Thursday, October 16, 2008

Intrigue from Red State

I wish I knew with metaphysical certainty (to borrow a favorite line from John McLaughlin) that this is true. However, it does give me a reason to dilate on a topic that has had me stewing.

The self-appointed intelligentsia of this country, from those I deeply admire (David Frum, Heather MacDonald) to those to whom I am positively disposed (Kathleen Parker, David Brooks) to those with whom I have an iffy, case-by-case affinity (Christopher Hitchens) to those for whom I have no use (Andrew Sullivan), have jumped on Sarah Palin with two feet. She isn't book-smart. She is anti-intellectual (no proof needed; the assertion is enough). She is a mere token, picked because she has a uterus. She is embarrassing to those of us who love to engage in the discussion of ideas.

To all this I say: Blecch!

The first reason for my reaction is that she is the most popular governor in America, a reformer with a track record of success, a political natural. Again, if current (or previous - these ladies are post-menopausal and may have had the plumbing removed!) possession of female reproductive organs was the sole criterion that McCain used to make his VP pick, we would be discussing Dole, Snowe, Collins, or Hutchison. We're not. Palin is more than her chromosomal complement.

The second reason I react so viscerally and negatively is that for all their supposed superior intelligence, no less a luminary than David Brooks called Palin "a cancer" on the Republican party. As Mark Steyn dryly noted, who would Brooks rather have on a plane with him and a would-be shoe-bomber: a patriot with guts and gumption, or a bookworm immersed in his Reinhold Niebuhr? Some cancer! Do these people in any sense "get" the fact that the ONLY reason there is a race right now is because of, wait for it, Sarah Palin! Would they be happy welcoming the Era of Obama and the socialism that would entail as they trailed in the polls by 12-15 points, a "safe" pick such as another dull Senator, or a base-killer like Lieberman, or a nice but bland guy like Pawlenty as the VP nominee? Hooray! We're going to down to electoral annihilation - but at least we don't have to be embarrassed at cocktail parties talking about Outback Annie Oakley.

I guess I am happier in medicine than I would have been in academe, in large part because the intelligence needed to be a good physician is placed in the service of doing something of more concrete benefit than writing op-eds and being part of chin-pulling roundtables. Yes, there is a role for such people and such activities; I don't read voraciously from the collected works of Bill Hickock; I read the output of people who work at think tanks and write for magazines, and I am happy that they do what they do. But it is no mark of a superior intellect for those sorts of people to look down their noses at a genuine American archetype, a political natural, a force that may yet drive McCain over the finish line victoriously.

Sarah, I know you know this because of the huge crowds you draw and the things you read on the Internet, but let me say it clearly: there are those of us with high IQs who aren't so smart as not to recognize in you a basic decency coupled with conservative instincts and mad political skills. So maybe you wouldn't be my first choice to lead a book club meeting focused on 20th century American theologians. But you're not running for theologian. Thank God you are running for Vice President. I can't wait to see you take the oath of office on January 20, 2009.

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