Bad Timing For The Palin-Is-Brilliant Crowd

by Jonathan Chait | January 11, 2010

Another funny aspect of that bizarre Commentary piece by Jennifer Rubin castigating Jews for spurning Sarah Palin is its timing. The article, naturally, contends that Palin is far more intellectual and informed about politics than the Jews understand:

Palin’s intellectual unfitness in the eyes of Jews was exaggerated during the course of the campaign as they, like other Americans, received an incomplete image of her abilities and talents. In Going Rogue, Palin devotes dozens of pages to eye-glazing particulars about Alaska state budgets, energy deals, and the new methodology her administration devised for calculating Alaska’s share of revenue from resource development. By offering this level of detail in her book, Palin is attempting, she and her boosters hope, to establish her bona fides as a fiscal sharpshooter and cagey negotiator who took her job very seriously and whose skills were cultivated without reliance on an elite university education. But that understanding of Palin’s work as a public servant—as someone who solved difficult problems and did so by working across partisan lines—was obscured during the 2008 campaign by the successful effort to paint her as a know-nothing lightweight with a stunted vocabulary.

That latter image was forged in a disastrous CBS interview with Katie Couric. During the course of it, Palin appeared miffed when asked to name her favorite news publications. Whether this was evidence of her lack of interest in reading and current events or whether it was a display of intellectual modesty (she would later say she refused to answer out of irritation), Jews found such reticence hard to fathom and quickly came to believe it was not reticence but utter ignorance. When rumors circulated that she had “banned books” (she had not), that image became intensified, as pro-Obama media outlets suggested ominously that she was not simply lacking in sophisticated book learning but was literally anti-book.

Of course, a few days after this came out in Commentary, the book "Game Change" reports that McCain officials were apoplectic over Palin's lack of understanding of public policy and world affairs. She believed that Saddam Hussein planned the World Trade Center attack, and didn't understand why North and South Korea were separate countries.

I see on Commentary's site, Jennifer Rubin is celebrating another "Game Change" nugget, about Joe Biden. Yet, as of noon, no comment on the devastating new disclosure about Palin's ignorance. Maybe Palin had actually written her thesis on the history of the Korean War, and could discuss it in minute detail, but was too reticent to admit it.

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