Since her national debut in August 2008, the mainstream media has been determined to destroy Gov. Sarah Palin. Journalists flocked to Alaska to dig up dirt. They spun smears about book bans and rape kits. Some even indulged conspiracy theories about the birth of her son. They showed no interest in her outstanding record.
They kept going after her long after the 2008 election, blaming her for the Tuscon shootings–and attacking her for defending herself.
But now her assailants must face reality. After poring over thousands of emails from Palin’s term as governor, the mainstream media has been forced to concede that Palin was a conscientious, transparent, and effective public servant.
The pending release of Steve Bannon’s documentary on Palin, The Undefeated, bolsters that narrative. Above all, Palin’s mere persistence has forced some journalists to realize that their strategy of smears has failed.
So the mainstream media has invented a new meme with which to attack Sarah Palin. It started with Joshua Green’s article in the Atlantic a few weeks ago, in which he lamented “The Tragedy of Sarah Palin.”
As governor, Palin demonstrated many of the qualities we expect in our best leaders. She set aside private concerns for the greater good, forgoing a focus on social issues to confront the great problem plaguing Alaska, its corrupt oil-and-gas politics…. And she succeeded to a remarkable extent in settling, at least for a time, what had seemed insoluble problems, in the process putting Alaska on a trajectory to financial well-being.
However, Green argued, Palin went wrong after 2008. She let her “worst impulses” take over. She “let herself be distracted by the many grievances she harbored against a wide range of enemies.” She “obsessed over her image, even more than most politicians.”
In this revision of revisionist history, the good Palin, which the mainstream media tried to suppress, somehow morphed into the bad Palin of their own creation.
A few conservatives have bought into this “Palin 2.0” meme. “How did a likable, consensus-oriented governor become such a divisive figure?” asked Michael Gerson this week in the Washington Post. (His colleagues know the answer.)
The truth is that there is no “Palin 2.0.” Sarah Palin today is the same woman she was then, albeit with more battle scars (many in the back). She has not changed her political principles or tactics. The same themes that leap off the screen in The Undefeated–her ethics, her fiscal conservatism, her commitment to the public interest–remain her creed today.
It was not Sarah Palin that changed in 2008, but the government and the media.
When the financial crisis struck in September 2008, Sen. John McCain suspended his presidential campaign and raced to Washington to join then-Sen. Barack Obama and President George W. Bush in passing TARP. Right or wrong, that policy erased the major philosophical difference between Obama and McCain on the limits of government. Palin had to defend the bailout, though it ran counter to her own principles and policies.
McCain’s ineffective response to the crisis was the most important reason he lost the election. Yet even before the ballots had been cast, several senior McCain staffers began blaming Palin. They fed a mainstream media narrative about Palin and her personality, rather than admitting their own mistakes. Palin was indeed the victim: of bad politics and of bad policy, neither of her choosing, both of which she later disavowed.
Afterwards, Palin didn’t become more extreme, or more petulant. Rather, she remained true to her principles in a world where Democrats and Republicans had united to pass one of the most dramatic government interventions in our history, and the mainstream media celebrated each new expansion of federal power.
“We Are All Socialists Now,” Newsweek declared. But we aren’t, and she isn’t, and that’s why the Tea Party started, and Sarah Palin endured.
We’ll soon know if there will be a Sarah Palin 2012. But we already know that Palin 2.0 is a contrivance by the mainstream media to avoid the irrepressible truth about her–and about America.
The Sarah Palin of The Undefeated is the same Sarah Palin of today. True, she has had to fight to defend herself and to remain both conservative in principle and positive in perspective. Thank God she–and Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, for that matter–still knows how to fight.