Rex Murphy puzzles me, as does anyone who regards Sarah Palin as the rhetorical counterweight to President Obama.  His recent Globe and Mail article entitled ‘Obama inspires; Palin connects’ is the latest example of media fascination with Palin and her potential presidential run in 2012.  In his article Murphy lauds Ms Palin as someone who connects with ‘ordinary’ Americans, or Americans that exist outside the elite bubble where Obama and his supporters reside; those Harvard know it alls who routinely cast shadows on those below.  While I too decry elitism, where it exists, when you look at her speaking record and inability to form cogent replies to simple questions, one wonders to whom she is appealing and why. 

Most Americans not within the financially sheltered top one percent of the population are angry about the state of the economy and with good reason.  The anger and confusion is real and justified.  People like Palin, however, inflame and compound that confusion by exploiting the kind of hot-button issues that dominate radicalized elements of today’s right wing.  Even the Republican Party is held hostage to the rights’ pursuit of ideological purity.  But let’s assume she represents a unified and coherent point of view.  What does she say and how does she say it?  Let’s review part of a recent interview with culture warrior Bill O’Reilly:

O’Reilly: Let me be bold and fresh again. Do you believe you are smart enough, and incisive enough, intellectual enough, to handle the most powerful job in the world?

Palin: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the, um, the, ah — kind of spineless — a spinelessness that or perhaps is made up for that with elite Ivy League education and — fact resume that’s based on anything but hard work and private-sector, free-enterprise principles. Americans could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I’m not saying that that has to be me.

This is but a small and dare I say conservative sample of her well documented aptitude for language and clear thinking.  Nevertheless, she is popular.  Many supporters claim they identify with her folksiness, her simple messages of ‘freedom’ and ‘support the troops’ and noticing Russia from parts of Alaska as part of a comprehensive foreign policy strategy.  But embracing a lack of interest in intellectual rigor does not comport well with designing public policy.  Rex Murphy, nonetheless, believes:

‘There are two great political speakers in the America today. Sarah Palin is the other one.’

What does he mean?  That she is popular?  Obviously Murphy believes popularity and not substance defines greatness.  But in helping to solve the issues of the day, of what value is someone’s lack of insight?

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