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Defending Palin

Ross Douthat takes me to task for my item on Palin's popularity in Alaska:

[I]magine for a moment that Sarah Palin had emerged from the ranks of Alaska's Democrats, rather than Alaska's Republicans. Imagine that she had followed the same political trajectory - taking on a cozy GOP establishment, attacking corruption, defeating incumbents, etc. And then imagine that she had amassed exactly the same record in office - passing ethics reform, imposing a higher tax on the state's oil and natural companies, facing off against the same companies in the battle over the state's new gas pipeline, and investing the state's rising revenue in education, a subsidy for the low-income elderly, and rebate checks for all Alaskans. Do you think that any liberal writer in America would have accused her of buying her way to "Potemkin popularity" by "giving away money," as Crowley does above? Seriously - read that Times story he links to on her record as governor, set aside her record on polar bears and the references to her social conservatism, and try to imagine how a magazine like TNR would normally cover a gubernatorial record and political story like hers if she were a centrist Democrat.

Ah, but then the twist of the knife - a former associate says she doesn't hold long meetings and "governs by Blackberry." Clearly, that's all we need to know about her!

Look, obviously, there are plenty of blemishes on the Palin record, as governor and as mayor - failed projects, whiffs of cronyism, the troopergate/tasergate affair. But no politician, and especially no governor from a small, strange state, is going to arrive on the national stage without blemishes, and in spite of wall-to-wall media coverage of Palin's career, nothing has surfaced that's significant enough to change the impression I had of her a month ago - an impression that had me touting her as a rising GOP star, and a potential McCain veep. Was she ready for this stage, and these responsibilities? It sure doesn't seem like it. Was it a responsible choice by John McCain? Almost certainly not. But she was an effective and impressive governor, however briefly - and perhaps will be again when all this is over. And the reality of her successes, and her untapped potential, only make what's happened over the past few weeks all the more disappointing.

I hear what Ross is saying. But I don't think it goes to my point, which I probably didn't make clear. I was simply noting the irony that two key achievements of this supposedly fiscally-conservative, earmark-slashing Republican involved doling out lots of public money. It reminds me of George W. Bush's first term--think Medicare prescription drugs, for instance--before it all came crashing down. I wasn't bemoaning the policies, in other words, but rather noting that it's pretty easy for an anti-government conservative to become popular when she can spend like a liberal Democrat and get away with it.

P.S. The Stump will eventually resume its normal, non-all-Palin coverage. Just not for another 24 hours or so.

--Michael Crowley