Jonathan Chait

Podhoretz Loves Palin

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Norman Podhoretz has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, "In Defense Of Sarah Palin," and it's every bit as entertaining as one might hope. The heart of Podhoretz's argument rests upon eliding the distinction between a necessary and a sufficient condition:

True, she seems to know very little about international affairs, but expertise in this area is no guarantee of wise leadership. After all, her rival for the vice presidency, who in some sense knows a great deal, was wrong on almost every major issue that arose in the 30 years he spent in the Senate.

Likewise, why not Ted Kaczynski for president? True, Kaczynski is mentally ill and incarcerated, but being sane and non-incarcerated is no guarantee of wise leadership. George W. Bush is sane and has never spent a day in prison, and look where he got us!

Podhoretz goes on to accuse various conservative elites of turning against Palin out of class bias:

Much as I would like to believe that the answer lies in some elevated consideration, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the same species of class bias that Mrs. Palin provokes in her enemies and her admirers is at work among the conservative intellectuals who are so embarrassed by her. When William F. Buckley Jr., then the editor of National Review, famously quipped that he would rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the combined faculties of Harvard and MIT, most conservative intellectuals responded with a gleeful amen. But put to the test by the advent of Sarah Palin, along with the populist upsurge represented by the Tea Party movement, they have demonstrated that they never really meant it.

Buckley's point was that being governed by Harvard is bad, not that being governed by random Bostonians is actually desirable. Moreover, Podhoretz actually equates the prospect of a Palin presidency with the notion of being governed by random citizens plucked out of the phone book. And he thinks anybody who disagrees with this vision must be a snob!

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