Barnes on Palin

BARNES ON PALIN…. Fred Barnes’ new Weekly Standard cover story on Sarah Palin has plenty of the predictable sycophancy one might expect given the writer and the subject. Barnes marvels at Palin’s “impressive” crowds, and the “extraordinary” effect she has on voters. He lauds her “powerful” “magnetism.” He labels her the most “exciting figure” in the Republican Party “since Ronald Reagan.”

It’s not quite as humiliating as Rich Lowry’s “starbursts through the screen” piece, but it’s close.

Regardless, Barnes’ piece is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it suggests there’s a key contingent of Republicans who see Palin, not John McCain, as the party’s “star.” Looking at the party’s present and future, Barnes treats the Republican presidential nominee as an afterthought. Not a good sign.

Second, Barnes already seems to be looking past Election Day.

If McCain loses, she’ll still be governor of Alaska. In fact, she’ll be the state’s most famous governor ever and its first political celebrity. That won’t be enough to make her an influential player in national affairs. Palin, by the way, is unsure about her ultimate role in national politics even if McCain wins, but it’s bound to be more complicated if he loses. […]

There’s a model, however, for a small state governor who wants to be a national politician. It’s the Bill Clinton model. While he was merely governor of Arkansas, he spoke all over the country, headed a moderate Democratic organization, courted national political reporters, and connected with a group of smart, young political operatives.

Palin could do the same, but not easily. She has young children, no team of political strategists to advise her, and is from a state even more remote than Arkansas. Whether they know it or not, Republicans have a huge stake in Palin. If, after the election, they let her slip into political obscurity, they’ll be making a tragic mistake.

Um, Fred? We know Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton is a friend of ours, and Sarah Palin….

There was also this anecdote in the piece that stood out.

In the weeks after the convention, she was limited to two major TV interviews. When she did poorly in one — the Katie Couric interview — Democrats and hostile columnists unloaded, calling her unqualified to be vice president. There was little contrary evidence in the press by which to judge her or defend her.

I asked Palin whether she’d do things differently if she could repeat those weeks. She answered by silently mouthing “yes.” When two aides — we were on a McCain-Palin bus with staff and security — said “yes” aloud, she chimed in, “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

How odd. Barnes makes it seem as if Palin didn’t want to answer in the affirmative until her aides chimed in.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.