The Weekly Standard Turns on Sarah Palin

Perhaps the neocon journal can no longer stand the unbearable lightness of Palin.


I know Sarah Palin’s poll numbers are sagging, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. Not only do a majority of Americans view her negatively, but it seems that the Weekly Standard, one of Palin’s earliest promoters, may be turning on her as well.

The magazine posted a review of Palin’s reality show over the weekend that drips with entertainingly scathing condescension for the former half-term governor and her latest venture. Standard senior writer Matt Labash invests his not inconsiderable talents in mocking Palin, Palinisms, and Palin’s Alaska.[ See a roundup of editorial cartoons about Sarah Palin.]

Labash writes:

…one could see how Karl Rove, one of several conservative, non-lamestream media Palin critics who’ve reared their heads of late, has a point when suggesting that the American people might expect “a certain level of gravitas” in someone who’s considering running for president, and that starring in your own reality show might not be the ticket.

Still, the show isn’t about “gravitas,” an elitist lamestreamer word, much like “meme.” Rather, it’s about freedom. Because as Sarah says in the show, she’d rather be free than in some “stuffy old political office.” Part of her appeal is that she has always been a Real Person, not some jive politician. And Real People detest politics, which she proved by barnstorming the country for months, endorsing 64 different politicians in front of Real People. Besides, she just left political office, why would she want to sit in some different stuffy ol’ political office? Unless it was the Oval Office. I think even she’d have to admit that that would be pretty flippin’ cool.

Gravitas, it’s safe to say, is the enemy of freedom. And freedom is about motion—being in it, staying in it. On the show, this involves seein’, and doin’, and experiencin’ things that don’t require a “g” on the end of them, such as shootin’, and rock climbin’, and snow machinin’, and clubbin’ halibut over the head (“let me see the club, you look crazy,” says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin’ and BlackBerryin’, which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures.

Gravitas may indeed be an elitist, lamestreamer word--but it is possible that an opinion journal that sees itself as setting a weekly standard for neoconservative thought could have a touch of elitism about it, if not lamestreamery. And maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps after touting Palin since the days when she was merely a politician, the powers that be at the Standard look upon the reality TV star and wonder what they have wrought.

[ See photographs of Palin and her family.]

After all, there is a natural tension between a weekly opinion journal and someone who, as David Frum observed last week, seems to find “the idea of expertise--not merely incomprehensible--but actively repugnant.” It is just possible that politician Palin had an appeal to the nerdy neocons sorely lacking in Palin the enthusiastic reality TV personality who seems to think that Twitter’s 140 characters are the right medium for policy pronouncements.

Labash’s takedown may indicate that the Standard can no longer tolerate the unbearable lightness of Palin. Or maybe not—maybe he has merely gone rogue.