The Spectacle Blog

Re: Who Is David Frum?

By on 10.1.08 | 5:36PM

Friend Quin, we are perhaps dealing with a mild case of semantics here. I say "philosophy, character and good old-fashioned common-sense judgment" and you say "the wisdom that comes from experience." I suspect the latter is nothing more than another way of saying the former. One man's wisdom that comes from experience is another man's common-sense judgment. Good judgment comes, as they say, from having had bad judgment -- aka experience, experience from which you learn. And certainly I believe to understand the conservative philosophy is to have "knowledge," something I would never denigrate. I think, though, that it is vastly unfair to think that Governor Palin should be able to adjust overnight to her newfound role. Quite demonstrably the roles in her famous ascent in Alaska were always a gradual step up the ladder -- PTA to council member to Mayor to State Energy & Gas Commission chair to Governor. Clearly in each instance she handled herself very, very well. Today is October 1 -- which means she has been in this new role for exactly a month and a couple days. There is no reason to think she will not adapt well -- very well -- as this continues. Her convention performance was, as they say in show business, boffo. An achievement that escaped Senator and former Congressman Dan Quayle, who had 14 years in House and Senate but whose debut as the VP nominee was, to put it mildly, memorable.

As it happens, I saw right after her selection an earlier, extensive interview she had done well before she was picked with a visiting Maria Bartiromo for CNBC. Maria was very good, very thorough, and there was no air of "gotcha" since at that point Palin was just the Governor of Alaska. Palin was very, very good. She drilled in on energy issues (pardon the pun) in great detail and with great confidence, discussing everything from ANWR to the physical aspect of husband Todd's job as a sloper -- separating the oil from water and gas as it is pumped out of the ground. The subject was complex, the interview a full half-hour and done far better than McCain, Obama and Biden could possibly hope on the same subject.

The problem, I agree, is that the election is in 30-some odd days and the VP debate is tomorrow night. I suspect if she is just herself -- and is not over-coached (a problem that beset President Reagan in his first 1984 debate with Mondale -- and he was already president!), she will be just fine. It takes a while to get your footing. But particularly at this point as she realizes the import of the Gwen Ifill revelations and her treatment thus far by the media she knows exactly that the game is on to make her a buffoon and a lightweight. She surely has had this problem in Alaska -- and won the day. What, after all, do you think the Murkowski crowd -- he of the 22 years in the Senate and an incumbent governor -- were saying about her back then?

Last but not least, if I may say from a New Englander turned Pennsylvanian to a Louisianan, I do think one of the more shameful aspects of culture in the Northeast United States is this up-in-the-air attitude about a good many people who are not from the same turf or have some version of the proper school tie or size of wallet or family history etc., etc. This used to be a North-South thing, something I became aware of when my family lived briefly in southern Virginia for a couple years and my high school English teacher asked me bashfully if he taught as well as my teachers in Massachusetts. I was stunned -- the answer was very much yes -- but the mere asking of the question said volumes. Eyes open as a teenager I began to see this kind of thing and understand it a lot more afterwards whenever the topic of things Southern came up with my Yankee friends. It made life a particular hell in the White House for LBJ ("Uncle Cornpone" from Southwest Texas State Teachers College), which inevitably led to his simultaneous deriding of "the Harvards" while letting them plunge him into Vietnam and, most dramatically, making them come into the bathroom while he was on the john, taking great delight in their discomfort and his ability to command them. Even Jimmy Carter would speak of this kind of treatment. Alaska is becoming, in this campaign, the New Old South. Filled with funny talking hicks who, per Saturday Night Live, think incest is best. Joe Biden can be a virtual gaffe machine and have made serious personal and policy mistakes and, well, it's all a yawn because Joe went to Syracuse, comes from Delaware via Scranton and he's, but of course, a Democrat. Sounds elitist.

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