Peter Wehner writes in Commentary,
In an essay for COMMENTARY last year, Michael Gerson and I, writing on how the GOP can revivify itself and increase its appeal, argued that it had to focus on the economic concerns of working-and middle-class Americans, many of whom now regard the Republican Party as beholden to “millionaires and billionaires” and as wholly out of touch with ordinary Americans.
He then goes on to state that he has at last found a standard bearer in Senator Mike Lee. It seems that Mike Lee had given a speech about a concept that is apparently new to Wehner: Crony capitalism. Wehner writes:
“Americans intuitively understand that crony capitalism is not a form of private enterprise,” according to Lee, “it’s a form of public corruption.” He went on to say, “It seems to me that a principled, positive agenda to remove government-created barriers to upward mobility and middle-class opportunity – to level our economic playing field and put economic elites back to work creating jobs and growth for everyone else – represents everything conservatism should stand for.”
I agree; and I hope more conservatives will rally to this good cause.
It is very hard not to be embittered towards the likes of Wehner, as he and others of his ilk were quite dismissive of another politician, one who first made the conservative case against crony capitalism three years ago.
On September 3, 2011, Sarah Palin gave a major speech in Indianola, Iowa. It was the speech that would have set the tone for and kicked off her campaign for the presidency in 2012, had she run. The theme? Crony capitalism. Here is her speech in full.
Recall that while Wehner may have had some good things to say about Palin in 2008, he quickly soured on her, and became dismissive of her both as a person and as a political force. He wrote in 2009,
In interviews she has come across as unable to offer up more than a sound bite argument on virtually any issue (with the exception of energy). She seems to have memorized answers rather than thought through issues. She doesn’t seem able to articulate a core philosophy. And her announcement that she would not complete her term as governor was rambling and at times incoherent. She strikes me as terribly out of sync with the needs of this moment ….
But even those of us who were disposed to like her cannot deny that her public appearances have generally ranged from mediocre to awful. She’s had more than a handful of chances to show her stuff; what we’ve seen has not been reassuring, and at times alarming.
If Sarah Palin becomes the face and future of the G.O.P., it would take a huge step toward securing its position as a minority party for many years to come.
And in a later interview, he said that “she strikes me as a lot more Agnew than Reagan.”
Wehner’s assessment of Palin is very hard to square with her superb speech, so something must be amiss. In his posts on Palin, Wehner holds that essentially the disdain the political establishment has for Palin is warranted because
in interviews and on matters of policy, she often comes across as shallow. The problem isn’t that she’s not a public intellectual; it’s that she doesn’t seem able to sustain an argument beyond simply reciting talking points.
Yet, none of this really squares with reality. What is true is that the MSM did a masterful job of caricaturing Palin, and because of class issues, Wehner and others swallowed this caricature hook, line and sinker. Question: How many people in the political establishment still believe that Palin said, “I can see Russia from my house”? Many, if not most do. It has become part of the accepted historical narrative. Yet, Palin never said this: Tina Fey did so while mocking Palin. Wehner sees Palin as shallow and incoherent because that is the agreed upon judgment of her made by people of his class.
The problem is that Wehner and others refuse to acknowledge this fact. Then, when called out on it, they accuse her of “radiating a sense of grievance” and being “defensive and embittered“. Of course she is embittered. The very people who should have stood up for her and defended her instead turned up their noses and joined in the rush to judgement. The degree of cliquishness the political establishment has displayed when it comes to Palin is more reminiscent of high school than what one would expect of a great nation. It is beneath us, and it should be beneath Wehner as well.
Yet, even after three years, Wehner refuses to admit that the winning political platform he now espouses was first brought to the political stage by Sarah Palin, and not by Mike Lee. Either that, or he never heard her speech to begin with. Maybe Wehner was too busy watching Tina Fey and reading the New York Times?