[Our weekly feature on conservative blogs’ recent offenses to reason; archive here.]
All outside activity ceased to matter when the Republican National Convention began, and after Sarah Palin’s well-received speech on Wednesday, John McCain ceased to matter, too. Or so it seemed from rightblogger coverage.
The ear-shattering adulation Palin received from the crowd from the moment she took the stage in St. Paul showed they’d been prepped, and the prep began in earnest with rightblogger spin of the revelation that the family-values candidate had a pregnant, unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol.
The candidate announced that she was announcing this because some people on the internet — including Daily Kos posters, with some coy amplification from apostate conservative Andrew Sullivan — had speculated that Palin’s most recent child had actually been born to Bristol, with Palin faking pregnancy to cover for her.
As the charge was rather surreal, and Kos posters had already begun to debunk it, Palin’s announcement seemed at first weirdly over-reactive. But the genius of it became evident as rightbloggers rushed to claim precious victim status for their new champion, whose rightwing credentials were more exciting to them than John McCain’s.
Previous attempts to lather up the base over liberal attacks on Palin hadn’t been very successful. Little Green Footballs* tried to summon outrage over a Palin-is-pro-gay-rights spoof site, but wound up following the lead to a lone nut. “There is apparently no connection between these attack sites and the official Obama campaign,” LGF conceded, but added, “It’s more than a little slimy to be a supporter of the ‘progressive’ campaign of Barack Obama, then turn around and use Sarah Palin’s pro-gay rights positions against her…” (* warning — LGF is prone to send clickers of unfavorable links to an annoying redirect.)
But Bristol Palin was stronger meat for a backlash campaign. The trajectory of the rightbloggers’ spin was efficiently condensed by Hot Air’s Allahpundit, who started by fretting (“Oy”) that “any sort of embarrassment that she brings to the campaign will be used by the media to push the Dan Quayle/disastrous gamble meme.” Then, over a series of updates, Allahpundit got with the program: “The nutroots’s smears about Palin’s own pregnancy” may have given McCain “an amazingly fortuitous pretext here,” he said. “Now he gets to play the victim…”
Actually, McCain stayed mostly quiet and victim was played for him, the Palins, and the Republican Party. When a reporter or reporters unknown asked a Palin spokesman if her family situation would affect her performance as vice-president, Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin attacked the “chauvanism” of the “media pack,” which she said was “precisely what sparked the outrage of Hillary Clinton voters.” Ann Althouse also imputed liberal sexism to Palin opponents (“Ladies: Put your career on hold until everything in you’re family stops happening“). RedState, after suggesting that the original rumors were spread “possibly at the urging of Obama campaign staffers” who were “hypocritically violating every shred of the respect for women and women’s rights that we Republicans fully accepted long ago,” greeted the Bristol revelation with “To the Obama campaign: All right, people, bring it on…”
Obama instead directed his supporters to leave Bristol alone. But that didn’t stop rightbloggers locked onto a story about vicious liberals attacking Republican womanhood. Democrats “are desperately trying to place that glass ceiling back over women,” wrote AJ Strata. “What will the bottom-feeders do next?” asked Michelle Malkin. “Investigate their dating history? Hound them during their pre-natal visits a la Alan Colmes?” Hugh Hewitt claimed an “outpouring of supportive, favorable and emotional e-mails” to his right-wing radio show, proving that “MSM’s ideological blinkers are blinding them to the powerful effect of Governor Palin’s life story…”
More exciting still was that the younger Palin had chosen life, and was going to eventually marry her baby-daddy. Beliefnet’s Rod Dreher, who had previously described a bride who displayed a tattoo at her wedding as a “slut,” was approving of Bristol Palin’s premarital pregnancy. The Anchoress, who had previously lashed out at the “movers and shakers of the world” who “seem to want to convince us… that virginity is overrated,” praised the Palin family way: “It’s authentic. These people have guts to spare.” They agreed that if anyone was being hypocritical, it was liberals, who didn’t understand the American People, nor the flexibility of the 10 Commandments in campaign season.
Feeling their headroom rise, rightbloggers made claims for the suitability of the Alaska Governor that circumvented the modesty of her experience and focused on her personality — which, they had come to understand, was her most marketable feature. “Teddy Roosevelt had been governor of N.Y. for two years before being tapped for the ticket by William McKinley,” wrote National Review‘s Lisa Shiffren, and to seal the similarity between Palin and the 26th President, added, “Sarah Palin is certainly a cowboy (Annie Oakley in a suit!).” William Kristol said at the Weekly Standard blog that “McCain aides whose judgment I trust are impressed by Sarah Palin,” and previewed the “Do you know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a Pit Bull? Lipstick,” joke that Palin would repeat in her Convention speech.
And when that speech, full of sharp attack lines and buoyed by enthusiasm of the GOP delegates, went over big, rightbloggers began to brave a new frontier, making Palin the centerpiece of the Republican campaign. At National Review after the speech, Ramesh Ponnuru revealed he’d been telling nervous nellies who had wanted to drop Palin all along that “there would be more support among the delegates for flipping the ticket.” TigerHawk tuned in to MSNBC “for the same reason the NSA eavesdrops on the jihadis” and crowed, “I have never seen such disappointed people…” Reliapundit, who had previously warned his readers against “THE RHETORIC AND ORATORY OF OBAMA-BIDEN,” said Palin’s speech “proved she will make an awesome Vice President.” “She really is born live from a Capra movie,” rhapsodized Roger L. Simon, “from the days Hollywood told stories about the greatness of our country…”
Simon remained fixated on Palin after McCain’s lousy speech the following night: “It was obvious from the start that McCain would never top that with his speech — and he didn’t. The good thing for McCain is that he doesn’t need a speech to prove that he is qualified to be president… Meanwhile, Palin apparently tops McCain and Obama in the polls…” Instapundit breezed over McCain’s speech, following with more Palin speech celebrations. Todd Zywicki used Palin to impute “libertarianism” to the GOP ticket, which is headed by a sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act.
Rightbloggers have never been enthusiastic for McCain, but they have always been enthusiastic for victory, and the prospect of a good old-fashioned culture war with a rightwing hockey mom lashed to the masthead has them fired up — especially as, with Palin now only being released for limited media exposure lest she inadvertently kill the buzz of her Convention speech, they know they’ll be doing most of the fighting.
So they continue to portray their pitbull-with-lipstick as a victim of the media — someone who is all-conquering yet requires constant, chivalrous defense. Their present grand tactic: demanding Oprah Winfrey invite Palin on her show. Her failure to do so has been spun as a ban, as if a slot on Oprah were some sort of public trust, and they’ve directed a flood of trolls to her website. Ace of Spades explores plausible deniability: “Now are all of these real viewers or just partisans coming in? Well, I think the ones I posted are from long-time viewers… I don’t know who else would even know there was an Oprah Winfrey message board except for readers. Did you know? I sure the hell didn’t.” What he does know is that “Palinmania” may “Doom Oprah Winfrey.”
If you’ve heard conservatives complain about the “Oprahization” of American politics, the spectacle of rightbloggers trying to bully the actual Oprah into putting their candidate on her TV show may seem strange to you. We remind you that principles, whether Biblical or political, are for quieter times: This here’s an election, and anything goes.