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In Search of a Better Palin

Out of love with version 1.0, ‘Commentary’ finds Michele Bachmann

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Rep. Michele Bachmann at the GOP debate Monday night.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

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

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fred lapides says:

A general rule of thumb that never fails:

Whatever Kristol says, write, suggests will always turn out to be totally wrong, off base, stupid, misguided.

Never fails.

Maybe it is time to clarify the differences between Orthodox Jews on issues such as gay marriage (see this for example:

http://www.vosizneias.com/85595/2011/06/16/new-york-on-assembly-floor-hikind-speak-out-against-gay-marriage-video)

and secular or non-traditional Jews?

Certainly attitudes towards Palin and Bachmann would be heavily influenced by these factors.

My favorite quote from the Commentary piece on Palin last year:

“Pro-life Americans saw Palin’s son Trig, born with Down syndrome in April 2008, as an affirmation of Palin’s deeply held beliefs, a rare instance in which a politician did more than mouth platitudes about a ‘culture of life.’ But in affluent communities with large Jewish populations, Down-syndrome children are now largely absent due to the widespread use of diagnostic testing and ‘genetics counseling.’ Trig was not a selling point with many Jewish women who couldn’t imagine making a similar choice—indeed, many have, in fact, made the opposite one.”

How many things are wrong with this? Jews don’t like Sarah Palin because her Down-syndrome child isn’t a ‘selling point’? And furthermore, it’s because Jews don’t have children with Down-syndrome as they used to? This may be one of the most offensive things that Commentary has ever written.

I wouldn’t say Jews, neoconservative or otherwise, were responsible for Palin, any more than we are for any other successful politician, even Jewish ones. Even the antisemitic American Conservative magazine liked Palin, at the outset at least.

Marc Tracy says:

@fw ordinarily I’d agree, and I’m certainly aware of the slippery slope toward a Judeocentric Walt/Mearsheimer-esque reading. However, Jane Mayer’s reporting (which I trust) very clearly shows that Palin was in a position to be selected by John McCain’s staff pretty exclusively because of a small coterie of activists, nearly all if not all of whom were Jews.

Ordinarily I’d agree right back, but I actually don’t trust Jane Mayer.

Also, early backers can’t determine success any more than venture capitalists can ensure that the startup they fund will turn into Apple or Facebook. Most ventures go by the wayside, and politicians are the same. They get winnowed down by intense scrutiny, public forums, and actual polling. Sarah Palin has a charisma that some people–a lot people–genuinely respond too, wacky as it is.

michaelira says:

Bachmann is smarter, more ambitious, and much harder working than Palin, all of which make her far more dangerous.

Ruth Ross says:

Michelle Bachmann is far more dangerous than Sarah Palin. Other than praying with the voodoo minister in her church, I don’t think SP studied evangelical Christianity the way MB (and her husband, a Christian therapist and her most trusted advisor) did at Oral Roberts University and schools of that ilk. They are proficient in using the code words that resonate with the evangelical Right, their followers. Most of us just think they’re making wierd comments, but these folks have ulterior motives. What the 2 women do have in common is that they play fast and loose with facts. They are entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts. Be afraid…be very afraid of MB.

Bill Pearlman says:

Ruth, why are you afraid?

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In Search of a Better Palin

Out of love with version 1.0, ‘Commentary’ finds Michele Bachmann

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