Yesterday, Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary’s chief politics blogger and former executive editor, defended Rep. Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who is running for president, from the attacks of liberals offended (as Tablet Magazine columnist Michelle Goldberg was) by Bachmann’s passionate homophobia. “That she is an evangelical will be enough to incite liberals to blast her as an extremist,” he argued, “especially Jewish liberals, who will not be impressed by the fact that Bachmann is not only a strong supporter of Israel but made her first trip there when she was a teenager with a Christian youth group.”
Surprisingly, however, Tobin defended Bachmann by favorably comparing her to Sarah Palin, in part because they share not only similar beliefs and appeals but the same gender. (I’m only comparing Palin and Bachmann on the basis of their sex because Tobin did—it’s his argument I’m parsing.) While the details of Bachmann’s life “can be woven together into a narrative that makes Bachmann look like a nutcase,” Tobin wrote, “the problem with such efforts is that unlike Palin, after more than a decade as a legislator, [Bachmann] can’t be dismissed as a political flash in the pan or an empty suit. … As even her foes in Congress and in Minnesota politics have conceded, she’s sharp as a tack and a formidable foe.” It’s a fair argument, if you acknowledge its core premises: That, unlike Bachmann, Palin can “be dismissed as a political flash in the pan or an empty suit;” that, unlike Bachmann, Palin isn’t “sharp as a tack;” that, unlike Bachmann, there is no problem with making Palin look like a “nutcase.”
Commentary‘s turnabout on Palin—it was only January of last year that it published nearly 4000 words chastising Jews for hating Palin—is notable. After all, although most Jews always hated Palin, a few Jews of the neoconservative persuasion were responsible for her improbable ascent. But now, even her staunchest supporter, Bill Kristol, says that she should neither run for nor be elected president, and in this latest post Tobin throws her under the bus. (And this was presumably before he knew she had referred to a Jewish former Alaska representative as “Bird-Nose.”) Bachmann is Palin 2.0, he says. Upgrade, and then throw 1.0 away.
But 1.0 was cool when it first came out, right? “Her authentic ‘hockey mom’ personality and tart criticisms of her opponent, as well as of the media and the Washington establishment,” Tobin wrote in September 2008, “enthralled not only the delegates but a great many of those television viewers.” He added, “While it is way too early for such a discussion, no one should be surprised if Palin vaults to the top of the ticket in four or eight years, leaving more seasoned male GOP bigshots in the dust.”
Any bets on who Palin 3.0 will be?
The Bachmann Backlash Begins [Contentions]
Michele Bachmann’s Unrivaled Extremism [Newsweek]
There’s Something About Sarah [The Jewish Press]
Related: Why Jews Hate Palin [Commentary]
The Insiders [The New Yorker]
Kristol: Palin Probably Won’t, Shouldn’t Be Nominee [Ben Smith]
Former Alaska Lawmaker Responds to ‘Bird-Nose’ Comment in Palin Emails [Capital J]
Earlier: Why We Hate Her