Nobody is neutral about Sarah Palin.
Love her or hate her — and there are many on both sides of that equation — she is the most talked about political celebrity anywhere.
Polls show her extremely popular among Republicans. At the same time, most polls show her faring worse against President Obama than nearly anyone else in the GOP.
And that has gotten some in the party concerned. Except that few are willing to say it on the record.
And that's where Joe Scarborough comes in. A former Republican congressman from Florida and a talk-show host on MSNBC since 2003, Scarborough is not exactly a party luminary. And while he is a nominal conservative — certainly, shall we say, compared to other hosts on his network — he has not hesitated in calling out fellow Republicans. He has, for example, been especially critical of Newt Gingrich.
But he still for the most part talks a conservative line. And that's why a column he penned today on Politico is worth noting. He flatly says that Palin — whom several times he calls the "former half-term governor of Alaska" — is a "reality show star who cannot be elected," and he frets that the same GOP leaders "who fret that Sarah Palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private."
Scarborough shows no such fear:
What man or mouse with a fully functioning human brain and a résumé as thin as Palin’s would flirt with a presidential run? ... Still, Palin is undeterred, charging ahead maniacally while declaring her intention to run for the top office in the land if “nobody else will.” Adding audacity to this dopey dream is that Palin can’t stop herself from taking swings at Republican giants. In the past month alone, she has mocked Ronald Reagan’s credentials, dismissed George H.W. and Barbara Bush as arrogant “blue bloods” and blamed George W. Bush for wrecking the economy. ...
Palin is not a stupid woman. But like the current president, she still does not know what she does not know. And she does know how to make millions of dollars, even if she embarrasses herself while doing it. ...
If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.
But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.
This is the kind of criticism of Palin that is often heard from the media, or Democrats. But not Republicans. Again, Scarborough is no longer a GOP official and no longer has to worry about alienating voters back home. Nor would one think that any attack on Palin would be anything but welcome news at MSNBC. But Scarborough is not coming from, shall we say, the same place as a Keith Olbermann or a Rachel Maddow. It's worth a read.
Until now, the only caustic stuff on Palin coming from the GOP has been said by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who in an interview with CBS' Katie Couric called out Palin for lacking both "intellectual curiosity" and "leadership qualities." But her beef is more personal; Palin ousted Murkowski's father from the governorship four years ago and she strongly endorsed Joe Miller's Senate campaign against Murkowski this year.
But the public complaints about Palin from her fellow Republicans have been few. Much was made when former First Lady Barbara Bush suggested that she "hopes she'll stay" in Alaska.
Still, I'm not sure that any of this will be the first move of an ABP (Anybody But Palin) campaign. She remains a hot commodity with Republicans everywhere. As for whether she would hurt the party were she to become the GOP nominee, well, it's still only 2010. But Scarborough's words were especially damning.
Switching gears, another Republican, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has been getting raves from GOP audiences around the country. He's stood up to the unions, capped property taxes and has cut spending — and has only been in office less than a year.
But, writes Newark Star Ledger's Paul Mulshine — under the header, "National Republicans May Find Christie's A One-Trick RINO" — conservatives may want to reevaluate him, especially given his "mushy stands on gun rights and immigration amnesty."
On issues such as guns and abortion, Christie’s views have moved rightward over the years, in remarkable harmony with the rightward drift of the GOP primary electorate. There’s much to be said for this approach, but it’s the exact opposite of the approach Christie is credited with in the national media. Never has anyone built so big a reputation on so little actual achievement.
The achievement in question, trotted out by every political pundit who praises him, is the governor’s success in wiping out an $11 billion deficit from the state budget. That deficit was entirely theoretical. The budget had to be balanced and Christie balanced it the same way Democratic governors before him did — by slashing property tax relief and stiffing the pension funds.
That brought him into conflict with the teachers’ union. And what he did next turned out to be a brilliant political move: He picked a fight with the unions. When they fought back, the taxpayers’ attention was diverted from the cuts in state aid that Christie had imposed. Many even forgot he had broken his promise to keep those property tax rebate checks coming.
So that was a neat trick. But if he ends up jumping into the presidential primary field, he’s going to need a lot more tricks up his sleeve.