously wrong in doubting whether anyone would be so callous as to do so.)


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