There can be few tasks more invidious — or hopeless — than being called upon in a public forum to deny that you are stupid. This, of course, is what Sarah Palin has been called upon to do because of a new book whose most sensational revelation has so far been that the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, used the word "Negro" with reference to President Obama. Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, in effect claims that certain members of the McCain campaign team during the 2008 elections thought she was stupid — also dishonest, though that doesn’t appear to be quite so explosive an allegation. They have been able to sell the allegation of stupidity against Governor Palin as a scandal because someone supposedly on her own side was corroborating the view of her that was typical of the media and the Democrats from her first introduction to the public.
The allegation of stupidity against Republican politicians — from Dwight Eisenhower to Barry Goldwater to Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — has long been a favorite tactic of the intellectual left and of their willing allies in the somewhat less intellectual media, and there has rarely been any shortage of Republicans willing to burnish their own reputation for intelligence while currying favor with the media and the literati by seeming to confirm their view of the matter. Naturally, the media never think to ask what these people stand to gain by turning on their fellow Republicans or to treat their supposed revelations as anything but a triumphant vindication of what they imagine they have known all along.
In the same way, a few years ago Ambassador Joseph Wilson was treated as an unimpeachable witness against the Bush administration because it was thought that the administration had sent him to Niger in the first place. It hadn’t. But evidence that the CIA was playing its own game with the media and that Ambassador Wilson and his wife were being turned into overnight celebrities by aligning themselves with the anti-war left was ignored, or not thought to have any bearing on the truthfulness or relevance of their account of things. Likewise, the fact that the would-be scandal admirably served the political ends of those who were trumpeting it most loudly, though it would have been of supreme importance if it had been an oil company funding a scientific study skeptical about climate change, apparently had no bearing on the case of the Wilsons or any of the other of the myriad of scandal-fabricators during the Bush administration.
Now we find something of the political purposes behind the media’s traducing of Sarah Palin’s intelligence. As Byron York points out in the D.C. Examiner, desperate Democratic operatives afraid of losing a Senate seat are trying to "Palinize" the Massachusetts race between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown by doing their best to cook up a scandal about the fact that Mr Brown, the Republican, has not invited Mrs Palin to campaign for him. The now — and again — "controversial" former governor, thanks to Messrs Heilemann and Halperin and to "60 Minutes," can be represented as being harmful to Mr Brown’s campaign whether or not she comes to Massachusetts. In the latter case, he is being asked to proclaim that he does not want and would not accept her help.
The assumption is, of course, that the charge of stupidity against her must make Sarah Palin electoral poison, though if it does have any ill-effects, they weren’t enough to keep Eisenhower, Reagan or either of the Bushes out of office. David Brooks wrote an interesting column in The New York Times last week in which he thought he saw a new trend in American politics:
The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year. The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting. The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should "go our own way" has risen sharply.
Today in The Examiner, Noemie Emery notes that President Obama’s ivy league education and supposed high intelligence has done him precious little good during his first year in office. Maybe people are feeling just a little disillusioned with the claims of brainiacs to be able to fix all the things that are wrong with the country and the world. Oddly, neither Ms Emery nor Mr Brooks mentions Sarah Palin, but she could be the real story here. Being cast by the media as a dummy may yet prove to be a good career move for her.