OFF THE GRID

Sarah Palin Is Back—and Out for Blood

Sep 9, 09 | 8:35 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Sarah Palin, the popularizer of the “death panels,” is against the Obama health care legislation—and that sends a little shiver of fear up many Republican spines. Not that she is against, but that she’s the one giving the formal rebuttal in the Wall Street Journal to President Obama’s formal argument for the legislation in the New York Times. Hers is the ritual conservative antithesis of record (the editorial pages of the Journal) to the liberal thesis of record (the editorial pages of the Times).

And it’s well done. It’s a reasonable sounding, carefully presented, sympathetically framed argument whose rightful home is on the Wall Street Journal editorial pages.

That’s pretty jarring. After several months of Palin meltdown and assorted side-dramas, including out-of-school tales by the rogue almost-son-in-law, rumors of passionate marital discord, and major question marks about the nature of her career prospects and desires, not to mention lots of blow back from more standard-issue Republicans about her strangeness and dubiousness, she’s back.

And artfully so. And taking the high ground. And as the designated conservative standard bearer.

Such editorial craft doesn’t come cheap. Producing a standard-bearer-type piece of political semiotics is a highly managed process. Short of doing it yourself, it requires writers, researchers, policy advocates and adjudicators, strategic advisers, and consensus builders who can take the temperature of other conservative standard-bearer-types.

This talent is hard to come by if you don’t have a staff and team in place—which means she does have a capable staff and team (borrowed or not). This tone is hard to achieve if your life is coming apart at the seams—which means it’s not (or she doesn’t care if it is).

The message here is not that Sarah Palin is against the Obama health care legislation, but that she is a considerable force to be reckoned with. That, somewhat confoundingly, her personal mess in no way interferes with her ability to be a serious conservative standard-bearer. That she has professional and adept political resources. She’s not alone.

The health care debate is just an excuse for her to send a large message to fellow Republicans: She’s in business (or, she’s far from being out of business.) Her larger point about health care is also toward Republicans who would let it happen. As the Times points out today (as I pointed out yesterday), health care legislation will happen. This is because of the simple mathematics of a Democratic majority, aided by a handful of turncoat (and deal making) Republicans, and other less obviously complicit ones—a good piece in Mother Jones includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell here. These are the Palin targets. She continues to set herself up to be the opposition party to the opposition party.

Writing her off is as foolish as writing Obama off.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
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