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Palin’s speech draws fire from the right

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 1/29/2015
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin attends an event to promote her television show, "Amazing America with Sarah Palin," at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Las Vegas. © John Locher/AP Photo Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin attends an event to promote her television show, "Amazing America with Sarah Palin," at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Las Vegas.

They’re over her.

Sarah Palin’s odd, rambling speech last weekend before an audience of committed conservative activists in Des Moines has many influential voices on the right saying that the time has come to acknowledge that the romance has gone cold and the marriage is dead.

This is despite the fact that the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee told reporters upon her arrival at the event that she is “seriously interested” in running for president in 2016.

Her address was a 34 1/2 -minute roller coaster ride of cliches, non sequiturs and warmed-over grievances. One line that stood out: “GOP leaders, by the way, you know, ‘The Man,’ can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then The Man can’t ride ya.”

The critiques have been devastating — and those are the ones from her friends.

“Quite petty,” wrote Byron York in the Washington Examiner. “A long and incoherent speech,” in the view of Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican blog. “The foreordained culmination of a slow and unseemly descent into farce,” added Charles C.W. Cooke of the National Review.

Cooke’s assessment was a far cry from what National Review editor Rich Lowry had to say about Palin’s performance in the vice presidential debate, shortly after her dazzling national debut on the stage of the Republican National Convention in 2008: “It was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.”

Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was an early booster of Palin, all the way back to 2007, when she was a new governor little known outside of Alaska. Less than a year ago, he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Palin “might be kind of formidable in a Republican primary.”

“Did I say it that recently?” Kristol said Wednesday when reminded of that comment in an interview. “The name Sarah Palin hasn’t come up in the past three to six months. . . . Maybe the speech Saturday was just a confirmation of her no longer being a major player, at least in these circles.”

Still others expressed concern that the GOP is damaging its own prospects by treating Palin as though she is doing more than promoting herself and her various ventures.

“Yes, Palin is still a draw. Yes, conservatives still empathize with her over the beating she took from the media in 2008,” York wrote. “But if there is indeed nothing behind her ‘seriously interested’ talk — and it appears there is not — should she be included in events leading up to the 2016 caucuses?”

There is also a tone of soul-searching and even repentance in some of the commentary, as pundits on the right reconsider their own role in stoking the Palin phenomenon.

“In hindsight I regret contributing to the premature deification of Sarah Palin,” columnist Matt Lewis wrote Wednesday in the Daily Beast.

He added that “maybe her early critics saw some fundamental character flaw — some harbinger of things to come — that escaped me.”

Among those critics had been Washington Post op-ed columnist Kathleen Parker, who also weighed in after Palin’s speech contending that the Republicans had themselves to blame.

“In the end, the story of Palin’s rise and fall is a tragedy,” Parker wrote. “And the author wasn’t the media as accused but the Grand Old Party itself. Like worshipers of false gods throughout human history, Republicans handpicked the fair maiden Sarah and placed her on the altar of political expedience.”

Last weekend was far from the first Palin appearance that has raised eyebrows among her onetime fans. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013, she said of her husband, Todd: “He’s got the rifle. I got the rack.”

“What does feel new is that she has finally gotten around to roundly losing conservative opinion leaders,” Lewis wrote.

Many seemed mystified by Palin’s unglued performance Saturday.

“Did the Teleprompter go down, did you have trouble with the copy, was there any moment in the speech where you had any difficulty because people had been so critical?” Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity asked her when she appeared on his program Tuesday night.

Palin shrugged it off. “I’m used to Teleprompters not working,” she added, and noted that had happened during her 2008 convention speech. She blamed the criticism on the “herd mentality” of the media.

As for her presidential ambitions, Palin said she was merely answering a question lodged by a “pesty reporter while I was promoting my Sportsman Channel show.” But she again said that she is “interested” in the possibility of a run.

Kristol noted that many conservative figures have maintained their credibility with the right even after their careers in elected office were over, including Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich.

In the National Review, Cooke wrote that Palin had picked another path.

“Having been mercilessly and unjustly pilloried by the media throughout the 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin had a clear choice in its aftermath: She could sober up and prove the buggers wrong, or she could collapse into ignominious pasquinade,” he wrote. “Sadly, she chose the latter. The rest of us should choose to move on.”

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