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Who's afraid of pundit Palin?

Enjoy the pantheon of punditry, governor: It's more fun than being president

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Conservative Sarah Palin fans ask me why "the liberal media" are "so afraid" of the former Alaska governor. I, for one, am unafraid. Quite the opposite. As an unrepentant pundit, I am delighted that the former Republican vice presidential candidate refuses to rule out running for the presidency. I am also relieved that, so far, she does not appear to have a ghost's chance of actually winning.

As food for commentary, her recent weekend foray through Facebook, Fox News and the National Tea Party Convention leaves me with more choices than the proverbial mosquito in a nudist colony.

Let's see: Shall I take on her sarcastic dig during her Tea Party speech in Nashville at President Barack Obama for using a teleprompter during his speeches, as if there is something wrong with using a teleprompter? Shall I compare it to her scribbling little topic notes that hi-def cameras caught in her left palm and sarcastically praise, say, her apparent effort to save electricity? Nah, too easy.

How about her recent condemnation of the slur "retard"? I would applaud her unconditionally on that one, had she not put her own partisan conditions on it. On her Facebook page, she called on President Obama to fire his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for calling some liberal Democrats "f--ing retarded" for threatening attack ads against conservative Democrats over health reform. Palin was outraged enough to shun Machiavelli's advice against interrupting your enemies while they are destroying themselves.

"Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities - and the people who love them - is unacceptable," she wrote, "and it's heartbreaking."

Who could argue with Palin's call for "decency," especially when it comes from the mother of a developmentally disabled child? As the world knows, Palin's son, Trig, has Down syndrome. Emanuel properly apologized for using the R-word in the private meeting, just as President Obama apologized last year for comparing his bad bowling to the "Special Olympics" on a late-night talk show.

But, then conservative radio star Rush Limbaugh showed he had no problem with repeatedly calling liberal Democrats "retards" on-air as he mocked Emanuel. Check out the twists, turns and curly-Q's that Palin takes as she shoots through an Olympic luge run of logic, trying to slam Emanuel without stepping on the toes of her political ally:

"Rush Limbaugh was using satire," she said in a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, "I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with 'effing retards.'"

She should listen again. Limbaugh lambasted our "politically correct society" for "acting like some giant insult has taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards."

"I'm not going to apologize for it," he said, "I'm just quoting Emanuel. It's in the news. ... So now there's going to be a meeting. There's going to be a retard summit at the White House...." But, hey, Palin says, it's only "satire."

But, as headline-making news goes, Palin's palm-piloting and R-word outrage pales in significance compared to her foray during the Fox interview into national defense. She did not quite suggest that Obama should invade Iran, as some news reports seemed to indicate, but she did bring up an Iran invasion as something that could calm his opposition and help his re-election. Where did she pick up that notion? From a Pat Buchanan column, she said, which did little to reassure those of us who were relieved to see "Pitchfork Pat" lose both of his presidential bids.

Ironically, I do not entirely disagree with Palin fans who say her rise is Obama's fault. In their first year, Team Obama may have misread the need to reassure swing voters in these uncertain times that, even when solutions don't come quickly, you feel their pain.

A big mad-as-hell, throw-the-bums-out segment of the electorate hungers for some red- meat rhetoric in the way that Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan gave voice to grassroots frustrations. With his cool technocratic style and his stubborn concern for facts and compromise, Obama does not do that kind of "anger" well. "Sarah Barracuda," as her college basketball teammates called her, does it with a smile.

And she does it now as a commentator for Fox News. Welcome to the pantheon of punditry, governor. It's more fun than being president.

• E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@tribune.com, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.)



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