Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sarah Palin: Criticism from "Friends"

Below: Sarah and Todd at prom . . . and later, with children Track and Bristol . . .

How should Sarah Palin respond to "constructive" criticism from people who claim to be her ardent supporters? My view: she should respond by using an old truism: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"
[Note: On my other blog I basically solve America's health care crisis -- in less than 800 words. It was a very tough job, but somebody had to do it. "If not now, when? If not me, who?"]

Ever since she came on the national stage (on August 29, 2008, in Dayton, Ohio, when John McCain named her as his running mate), Sarah has been subject to a torrent of vitriol from Obama/Aexlrod and their media cronies. She does not need -- nor does she merit -- additional criticism from people claiming to be her friends and admirers.

During the presidential campaign (and after), Sarah was surrounded by McCain staffers who ranged from incompetent to disloyal. I've revealed recently that one of the people spreading false rumors about Sarah was Meghan McCain, the Senator's thoroughly pathetic daughter.

Having to work with people she couldn't trust made it hard at times for Sarah to campaign effectively. When John McCain failed to defend Sarah adequately that must have been disheartening for her, as she had been the Senator's most faithful cheerleader between August 29 and the election on Nov. 4.

In politics, the people you sometimes need to worry about most are your supposed "friends" -- not your enemies, whose behavior is predictable. The smears Sarah and her family have been subjected to have inflicted some damage on the famously tough and close-knit Palins. Realizing the challenges she faces, Sarah demands absolute loyalty from her staff. She's entirely right to do so. Disloyal staffers -- and, frankly, disloyal "supporters" -- are useless.

The critics that must dishearten Sarah the most are those on the right -- particularly "single-issue" conservatives. Understand that single-issue people inhabit a political universe the size of a broom-closet.

For example, Sarah was recently criticized for selecting a distinguished female jurist, Morgan Chretien, to serve on the Alaska Supreme Court. To the single-issue people, Ms. Chretien has committed the unforgivable sin: she is -- or may be -- pro-choice. In the fever swamps of the extreme Right, Chretien's views on a thousand or so other issues don't matter.

Critics of "Sarah's choice" ignore an important reality: Under the Alaska system, a judicial board selects the candidates (two in this instance), and the Governor chooses among them. A spokesperson for Sarah's political action committee (sarahPAC) explained it this way: the Governor had a choice between a liberal and a moderate -- and she chose "the moderate."

Sarah's critics on the right say she should have taken the entire matter of the Supreme Court appointment . . . to the Supreme Court. She should have, they say, fought the system for selecting judges to the highest court. They ignore the fact that a prior governor, Frank Murkowski, did just that . . . and had his lawsuit tossed back in his face.

Of course, Obama's perpetual campaign has seized upon the conservative criticism of Sarah and is running with it. They're using it to try to drive a wedge between Sarah and the small but passionate pro-life community.

Frankly, Sarah's sometimes unreliable friends on the political right have hatched an image of her that resembles a cartoon-character rather than a real human being. Through glazed eyes, they apparently see her a pure ideologue. "Wind her up, and she spouts an endless stream of right-wing propaganda."

Strangely enough, Sarah's liberal supporters -- and she has millions of them -- seem to understand her better than many conservatives. Consider Elaine Lafferty, a feminist and former editor of Ms. Magazine. She worked as a speechwriter with Sarah during the campaign and wrote a famous article describing the Alaska governor as a "brainiac" and a "feminist." (Lafferty also co-authored a book with Sarah's most consistent admirer on the media, Greta van Susteren.)

Here's what Lafferty said about Sarah's appointment of Judge Chretien (only the second female ever appointed to the Alaska Supreme Court): "Of course Sarah Palin is not pro-choice. But she is now, as governor of Alaska, what she was before the presidential campaign: a pragmatic conservative politician who largely governs from the center. She is opposed to abortion, but it does not inform every decision she makes.

Lafferty adds, "Done with playing the good soldier for McCain’s right wing on the campaign trail, she [Sarah] is back to being who she is."

Trust me, Elaine Lafferty understands Sarah Palin much better than, say, Phyllis Schlafly. Elaine grasps Sarah's human gravity and complexity. If Gov. Palin never makes it to the presidency, it won't be the fault of Elaine Lafferty and others like her.

I have a lot more to say about Gov. Palin's future, including the issue of whether she should seek either re-election as Alaska's governor or go after the Republican nomination for President. Right now, I'm leaning against her doing either -- a major reversal of position for me. Come back on Sunday and Monday to find out why.

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