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Sarah Palin seems loved by all on the right, but look closer

September 16, 2008 |  7:40 pm

Anyone at the Republican National Convention a couple of weeks ago -- or even the record-breaking 37+ million watching on TV -- would have thought that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had simply swept the entire party off its feet with her down-to-earthness.

And it's true: Millions of Republicans were captivated by her for numerous intellectual and emotional reasons that included the instant spark of hope she ignited for Nov. 4, which was fast becoming a dark doomsday in GOP minds.

Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

And they really relish the incoherent rage that the successful 44-year-old working mom engenders within the liberal left that didn't choose to choose a female presidential candidate this time.

But it's not a unanimous Republican front.

An interesting philosophical debate is fast developing these days among such established intellectual conservatives as David Brooks and George Will, the kind of people who can be suspicious of democratic masses but can also cite how many times the word "experience" appears in the Federalist Papers.

On the other side are their more populist opponents, such as Laura Ingraham, who reach many more millions with their common-sense, non-elitist, conservative appeals online and on radio.

Liberals don't want to pay attention to any of this because they've already made up their minds. Democrats had their internal party debate over experience months ago during the hard-fought primaries. And inexperience beat the former first lady.

Conservatives aren't listening all that much to the other side either -- another example of how so many Americans talk at each other these days rather than to each other.

But there's some glorious prose flying back and forth on the ....

... right-hand side of our political spectrum these days. In his op-ed column in today's New York Times, Brooks argues for a kind of elitist conservatism that values hard-earned experience, prudence and, well, conservative approaches over the kind of uneducated, mass, popular movements that produce such dangerous political toys as term limits.

He calls Palin "the ultimate small-town renegade rising from the frontier to do battle with the corrupt establishment."

He notes the condescension and snobbery oozing from elitists. "People who've never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany," he adds.

Ingraham responds with pragmatic and well-phrased gusto in her daily e-mail blast:

"Brooks' main argument against Palin is that she lacksConservative writer and talk show host Laura Ingraham the type of experience and historical understanding that led President Bush to a 26% approval rating."

She notes the tons of "experience" Bush had surrounding him, from Dick Cheney to Colin Powell.

Then she adds her zinger: "Of course, we could also consider the Nixon administration. Who had more experience than Richard Nixon? How'd that work out? What about George H.W. Bush? How did his administration do?

"What about Herbert Hoover -- who had vast experience both in terms of dealing with foreign countries during World War I and in terms of dealing with the U.S. economy as secretary of Commerce? How did he do?"

Ingraham asks in her column not yet posted online: Can Palin effectively govern from a populist perspective? It's too soon to know.

But Ingraham adds that the Alaska governor "is certainly the most promising such figure to come along since the elites were denouncing Ronald Reagan. And therefore we should all wish her well."

It's 91, by the way -- the number of times the word "experience" appears in the Federalist Papers.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: LauraIngraham.com

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