Eyal Press, at The Nation:
I like Ross Douthat, as I’ve said here before, but earlier this week he wrote a justly panned column in which he claimed, absurdly, that Sarah Palin had been done in by media elites who “mocked and misrepresented” her because she didn’t graduate from Columbia or Harvard. Douthat’s editorial was infused with the very thing he was objecting to – classism, the condescending assumption that a woman without an Ivy League pedigree shouldn’t be criticized by uppity reporters for appearing utterly clueless about, say, foreign policy, the economy, the Supreme Court etc.
The best rejoinder to Douthat’s column has come from a fellow conservative, Peggy Noonan, who, in today’s Wall Street Journal, points out that the elites who supposedly revile Palin actually created her (see William Kristol), and that she failed because she couldn’t articulate her positions or convince anybody she was qualified to be on the national ticket of any party. Noonan also corrects the unexamined assumption at the core of Douthat’s column:
She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary. They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they’re working class “tropes.” Because, you know, that’s what they teach in “Ways of the Working Class” at Yale and Dartmouth.
This paragraph made me laugh out loud:
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn’t say what she read because she didn’t read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn’t thoughtful enough to know she wasn’t thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. “I’m not wired that way,” “I’m not a quitter,” “I’m standing up for our values.” I’m, I’m, I’m.
Although it’s true, she praised the same qualities in George W. Bush.
Plus, she’s way off-base on why the media is obsessed with Palin:
Saying Palin gets coverage because the political press hates the GOP is like saying Amy Winehouse gets coverage because the tabloids hate music, or the Gosselins get coverage because the entertainment press hates reality TV. There’s a much simpler explanation: The media covers train wrecks because people enjoy watching train wrecks. (See Jackson, Michael, later years of.)
Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Polls show that a lot of people (us smirky sophisticates) loathe Palin but can’t turn away when she’s in front of a camera — while a lot of other people (the folks in her base) deeply admire her. So, for the press, covering Palin is win-win. Everybody watches.