Friday, January 14, 2011

Darin Murphy on the Palin-Obama Performance: Win for Obama

Darin Murphy's analysis of Ms. Palin's post-Tucson performance is, to my ear, pitch-perfect, both in its understanding of her intent in pre-empting Mr. Obama's own performance, and in the failure of Palin's attempt at theater.  As Murphy notes, Palin had a chance to lead by granting absolution to members of her party whose fierce reaction against criticism following the Tucson shootings reveals deep, unresolved, and unacknowledged feelings of guilt.

Instead, she chose to double down on the defensive rhetoric and, in the process, displayed to everyone except her rock-solid base a shocking lack of human compassion and respect--a lack of compassion and respect on full display when her performance is compared with that of the president.  And so, 

Where Obama saw a shocked and wounded public that was crying out for solace, Palin saw an angry mob that was out to get her (a vision no doubt aided by her prior conversation with Glenn Beck). So the mama grizzly reloaded, chiding the punditocracy while ignoring the fact that she's not only a pundit herself, she is the pundit. The one who shirked her duty of public service in order to make millions from punditry without responsibility. Now she plans to use this role to propel her into the White House in the next two years. It's going to take a lot more political maturity than what we saw Wednesday. Was the Arizona shooting in any way her fault? I doubt it. But in the aftermath, she faced an important test of character and blew it. A misstep in the audition process that will haunt her all the way through the callbacks.

Does this spell the end of Palin?  That, I think, remains to be seen.  Her recent performance certainly will cause many members of her own party to treat her and what she stands for ever more gingerly.  But Murphy is correct to think that Palin's defiant gesture against the so-called media elites supposedly out for her blood will play well in Peoria, and since anyone running for the Republican presidential nomination wants the vote of Peoria, I am not yet convinced that we'll see the wholesale repudiation of Palin and her values that her party needs, if it expects to move beyond its present captivity to the religious right--which is to say, the extreme right.

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