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Margaret O'Brien Steinfels February 7, 2011 - 9:35pm
Palin: 'We Need to Find Out Who Was Behind' Egypt Protests, and other amazing commentsShould we send a copy of Crane Brinton's The Anatomy of Revolution or a subscription to the NYTimes?
Since Sarah Palin raised it, I wonder how well she would do with the 3 a.m. phone call. In the Obama administration, it may be that Hillary Clinton picked up the 3 a.m. phone call after all.
I don't get it. Just what are we supposed to be mocking here? That Palin would like to know more about exactly which groups are involved in the Egyptian protests? That she said, "trust but verify. We want to be able to trust those who are screaming for democracy there in Egypt, that it is a true sincere desire for freedoms"? Is that what we are supposed to snicker at?Because, I got to tell you, that sentiment sounds awfully like the person who also wanted more information, writing, "Some of my underlying questions are: Is this an uprising like Czechoslovakis in 1989or Iran in 2009? I suspect neither. But I dont know. In all of these newly roused countries, I would guess that the outcome in part depends on what kind of opposition infrastructure is in place."So, why is it an occasion for riducule when Palin says it, but it is fine when you, Ms. Steinfels, say essentially the same thing?
If Ms Palin still has any aspirations for national office, this interview shows her knowledge gap around foreign policy has not narrowed at all since the last campaign. And, unfortunately for her, what's happening in the Middle East certainly highlights that our leaders better have some expertise in this area.
If you read through the entire text of her comments, it is obvious that her main point was to criticize Obama without regard to any specific critique of what he did or failed to do because she has no idea, other than to seize on it as an opportunity to make the joke about the 3:00 am call and the answering machine and then fill in with a bunch of word slurry that includes at least one obligatory reference to Ronald Reagan, i.e., the statement "trust but verify," which, of course, is what Reagan said when he was dealing with the Soviet Union in negotiating one of many arms treaties. Somebody please tell me how that applies to a popular uprising over the wholly domestic policies of a foreign nation? Does Palin think that we have veto power over Egypt's internal political arrangements?
Brian, I don't know what your problem is, but you're not going to be working it out here anymore.
The Bender comments (I hate to say) as usual are just defending his right wing pets.The situation on the ground in Cairo is less than clear for sure -if you watched CNN last night, the distrust of the VP led "transition" and its military arm should inspire caution.The continued clamor about the Muslim Brotherhood from some on the right reminded me of Kristof's Sunday NYT colum (he was on the ground in Cairo.)Talking to a woman he asked if she thought the Muslim Brotherhood was a danger to peace; she replied your Repubklican party is the danger to piece.I think Palin's simplicities wil only emphasize the "ugly American" view held by many on the ground in Arab states and complicate our efforts there further.
Palin talks as if she's the president-in-waiting expecting to be briefed by Secretary Clinton. She could know as much as the rest of us by reading the newspapers--not that that means we know what's going on behind the scenes. If she knew about the uprisings in Czechoslovakia or Iran, she too could speculate about the path Egypt will follow--so far it doesn't look like Czechoslovakia, but it doesn't look like Iran either. Her remarks are a gratuitous slap at the Obama administration. IMO they demonstrate how little she understands about good governance and due dilligence.Diplomat, intelligence officers, and admin officials should know more about what's going on in Egypt than the rest of us...or at least I hope they do.
"It's a difficult situation. This is that 3 a.m. White House phone call and it seems for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House, it seems that that call went right to the answering machine."Her hero famously slept through the 3:00 am phone call. I don't know if Palin is aware of this but there are crisis manangemnt centers throughout the federal goverment that deal with emergency domestic and foreign matters and capably respond to those matters 24 hours a day 7 days a week. A "slow event" like an unfolding two week uprising would not normally require a 3 am phone call because the organizations of government can routinely handle such events by the authority delegated to them. The Persident can be briefed when he wakes up. Palin may be surprised to learn that the Executive Branch is not a one man operation. Please reserve the 3 am phone calls for those situations requiring immediate presidential decision.
I'm with Bender - I don't get the mocking tone.She's a commentator, that's how she's earning a living. You can agree or disagree with her, but what's wrong with the questions she's asking?It isn't all together clear to me that the Obama administration does understand what's happening. You talk about understanding revolutions. In his interview with O'Reilly Obama minimized the risk of the Muslim Brotherhood saying, "they don't have majority support in Egypt." Crack open a history book Mr. President. That didn't stop Robespierre, or Lenin, or Mao. Heck, it didn't stop Adams and Washington either.So, when Obama took "gratuitous slaps" at Bush's detainee policy without all the facts (as is now abundantly clear) was he demonstrating his little he understood about good governance and due dilligence?
To be fair, I am sure President Palin would have been awake and alert to take that 3 a.m. call. After all, that's the time when someone might post something critical about her on her Facebook page, which would require and immediate full scale response. She has developed very keen crisis response reflexes.
As for the quote cited by Bender (Is this an uprising like Czechoslovakia in 1989or Iran in 2009?): Roger Cohen asks a different but related question in his op ed in todays N.Y. Times: Tehran 1979 or Berlin 1989? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen08.html?hp
Why are we giving her this air time? All she craves is oxygen. And the "liberal" media seems more than happy to be of service. Why is that?
I don't care what she thinks. I am waiting for Bristol's opinion in the book she has coming out.
Anthony, I empathize with the idea of ignoring Palin, but I think the fact that she is a leading candidate to be the GOP 2012 nominee, and is a leading voice in conservative politics today, makes it incumbent on the media to cover her. Not to cover her would be a dereliction, and it would also be skewing against a politician because the media doesn't like her -- no? That said, noting every Palin sighting is a bit much. But such is the SEO world in which the media now operates. Also, she is not alone. Check out this Fox News clip of GOP voters in Iowa:http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/02/understandi...
So much for the success of the Iowa public education system over the past 40 years or so.Ignorance knows no geographic, racial or age bounds.Of course, they ARE Republicans, so that does explain a log.
What Jimy Mac said!
Anthony,Air time? Seriously?Interviewer: "Governor Palin, what is your reaction to wghat they are saying about you on Commonweal?"Palin: "Common what?"
Sean, why are you wasting your time on dotCommonweal when it's so obvious that you should be writing comedy?
Sean, my problem with Palin's comments is that, of course, we would all like more information -- I bet the president would like more information, along with Mubarak and the protesters. The reality is that there are a range of possible outcomes here and it just seems intuitively correct that your priorities given the high degree of volatility and uncertainty are, first, not to do something that would inflame the situation or push it in a potentially undesirable direction, and second, to quietly use whatever tools you have to nudge it towards a more desirable outcome, if such an outcome can be predicted. ISTM if you are the U.S. the last thing you would want to do is jump up and down and demand the outcome that seems to suit you best, a la Palin ("We won't stand for the Muslim Brotherhood!"). In fact, unless we plan to invade Egypt, we *will* stand for the Muslim Brotherhood if it steps into the vacuum, and saying we won't is about as good a way as I can think of to guarantee that we will actually get the Muslim brotherhood. You don't need a lot of knowledge to divine this much about the situation, and if Palin really can't open her mouth without criticizing the president, maybe, in this case, it would have been better to stay mum.
The idea of Sarah Palin becoming president is so preposterous I tend to dismiss it as just another media self-satisfying orgasm.Then, I remember that Americans have elected both Ronald Reagan and W. president. It could happen again.I think we need to be vigilant until someone, or something, probably of her own doing, drives a stake through Palin's political heart.
If anybody is still pondering Margaret's earlier thread on revolution in Egypt you should read todays (February 8) issue of the Washington Post on the warnings on Egypt that the administration ignored: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2011/02/the_egypt_warnings... pattern of ignoring such warnings is not new in American history, unfortunately. Why?
Diehl's piece strikes me as pretty lame. The administration was working behind the scenes, but options were limited, as they are now. What were the options? Invade? That really worked out well with Iraq. Jim Jenkins, I always remind myself of that very thing -- Reagan and W. Anything can happen!
David-I hear your point. And maybe if actually turns out to be a viable candidate in 2012, I will live to eat my words. Of course the press has to cover her, but how to decide how much oxygen to give her? The devil is of course in the details.AA
Gabriel, what Diehl describes has been happening in Egypt almost from the time that Mubarak became president, in the early 1980s. To one degree or another, every U.S. administration since has expressed a combination of support for him along with pressure to liberalize, and he has mostly ignored the pressure except in high profile cases. The Bush administration's use of Egypt for secret renditions has no doubt clouded the relationship, in addition to the fact that U.S. posture towards Egypt is always influenced by a desire to protect Israel. Anyone who watched what happened in Iran after the Shah brutally suppressed civil dissent could have predicted that something similar would happen in Egypt, but the date, the trigger, the form -- and of course, how to react -- these are not so easy. Unlike Palin, however, Diehl actually makes a policy suggestion based on some evidence. But his suggestion strikes me as no more likely to be successful than the path actually taken by the U.S.
"Anthony, I empathize with the idea of ignoring Palin, but I think the fact that she is a leading candidate to be the GOP 2012 nominee, and is a leading voice in conservative politics today, makes it incumbent on the media to cover her."Number one, her stats keep dropping, and I don't think she's going to be a serious contender in two years; she certainly isn't now.Number two, the only reason she SEEMS viable is because people keep talking about her as if her opinions matter.The protestors in Cairo seem to be motivated by a variety of grievances and represent a variety of points of view. Rather than ask who THEY are, it makes more sense to monitor who might emerge to replace Mubarek so we can formulate sensible foreign policy.I hope all my fellow Commonwhat-ers will agree that whomever is installed in the seat of power in Egypt, we will ought not be running in there with guns a-blazin' or with our pocketbooks open. Brief squib this morning on NPR noted that the $4 billion we've given to Pakistan to shore up infrastructure and improve things generally in order to get them to like us more has pretty much gone down a rathole.
Seems to me that mention of Sarah Palin brings more of us out of silence than mention of Egypt. Gotta face it. She has a pulpit, perhaps a private one, a pulpit nonetheless. And she talks out loud.
So Anthony, why did I post this inane statement of SP? All of the hoopla around the Ronald Reagan anniversary reminds me that I never understood how he got elected. Furthermore, I didn't know anyone who voted for him--or admitted voting for him. Thus the post is an inoculation for anyone tempted to think she cannot get nominated, and if nominated cannot get elected.
Peggy,I know a lot of people who voted for RR (including both my parents), and some of them are very good friends of mine. I am happy to introduce some of them to you. :) I was too young to vote for him but I did vote for George HW Bush in 1988. I still wonder how much our reaction to her has helped to make her who she is. I think that is a valid question. AA
I suppose it's possible that the GOP could nominate her; the field is still pretty wide open. She would then get steamrolled in the general. If Republicans want to give President Obama an electoral mandate in the wake of the '12 election, it's difficult to think of a better way to go about it.
The reason Reagan, W Bush and now Palin, get elected is they are someone that the Republican group can wield power behind. Meese and Baker controlled Reagan while Chaney dominated Bush. Chaney was controlled by big businees. He was a champion of Enron until it went bust. Of course both candidates were immensely helped by a bungling Carter and Gore. Carter didn't realize that people did not care how good a person he was when interest rates were sky rocketing and people were out of work. He also made a major mistake by appearing to be intimidated by Iran. Gore didn't realize that people were not concerned about Clinton's sex life as long as they were working. Gore tried to disassociate himself from Clinton who was twice as popular. So the truth is Palin can get elected if people are not working. Her problem will be mostly that she is a woman rather than how incompetent she is.
@ Margaret Steinfels:How did RR get elected?There were a lot of factors that lead to the election of Reagan as governor and president not the least of which is the "low information voter" that all politics, left and right, cultivate.Part of Reagan's charm was that he understood that politics in media-crazed America is essentially "Hollywood for ugly people." In that universe, he and Nancy represented glamour. (If you think I exaggerating, how else can you explain the fawning bloviation commemorating "Dutch Reagan's" centenary now occupying FOX News?)Remember Reagan greatest political skill was making Americans comfortable with our prejudices. We all allowed ourselves, especially Catholics, to be seduced by fictions like "morning in America."The most inclusive and comprehensive reason for Reagan's political triumph is that Reagan was the affable, media-telegenic front man for some of the darkest reactionary corporate interests in this country. To a large extent, this corporate cabal still dominates American politics (i.e., Wall Street and banking bailouts; defeat of Obama's alternative energy initiatives; Republican takeover of the House after months of corporate lies about health care reform - the list could go on).The pernicious influence of Reagan on our politics will continue until Americans reverse decades of Reaganomics: revitalize the decimated American middle class (health care reform was a start); re-industrialize the economy; end disastrous trade policies that send our jobs and futures overseas; revive the labor movement; rebuild American infrastructure; end the era of "the-corporation-is-a-person" which pollutes our politics; deconstruct the military-industrial complex.That's quite an agenda. There's more. But, we have to begin somewhere!Obama's re-election is crucial if Americans are to move the ball forward: The majority of the Supreme Court's conservative political hacks hangs in the balance with the next presidential appointment (Bush v. Gore, really?). An Obama re-election could swing the House back to Democratic control and maintain a small majority in the Senate. All American combat troops need to come home.Only with re-election could Obama achieve the meaningful realignment in American politics which he foresaw in his recent State of the Union address.Progressive political forces need to begin to plan for what comes after Obama: an age of renewal and enlightenment or a return to the greedy kelptocracy and perpetual wars of Bush & Cheney.
Margaret, Michigan was full of "Reagan Democrats" dealing with an economy just slightly better than it is now. Signs saying, "Last one out of Michigan, turn out the lights." The middle-class was being squeezed by Big Labor (UAW, MEA) and Big Entitlements, and many Democrats felt we'd come to the end of what we could contribute to the Great Society.Also, Carter was president, and, while I find much to admire about him, he was like a nagging gramma (turn down the heat, put on a sweater, stop driving those expensive cars, the world is a mess and you better face up to it). Americans were in the mood for simple-minded optimism, and Reagan's "morning in America" and "shining city on a hill" resonated with people. He made them (not me) feel cheerful and gave them permission to ignore a lot of problems.I think that's why Palin does NOT resonate with people in the way Reagan did. She gripes, she complains, she raises fears. In bad times, that doesn't play with wide swaths of people.
"I didnt know anyone who voted for himor admitted voting for him."This is hyperbole, right? I can't imagine anyone living such a sheltered life. Though I do agree with the larger point that there are noteworthy similarities between SP and RR.
MP: Hyperbole? not really. I did say "admitted voting for him." Perhaps people were afraid to say so. Yes, Jean, we've heard about paranoid politics, but it seems to me delusional politics was what was on offer in the Reagan campaign. And we still live with the after-life of trickle down economics and the anti-ballistic missile (Star Wars), and of course the view that everything is right and good about what is going on at home and abroad!
Margaret, I think Reagan offered familiar and comfortable delusions--America, proud, free, unfettered by big gummint vs. the USSR, an old reliable enemy around which you could spend a lot of money on nutty military R&D like the neutron bomb and Star Wars to protect you against nuclear attacks from an adversary that, in reality, was already crumbling from the inside. People rejected Carter and his bogeymen--want in the Third World, energy shortages, and instability in the Middle East--because they were the reals ones, and Americans can't handle those. That's why our markets are flooded with Chinese crap, why we're paying over $3 per gallon for gas, and why the Middle East is a big tinderbox.For Palin, EVERYthing is a potential bogeyman, and when she finally turns out to be right about one of these things--you can't flip a coin without its coming up tails at least once in awhile--she'll claim that as a victory and try to parley that into political currency.Her tactics remind me of that story about William Randolph Hearst, who used to run through his news rooms periodically yelling, "Get excited, everybody!" Ultimately, he was too weird to succeed in American politics (and, takes a pretty high level of weird), and so is Palin. Palin is great burlesque, but I prefer Judge Judy.
More gently thenSo long as progressives persist in categorizing the people who disagree with them into:The StupidThe IgnorantThe GullibleThe GreedyandThe Evilthey will continue to be a small minority of the population. The fact that progressive politics is overly influential (if not outright dominant) in almost every one of the opinion leading institutions - press, academia, entertainment, the legal profession - and still can't get a lasting foothold ought to send a strong signal. People don't buy what you are selling. All of this facile explanation of Ronald Reagan's appeal proves the point. Most of the people who voted for him simply wanted a different approach - their values, not their intelligence or mood, were different than yours.
As an Obama supporter I have to say that Gov. Huntsman worries me more than Gov. Palin. The silver lining is that Huntsman is probably too intelligent to survive the GOP primary. I say this with some sadness since I have been a registered Republican since 1978. Never voted for Reagan but I did choose McCain 1.0 in the 1999 primary.
DCD: Can we conclude that you live in Utah? Then what would you make of a Hunstman-Romney contest?
Sean, I agree with you about mischaracterizing one's opponents as evil and all the rest. But I believe Ms. Palin (Don't retreat, reload) is at least as guilty as anyone of doing exactly that.
@ Jean Raber:Your ragging on Jimmy Carter for being a messenger of peril in the world reminds me that research reveals that more depressive, negative people have a better grasp on reality than do happy, positive people, with positive(s) higher on delusional indices.Kinda supports my view that Ronnie and Nancy just made us more comfortable with our fictions about American life, and more willing to vote against our better interests.
P.S. I never voted for Reagan, never supported him, have always believe that he was a disaster for America. I diagnosed his Alzheimer's from afar while he was still in office when I encountered a Alzheimer's patient during my first clinical residency.Despite all my distaste for his politics, I could always take Ronnie more than I could stomach Nancy - what an aging Barbie doll!
Nancy has looked a bit blanked-out in the few current shots I've seen of her in the Reagan centennial fest. The few minutes of Reagan on the Newshour earlier this week being interviewed by a much younger Jim Lehrer just reminded me that he was always scarey. The nonchalant, I-just-woke-up and now-that-you-bring-it-up, response reminded me that I always feared he didn't have the foggiest idea of what was going on (that is, Reagan, not Lehrer!).
Irene,I am not talking about mischaracterization. I am saying that it seems that progressives actually believe this.Maybe a better way to put it is this. When I listen to progressives they seem to be saying the progressive point of view is reality. People that don't agree, are ignoring reality, ignorant of reality, fooled by someone about reality, intentionally distortorting reality because of avarice or greed or ill motives - or they are just to stupid to understand it.What I am saying is that this can never lead to political success and is a very bad way to convince people. A political point of view or ideology isn't reality it's a set of values that we bring to reality.For example, progressives love to say conservatives don't care about poverty, or alternatively and frequently, don't recognize or understand the reality of poverty.Since he's what brought this up, I will use Reagan as an example. In the first instance, it is silly to claim that he, for example, understood the reality of poverty less than someone like Ted Kennedy, since he actually lived it as a child. As for caring about poverty, it's well known that he felt most of the great society programs were detrimental, but by the same token, he was well known for writing pretty sizeable personal checks to individuals in financial difficulty. Contrast this with the current president who advocates for more poverty programs while members of his own family live in poverty.It's not a question of knowing or caring about poverty, but about what to do about it and what social, moral, and ethical values will should prevail in the process. People you disagree with don't have to be sinister, ignorant, or stupid, they can just be wrong or not share your values.As for Palin, I don't endeavor to defend her. I don't like her much, and hope she doesn't run for president. However. I don't think the phrase you mention is meant to vilify anyone - i.e. that her political opponents deserved to be shot - it's a metaphor for continuing to be on the offensive, nothing more.
"Your ragging on Jimmy Carter for being a messenger of peril in the world reminds me that research reveals that more depressive, negative people have a better grasp on reality than do happy, positive people, with positive(s) higher on delusional indices."Hmm, then I must be extremely well-grounded in reality. I've been depressed and pessimistic since I was about six.However, negativity, I hope, does not mean I can't tell the difference between criticism of ideas and personal insults directed at Nancy Reagan, now a frail-looking private citizen dealing with a sad rift in her family at the end of her life. Leave her alone.@ others: I tire of equation of criticism of Sarah Palin with with demonizing her, and of unsubstantiated, paranoid and senseless statements about how "progressives" control every influential aspect of life, even though nobody's buying their party line. If progressives DO control all these spheres of influence--which has yet to be proved by some means other than fevered imagination--SOMEbody must be buying it.
Jean, I will take your words to heart about NR, but the idea that she is a "private citizen," is hard to credit--the madonna of Reaganism!
Margaret, Nancy Reagan was a loyal wife, and she believed in Reagan's ideas. is it so surprising that she became the spokesperson for the pair of them for a time? I wasn't a Reaganite, and I certainly never found any kind of inspiring about Nancy Reagan. Certainly, her efforts to promote stem cell research put her at odds with many Catholics on that issue.But I can't see making catty remarks about an elderly lady or dragging her into the same arena with Sarah Palin. It just strikes me as kind of sad.
Jean,I don't think people equate criticism with demonization of Palin. Most equate demonization of Palin with demonization of Palin.Like I say, I don't care for the woman and I don't think she is presidential material, but a lot of the "criticism" is personal and nasty. It's not enough to say she's unqualified to be president, her "critics" mock her and say she's to stupid too be president based on almost nothing.As for your concern over my "paranoia" about progressives controlling "every aspect" of life. I don't say the control "every aspect." I said they dominate many of the opinion leading institutions. Besides my own observations, which you think are fevered imagingings, I point to independent poll after independent poll that shows these institutions are dominated by self-identified liberals. We can look at political contributions if you like, where the money flow is extraordinarily one sided.As for paranoia, I think you missed my point. I'm not paranoid, I don't fear this too much. It's just that it is striking that self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by 2 to 1 despite this influence. Why?I think it is because the progressive way of thinking and world view is not terribly persuasive when it bumps up against people's experience. It's hard to convince people that what will solve their problems is more state control of things after they've made a few visits to the DMV, tried to get a zoning variance, or spent a couple hours on the phone with an IRS agent.That's why Reagan's message was successful. It comported with people's experience and it spoke to their aspirations.
"Her 'critics' mock her and say shes to stupid too be president based on almost nothing."I wouldn't call Palin's inability to answer simple questions in the Katie Couric interview "almost nothing." There's actually a reason people make fun of her, and to pretend there isn't, is ludicrous.I have never had a bad experience at the DMV, with the bureaucrats who helped us get Medicaid for our kid, or the local health department. I've gotten far more headaches from dealing with insurance companies, my DSL tech help (who barely speak English), and the cardiologist who gouged us $500 for an ECG--all agencies of your beloved private sector free enterprise.I wish I could rave on, but I gotta get my kid to a jazz concert. I continue to hope your boys are well and hope if they will be home soon.
FYI, NR was born on July 6, 1921 - that's close enough to 90 in my book.I'm not defending her politics but just providing one wee bit of information that helps explain why she looks a "bit blanked-out." God forbid I should live to that age but, if I do, I hope I can present myself reasonably close to how she does generally.
Oh you Nancy R. Lovers!!! Whoever said Barbie above has it right. Jimmy Mac: you hanker after the flawless skin? the flaming red lipstick? the perfect coiffure. We should strive to look approximately our ages so as not to confuse people!
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.
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