It's interesting to watch the up and comers overtake the old guard.
Matthew Continetti, associate editor of The Weekly Standard, besides writing long, thoughtful pieces there, has just penned a new book (The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star). He was also the guy The Washington Post asked to write the conservative side in reviewing Sarah Palin's Going Rogue.*
You can tell Continetti is on the rise not only by the above accomplishments but by recent snarky comments made by rival conservative writers old enough to be his father and grandfather, David Brooks and George Will. Both Will and Brooks appeared on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulis. Both made odd allusions to Sarah Palin being like William Jennings Bryan.
[WILL:] "Some conservatives think they have found in Sarah Palin a Republican William Jennings Bryan. Now, why they would want someone who lost the presidency three times, I do not know."Where did the out-of-left-field comments on William Jennings Bryan come from? One rarely hears political commentary about Bryan. Rightly so. The comments might work in a talk to political science professors, but almost none of the This Week audience would know Bryan well enough to use him as a reference point. They would almost all know about Reagan and a reasonable percentage about Andrew Jackson, but William Jennings Bryan? So, why bring Bryan up?
. . .
[BROOKS:] "But if you look at the sort of populism that has won in this country, it's not William Jennings populism, which is hostile and negative, which Sarah Palin sometimes is. It is the populism that is Ronald Reaganesque, which is simply we're for small towns, but we're not angry at the big cities. The anger turns people off. Representing small towns is fine. But what she does, which is turning into a hostility towards intellectuals in general, that just doesn't work."
Well, Matthew Continetti wrote a long (4,700 word) semi-scholarly article published last week in The Weekly Standard comparing Sarah Palin's political appeal to that of the populist strain in Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and, yes, William Jennings Bryan. Along the way, Continetti gave numerous examples showing common themes in Reagan's, Jackson's and Bryan's populism and linking those with Palin's views.
Will and Brooks obviously read Continetti's article and were not pleased with Continetti's case for Palin's mainstream (Reagan, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan) populist connection.
The question is why puzzle the audience by using William Jennings Bryan in their criticism? Because, as is clear from Will's comment about "[s]ome conservatives", the criticism was a slap specifically at Continetti--a rising young commentator who is gaining status among conservatives. Worse still, not only is he persuasive to more and more conservatives, major left leaning outlets are also treating him as a serious conservative voice.
Is this jealousy rearing its head? Even more unhappily for Will and Brooks, jealousy with cause?
*(Kudos to The Washington Post for realizing that fairness required two views.)
UPDATE: Here's the entire discussion. Note how the men completely disregard Gwen Ifill, and Bob Woodward even disses Ifill's observation that Palin's "story" is powerful politically with women. Woodward apparently assumes he knows more about how women think than Ifill! Talk about a slap in the face to Ifill. Not only does Woodward imply that she is clueless politically, but she can't even get female identity politics right and needs instruction from Woodward on what women think.
The men on this panel think pretty much alike that Palin isn't a serious political force or contender. So they interact with each other, but don't interact seriously with Ifill's views on Palin or women. Thus, proving Ifill's point that they need help in understanding how women feel in seeing another woman unfairly dissed--whether it's Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin or Gwen Ifill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about Sarah Palin right now. We shared a little bit of Barbara Walters. Here was Sarah Palin on "Oprah."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: That was seminal defining moment for you, that interview.
PALIN: The campaign said, right on, good, you're showing your independence. This is what America needs to see. And it was a good interview. And of course, I'm thinking, if you thought that was a good interview, I don't know what a bad interview was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: A little bit of bluntness there from Sarah Palin. The book is out, 415 pages. David Brooks, it looks like it's a fair amount of score settling and the combat with the McCain campaign aides has continued straight through the weekend.
BROOKS: Yes, she's a joke. I mean, I just can't take her seriously. We've got serious problems in the country. Barack Obama is trying to handle a war. We just had a guy elected Virginia governor who's probably the model for the future of the Republican Party, Bob McDonnell. Pretty serious guy, pragmatic, calm, kind of boring. The idea that this potential talk show host is considered seriously for the Republican nomination, believe me, it will never happen. Voters, Republican primary voters are just not going to elect a talk show host.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rudy Giuliani is taking her seriously this morning.
IFILL: Well, Rudy...
IFILL: Where do we go with this? I think he has no choice but to take her seriously. Everyone at this stage in the process is trying to appeal to everyone else. Lamar Alexander was quoted in the paper this morning as saying, well, she's interesting. And that's what Bob McDonnell does not have. She's interesting. She's the current -- politics' current example of the shining, flashing thing. You know, the balloon boy. It's something that we're into at this moment.
And you know what, she's interesting. And she does represent a lot of people who normally are not interested in politics, and therefore, she can't be ignored.
CORN: She may represent a threat to the Republican Party. If she's... IFILL: In your dreams.
CORN: No, no, I'm listening to David Brooks here.
CORN: If she's a joke, if the Republican Party is serious about a joke, that will reflect not so well upon itself.
There's a Palin gap. 76 percent of Republicans say they'd like to see her be a national figure. Only 45 percent of all Americans believe that. There's a 31-point gap there. Up to 71 percent of people polled don't believe she's qualified to be president. So the more seriously she's taken by Lamar Alexander, Rudy Giuliani, and anybody who's out there that's a Republican, it's not going to reflect well on the party itself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The question, though, is can she use this book tour, George Will, to bring that number down, the number of people who say she just can't be taken seriously as a presidential candidate?
WILL: How big is the undecided element about Sarah Palin at this point? I mean, what are you working with here? If conservatives of a sort are looking for a populist, they have got Mike Huckabee, who's mounting a big campaign and is far ahead of Sarah Palin among those, at this early stage, expressing a preference. Some conservatives think they have found in Sarah Palin a Republican William Jennings Bryan. Now, why they would want someone who lost the presidency three times, I do not know.
WOODWARD: You know, I think that she should have her say. I don't think anyone ever got elected president because of a book. And I agree with David on this. You talk to Republicans, and they say they voted for Obama because Sarah Palin was John McCain's pick. That was John McCain's justification. And I have heard it and I think you have heard it from Republicans time and time again, so I don't think she will work in the Republican Party. But, you know -- she's going to give it a try. I think she -- I think the book sales are going to be astronomical.
IFILL: Of course, but let's just point out, as the girl at the table, I feel like I can just say you cannot underestimate the degree to which women will be drawn to her story. And that's who she's speaking to. These are people who are ignored, who nobody counts into their thinking. That's why she's appealing to Hillary Clinton. It's why -- when she made her own announcement, remember, she talked -- she used the term glass ceiling back in the summer? Don't underestimate that factor.
WOODWARD: Sure, but you can be drawn to somebody's story and buy their book and read their book. That doesn't mean you want them to be president.
(CROSSTALK) WOODWARD: ... to lead. I think those are two different realms for people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But David, why don't you take on David Corn's question about whether this is taking away from her the personality, this whole Palinism that we have seen. What impact does that have on the party going forward?
BROOKS: Well, there's a populism in both the Democratic and the Republican parties, which is against Wall Street, against intellectuals, against Washington, against New York, against the coasts. But if you look at the sort of populism that has won in this country, it's not William Jennings populism, which is hostile and negative, which Sarah Palin sometimes is. It is the populism that is Ronald Reaganesque, which is simply we're for small towns, but we're not angry at the big cities. The anger turns people off. Representing small towns is fine. But what she does, which is turning into a hostility towards intellectuals in general, that just doesn't work.
CORN: The question is whether, you know, Americans want a rogue president. Mitt Romney has a book coming out -- it probably won't sell as much -- in the spring. It's called "The Case for American Greatness." Do we want to elect...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's going to try to pick up on David Brooks' themes there.
CORN: Obviously. Maybe you helped him, I don't know...
CORN: ... but maybe you can reveal that when you want to. But you know, Sarah Palin is indeed promoting herself. And this idea that she's not just even a maverick, she's beyond maverickness. She's going for rogueness. And I think that's not a very settling sentiment for a lot of people in this country. It may be good for talk shows and to debate, but she doesn't really have I think the steady hand that people are going to want to see in a president anytime in the near future.
WILL: Two years from now, we'll be up to our eyeballs in the Iowa caucuses. And I don't think that, at that point, when we have a real, rich array of Republican candidates, that she's going to loom large. This is what happens in a vacuum of a third year out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's the last word for now. You guys continue this in the green room.