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David Latt

David Latt

Posted: October 12, 2008 01:03 AM

Sarah Palin's Dead Cat Bounce


Governor Sarah Palin gave the McCain campaign a shot in the arm but it proved to be a short term fix. With the polls continuing to trend toward Obama, Republican pundits find themselves in an uncomfortable position.

The policies that energized the GOP since Ronald Reagan have led to difficulties in every aspect of American life: foreign policy, health care, the shoddy state of the infra-structure, and the economy.

Tony Blankley complained on Left, Right, and Center (10-3-08) that nobody knows why we're in the economic fix we're in, just as no one knows the causes of the French Revolution. He discounts as mere speculation the idea that Republican support of deregulation allowed Wall Street to create financial instruments that floated a bubble that has now burst and shaken the foundations of the world's financial markets. Blankley's protestations not withstanding, there is wide spread agreement that Republican theories about governing have failed catastrophically.

Like Blankley, David Brooks has solid conservative credentials. During the first years of the Bush presidency, he walked the walk and talked the talk of Republican hegemony with pride and confidence. However, now, in the last month, he has admitted to finding himself on shaky ground.

What are Republican pundits to do when reality belies their deeply held beliefs? Brooks like George Will owned up to Governor Sarah Palin's weaknesses instead of continuing with the party's talking points. Before the Biden-Palin debate Brooks said that "Republicans around the country crouched nervously behind their sofas," worrying that Governor Palin would continue to embarrass herself as she has done the week before with Katie Couric.

The day after the Biden-Palin debate, Brooks allowed himself to get out from behind the sofa and crow about "The Palin Rebound." But even if he allowed himself a moment's relief, he had to focus on performance issues entirely. A week later ("The Class War Before Palin") he revisited the topic and decided that "conservatism" has been ill-served by the Republican Party's embrace of "class warfare". He doesn't talk about Governor Palin in the article until the end when he says that "no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin". That admission comes with great weariness and sadness.

Most of the time I find it difficult to read or listen to conservative pundits. But there's something fascinating about David Brooks' situation. He is genuinely struggling to reconcile his philosophical positions with the reality he sees around him. Listening to right wing talk radio or Fox News where talking points rule, there is ample evidence that Brooks is in the minority. In the final days of the campaign, as the contest becomes even more heated, the moral character of all concerned will be sorely tested, none more so than the conservative pundits.

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