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Sarah Palin's meanest critics: The conservative elite

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By Colbert I. King
Friday, December 3, 2010

The recent attacks on Sarah Palin by establishment conservatives make her Democratic opponents seem like wusses. The prospect of a Palin presidential candidacy in 2012 has obviously spooked the GOP elite. But do they have to be so mean?

"What man or mouse with a fully functioning human brain and a resume as thin as Palin's would flirt with a presidential run?" MSNBC "Morning Joe" host and former Florida Republican representative Joe Scarborough fumed in a Politico guest column this week.

" 'A-LASK-ahhhh - I love this state like I love my family.' Except that [Palin] didn't give her family up after governing for two-and-a half years, so that she could get a Fox News contract, and make 100 grand per speech, and write two books in a year, and drag her entire family onto a tacky reality show." That from the conservative Weekly Standard's Matt Labash last week.

"After the 2008 campaign, [Palin] had two things she had to do. She had to go home to Alaska and study, and she had to govern Alaska well. Instead, she quit halfway through her first term and shows up in the audience of 'Dancing with the Stars' and other distinctly non-presidential venues," sneered my Post colleague George F. Will on "ABC This Week with Christiane Amanpour" on Sunday.

Things have reached the point where Foxnews.com contributor John Lott asked in a column, "Why Does the Media Love to Pick on Palin?"

Well, it's not all the media, and the hardest hits are coming from conservatives. They are questioning her judgment, and some think she's, well, low on smarts.

In defending Ronald Reagan against a Palin putdown of the former president as "an actor," Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "The point is not 'He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,' though that is true."

Take that, Saint Sarah of Wasilla.

But are the attacks fair?

I am no fan of Sarah Palin, but not because of her slips of the tongue or gaffes. Palin is a gifted politician. She's gained prominence and political clout, however, by skillfully playing to popular prejudices with wild claims. "Death panels" come to mind. In her political behavior, Palin flirts with demagoguery. That makes her no laughing matter.

But does that account for the harsh treatment she's receiving at the hands of the conservative establishment? Those same conservatives don't seem bothered by her extremism when it's directed toward President Obama and the Democrats.

Their opposition to Palin smacks of something else. Call it what it is: elitism.

Palin, on the cusp of a possible presidential run, now finds herself facing a solid wall of conservatives who believe that, by virtue of their intellect, experience and such distinctive attributes as cultural tastes and social standing, they are her superiors.

They refuse to take her seriously and believe she shouldn't take herself seriously, either.

That opposition, by the way, is insulting, not only to Palin but to her supporters as well.

Palin is no accidental celebrity. Her star power didn't flame out after 2008. She has since earned her place in the sun. In the past two years, she has developed a following that far outnumbers the supporters of those conservative elites who now shun her.

Her 2010 campaigning helped strengthen the Republican Party's grip on Capitol Hill. Sure, some of her midterm endorsements flopped. But Palin-supported candidates won more contests than they lost. And don't forget, many of the 59 million Americans voting for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008 did so because of her.

Ah, but let's "hope she'll stay there" in Alaska, as former first lady Barbara Bush suggested recently. Or make Palin a talk-show host or "the new Oprah," as the National Review's Mona Charen wrote.

Anything but a bid for the presidency.

I wouldn't want to see Sarah Palin anywhere near the White House, let alone in the Oval Office with a nuclear arsenal at her disposal. That's not a likely scenario anyway, given her low standing among independents and Democrats.

But the notion of a phalanx of conservative elites - Palin called them "blue bloods" - standing between her and the GOP nomination because they perceive her as inferior in intellect and social and political standing is pure snobbery.

At bottom, their real slander is against Palin and her slice of the American electorate, captured in H.L. Mencken's caustic observation: "As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

So mean.

kingc@washpost.com


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