Because his insistence, his lawlessness, of he, trying to get his way, it tramples our constitution—so—from debt—and I won’t even get into all the details of everything. But from debt.
—Sarah Palin, Freedom Summit, Jan. 24, 2015
C-SPAN has the video and transcript. It’s pretty breathtaking. Jon Stewart did a great job making fun of it. It’s not just the bits like you see above where her sentences were incoherent; it’s also where her entire train of thought just rambles aimlessly around. It was reported that her teleprompter broke—well, that’s happened to Obama, who did fine, and Clinton, who just sailed through magnificently. And considering how much Palin has utterly sneered at Obama for using a teleprompter at all, I don’t think she really deserves a break for this, if the teleprompter indeed broke.
The thing is, when I heard it, I laughed, but was not in any way surprised. It was simply what I expected from her. Palin’s word salad and rhetorical wandering is nothing new. No, what surprised me was how some conservatives, after six years of so much exposure to Palin, only now recognize that she is a moron.
Matt Lewis wrote a piece which got a lot of attention, admitting that finally, after years and years, he has realized that Palin is a schmuck. Noting her nearly incomprehensible speech at the summit, he conceded, “Demosthenes, she is not.” Ya think?
Lewis, despite writing a contrite retreat from Palin, nevertheless attempts throughout to excuse, rationalize, and justify the support given to Palin by him and others. He stresses the times she did not sound like an idiot. He makes it sound like almost all conservatives abandoned Palin as quickly as possible in late 2008. He dredges up samples of his writings which were not entirely supportive. You come away with the impression that he and almost all other conservatives realized long ago she was unworthy of support, despite the fact that he is trying to explain why the exact opposite was in fact true. In short, he does not so much explain why it took him so long to see the obvious as much as he tries to whitewash the fact that he did in fact miss the obvious, for more than half a decade.
And obvious it was. Incredibly obvious. It so happens that I have a blog, and I can look back at my reporting from that time. And yes, it became quickly clear that from the very beginning, Palin was a morass of scandal, idiocy, and nonsense. Anyone with a shred of sense could have seen it immediately.
It only took a day after McCain announced her as his running mate to catch her in her first big lie—that she had opposed the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Two days in, another lie—that, as mayor, she had not terminated the Wasilla librarian and the police chief; it was later revealed that she fired the police chief for trying to curb drunk driving and promote gun safety, and the librarian for refusing to ban certain books. By day three, we were learning a lot about the state trooper scandal. By day four, the McCain campaign was lying not just about her Bridge to Nowhere lie, but also about how she never supported Ted Stevens, when she clearly had. Five days in, we heard Palin’s utterly bizarre story about how she delayed a high-risk childbirth after her water broke so she could give a political speech and then take a slow series of flights and car travel to a small local hospital in Wasilla. That and the Palins’ associations with a secessionist movement.
So, it did not take long to see that Palin was failing miserably in the role of vice presidential candidacy, the major part of which is making the ticket look good, or at least not worse. She was nothing but embarrassment from day one, and it never stopped. In fact, Palin had not even displayed her worst skills as a speaking representative for her campaign.
It was only two weeks after joining the campaign that Palin touted Alaska’s proximity to Russia as good reason to believe she would make a capable leader:
PALIN: … And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors. We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?
PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?
PALIN: Well, I’m giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.
She then tried to dodge by pivoting to energy policy; Gibson hauled her back, asking if she had met with any foreign leaders, to which she replied that “international trade activities bring in many leaders of other countries.” After a minute more of dodging, she admitted that she had never met any of them.
Later in the interview, her lack of political knowledge was further revealed:
GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: [pause] In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.
She obviously had no clue what the “Bush Doctrine” was; her “in what respect” response was clearly an attempt to get the interviewer to fish her out of hot water by telling her. Gibson almost fell for it, but caught himself and did not give her a break on that.
By now, any self-respecting sentient being would realize that Palin was way out of her depth. But hey, let’s give her a chance. Give her two weeks to prep and drill, to take the crash course in Politics 101, so she could have a lightweight interview without looking foolish. Not to mention, come up with a halfway decent way to deal with the foreign policy question.
Here’s how she did, just 4 weeks after joining the ticket, two weeks after the Russia comment:
COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It’s funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don’t know, you know … reporters.
PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.
COURIC: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.
PALIN: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…
COURIC: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?
PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.
Seriously. She not only doubled down on the whole “Russia is next door to Alaska, therefore I am strong in foreign policy” idea, but she then claims that Vladimir Putin flying over her head gives her foreign policy credentials as well. Despite the fact that a quick check of air routes makes it clear that flights from Moscow fly over the Atlantic and come nowhere near Alaska. Not that she’d notice if an Aeroflot flight flew over her head in any case.
Additionally, you can see that her word salad style of speaking is not just a recent thing, you can see clear elements of it in her speaking shown above. Really, read that last paragraph, check out the wording, try to figure out what the hell she means when she says “we send those out.”
No, the audacious stupidity Palin demonstrated was immediately apparent—so much so that Tina Fey, to get outrageous laughs from her audience, only had to quote Sarah Palin verbatim.
I really cannot stress enough how breathtakingly manifest it was that Palin was an idiot. I wrote and asked aloud many times in the years since then how conservatives could possibly listen to this person and still take her seriously.
But no, instead of cringing, they actually gushed. They loved her winking and folksy expressions, as if the gibberish she spouted was somehow astutely charming.
Seriously, if Obama had chosen the Democratic twin of Palin, there would have been cries of outrage and despair from the faithful from day one. Possibly some would hold out for a few weeks, but few if any would stay beyond the whole Russia thing.
Conservatives, however, not only stayed on with her through that, some of them actually came to like her better than McCain! And while some let go after the failed election bid, most kept on giving her love and support. She maintained her position as a popular movement figure for years—even well after it became clear that her first priority was to cash in.
And although that popularity waned quite a bit over time, the fact remains that she was still invited to speak at the Freedom Summit, and has appeared at numerous high-level conservative events—hell, she was the keynote speaker at the 2014 CPAC conference, and still appears to be slated for the 2015 CPAC coming later this month.
It is not really so amazing that Palin has retained so much support for six years; what really takes you breath away is that she kept support for six months. Six years is so inconceivable that you cannot register astonishment simply due to the numbness of such long-sustained shock.
To Matt Lewis, I can only say, nice attempt to cover up the fact that you championed an obvious lunatic for several years. It still does not explain how you somehow overlooked the obvious for so long.