Why Isn't Palin's Lack of Knowledge the Story?

Despite writing for the traditional print media, Richard Cohen tells us today that he joins Sarah Palin in not having "a very high opinion of the mainstream media." Palin has been dutifully mouthing the standard, unimaginative Republican attack on the "librul media." Cohen hints at the more responsible point (although not in these words): a double standard governs much of the corporate media, one that lets Republicans avoid serious scrutiny while magnifying Republican smears that are leveled against Democrats.

Take, for instance, the GOP's insistence that Sarah Palin is qualified to be vice president because she's a regular gal, a hockey mom who raised a family while gaining some modest political experience. What would happen if Democrats ran a candidate who winked at the camera in lieu of giving straight answers to difficult questions?

[more ...]

Can you imagine the reaction of the press corps if [Hillary] Clinton had given the audience a "hiya, sailor" wink? Can you imagine the feverish blogging across the political spectrum if Clinton had claimed credit for stopping a bridge that, in fact, had set her heart aflutter? What if she had shown that she didn't know squat about the Constitution, if she could not tell Katie Couric what newspapers or magazines she read or if she had claimed an intimacy with foreign affairs based on sighting Russia through binoculars?

Ah, but the scorn, approbation and ridicule that would have descended on Clinton -- I can just imagine the Journal editorial -- have been withheld from Palin. Much of the mainstream media, grading on a curve suitable for a parrot -- "greed and corruption, greed and corruption, greed and corruption" -- gave her a passing grade or better. I agree with Palin. It's the mainstream media that flunked.

Palin exceeded expectations in the debate because expectations were set at zero. Shouldn't that have been the story? It would have been if Democrats had nominated such an unknowledgeable, unqualified candidate for high office.

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    Could it be that (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 11:25:23 AM EST
    after eight years of W, a lack of knowledge or even curiosity is not a surprise? Even promotion of an unqualified candidate?

    Norquist rules, I think. Put somebody in who will screw the federal government up bad enough, then drown it in the bathtub.

    for someone who admittedly (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by cpinva on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 11:27:46 AM EST
    has no actual personal contact with the media (she apparently doesn't read newspapers), what possible basis could gov. palin have to even form an intelligent opinion on the subject?

    granted, newspapers aren't the sole medium for information dissemination, but i'm guessing she probably doesn't spend much time watching the news on tv, or scanning the net for it either. maybe she gets it from rush limbaugh, on the radio?

    i'm glad to see mr. cohen finally admitted to himself, what the rest of us have known for years: he's a hack, at best.

    if he had any real sense of honor, he'd immediately resign his position with the wp, after apologizing for all his columns, and go off to a cave somewhere, far away, to be silent forevermore.

    Actually, Palin claims to read both the (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by esmense on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:08:03 PM EST
    New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

    But there is absolutely no reason to believe that either of those publications is or has ever been much concerned about the quality of ideas expressed in politics -- or the accuracy or knowledge reflected in those ideas. What criticism the Times, for instance, levels at Palin is based on class -- they tolerate and promote the same ideas when expressed by elite conservatives such as Bill Kristol, who enjoys a column on their editorial page. David Brooks differs from Palin in style, but not quality of mind or ideas.

    Andrew Sullivan, an Obama supporter at the moment, has long promoted views, on the economy and in the past on the war, identitical to Palin, and railed with equal fervor on many very important issues as both a writer and, in the past, as an editor at one of the most influential political publications (The New Republic). And, like her, he has routinely lobbed harsh insults against "liberal idiots" (the title of a column he wrote at one time for Salon).

    Palin's brand of mean-spirited populist insults aimed at Democrats have long been much appreciated by the mainstream media too -- as long, of course, as they are being uttered by faux populist members of the meritocratic elite. The late Michael Kelly -- a neo-conservative whose dripping disdain for Democrats has influenced a whole generation of journalist, not just in punditry but in reporting -- shared Palin's quality of mind and subscribed to the same "ideas," as an editor of both The New Republic, The Atlantic and a columinst for the Washington Post.

    Palin's stupidity isn't based in lack of education or lack of information. It's based in ideology. An ideology espoused by many people with Harvard degrees.

    And, an ideology that has been well promoted by the media you naively think would offer her some sort of self-improvement.


    Well said. However I wouldn't use the word (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by hairspray on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:22:22 PM EST
    stupidity to describe Palin's view.  She grew up in a household of teachers and has chosen to follow a faith based view of the world.  Unfortunately about 30-40 % of the US is in that mold. Why?  Maybe it is safer.

    I didn't express that well (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by esmense on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:41:23 PM EST
    My real point is that the problem isn't that Sarah Palin is stupid (I don't believe she is, or, certainly no more so than any of the many others who share her ideology), the problem is that her ideology, which has been well promoted and in many cases embraced by the media, is destructive to the best long term interest of the county. That's the point that people on the left who enjoy and want to see more personal attacks on her are missing. The media is happy enough to attack her, personally -- as inexperienced, incurious, a moose killing hick, a religious nutcase, whatever -- because doing so lets them avoid attacking the ideology that, while harmful to the country as a whole, has and does serve the short term interests of the elite.

    The termyou seek, I think (none / 0) (#35)
    by Cream City on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 03:09:16 PM EST
    and the term that always strikes me about Bush, too, is: incurious.

    I would consider anyone who only relies on the major corporate mainstream to be only seeking affirmation of the status quo, and thus to be incurious as to other possible perspectives.

    The incurious do not acknowledge such possibilities.


    incurious... (none / 0) (#39)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 04:41:28 PM EST
    I think that term fits perfectly...

    unfortunately for our society, a large percentage of the populous is incurious..

    it's just easy to accept as fact what you're told, rather than forming your own opinion...

    Ayn Rand may have been an extremist, but I think incurious is a good term for the antagonists in her writings...


    We have friends like that. When discussing (none / 0) (#42)
    by hairspray on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 05:53:40 PM EST
    current events they get bored easily and want to change the subject.  However, I don't see Palin that way. I think lack of exposure and many family responsibilities have made her world view limited along with her faith based value system.  Yesterday on a Salon.com comment section a woman wrote that Palin didn't love her children because the writer "could see it".  This whole thing with Palin is sick, on both sides  IMHO.

    ya (none / 0) (#25)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:36:55 PM EST
    She claims to read the economist as well (in her do-over with Fox News).  Next week she'll claim to have ghost written Profiles in Courage.

    I don't believe a word she says.


    Why Didn't Palin Mention (none / 0) (#26)
    by daring grace on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:40:08 PM EST
    the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal in the Couric interview then?

    Or did she, and it was edited out in all the excerpts of that piece that have been endlessly aired online and on the cable news programs?

    What concerned me from that was not that she couldn't mention what she read--didn't, therefore, seem to read anything, but rather that she couldn't even seem to pretend to read anything. She couldn't even come up with a utility list of some Alaskan papers, NY Times, WSJ, Washington Post, Weekly Standard, National Review, etc. For such a supposedly skillful politician how could she not even know some likely candidates? Was she that rattled?

    It almost makes me think her universe is an even more strangely provincial one than I first thought.


    When she mentioned at a rally (none / 0) (#28)
    by litigatormom on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:42:31 PM EST
    that she had read the Ayers story in the New York Times, the audience booed at the words "New York Times."

    If she reads it -- and I doubt she read it before she became the VP nominee -- she was probably afraid of admitting to her base that she reads the notoriously librul mouthpiece that McCain's campaign has attacked as "not serious journalism."


    Why not believe her? (none / 0) (#32)
    by esmense on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 02:28:05 PM EST
    The ideology and ideas she espouses and represents are well represented in the media. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, certainly. But also The Economist. The Atlantic. The editorial pages of The New York Times and Washington Post. All three of the mainstream weekly news magazines; Time, Newsweek and US News.

    For decades all of these publications have provided a platform for conservative, neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideas, especially economic ideas. And gladly printed (elitely educated) pundits spouting all kinds of faux populist nonsense -- as long as it was nonsense designed to the benefit the elite rather than the populi.

    They do so in order to attract the affluent and educated readers their advertisers are hoping to reach. Not Walmart clerks and rural ranch hands. Look at who supports the Sunday talk shows -- corporate business to business and financial services advertisers. They're not paying millions of advertising dollars to reach the working class or the poor.

    This country isn't in the shape it's in because of the working class or the uneducated, "low information" masses.

    It's in the shape it's in because of the people with power -- that is, the country's financial, political and cultural elite.

    When liberals play class warfare -- blaming everything on "low information" rural and working class people, etc. -- they are just playing into conservative hands.


    Biden (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:07:27 PM EST
    If he had winked or acted the way Palin did, he would have been labeled a DOM-Dirty Old Man.

    Biden probably didn't see the (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by litigatormom on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:18:31 PM EST
    winking -- she was looking straight at the camera.

    But can you imagine if Hillary Clinton had winked during a debate while dodging a question?


    So he stood by and benighly smiled (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:09:47 PM EST

    there are stories that Gov. Palin is crosseyed (none / 0) (#41)
    by thereyougo on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 05:09:05 PM EST
    and blinks to keep her eye from wandering, or something like that? Maybe thats why she's incurious or lacks depth in her answers.

    Why bother pondering Palin? (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Moga on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:09:30 PM EST
    She's a sideshow. She's done what she can do for McCain, which was the political equivalent of a dead-cat bounce (with apologies to the family felines). Now she's really done. Personally, in the area of futile obsessing, I'm focused on Obama (Our Next Prez, you betcha) going around America's many rustbelts saying "I will fight for you!" which some among us remember as the mantra that almost put our girl Hillary over the top. Vote Obama 2008, think HRC 2016.

    Yes. HRC 2016 (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:15:16 PM EST
    Biden will be too old. Hil will not, IMO. I hope she becomes Gov of NY or something high profile in the meantime.

    Biden's also a bit touched too. (none / 0) (#38)
    by Salo on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 04:31:31 PM EST
    The VP is as far as i'd ever like to see him rise.  And only as a reverse barometer for decision making.

    Actually Hillary will be 68 (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by hairspray on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 05:58:37 PM EST
    Can you imagine the sexism and ageism that would be engendered 24/7?  I don't see her running unless Obama fails in his role and to challenge a sitting president?  I don't think so.

    I wish he had fought for (none / 0) (#16)
    by hairspray on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:25:58 PM EST
    Mainstreet in the bailout bill.

    This is the curse of the populist right wring (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by samtaylor2 on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:12:53 PM EST
    The notion of intelligent discussion and knowledge for the sake of knowledge as being some how "leftist", is what is destroying this country.  For not only does it cause many people who enjoy wearing the title of conservative to run away from intellectual debate and learning for learning sake, but it causes some on the left to who are afraid of that title to run away from these pursuits.    

    It is a shame that modern day conservatives have run away from intellecuatlly honest discussion, as there are always two legitmate sides to a coin, and this country is better off when both sides discuss their merits in a healthy fashion.

    Unfortunately for the companies that run this country, they used this populst nonsense to assert themselves, ignoring the long term consequences of having a population of future employees that think less, are more ideologically driven, and will eventually turn on their masters because they embody the very thing the right hates- thinking men and women.

    Missing the point (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by bocajeff on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:19:55 PM EST
    1. We truly have no knowledge how intelligent someone is or isn't based upon pretty much nothing. We can surmise, but that doesn't mean anything.

    2. Intelligence comes from different sources - book learning, street smarts, gut instincts, etc..

    3. We tend to put a lot of merit on how well spoken a person is rather than on things such as accomplishments

    This is where people get characterized as "elitists" - by judging people by their choice of college, their degree, their upbringing, etc...and not by accomplishment.

    You know, the richest person in the U.S. is a college dropout and the current President has a Masters Degree.

    heh (none / 0) (#20)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:57:23 PM EST
    But his name isnt Sarah Palin.

    Sarah Palin bears all the indicators. A creationist, stories about her lack of curiosity in AK governance,  limited education,  delivers often incoherent answers, fears scrutiny.  

    By every measurement I can make she's a category five know-nothing. Is it possible that she's really a deep thinker? Let's review.

    "They hate us for our freedoms" --sarah palin.



    Thank you (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by bocajeff on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 02:27:09 PM EST
    Thank you for making my point,

    1. While I am not a creationist, I don't  being one makes you an idiot on all things. I have seen a lot of evolutionists who are complete morons and have met some creationists who are brilliant with the exception of being blinded by their religious beliefs.

    2. Stories of her lack of interest in AK politics isn't the same thing as proof of her lack of knowledge - they are stories. Doesn't she have a positive approval rating?

    3. Limited Education??? She has a bachelors degree, and I've pointed out that Bill Gates doesn't. Who cares? Don't confuse intelligence with obtaining a degree. There are plenty of smart people who for a variety of reasons don't obtain higher degrees.

    4. Delivers incoherent answers. She may be dumb, she might be scared, or she may be a bad public speaker. Again, doesn't prove anything.

    5. Fears scrutiny? What does that have to do with intelligence?

    I'm not saying I don't agree with you, I'm just saying that one way Dems can again control the working class in this country is to stop talking down to people who don't have college degrees, aren't skilled speakers, and go to church. It doesn't make them stupid!

    Agreed (none / 0) (#34)
    by eric on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 03:04:02 PM EST
    I get so tired of this recurring theme that we shouldn't judge Palin, that we are elitists if we do, and we shouldn't look at one thing or the other when evaluating her fitness for office.

    I think that she is a dimwit.  I say this because I have 1)looked at here educational background; 2)listened to her speak and give interviews; and 3)evaluated her experience.  Now, if you don't think that I should be judging or evaluating her in this way or that I am an elitist for doing so, I would submit that the hiring process for just about every job in this world is somehow faulty.

    And, just to be clear:  No, having a prestigious degree is not proof of intelligence.  Nor does the lack of such a degree necessarily mean a lack of intelligence.  Some people have accents that make them sound stupid.  This does not mean that they are.  Nor is it true that the lack of a accent means someone is smart.

    But we have to deal with what we have available to us when we do our evaluation.  We cannot do a Vulcan mind probe and "truly" know what is going on in her head.  Like everything in this world, we look at what is available to us and make our evaluation.  By my evaluation, she is a dimwit.


    Not so ... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 04:45:04 PM EST
    because Democrats never assume their candidates are stupid.

    Biden can say "Bosniacs" or that FDR spoke on television, and it barely makes a ripple.  We just accept that he misspoke and move on.

    Whereas, we attack every Republican as stupid.  These attacks never work. As the two Reagan and Bush terms attest.

    It seems to me (none / 0) (#45)
    by Steve M on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 06:11:24 PM EST
    that Bosniaks is a real word and was used correctly.

    this is true (none / 0) (#46)
    by of1000Kings on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 07:04:32 PM EST
    Bosniaks is a proper term...

    I guess Biden is just smarter than most...


    You do realize ... (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 07:22:59 PM EST
    you're just making my point.

    Nice how you both side-stepped the FDR on television thing too.


    So confusing. Is the "MSM" (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:10:56 PM EST
    liberal or conservative?  

    Depends on what you are (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by CST on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:16:22 PM EST
    Conservative constantly refer to it as the "liberal media".  Us liberals complain about how they were all "bush apologists".

    Personally, I think it's neither, it's all just tabloid news.  As John Stewart said in an interview with EW - The press are like a bunch of six year olds playing soccer, no one has a position, it's just 'where's the ball', 'go get the ball'.


    Good one, Jon. (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:25:10 PM EST
    It is neither. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Faust on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:34:59 PM EST
    It is a reality producing engine the primary purpose of which is to produce profits. It has a secondary function of promoting the status quo (read: the powers that be).

    Above all it works to create easily digestible narratives that do not substantially move dominant discourses in one direction or another.

    The question how how our dominant discourses arise, and how much influence the left and the right have in shaping them is a pretty interesting question that lots of smart people spend a lot of time trying to figure out.


    Corporate Pravda <eom> (none / 0) (#30)
    by votermom on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 02:14:10 PM EST
    Media nobility are conservative (none / 0) (#36)
    by Cream City on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 03:14:25 PM EST
    -- the management of mainstream media aka the publishers, editors, editorial boards.  The serfs tend to be less so and more liberal, but they have little say-so in the process of what is deemed to be news and how it will be reported.

    Studies -- content analysis, surveys, etc. -- of news management and newsworkers have found this consistently for several decades now.  


    It's neither ... (none / 0) (#49)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 07:25:24 PM EST
    it fights for its own interests.

    Essentially the corporate concerns of themselves and their advertisers.


    Because IOKIYAR (none / 0) (#10)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:17:30 PM EST
    no matter what "it" it might be.


    Why dontcha ask (none / 0) (#21)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 12:58:27 PM EST
    Mary Carey about how she did after the 2003 California recall?

    She was a gubernatorial candidate....

    Too much info. (none / 0) (#24)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:15:55 PM EST
    Does she think (none / 0) (#27)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:42:01 PM EST

    Does she think that the US and France kicked Hezbolah out of Lebanon?

    If so that would be pretty shocking.

    we know Biden is a fabulist... (none / 0) (#37)
    by Salo on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 04:30:27 PM EST
    ...and a gaffe machine....no-one here is all that fond of him beyond a certain point.  please take the McCain talking points elsewhere.  You even find BTD defending Palin from some of the nonsense. So please give it a rest.

    Because the right wingers (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jjc2008 on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 01:51:56 PM EST
    fearing facing up to the blood on their hands for electing a heartless, unconcerned bozo; fearing acknowledging that the economy is dying because of the greed of Wall Street, who was given free reign to steal and rob from the poor and middle class to give to the rich and powerful by neocon politicians, want to blame the media, the left and anyone except who is really responsible.

    These people, this ignorant fools are to blame, for this.  They put the right into office....

    Palin is envious (none / 0) (#43)
    by Oceandweller on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 05:56:07 PM EST
    Yesterday, the NEW REPUBLIC provided an insight as the hidden depths of our ALaskan gal.
    Firstly why her son is serving in Iraq, less glorious than described and how she is jealous of anyone smarter and having more academic credentials than her.
    I shudder to imagine her mentionning joe six-pack to angela merckel- former scientist, sarkozy former lawyer, berlusconi who despite all his defects is very far from an imbecile or to gordon brown who is a very bright man
    do we want as a country be shamed by her brutish behaviour .
    The US think that coming from the ranks of lower class is an asset; it is if you rise to the gambit and prove that despite being born in the ghetto you still know enough to mingle with those to the manor born as they say in the UK
    being a veep or the pres does also mind you dont socially blunder and shame your country.
    The days when Edward; Prince of Wales , later Edward VII , did throw away asparagus on the floor as not to humilitae an Persian Shah, but what was expected from barabaric princelings is not tolerated from the vEEP ...

    Right, and we've also seen (none / 0) (#47)
    by ChrisO on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 07:11:41 PM EST
    Biden make very articulate, informed arguments in favor of his positions. Palin has none of that history to draw on. This is one of those false equivalency, high school debating team arguments that seem to make sense on the face, but don't hold water. Biden may misspeak (does anyone really think that he meant to say "Bosniacs," after all the time he spent working on the Balkans?)But he never demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about world affairs like Palin does.

    Palin didn't woork her way up to the national stage. She had some modest achivements, then was suddenly thrust into the spotlight in a ridiculous bit of stunt casting. Obama followed a similar trajectory, but he brought a whole lot more to the table.

    It's a little silly to criticize people for picking on Palin's gaffes. That's prety much all she's shown us.

    British perspective on Palin (none / 0) (#50)
    by noholib on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 07:43:10 PM EST
    For the unvarnished truth and a good--but very sad-- read, look at the Guardian:

    "A British Perspective:
    Flirting her way to victory

    Sarah Palin's farcical debate performance lowered the standards for both
    female candidates and US political discourse"
    Michelle Goldberg
    Friday October 3 2008