A question for VFR readers who are Palin supporters

(Comments begin here.)

The question concerns Sarah Palin’s call for President Obama to fire White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel because of a remark the latter made at a meeting with left-wing activists.

The fracas began with a January 26 story in the Wall Street Journal about the friction between liberal (i.e., leftist) groups and the White House over what the liberal groups perceived as Obama’s failure to be sufficiently liberal as president:

The friction was laid bare in August when Mr. Emanuel showed up at a weekly strategy session featuring liberal groups and White House aides. Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul.

“F—ing retarded,” Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants. He warned them not to alienate lawmakers whose votes would be needed on health care and other top legislative items.

In response to that report, Palin said that Obama should fire Emanuel for insulting people with mental disabilities. Here is the statement that she posted at her Facebook page:

I would ask the president to show decency in this process by eliminating one member of that inner circle, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, and not allow Rahm’s continued indecent tactics to cloud efforts. Yes, Rahm is known for his caustic, crude references about those with whom he disagrees, but his recent tirade against participants in a strategy session was such a strong slap in many American faces that our president is doing himself a disservice by seeming to condone Rahm’s recent sick and offensive tactic.

The Obama Administration’s Chief of Staff scolded participants, calling them, “F—-ing retarded,” according to several participants, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities—and the people who love them—is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.

Now, two things strike me about Emanuel’s remark to which Palin objected:

First, Emanuel was not talking about retarded people; he was using the immature and childish expression “retarded” to refer to the liberal activists to whom he was speaking as a way of saying that their position was very stupid.

Second, Emanuel said this in a private strategy session.

Yet Palin thought (at least until Emanuel’s subsequent apology, I’m not sure if she changed her position after he apologized) that Emanuel should lose his job over this remark that had nothing to do with actual retarded people, and was made at a private meeting.

So, my question to Palin supporters is this:

Do you

(a) agree with Palin’s statement that Emanuel should have been fired for the remark?

(b) disagree with Palin’s call for Emanuel to be fired, but still think that her position was reasonable, though you don’t personally agree with it?

(c) think that Palin’s demand that Emanuel be fired was unreasonable and out of line?

(d) think that Palin sounds as though she has flipped out and turned into a professional victimologist and PC speech cop who is on the same intellectual level as those who demand that people be fired for saying “niggardly” or “black hole”?

- end of initial entry -

After this entry was drafted but before it was posted, Ben W. wrote:

Isn’t Sarah Palin getting a little tiresome? Anytime someone says anything she feels she can “judge” she goes for it. Rahm and Rush use the word “retarded” and she goes after them. It appears as if she’s become the new moral guardian of our vocabulary. To her conservatism means liberalism squared, conservatism as the “proper” guardian of liberal values. Instead of ideas, she streams out virtue from her political being. A little too much—another three years of her and Obama … this is political hell!

LA replies:

That’s really good. Conservatives are people who, unlike liberal relativists, believe in absolute right and wrong, believe in moral judgment, and are devoted to upholding the order of their society. The order of our society is PC liberalism. Therefore Palin’s mission as a conservative is to exert moral judgment to uphold PC liberalism. She’s a conservative in service to liberalism.

There’s a saying that a liberal is a person who won’t take his own side in an argument. Well, Palin-type conservatives fill the breach. They will take the liberal’s side for him.

February 6 9:30 a.m.

James N., who has been a supporter of Palin, though not a passionate one, writes:

Yes, I was very disappointed at her reaction.

One very important aspect of liberty is the ability to shoot off your mouth, or even make a jackass out of yourself, without others invoking politics, the law, or the courts.

Should Mrs. Palin and others think badly of Rahm Emmanuel (if they don’t already)? Sure, be my guest. Should Rahm have to face the Grand Inquisitor, and then grovel?

THAT is tyranny.=

Laura Wood, who has been a strong critic of Palin, though sympathetic to her personally, writes:

This is conclusive evidence that Palin is cognitively impaired.

LA writes:

To quote again from Palin’s statement:

[Emanuel’s] recent tirade against participants in a strategy session was such a strong slap in many American faces that our president is doing himself a disservice by seeming to condone Rahm’s recent sick and offensive tactic.

But it was not a slap in the faces of mentally disabled people. The statement was not about mentally disabled people, and it was not intended to be heard by mentally disabled people. The statement was about, and was intended to be heard by, the liberal activists in the meeting with Emanuel to whom Emanuel was speaking. He was telling them that they were being very stupid. That’s all he meant. Suppose he had used a different expression. Suppose he had said that the liberal activists were “f**king stupid” instead of “f**king retarded.” Would Palin have then demanded that Obama fire Emanuel because Emanuel had smeared all stupid Americans?

Worse is Palin’s reference to “Rahm’s recent sick and offensive tactic.” She’s suggesting that Emanuel had some tactic involving the insulting of mentally disabled people. But of course there was no such tactic. Mentally disabled people were the furthest thing from Emanuel’s mind. What was on his mind were the liberal activists he was addressing, whom he was telling that they were being stupid and hurting Obama, and that they should stop.

So I have to say: Palin has sometimes said oddball things, such as when she said she had a feeling for foreign policy because she could see Russia from Alaska. Also, though I don’t think she is a great intellect, I have often defended her from the view that she is stupid. However, here she said something truly stupid.

Rick U. writes:

I have tried to be a supporter of Palin as the ‘normal American’ politician, but I always thought she was a terrible pick as VP by McCain. That said, why would Palin even bother with Emanuel’s tirade when Obama is out every day, lying to America in perfectly acceptable language. This leads me to conclude that the falsehoods Obama speaks on a daily basis, will only become an issue if Obama starts using foul language or insults “God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities”.

Larry T. writes:

I am not a Palin supporter, but her statement on Rahm Emanuel’s “F- retard” remark has given me more respect for her (or her advisors’) political acumen.

I am a fan of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, because I have seen that they work. Alinsky’s primary premise was that the ends justify the means, and anything that could be done to weaken or destroy one’s opponent was good.

“One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.”

Governor Palin is using the Alinsky template:

4. Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules …

10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition …

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

Who more than liberal Democrats sees racial, class or sexist slights everywhere? Remember how Trent Lott was driven from his leadership position for his fawning remarks to Strom Thurmond at Thurmond’s private 100th birthday party? The Democrats were all over him. Palin is “making the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” Put Emanuel on his back foot, apologizing, explaining on talking head shows why he was not slighting the mentally challenged is a good tactic for marginalizing his effectiveness. Politics is often the death of a thousand cuts. The negatives may become overwhelming, as when Van Jones removed himself from consideration for an Obama administration position. [LA replies: But getting Van Jones fired required nothing more than bringing out the truth about his record and statements; it did not involve adopting left-wing Alinskyite tactics, and that’s what you are advocating here.]

Rahm Emanuel is widely seen at being good at what he does and effective as Obama’s chief of staff. Using the Alinsky playbook, anything that can be done to weaken Emanuel may also weaken Obama. Good for Governor Palin. Her statement about the “death panels” was similarly effective. [LA replies: Again, Palin’s warning about “death panels” had nothing Alinskyite about it. She was making a valid criticism of Obamacare, namely that governement assurance of the supply of medical care to everyone inevitably requires government rationing of medical care in order to control costs, and such costs—and thus the need for rationing— become particularly acute near the end of life. If you don’t want government bureaucrats deciding who lives and who dies, then you must keep government out of medical care. It’s as simple as that.]

At one time I naively believed that we were all in this together, people of good will acting in good faith to find a way to govern the country. I believed that at the end of the day, we were working for a common goal and the argument was how best to achieve it. Boy, was I stupid. We are in a struggle for survival and need to use the best tools available to further our goals and frustrate our political enemies. [LA replies: I don’t think that making moronic statements and thus requiring one’s followers to support and justify one’s moronic statements is an effective political tactic. That is far too large a price to pay for the slight gain of hassling Rahm Emanuel for a day.]

Rick U. writes:

The Problem with Larry T.’s analysis is that it was Republicans who threw Lott under the bus. Oh sure, the Democrats were faux outraged, but it was Republicans, playing the liberal PC speech game, that ultimately lead to Lott’s fall. That’s the problem, you can’t beat the propagandist with better propaganda without becoming what you opposed in the first place. Once, you adopt the “ends justify the means” approach you become a relativist without a moral compass, i.e., a liberal.

LA replies:

Excellent point.

Ben W. writes:

1. How is it that the word “retarded” offends Palin more than the “f” word as in “f—ing retarded?”

2. Does anybody believe that Palin is consciously using political tactics such as Alinsky’s to force leftists to live up to their own standards? I think she honestly believes in those liberal standards herself and would force EVERYBODY to live up to them.

3. Why are we getting Palin all the time, everywhere? This daily dose of Palin is beginning to taste like cod liver oil.

The problem in this age of instant media—blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, Palin is in our face from morning to midnight. She pronounces judgment on every single little thing, BUT SHE DOESN’T HAVE THE INTELLECT TO ENGAGE US DAY IN AND DAY OUT ON SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES. She embarrasses conservatives through this daily stream of judgments and pronouncements.

Christians used to read a few verses of Scripture each day as their “daily devotionals.” Now it’s hearing the word of Palin—her concept of the daily devotional for us via Twitter and Facebook (and Fox—O’Reilly and Hannity). Even the Pope spaces out his speeches over the year rather than assaulting the media each day.

Someone should tell her to give it a rest, turn off the tap for a little while. It’s getting to be a little too much to be in the daily presence of her political persona radiating all that virtue (which by the way didn’t seem to affect her daughter).

LA replies:

Really good comment. It looks as though Palin by resigning in the middle of her term has really moved up: from a mere governor of a small, distant state to the author of a daily koran, attended to by the entire country.

Carol Iannone writes:

Amazingly good comment by Ben W., voicing my own feelings; just as she was too greedy in grasping the nomination before she was ready, now she’s greedy to show how worthy she is of all the attention she’s getting, except that what she has to show is limited.

Ben W. writes:

In the discussion of Palin, it appears to me that we really have three categories of political species. Perhaps a new political taxonomy is in order—liberals, conservatives and hybrids(?). Would you have a name for this “conservative who upholds liberal values?”

It’s a bit like the Prius car … can run on oil yet can run without it.

LA replies:

I don’t have a name off hand.

But so far, with the exception of James N., we’ve only had comments from Palin critics. I’m still interested in hearing how Palin supporters feel about her Rahm Emanuel statement.

Ben W. writes:

Carol Iannone is absolutely right. Palin is trying too hard to show that she has “the right stuff” and it isn’t coming through notwithstanding (or because of) the innumerable attempts.

Palin is using the “retarded” issue as a signature of her political persona, role, and image the same way that the Tebows are using their son Tim (the “unaborted” child who grows up to be a success). Similarly McCain used his POW status as his signature. For Palin it is Trig—“see how virtuous I am in having had this child—this should influence your politics, my fellow citizens.”

Now as to the word “retarded”—Rahm Emanuel did not say “those f—king retards.” He said “retarded” and although it may have the implied reference to mentally defficient people, it has slipped into our common parlance as “slow to develop, not fully developed, arrested development” with no reference to any particular type of people.

I for one have used this word, as in “that is a retarded method to solving this mathematical equation” or “that is a retarded approach to this moral quandary.” I cast no aspersion (even subconsciously Dr. Freud) on any living being. My family grew up with a mentally handicapped aunt who was the nicest, kindest person I have ever met. Never in a million years, would I dream of smirking at her—a woman whose decency shone through her eyes and her smile, a daughter of God cherished by our family and saved by our Lord and Savior. We have never used her in any fashion to make any kind of statement.

Underlying Palin’s criticism of Rahm I.’s use of the word is a self-reference to her—Trig as her signature moment. Enough is enough with Trig! Everyone has “special” needs—every child has “special” needs for which parents have to account. My sister could read at the speed of light and devoured seven books a week. We couldn’t find enough reading material for her fast enough—that was her “special” need. But my parents did not elevate her in attention above me the way Sarah fawns over Trig over and over. If I were one of her other children, I would bristle at this Palin trigonometry.

Her personal role underlies as a running (hidden) sub-commentary on her political role. As Carol Iannone pointed out, this “eagerness” and energy does not reveal any particular substance. Palin substitutes “virtue” for “intelligence” as if this could convince the electorate of her relevance.

LA replies:

Ben is really getting at Palin’s non-conservative, self-referential, victimological side. She’s too much about a politics of self-symbolism, not enough about a politics of substance. And that of course fits with the mentality of her more passionate fans, who support her primarily not for anything she stands for, but because they see her as “real” person, and somehow her realness can rescue the country. Ironically, chief among the promoters of this cult of personality have been the writers at the website called American Thinker.

Also, in the original version of Ben’s comment, he referred to Emanuel as “Rahm I.” explainig that he didn’t want to use his last name because “he is not that,” meaning he is not “God with us,” the meaning of the Hebrew word Emanuel. I felt that was too much for a comment, and changed it. What we are going to do, not use the last names of people if they offend us? (Hmm, I avoid using the last name of the president of Iran, not because it offends me, but because it’s too long, and I resist orthological servitude to our enemies.)

I learn from Wikipedia that Emanuel’s middle initial, “I.”, stands for Israel.

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

I’m beginning to feel sorry for Sarah. She’s out of her depth.

February 7

LA writes:

Laura Wood wrote:

This is conclusive evidence that Palin is cognitively impaired.

I just re-read Palin’s Facebook statement on Emanuel which is quoted at the beginning of this entry. I have several things to say:

1. The statement in and of itself is moronic. This is not a statement written by an intelligent person. Re-read the amazing first paragraph:

I would ask the president to show decency in this process by eliminating one member of that inner circle, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, and not allow Rahm’s continued indecent tactics to cloud efforts. Yes, Rahm is known for his caustic, crude references about those with whom he disagrees, but his recent tirade against participants in a strategy session was such a strong slap in many American faces that our president is doing himself a disservice by seeming to condone Rahm’s recent sick and offensive tactic.

Not just in the substance of the thought, but in the way she expresses herself, she sounds stupid. The odd sentence structure and inappropriate word choices (“I would ask the president to show decency in this process by eliminating one member of that inner circle, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, and not allow Rahm’s continued indecent tactics to cloud efforts”), would be bad enough if spoken aloud; but as part of something written for publication, they show, at best, a lack of a thoughtful intelligence.

2. The way her statement is written is a separate issue from its substance. So let us eliminate the odd word choices and reduce the statement to its substantive position, namely that Emanuel’s comment was the logical and moral equivalent of saying “nigger,” that the comment is a “slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities,” and therefore he should be fired from his job. If Palin had made such a statement, it would not necessarily be proof of a particular intellectual dysfunction on her part (that is, of a personal intellectual dysfunction as distinct from the general intellectual dysfunction shown by liberals). It would however be an example of political correctness run amuck, of the kind we expect to see on the left—in fact, it’s worse than any political correctness I recall seeing on the left. To repeat: she wants to have a high ranking government official fired from his job for a non-existent slur of mentally disabled people made in a private conversation. Palin has singlehandedly mapped out a whole new realm of PC.

3. To sum up so far: looked at as a whole, the statement is both stunningly stupid in its expression and extremely PC in its substance. If we remove the stupid expressions and reduce the statement to its substance, it is still extremely PC.

4. While my estimation of Palin’s intelligence has declined as a result of this statement, I will continue to defend her when people go over the top and call her simply a moron or a “dolt,” as happened recently. Yes, this statement was moronic. But—while she lacks high intelligence, and certainly lacks the intelligence to be seriously regarded as the national leader of conservatism, let alone as a possible president—she is not a moron. She is a person with some instinctive smarts and talents, and of course spirit, and I don’t like it when people try to deny that she has any brains at all or treat her as someone to be despised.

Laura Wood writes:

Of course I was being facetious when I said she was cognitively impaired. I think she is a person of average intelligence.

LA replies:

Why should anyone realize that you were being facetious?

Laura replies:

It was an innocent thing on my part. You make facetious statements and you assume people will get it all the time.

Of course, I meant she is cognitively impaired for someone who is a potential presidential candidate or a serious national leader.

Truthfully, she may have a slight language impairment, but generally I would not say she is below average intelligence. That would be too much.

February 9

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

I really appreciate how you examine the angles of statements (words) in such a way as to provide an all-rounded view of the subject, and provide the best possible conclusions from those statements. Not many people take the time (or interest) to do so.

Your approach is a little like how image makers (at least I) have been taught to analyze images. Almost in an abstract sort of way, covering all the angles and coming with the best analysis of the image. It could be positive or it could be negative, but the process is an important and ultimately a fair one.

I think this is what conservatives in the media are lacking—MSM or non-MSM.

February 10

Andrea C. writes:


I’m still here too—quite devotedly and grateful for your work. It’s complicated.

LA replies:

I’m glad to hear from another Palin supporter. I wouldn’t want commenters to be all of one mind on this. I was watching Palin’s interview with Chris Wallace from Fox News on Sunday morning (though I’ve only been able to find a video of the first ten minutes of it), and found it more engaging than her speech at the Tea Party convention the night before. I thought her answer on whether she wants to be the leader of the Tea Party movement was pretty canny. She said the Tea Party movement is not about having a leader or becoming a political party; it’s about a force pushing up from below to influence the major parties. She was quick with her answers and the words kept coming out, so she is at least preparing for her interviews.

There is no question in my mind (as I said after her O’Reilly interview a month or two ago), that she is planning to run for president. And her reply to Wallace about being willing to run makes it quasi official.

Notwithstanding my own statements that I don’t regard her as a plausible national leader, let alone as a genuine conservative leader, and that I wish the whole Palin phenomenon would go away, I acknowledge the possibility that she could be the next GOP nominee and the next president. Some Palin critics think it’s completely impossible for her to be elected. I don’t agree.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 06, 2010 12:33 AM | Send

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