Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Quote of the Day: Jonah Goldberg

"My God, he's going to run as Goldwater!"
Today's quote was invoked briefly by the conservative National Review's Jonah Goldberg, who was one of the editors live-blogging Sarah Palin's RNC speech last night.

It comes from an anonymous political reporter covering Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater's acceptance of the Republican nomination for president in 1964. This was in response to the speech in which Goldwater uttered some of his most infamous lines:
"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
As former Nixon speechwriter William Safire recalls in his Safire's Political Dictionary, the next day the moderate Republican Nelson Rockefeller responded:
"To extol extremism whether 'in defense of liberty' or 'in pursuit of justice' is dangerous, irresponsible, and frightening. Any sanction of lawlessness, of the vigilante and of the unruly mob can only be deplored. ...I shall continue to fight extremism within the Republican party. It has no place in the party. It has no place in America."
Jonah Goldberg, who is the editor of the National Review Online, wrote "My God, She's Going to Run As Palin," presumably upon hearing Palin's "spunky" and folksy style. (NBC reporters used the word spunky.) His cute conservative in-joke would make more sense if Palin had decided at the last minute not to run in drag as a man. She didn’t really say anything as shocking as Goldwater said 44 years ago. Her very being there as a Republican nominee –- and one nobody has ever heard of -- is the shock.

He probably means she's not changing her personality or beliefs to fit what the Party needs or wants; she's being herself. And being herself worked -- she looked confident and relaxed. But as courageous as Goldberg paints Goldwater's speech, remember: Goldwater lost big. Comparing Palin to Goldwater is to compare her to a tragic and ultimately powerless conservative figure. Goldwater is no Ronald Reagan.

But maybe Palin is. Having her attack Obama is either a brash mistake or an ingenious move; it's the latter if it makes Americans see them as equals in stature and experience. Comparing her service as a small town mayor to Obama’s as a community organizer (It’s like a community organizer, she said, only with actual responsibility) is laughable, given how much farther he’s come than she has.

Then again, maybe substance isn't the issue here. A friend of mine called me with a brainstorm during the speech. She thinks the Palin choice was more about appealing to regular young American women with a celebrity mom. A mom of the Lohan and Spears variety, only more wholesome.

Any attack on Palin as a mother will backfire because of this. And they should; such attacks are better left for tabloids. Any smart liberal won't concentrate on her gender, her motherhood or her experience, but instead try to show how much more prepared and experienced Obama/Biden are.

The trick here for the Republicans is to dare the Democrats to attack Palin, especially for things like motherhood and political inexperience, and then shame them for kicking a puppy. Done right, they can have it both ways. It’s the dirtiest of tricks, but playing Governor Palin as a defenseless naïf when it makes Democrats harp on her and playing her as a rugged, accomplished political outsider when they need her to attack the Democrats is the sort of thing that has worked for GWB for years. Low expectations work.

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