Sarah Palin's Intelligence (or Lack Thereof)

Is the Alaska governor smart or not?

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I had never heard of Elaine Lafferty before yesterday, but apparently she's a recovering left-wing journalist now consulting for the McCain campaign as an adviser to McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. She took me on for questioning Governor Palin's intelligence:

It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's "intelligence," coming especially from women such as PBS's Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes—God help me, I'm agreeing with Fred Barnes—suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high-toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her—love her or hate her—offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

The "Susan Sontag of journalism moniker?" Inapt, inept, and poorly written. While Lafferty seems to think that Sontag, an influential essayist and writer, should be my role model, she's way off base. Sontag is perhaps most famous for writing: "The white race is the cancer of human history." ( Partisan Review, Winter 1967, p. 57.)

This is not a philosophy with which I concur, nor is it one with which I should like to be associated. It's as racist, overwrought, and incorrect as any rash generalization about race could possibly be.

I find high irony in the coincidence that as this former editor of Ms. magazine and self-proclaimed Democrat dissed me, I was simultaneously E-mailed by a PR firm (Gehrung Associates), offering up an interview with a former high school acquaintance of Governor Palin that read as follows:

Ashlyn Kuersten, an associate professor of political science at Western Michigan University specializing in women in law and politics, has a little more insight into Sarah Palin than the average Joe Plumber: They attended the same high school only two years apart.

"My mother is very involved in beauty pageants," Kuersten says. "Plus, it's a small school, maybe 100-people school, so everyone knew everyone. She was a basketball player; I was cheerleader. We grew up together."

Kuersten's current work focuses on the difference between male and female candidates and she has a few thoughts on her old friend.

"Sarah changes the debate. She brings a lot of bling and chrome, but virtually nothing of substance. She doesn't know a lot about politics, it's more important to the American public that she looks like she does than what she has to say. We're not holding her accountable the way we hold male politicians accountable. She's unable to articulate much about her policy on oil or name a Supreme Court decision she disagrees with besides Roe. vs. Wade.

"She has made it nearly impossible to get women on a national ticket in the future; she's there because of how she looks. Female governors have been serious, knowledgeable and well educated and they haven't gotten nearly as much press as Sarah Palin. She's undone everything Hillary Clinton accomplished, all the strides women have made in politics and turned it into a beauty pageant."

So much for Ms. Lafferty's agreement with Fred Barnes's statement that those who "know her, love her or hate her," think Sarah Palin is smart. Professor Kuersten, who grew up with her, avows otherwise.

Ms. Lafferty (who also worked as the U.S. correspondent for the Irish Times of Dublin), I have one thing to say to you, lass: Get a grip.