Peggy Noonan Nails It

July 11, 2009

Columnist Peggy Noonan has a new piece in the Wall Street Journal in which she explores the last year in the life of Sarah Palin. One paragraph, in particular, sums up exactly what has always bothered me about Palin.

  • In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn’t say what she read because she didn’t read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn’t thoughtful enough to know she wasn’t thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. “I’m not wired that way,” “I’m not a quitter,” “I’m standing up for our values.” I’m, I’m, I’m.

Thanks, Peggy. That’s what I’ve been trying to say since last summer. You summarized it perfectly. The rest of the article is here.

My problem with Palin has never been one of politics. It’s personal. She’s the kind of person I’ve bumped into over and over again in my life,  particularly in parts of rural Canada. Now, don’t think I’m biased against country folk. Far from it. I just can’t understand people who take this strange pride in being uninformed.

I can remember trying to buy a newspaper in a small Northern Ontario town. Not only did the town’s only store not sell newspapers, the proprietor was offended that I would even ask. Same with books. It’s a strange suspicion of information, something that may work when people are voting for the mayor of a town of 500, but certainly cannot when we’re talking about the vice-presidency. Or even the governance of a U.S. state.

Sarah Palin is a smart woman. I have no doubt about that. But she’s stupid, too, because she equates “smart” with “savvy” and ignores the need to fuel intelligence with information. As Noonan says, Palin couldn’t answer basic questions, and she was okay with that — she’s “just plain folks.”

Just plain folks are great. I love them. Sometimes I wish I could be just plain folks. But I sure don’t want them running things. People who aspire to positions of power have an obligation to equip themselves with the skills to administer government. It’s their duty.

I suspect Sarah Palin will end up on TV, another talking head in the wasteland of televised media (Noonan calls it “a shallow pool,” and she’s right). And that’s okay with me. Because if Sarah Palin deserves anything, it’s to sit on a stage and be fed things to say. I just hope she doesn’t do that wink again.



  1. “Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: When Evangelicals Don’t Think And What To Do About It” covers this history of this within what I call Politically Active Christianity. It has insider credentials, since Oz Guinness is an evangelical Christian who works for a think-tank. He’s British, though, so the anti-intellectualism he encounters so often in American churches offends him — as it does me.

    In covering the historical background, Guinness quotes leaders of the revival movement(s) in the 19th century as openly scoffing, even denigrating, other preachers who bothered reading anything at all — including the Bible.
    The assumption that information is dangerous hasn’t necessarily gone away, clearly.

    Palin parallels here in an interesting way.

  2. “Sarah Palin scares the shit out of me”, says the simple, plain folk inside of me. As for the rest of my opinion…good fodder for a podcast, hmmm…

  3. Peggy Noonan writes that Sarah Palin is “self-referential to the point of self-reverence”?

    An understatement. Try “delusions of royalty.”

    Mrs. Palin actually said she loves Alaska so much that she’s “sacrificing her title” for the state.



  4. I don’t think the US has any idea how much we in the other continents mocked it for even giving Palin a second glance.

  5. There was a similar article in today’s Sunday Times.


  6. I don’t think it’s “strange” the uninformed take pride in what they are. Since “book learning” is something they’re not comfortable with, they would naturally cultivate a distain for it. The same as us book learners cultivate a distain for those who shun it.

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