The insane fantasy draft league that is the Republicans’ 2016 presidential field may be just a little less insane this election cycle. As a political observer who leans left, I may not have a high opinion of the politics and personalities of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Mitt Romney, but they’re not nuts, and they’re not supercharged ultranationalist bigots posing as conservatives, either.
But the clearest sign yet that the GOP may be returning to earth’s gravitational orbit is its sudden realization that Sarah Palin is an idiot, and nobody should listen to her anymore.
Oh sure, she says she’s “seriously interested” in seeking the Oval Office this election. But no one seems interested in her — especially not after a bizarre half-hour, teleprompter-less speech at a Republican presidential hootenanny in Iowa last week, in which she offered fine pearls of wisdom such as this: “GOP leaders, by the way, uh, you know, the man can only ride ya’ when your back is bent, so strengthen it. Then the man can’t ride ya’, America won’t be taken for a ride.”
“You Betcha I Was Wrong About Sarah Palin,” conservative blogger (and onetime Palin fan) Matt Lewis intoned this week. He listed some of the other appalled conservatives: Byron York of the Examiner, who said Palin’s stem-winder was a “long, rambling, and at times barely coherent speech.” The once-fawning National Review announced: “Her recent performance in Iowa should disqualify her from any role in the GOP going forward.”
Even Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who pushed Palin as vice presidential material in 2008 and whose son-in-law wrote a genuflecting biography of the ex-Wasilla, Alaska, mayor, flinched when asked about some kind words he offered Palin last year. “Did I say it that recently?” he asked the interviewer. “Maybe the speech Saturday was just a confirmation of her no longer being a major player, at least in these circles.”
One wonders where this skepticism comes from all of a sudden. After all, it’s not as though coherence in public speaking appearances was ever Palin’s strong suit — from failing to name any national newspapers in a 2008 interview with Katie Couric, to flailing when she resigned as Alaska governor halfway through her term, to recent run-ins with the cops and a flap over letting her kids stand on top of the family dog.
This is a woman whose entire career was made by John McCain’s desperate attempt to pander to female voters who, the theory went, were peeved at Democrats for turning against Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries. Give her this much: It takes a forceful personality to turn that level of cynical token-hood into a lucrative personality cult.
But that’s about as smart as it gets. Instead of ideas on governance, Palin has treated the American public for six years to a political “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo,” to the point where even proud flag-waving, deer-blasting bubbas and bubbettes can no longer look at her as a viable role model.
So yes, it’s great that the Republicans are no longer seriously considering a reality-show castoff as a candidate to lead the free world. But all of us — especially Jeb, Marco, Chris, and Mitt — should be a little concerned that it took them this long to realize it.
Adam Weinstein is a Tallahassee-based senior writer for Gawker. He has worked for the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, and Mother Jones. Column courtesy of Context Florida.