Away for much of the last week, I’ve just now started catching up with recent Spectator pieces. I am, frankly, appalled at the reaction to David Bass’s BOOK REVIEW of the latest anti-Palin book. Four hundred and nineteen comments — !!!! — and almost all of them are conniption fits to the effect that the Spectator shouldn’t dare print such a “hit piece” on poor beloved vicitmized Sarah. GET A GRIP.
Conservatives will NEVER become consistent winners if A) we are so defensive that we can’t accept ANY negative words about our favorite politicians; B) we are so defensive that we can’t even distinguish between a REVIEW of a negative book and a hit piece by the reviewer himself; C) we can’t contextualize, so we can’t self-improve.
It is absurd to label Bass’s story as a “hit piece.” It is a REVIEW explaining a book that is a hit piece. Bass quite clearly was skeptical of some of the book’s hits. Indeed, Bass DEFENDS Palin from some of the hits. As in:
Although much of the email correspondence quoted by Bailey is embarrassing, Palin’s reputation on that front was bolstered by the release in June of 24,000 pages of emails from her administration. The document dump, in response to public records requests filed in 2008, provided no smoking gun for salivating journalists expecting to find a hotbed of scandal and political corruption.
If for no other reason, Blind Allegiance is a worthwhile read for its first-hand account of the scandal. Whether the re-telling is accurate is another question. Consider the source. Bailey devotes page after page to sanctimoniously smearing Palin’s reputation, yet he claims the book is a way to confess his own sins and clear his own conscience. That declaration would be more veritable were he not cashing in by trashing his former boss. Bailey has an ax to grind, and he grinds it with glee. Adding to the doubt, Bailey’s co-authors — Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon — are anything but paragons of journalistic virtue. Devon, a regular blogger on the left-wing Huffington Post, has carved her niche as a professional Palin hater. Lefty economist Morris, meanwhile, publicly offered $100,000 to Palin’s favorite charity if she agreed to have dinner with him and four other “progressives” and allow them to ask any question they wished. Worse, Bailey’s tell-all might be illegal….
The entire point of a book review, about a book concerning a conservative figure, in a conservative publication, is so that the conservative readers can get a sense of what others are writing about us. Bass did a great job summing up what is in the book, a great job explaining what is wrong with the book, and a great job explaining why conservatives should use the book’s info as a resource to re-analyze Palin. We ALWAYS should be open to new information about people who we would choose as leaders. We are NOT sports fans rooting on a team; we are citizens trying to figure who we should entrust with power. ANY accurate information about those would-be leaders should be welcome, so we can make sure we are choosing the right people, and so we can insist that leaders who on the whole are good people become even better leaders by working on their flaws. It is utterly counterproductive to insist, against all contrary evidence, that our favorite politicians are flawless. If Sarah Palin has diva tendencies, we should know it. That doesn’t mean we should reject her; it means we should insist that she try to restrain those tendencies.
The fact that Thomas Jefferson was a libertine in Paris, falling in love with a married woman, does not mean he wasn’t a great and essential figure in the freeing of mankind from oppression. The fact that Ronald Reagan agreed to a tax hike in 1982 doesn’t negate all the other wonderfully world-changing things he did. And the fact that Sarah Palin may have flaws doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have the potential to do great things.
But the idea that conservatives cannot even bear a little self-criticism, or, worse, that we cannot even bear to read a third-party review of somebody else’s criticism, means that we are willfully blind — and that’s a dangerous thing.
Either way, we should ALWAYS be empiricists, open to new evidence. Otherwise, we are no better than pre-adolescents, hero-worshipping our own political Justin Biebers while staring at their posters on our walls. And that’s pathetic.