Palin’s moronic remark about Reagan

(Note, November 9: my discussion with a Palin defender who thinks I was unfair to her continues.)

Peggy Noonan writes:

Conservatives talked a lot about Ronald Reagan this year, but they have to take him more to heart, because his example here is a guide. All this seemed lost last week on Sarah Palin, who called him, on Fox, “an actor.” She was defending her form of political celebrity—reality show, “Dancing With the Stars,” etc. This is how she did it: “Wasn’t Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn’t he in ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor.”

There are so many stupid and insulting things in Palin’s statement that one could go on at length about them. But let’s keep it simple.

Ronald Reagan had a successful career as a movie actor. Then he went into politics and became governor of California for eight years. Then he continued writing and speaking about national politics for several years. Then he was elected president. Reagan did not leave the governorship of California, and then make Bedtime for Bonzo, and then run for president. But for Palin’s idiotic analogy between herself and Reagan to hold up, that’s what he would have had to do.

Folks, this is not a woman with the brains to run a country, ok?

- end of initial entry -

Rex W. writes:

Subject: When did you become a liberal?

I have read VFR daily for about a year and was shocked to see that even you have fallen victim to cultural leftism.

Regarding Sarah Palin, you wrote, “this is not a woman with the brains to run a country, ok?”

The technocratic left insists on “intelligence” in politicians (which we know is better defined “credentialed-ness”) and this has seeped over to many so-called conservatives.

One of the founding principles of our nation was that THIS country did not need to be “run”. That we did not need someone with “brains” to tell us what to do.

LA replies:

I don’t know where you could have gotten the notion that America’s Founders were Sarah Palin-type populists, except from today’s “conservatives.” The Founders all believed that the leaders of the government should be marked by two qualities above all others: “intelligence” and “virtue.” Now “intelligence” had a somewhat different meaning back then. It meant more like what we mean by knowledge or information rather than brain power. But there was always an overlap between the two definitions.

Also, while the Founders would not have used the phrase “run the country,” or “run the government,” the concept was certainly not alien to them. The presidency was specifically designed under the Constitution to be an energetic office, not a passive office.

Rex W. replies:

I wish I could show you screen captures of my drafts as I wrote that message. You will have to take my word for it. I had written “I am not so naive as to think that the founders were Tea Party-style populists”. You are exactly right and I knew it even as I wrote my letter, but I was so convinced I had made a valid point that I sent it anyway. I still think I have something of a point but I don’t know exactly what it is. Something along the lines of “Wasilla and the state of Alaska both seem to be doing alright despite her lack of brains.”

Thank you for your reply.

Murray L. writes:

A little context, please. Palin was responding to the word “gravitas,” as in Rove’s remark that she lacks “gravitas” to be president. It’s a word that makes me gag every time I hear it, like “closure” or “iconic”; and I have no doubt that Palin felt the same when she heard it, because her quick reply was directed to that word. No “gravitas”? How much gravitas is there in Reagan’s “Bedtime for Bonzo”? That was the limit of her response. Anyone who thinks that she doesn’t know about Reagan’s career, his achievements, or stature simply has it in for her. My guess is that he would have been delighted by her quick retort to a hostile and pretentious political jab.

LA replies:

“Anyone who thinks that she doesn’t know about Reagan’s career, his achievements, or stature simply has it in for her.”

There you have the typical attitude of those who identify with Palin. There can be no valid criticisms of her. Any criticism comes from “having it in for her.”

My remark about the inappropriateness and stupidity of her Reagan analogy stands.

Palin supporters have two options here. They can acknowledge that her Reagan comment was dumb; or they they can deny that it was dumb, and so make themselves look dumb.

OneSTDV writes:

I discussed the left’s focus on credentialed “intelligence” last week:

First, they simply make the association between intelligence and good governance without any real reasoning behind it. They merely assert the necessity of intelligence and use that as a means of advancing “suitable” candidates. I’d classify this tactic as a reverse ad hominem. Then, to ensure the cycle repeats, liberals champion the association between intelligence and elite college attendance. Liberals convince us that Ivy League schools imbue their students with some mystical cognitive aptitudes and the public should trust these individuals accordingly. Now, the avenue to political power passes through an exclusive bottleneck that elites themselves control. And in this insular environment, the elite can indoctrinate a whole new generation, bequeathing all the absurdities of leftism unto these pliable and eager youths.

LA replies:

I said nothing about “credentialed intelligence.” I spoke of intelligence, period, and of the evident lack of it in her comments about Reagan.

November 9

Murray L. replies to LA:

Inflating my argument into “the typical attitude of those who identify with Palin” is an evasion of what I actually said regarding the point of her remark. It allows you to assume, incorrectly, that I belong to an unthinking mass of people who brook “no valid criticisms of her” (“valid” is another self-serving evasion), and it is on a par with the inflation of Palin’s rejoinder into an expression of her ignorance of who and what Reagan really was. Put another way, I don’t see how you get from my defense of Palin’s retort to the “gravitas” argument to your either/or conclusion that her supporters have to acknowledge her remark was “dumb” or “make themselves look dumb.” Your intemperate choice of words, first “moronic” and now “dumb,” suggests, at least to me, that there is something visceral at work in your reaction to Palin that does not square with “valid criticisms of her.” Regarding Palin and Reagan, I note a November 9 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on her joining “the monetary policy debate,” in particular the observation that “Mrs. Palin’s remarks may have the beneficial effect of bringing the dollar back to the center of the American political debate, not to mention of the GOP economic platform. Republican economic reformers of the 1970s and 1980s—especially Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp—understood the importance of stable money to U.S. prosperity.”

LA replies:

I’m sorry, but your comment DID show “the typical attitude of those who identify with Palin.” She made an extraordinarily stupid remark. Instead of admitting that it was stupid, you defended it, and you said that my criticism was an expression of bias against Palin. If I were biased against Palin, I would not have taken her side many times against those who really are Palin haters. But I have done that. I also have repeatedly quoted her approvingly when she says good things, which is not something I would do if I were biased against her.

I do not deny the reality of Palin hatred. It’s a fearsome phenomenon that I’ve often written about. But Palin defenders tend to interpret all criticisms of Palin as expressions of Palin hatred.

Also, calling a moronic comment moronic is not visceral, but accurate.

LA continues:

Since September 2008, I have consistently and simultaneously done two things re Palin: (1) I have stated a variety of reasons why I think she is not qualified for national office and why I think she has damaged conservatism; and (2) I have defended her from what I see as vicious and hateful personal attacks. I have yet to see a strong Palin supporter who is capable of processing the idea that a person can do both of those things.

Laura Wood writes:

The bottom line here is that Palin was elected to be governor of Alaska and left that office without fulfilling her term. She is now making lots of money showing the splendors of Alaska on cable TV. That’s surreal.

LA replies:

Solid point. And not a single Palin supporter is bothered by this.

By the way, her term as governor, or what would have been her term as governor, doesn’t end until next month.

James N. writes:

“I have yet to see a strong Palin supporter … “

Hey! What am I? Chopped liver? ;-)

LA replies:

You are a steady Palin supporter, but you are not passionate about it. You do not act as though you are driven by personal identification with her. You are not bent out of shape by criticism of her.

James N. replies:

Actually, I do sort of identify with her, IN THIS SENSE ONLY—I think her love of country is similar to my own, that her friends and her political mentors/friends have views similar to mine. I think that it is possible—not yet a certainty—that Obama’s election marks a change in the way we choose Presidents, making the personal more than the political.

As I’ve said before, I have a high degree of confidence that a Palin administration would be staffed by the right people—just as I had a high degree of confidence, sadly now proven accurate, that the second and third tiers of an Obama administration would contain a very high fraction of bad people.

Anyway, I like to stick up for her when she’s attacked, and I will admit that I overlook things like the Reagan quote more than I should.

Murray L. replies to LA:

You have not related to a single point I made in either of my replies other than to insist that you are right and I am wrong. If you think that I “DID” reveal a “typical attitude” about Palin that I explicitly said I do not share and that your choice of the words “moronic” and “dumb” was not emotionally charged and intemperate but objectively precise then you are beyond argument, at least where our interchange is concerned.

LA replies:

Even the word “dumb” is emotionally charged? Doesn’t this show to you that you are the over-identified Palin defender I said you were?

Nile M. writes:

I’ve been following View From The Right since around July of this year. I find the discussions on website informative, even the few I don’t agree with. Despite the small difference of opinion, I consider myself a Conservative Traditionalist (should both of those be capitalized?!). [LA replies: I don’t capitalize them.]

Your latest discussion regarding Sarah Palin has piqued my interest in sending a comment.

I’ll set this up that I consider myself a strong supporter of Sarah Palin, and would support her candidacy for President, either in 2012, or any future year her ambition drives her to seek it. I reside in Iowa, and am pursuing avenues to help grow Palin’s political presence in the run up to the Iowa straw poll and caucuses should she choose to run. I will add that I do have a doubt or two about her qualifications; but I have more doubts about other contenders to the office.

While you describe her comment about Reagan as moronic, I don’t think she was at that time comparing herself to Reagan, or was at a loss of Reagan’s resume as an actor and politician. [LA replies: Of course she was comparing herself to Reagan, in the sense of saying that Reagan was an entertainer, and so is she. And the analogy, as I’ve said over and over, is remarkably stupid, because Reagan was an entertainer before he went into politics. He did not continue as an entertainer AFTER he went into politics. He did not become governor of California, and then make movies, and then run for president. Once he went into politics, he left entertainment behind. But Palin has gone from being governor of Alaska to being an entertainer even as she continues in politics. In order to justify herself, she is falsely comparing herself to Reagan.]

I personally think it is reasonable to expect fair criticisms of Sarah, her qualifications and/or lack thereof, and policies she has pursued and will pursue. What I find outrageous is the characterization of her as “moronic.” She was elected mayor twice, and elected Governor of the State of Alaska. Aside from the political hit job of an interview by Katie Couric, I think she performed more than adequately as a Vice Presidential nominee. It’s documented numerous times in the media she left the office because she was politically paralyzed because of Leftists connected to Obama (none other than Pete Rouse, Obama’s new Chief of Staff) were using Alaska’s ethics statutes to inundate a potential opponent with legal bills to lead to Sarah’s financial ruin. She’s been politically effective as an ex-Governor in re-invigorating grassroots Republicanism.

In criticizing her intelligence, we forget at one point a college education was not a prerequisite for the Presidency. I’ll point to the new Governor of Wisconsin as perhaps a shift to the old paradigm; he quit college in his senior year because he had a fantastic career opportunity. His ambition has taken him to the Governor’s mansion of his State at the age of 43, without returning to school to finish his college degree. I watched his victory celebration on YouTube (; Scott Walker has the air and ambition of a future Presidential candidate.

Sarah may or may not be qualified for President. The truth is the Republican caucus and primary voters, then the national electorate will decide if she’s qualified for the office she may or may not seek. I’m not convinced she will run yet, but all indicator suggest Sarah Palin is laying the groundwork for a campaign. When, and if, she declares her intentions for the Presidency, I fully expect her to say she never conceded the 2008 election.

LA replies:

I did not say that Palin is moronic. I said that her comment was moronic, and that the moronic comment reinforces the view that she lacks the intelligence and knowledge to be president.

Also, I have repeatedly stated in previous discussions that Palin is not a moron, contrary to what many people do say about her. I’ll say it again. Palin is not a moron. But she lacks the intelligence to be the leader of a country.

A reader writes:

It is embarrassing to see men of the intelligence of your commenter Murray L. denying the obvious. Forget the substance of Palin’s remark about Reagan, and look at the babbling brook of broken thoughts that continually flows from her.

LA replies:

I like that—her broken thoughts flow from her continually.

November 10

SPC writes:

I don’t follow your argument here. Why was Palin’s remark about Reagan indicative of her lack of intelligence? Palin’s point surely was that there are times when not even the serious are serious. What’s wrong with that?

LA replies:

I’ve explained it twice. If you still don’t understand my point, I’m afraid that we have what is euphemistically known as a failure to communicate

David H. writes:

As a far right traditional conservative I understand when you point out sarah’s liberal side. However sometimes you seem to take on the snark of the left. This I find painful because even though she might not be my first choice for president I feel a strong attraction to her because of her love of the people and country. Reagan is her main hero. She praises him in all of her speeches. Its obvious she was just pointing out one of the things people were saying before he was elected 30 years ago. Also who is smarter Obama swooner Peggy Noonan or Sarah who has been fighting him? You might be driving ordinary readers like me away!

LA replies:

VFR deals with all kinds of topics which I presume are of interest to you. But, simply because I’m tough on Palin and say that in my opinion she lacks the qualities to be president, that alone might be enough to make you stop reading my site.

This, again, is a sign of the excessive personal identification with Palin that I have been discussing throughout this thread and since September 2008.

This phenomenon alone would lead me to oppose her candidacy, for the following reason. We lived through eight years of irrational conservative personal identification with and worship of Bush, and the thought of having another intellectually inadequate and liberal-leaning Republican president who was the object of a personality cult—as though we had learned NOTHING from the Bush disaster—is more than I can bear.

November 11

Rex W. writes:

You wrote,

“There you have the typical attitude of those who identify with Palin. There can be no valid criticisms of her. Any criticism comes from having it in for her.”

I for one do not have this attitude. There are valid criticisms of her and the remark you highlighted was in fact dumb. I somewhat question the impact of her dumbness on her ability to be President of the United States, which seems like a largely ceremonial role these days, but that is neither here nor there.

I agree with commenter David H.:

“However sometimes you seem to take on the snark of the left. This I find painful because even though she might not be my first choice for president I feel a strong attraction to her because of her love of the people and country.”

This is exactly what it is. I do not feel an “attraction for her” so much as an “identification and a feeling of solidarity with someone who loves the american people and the idea of her country”* as much as she claims to. So yes, it just upsets me on some level to hear cruel things coming from the left about her. But it has nothing to do with her as Sarah Palin, I would feel the same about anyone I felt the same genuine “vibe” from. Further, it doesn’t even have to be for a person. I am an atheist but I almost have the same feeling in the abstract when people make disparaging remarks about Christians. And also that is not to say that what you said was cruel, it was true, but it triggered the same instinctive reaction. And quite strongly it would seem.

* that is the idea of her country first and foremost as a beacon of human achievement, not the idea of her country as nothing but a backwards racist cabal loved by the likes of Michelle Obama only now that it is foolishly allowing itsself to be destroyed by liberalism.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 08, 2010 12:02 PM | Send

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