There are some delicious contretemps going on over at Atlantic.com, home of the mega-watt blogger. Joshua Green doesn’t think Palin will run for president. Andrew Sullivan does. But that’s not all. Sullivan accuses Green of dangerous complacency, and willful myopia.
[W]here the f— have you been this past year?
It doesn’t matter whether she’s uneducated, unprincipled, unaware and unscrupulous. The more she’s proven incapable of the presidency, the more her supporters believe she is destined for it. It’s a brilliant little gig she’s devised. She may be ignorant, but she is not stupid. She has the smarts of all accomplished pathological liars and phonies. And this time, she will not even bother to go on any television outlets other than Fox News. She will be the first presidential nominee never to have had a press conference.
I have edited the above passage to meet Swampland’s less-than-Puritan standards. Sullivan concludes by saying, “Josh can dream all he wants.” Kapow! Green responds in kind:
I know saying so goes against standard blogger bromides about the “corrupt mainstream media” and its boundless capacity for evil, and I know it threatens Andrew’s view of himself as a lonely, embattled tribune and bulwark against the global menace of Palinism–I’m no fan either–but it must be said that for all its faults the media is doing a perfectly fine job of covering Palin and her sundry shortcomings, and has been since the day she flubbed her first interview. No, we haven’t uncovered the Trig stuff (we’re leaving that for Andrew). But basing one’s terrified fantasies of a Palin presidency on the press suddenly swooning and giving her a free pass indicates either disingenuousness or an acute lack of imagination.
Not that you asked, but I find Green’s arguments much more convincing. The press would not go easy on Palin, she still polls terribly despite her media stardom, and it seems that there is little upside to trying to lead a ticket–with all its ancillary limitations and agonies–when you can wield power behind the curtain. But let me add one more observation. We–the media, me, Green, Sullivan, many of you blog readers–are fascinated by this question. Palin is popular catnip. If you want to sell cereal, call in Palin Pops. If you want to “win the news cycle” find some way to get Palin in the headline. The question is whether this power has electoral potential, or whether it more closely tracks other pop-culture entertainment stories with addictive properties–the latest infidelity of Athlete X or the latest club outings of Pop Star Y or whatever the last thing that the woman with eight kids did.
This debate boils down to an interesting question of analysis: Is Palin’s popularity of the political or entertainment variety, is it People Magazine or TIME magazine? (People tends to outsell TIME at the newsstand, but a People cover matters far less in an election year than a TIME cover.) The reason this is such a tough question to figure is that so much of the political debate now is driven by self-described entertainers–Jon Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck. We don’t know where politics ends and entertainment begins. Either this is a permanent shift in the electoral landscape or a media fad that helps sell overpriced gold coins to gullible political ideologues. The personal attacks aside, this is the issue that Green and Sullivan are debating.