BORED NOW…. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has a ghost-written op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, arguing against health care reform. It’s filled with predictable palaver — “death panels,” government = bad, tort reform, privatize Medicare, etc.
I guess I’m supposed to feel a sense of outrage about the latest in a long line of ridiculous Palin arguments, but I’m finding it difficult to get worked up about this. Palin doesn’t know anything about health care policy, and has probably never given the subject more than 30 seconds of thought. Her op-ed — the writer made no effort to craft the piece in a way that sounds anything like the former governor — doesn’t say anything remotely new or interesting. Palin has just become rather … what’s the word … boring.
Instead of disgust, I read the Palin piece with Barney Frank’s adage in mind: “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.”
The point of the op-ed, in all likelihood, is to position Palin as a leading right-wing voice challenging the president, hoping the media will run with an “Obama v. Palin” frame today. Marc Ambinder encourages news outlets to resist the temptation.
…Palin’s existence in this debate does not (a) lend her voice any credibility and, beyond that, even if you believe that her experience as a state governor does give her at least a modicum of credibility, it does not follow that, because her voice is credible, it ought to be influential. Newt Gingrich is influential by rights; he’s done the work, come up with original ideas, and been in the trenches. (Replacing Medicare with vouchers…not new or remotely plausible, even if GOPers do well in the next two elections. Quoting Ronald Reagan talking about that type of proposal…not new. Etc.)
The media — by which I mean the cable news networks, primarily, will determine whether Palin’s view on health care becomes influential. There are many Republican, conservative health care spokespeople who have earned the right to speak for their party’s principals, and, truth be told, can recite the talking points (complete with Ronald Reagan quote) better than Palin and her writer can. They’re the ones who should be offended if Palin’s op-ed becomes the voice of the opposition tomorrow, because Palin isn’t seen by most Americans as a particularly trenchent analyst of policy. Indeed, the reason why Palin’s team wants to get her pieces in publications like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal is that, in this next phase of her political career, Mrs. Palin has to burnish her policy skills. And the Journal is all too willing to lend some space to this project, because plenty of people will see the piece.
So here’s a challenge to the media: if you want to do justice to conservative ideas and find some balance in your coverage tomorrow, book serious Republicans with original ideas on your programs. If you don’t, Palin is giving herself a voice at your expense and through little effort of her own.
I’d take issue with some of this — Gingrich is not the policy thinker he thinks he is — but in general, Ambinder’s right about the media and Palin’s credibility.