February 7, 2010
I made a point to watch (on C-SPAN) nearly all of Sarah Palin's keynote address at the Tea Party convention last night, and I thought she did a pretty good job. Anyone expecting a profound discourse on the tattered state of our body politic or on the vexing economic policy dilemmas created by the skyrocketing national debt would be disappointed, but of course hardly anyone did. What Gov. Palin did was to cover most of the contemporary "hot button" issues, and to give conservatives a reason to hope that they can capitalize on popular discontent in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Stylistically, she performed well in the first venue with a true national audience that she has faced for many months. Except for a couple awkward transitions, she remained poised, upbeat, and confident. In short, she gave every indication that she really wanted to earn the hefty ($100,000?) honorarium from the Tea Party organizers.
At frumforum.com (hat tip to Bruce Bartlett), Jonathan Kay derided Palin's speech as a "Barack-Obama put-down every 60 seconds." Well, what else would you expect? Kay provides a useful summary description of the Tea Party movement:
Tea Party organizers tend to describe their agenda with five bullet points: Less taxes, fiscal responsibility, greater liberty, state's rights, national security. But that quintet -- which also summarizes the major planks of the Republican Party -- doesn't really cover it. The Tea Party movement is mostly made up of refugees from the mainstream GOP. They rail hard against John McCain and other RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). Bipartisanship -- "Koombaya politics," as its derisively called -- is dismissed as a sell-out.
That sounds exactly like some of the fratricidal nuts who have been wreaking havoc in the Republican Party here in the Shenandoah Valley. Kay observes that many Tea Partiers don't fit on the traditional left-right spectrum, and he also criticizes the "smug left-wing take on the Tea Party movement" as a bunch of racists; Janeane Garofalo often expresses such a view. That insulting stereotype is also bandied about by many moderates who want to seem sophisticated by distancing themselves from humble folk. (Obviously, I have mixed feelings on the subject.) Whether the delegates to the Tea Party Convention were able to define a common agenda in terms of concrete policy proposals remains to be seen.
Palin's speech didn't devote much time to foreign policy, which is of secondary concern to most Tea Partiers. Andrew Sullivan conjectured what kind of foreign policy Sarah Palin would have if she were elected President. He sees her support of Jewish settlements on the West Bank as a sign she is under the influence of AIPAC, and her call for a more forceful containment of Iran's nuclear ambitions as evidence she is an aspiring war-monger. "Now she is a paid-up neocon fanatic." (Hat tip to Bruce Bartlett) My response on Facebook:
Sullivan's speculation is premature, and it's a waste of time to read serious intent into anything Palin says on subjects outside her knowledge. She is as much of a blank slate, foreign policy-wise, as GW Bush was in 2000. So, whether she would actually attack Iran or support Israeli settlements depends on who she picks as foreign policy advisors.
Er, on second thought, Bush didn't pay much heed to Colin Powell or Condi Rice. So, the real question is, who would Palin pick as her "Karl Rove"?
Once again, "grassroots" (pseudo-)conservative activist Richard Viguerie can't seem to make up his mind on whether to work within the Republican Party, or create outside organizations to challenge it. At conservativehq.com, he urged the Tea Partiers not to form a separate party "A third party would be a disaster for the cause of limited government." In December 2008, however, he said "It's critical for conservatives to also operate independently of the GOP..."